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Thread: When Family Fails to be a Family

  1. #1
    Silver Member NIN2000's Avatar
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    When Family Fails to be a Family

    Most on this forum will understand that the US government shutdown in January devastated federal employees nationwide. I am one of those employees, who works in a law enforcement position for the US government and during the shutdown was forced to work without pay. Moreover, I hold the title of Union President and during the shutdown was on local television, begging for assistance in the form of food, gasoline and political support. My responsibilities during those five (5) painful weeks drained me unlike anything I ever experienced.

    Every time I appeared on television, I would forward the news interviews to friends and family and urge them to forward the information via text or e-mail to anyone who could support our effort. My friends were supportive, some sent help as far as Australia, Canada and Europe. However, there was one group of people in my life, which never called, wrote, texted, nor expressed any support –my own family.

    Once the government shutdown concluded, the above settled slowly and I was surprised how the days, weeks and months passed and no one every contacted me. In return, I did the same and went on with my life as nothing ever happened –until yesterday.

    Yesterday I received a text from one of my family members. This person is by far the most elderly and lively individual in the family, who for decades has and remains the center of attention in my family. She is not a malicious person and instead has a huge heart. On the other hand, if she has a flaw is the fact that she is a very wealthy individual who has never had to work a day in her life. This void created a major flaw in her character; she doesn’t understand the economic hardships which most in this world experience in their day to day lives, nor does she understand what it means to wake up every day and report to a job. Regardless of how much I love her, it is a flaw which on numerous occasions stung me.
    Every time I pay her a visit and leave early due to work related reasons, I get questions such as, “why do you work so much?” (Like most in this world, I have a job, bills and responsibilities to meet.) As if I had her economic means, she encourages me to travel and spend lavishly. “Why don’t you buy a new car?” Constantly I feel silly having to defend myself for having a job and living within my means. Then again, I always accepted that she lives in a fantasyland.

    However, during the government shutdown I texted her, my uncles, aunts and cousins all my news interviews; in it, I was begging the world for food and assistance –yet, not one of them every contacted me or expressed support. Seven (7) months later, I receive an invitation requesting RSVP for a family reunion. I declined by mail.

    All of the above has bothered me and the more I think about it, the more I concluded that such matters are out of my hands, for the simple logic that in life- no one can change anyone’s heart. I should not have been surprised by their lack of empathy during the government shutdown. In fact, it only confirmed what I always knew –that they only think of themselves.

    On the other hand, my decline to the family reunion bothered my wealthy family member. Last night, she called me and left a teary voice mail; not understanding why “I have disappeared since January and why I do pass by her house anymore?” I haven’t responded.

    Each line in the above contains much anger, resentment and old scars. Wealth is not the issue. What bothered me the most was the neglect, in a time of need during the government shutdown. The lack of empathy or understanding. The “all about me” attitude. Seven (7) months later, I receive one (1) call. I have no interest in attending a family reunion filled with self-serving hypocrites.

    Or perhaps my emotions are clouding my logic? What do you think?

  2. #2
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    Did you text family asking for money, or did you only text them url links to interviews you were in?

    Texting links is beyond the most passive way to get a hand up. I probably wouldn't have even realized? You can't fault people for being able to jump from you yourself need help from url links of interviews asking help for all affected. Totally different things.

  3. #3
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    Originally Posted by tattoobunnie
    Did you text family asking for money, or did you only text them url links to interviews you were in?

    Texting links is beyond the most passive way to get a hand up. I probably wouldn't have even realized? You can't fault people for being able to jump from you yourself need help from url links of interviews asking help for all affected. Totally different things.
    Yes, I agree - you seem to have approached this far too passively for someone who wanted others to give you $. And your judgey stuff about your relative -it has nothing to do with being wealthy or how she was raised. We live in a big wide world where if we choose we don't have to confine ourselves to our own little bubble, our own individual experiences. Did you ever try in a thoughtful way, to explain your perspective on things? Without condescension or sarcasm? Without assuming that maybe she has issues of her own which make it difficult for her to perceive other experiences? Or to perceive your particular experience? How about having empathy for her -approaching it as "curious not furious" -after all she invites you to visit her and you accept so you partake of what she has to offer you -why not give her a chance at an open, non-judgmental dialogue?

    I don't think in general we should expect our family to act in a certain way just based on blood. I know I know others disagree and that is ok. I also know I've caught myself having these expectations or idealistic expectations (I can recall one such expectation two days before my wedding).

