I feel like I’m being taken advantage of by my family, for want of a better term. I work 7 days a week to support myself as well as getting creative outlets met (I volunteer on art projects and animal charities). I do like to see them, but none of them work and if I have a little extra I will absolutely pay for lunch or whatever but it’s usually one on one. What irritates me is that if I invite one family member, they tell everyone else so I arrive at a restaurant or bar to 3 or 4 people there expecting me to pay for them all. They say they don’t mind not eating etc, but then what? I sit there and eat or two of us eat? Twice now I’ve skipped lunch so I could enjoy a meal with my mother only to end up abstaining so it wouldn’t be unfair to everyone. I mean, what exactly am I working for? I feel like just leaving town. I don’t know why they refuse to work. I mean, my mother is on disability so I’m not saying she is the culprit at all, but my siblings, cousins etc. are all educated and on welfare. Help!
-Supporting Family of 5
Dear Supporting Family,
Stop paying for them! If they are capable of working they should be. It sounds like you have become a financial crutch for family members that are able bodied and capable to help themselves and contribute to the family. Your mother is a different story.
You have a generous spirit but it’s time to put your foot down and stop enabling your family. Why should they feel welcome to your hard earned money and why should you keep spending it on them? Next time you invite a cousin to lunch or you show up to a small family reunion at a restaurant, invite others in to contribute to the meal so you aren’t footing the bill. Another way around this is to pick up lunch for you and whomever you are meeting, instead of being caught off guard with uninvited guests who are looking to bum off of you when the bill arrives.
You have a generous spirit but it’s time to put your foot down and stop enabling your family.
You said that you find pleasure in creative outlets. That is one thing work affords you. But working also contributes to a positive psyche, including self-worth, building responsibility and self-care. Being assertive with your family is taking care of yourself and you’re going to have to do this in order for your family’s habits to change.
Have you ever asked them why they aren’t working? Have you ever encouraged one of your family members to pursue a profession or job in a field they are passionate about? The problem won’t be solved with you leaving town. Running from problems is rarely the good answer.
Dear Supporting Family,
You not only work a full time job but are able to find creative outlets and charity work. Your family not so much. While it sounds as though they are able to support their day to day needs, when it comes to eating out they become open handed. There are a few ways to interpret this dynamic. Perhaps they are quite lazy and refuse to work. Perhaps they value saving money but still have a desire to hang out with you. Regardless of the meaning, that doesn’t mean that you owe them lunch.
I would probably let go of the idea of having to leave town in order to get away from buying their lunch. Your family is going to be who they are. Instead, I would focus on how you can still maintain your values regardless of what they do. If there are times when you are feeling charitable and want to buy lunch for the whole family, do that. But also mention during these times that while you are happy to purchase food for them that you can’t do it every time. Then the next time be sure to hold to your word. Regardless of how much pressure you might feel internally or externally to pick up the check, just pay for yourself. It may feel pretty uncomfortable at first but can help to reset expectations.
I would focus on how you can still maintain your values regardless of what they do.
If you value spending time with your family but don’t want to pay for the whole crew you have a few options. One would be to look for non-food and non-cost situations to spend time together. Maybe that means dropping by their house to check in on them or going for a walk together. Try to see if your town has low-cost or free activities that everyone could join.