    I'm sorry you had to experience the shutdown. Friends of mine were affected; we were indirectly affected. Just please take a look at your perceptions and expectations and consider your part in this.

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    Gold Member SarahLancaster's Avatar
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    Nin, I think you have a bit of an entitlement mentality. Are you saying that because of the shutdown, you had no food? Did you not have any kind of emergency fund? Credit cards?

    Also, I was under the impression that after the shutdown, all workers were given back pay. Why does it bother you that other people have money?

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  6. #5
    Platinum Member itsallgrand's Avatar
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    I understand your feelings. I would feel hurt in that situation as well, if you were under the impression that in times of need they would be there. To me, it seems pretty obvious that would be a time to reach out in some way.

    I think though that this elderly lady in your family does care for you, it's just not ever going to be the type of community support kind of situation that you hope for.
    I'd be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak. Perhaps there are family members or choices where you do need to cut way back. But it doesn't have to be all or nothing. This lady is the 'easy one' to direct the anger and hurt you feel at, because she is in fact a bit closer to you, but I doubt she's the source of all that you are feeling towards the family.

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    However, during the government shutdown I texted her, my uncles, aunts and cousins all my news interviews; in it, I was begging the world for food and assistance –yet, not one of them every contacted me or expressed support. Seven (7) months later, I receive an invitation requesting RSVP for a family reunion. I declined by mail.

    Do not hold this against your family. You SHOULD have gone to the reunion.
    Your elderly relative likely DID work - raising kids or being support to a very hard working husband. Or she may have invested well. When someone says "why do you work so hard" they are not saying to me i shouldn't work - they are saying that if i complain about not seeing family enough due to work, miss important milestones (my dad missed out on a lot because of work - school plays, awards banquets, baptisms and almost missed my graduation ceremony) , or if i talk about my healthy suffering. Or why i am working a job that doesn't pay sometimes.

    It sounds like she is a kind hearted person who care about you -- why do you feel entitled to her money? Why hold a grudge?

    If you truly had no food, i can't imagine if you told her "Aunt so and so, how about some of those cookies you used to make me as a kid?" And have a chat with her during your cookie eating visit.

    Your relatives care about you, but passing the hat for money is awkward. you have no idea who is in a position to give or not and also, they could already support charities that help - if they silently give to their local foodbank with no fanfare on a regular basis they are already helping. What if they sent money and didn't tell you? I get pleas all the time to help my niece raise money for this or that. I remember someone asking me for money and i was down to my last $20 and they didn't know that and i didn't tell them.

    Multi level marketing and fundraising can hurt relationships.

    I suggest you establish an emergency fund should this happen again and you should be kind to your relatives.

  8. #7
    Platinum Member j.man's Avatar
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    I've worked for the federal government and right now, I'm an independent contractor. You're looking at two of the most likely categories of people who at some point will end up working for free despite all best efforts. My contract work is seasonal, and I treat the upcoming period without work the very same as I treated congressional budget bill season while on the government payroll. There's always a chance of a "shut down." Consider it a good year when it doesn't happen, not a bad year when it does. And honestly, as much as it sucks, and as surprised as I was so folks in pretty crappy positions such as TSA were still showing up for work, there's no other industry in these United States which will guarantee you the back pay like the federal government does. Too many folks have been abruptly laid off, have had their employers go BK after several bounced paychecks. I've personally had to write off more unpaid invoices than I'd care to go into detail about. This is where the sympathy for your situation tended to run more dry among folks.

    Bear in mind I wasn't one of those people on facebook calling federal employees crybabies. It was a very situation to be in and any sympathy was well-deserved. A product of one of the most shameless political tug-of-wars I've witnessed, and without getting too political, was case in point why I'll never be ashamed of my decision to not vote red or blue. But I digress. A lot of federal employees were as out of touch as your elderly relative was to assume their position to be anywhere as unique as they believed it was. And I wouldn't be surprised if any of the resulting animosity among many in the general public wasn't prevalent in your family while you were linking articles of your woes. I'm sorry yo didn't get the support you wanted, but here you are today seemingly not terribly worse for wear. It's not something I'd personally consider worth burning any bridges over.

    And especially with this particular relative of yours. You admit she's elderly. You admit she's only ever known her little bubble. Honestly just take her for what she is. Not to be too "ageist," but old people are gonna be old people. I'd like to think I'll be different, but hell if I know. I wouldn't get too bent up if she says something out of touch. If you really are convinced she's out of touch, it really shouldn't bother you this much.

    Glad you're back on your feet. Focus less on making life harder than it needs to be.

  9. #8
    Silver Member NIN2000's Avatar
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    Some on this forum seems to misunderstand or perhaps I am wasn't clear.

    To further my point, let me state that I have family members that are worth hundreds of millions, yet I never asked them for one penny. Instead, as a Union President who represents hundreds of federal employees, in a time of crisis, I texted and emailed everyone I knew, urging them to spread the news clips to all their friends and business associates and support law enforcement.

    I never went on public television asking for money for myself. Instead I went on TV, as a Union President who represent hundreds of employees and asked the community for assistance with food, gasoline, etc, for our employees. I also asked that everyone contact Congress and urge an end to the shutdown.

    The failure to fund the Agency was forcing numerous employees who have children to seek work elsewhere, which was inherently creating a huge security risk for the local community. One of my coworkers, whose husband suffers from a terminal illness and was on a life/death situation, required a private nurse. However, with the shutdown, the employee couldn't afford the nurse. I took the story to the media and numerous volunteers contacted us and provided assistance.

    I got calls from friends and strangers I met in the streets offering help and assistance for the federal employees I represent. In a time of need, I was able to seek support from the local community. As a result, tons of churches, non profit organizations and civilians who wished to help contacted me and they made a huge difference in the lives of hundreds.

    I felt odd, that while I got phone calls from people in Europe and Canada, NOT one person in my family bothered to contact me and at least ask; "how are you doing?" In a time of crisis you would expect at least a phone call, especially from family. I don't think that's "entitlement" but humanity.

    I was able to put these feelings of resentment off but a few days ago when I received the invitation, the emotion became raw. The endless memories and "all about me" mind frame, from most in my family disgusted me. I don't want their money, time, nor association.

  10. #9
    Platinum Member Rose Mosse's Avatar
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    I'm not sure you should go to the reunion and especially not with those feelings still lingering. It wasn't mentioned here but I have a feeling there's been a large and growing rift between your family members and you for quite some time or you were never close to begin with. This situation was the straw that broke the camel's back, so to speak. I generally only have a problem with hypocrites who are hostile and aggressive (unable to meter out their emotions or temper the volume while slinging insults). None of your family members seem purposeful in their neglect but I could be wrong and perhaps you know them a lot better than any of us do and there has been a relationship of thinly veiled contempt for each other. If that's indeed the case, definitely don't go to the reunion. I think you would be lying to yourself and causing more resentment in the long run within yourself.

    You are entitled to the way you feel. So work those things out before making any moves. I wouldn't send any more links and urls to those who don't seem interested. The barrage of information or videos may also be annoying to some (unfortunately) or not easily accessible. Speak plainly and honestly. I'd encourage you to open your heart a bit more and face why you feel those feelings too, try and work and face those feelings of insecurity and vulnerability in terms of job security and your future.

  11. #10
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    I am not saying this to be callous because I do know a lot of people went through some hard times, but one of the first rules of personal finance that you’ll read or be advised of by any financial advisor worth their salt is that most people should have access to 3-6 months of emergency money on hand to cover unexpected scenarios.

    I recognize not everyone has this... and I recognize there are scenarios where people have emergencies on top of emergencies... but to be honest, if one of my family members was going through this, my working assumption would be that they are living off their emergency savings or a line of credit unless they specifically told me otherwise. My assumption would be that your pleas were those made as your role as a representative of the union and not personal pleas.

    I think you are being sensitive, to be honest. If you needed help, you should have asked directly.

    Everyone has their causes that they care about and you can’t donate to everything. I regularly donate quite generously to a children’s hospital, for example. So - unless someone were to tell me that they, personally, were going through a crisis (that they weren’t able to handle) - I wouldn’t be jumping to donate more money to yet another cause. I too have a limited amount of resources and I plan it out. Others may only donate on an as-needed basis.

    ... but... food for thought - IMO, someone who donates $100/month to a chosen cause is more caring and generous than someone who donates $100 every couple of years when a specific crisis hits. The one-time donation is more visible, though.

    I don’t think you should make assumptions about their finances and generosity any more than they should be making assumptions about your lack of finances.

    This is a failure to communicate, IMO, and not a reason to cut off family (at least not in my books) - unless there are other times they have not been generally supportive.

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