"Are you spoiled?"
It almost never fails. When I tell people I’m an only child, that question hurls from people’s lips faster than a Beyonce booty bounce. And I answer honestly, without shame: yes, I am.
My mom once told me that she never believed there was anything wrong with spoiling a child — especially a Black child because they are so often made to go it alone early in life. “What’s wrong with giving one a hand,” she said. “Especially if that one belongs to you?”
So, I never wanted for much growing up. When my mother told me “no” to one of my whiny requests, her decision was usually based on principle rather than our family’s personal finance situation. Still, I managed to emerge from childhood as a financially independent adult who earned her own money, saved for the things she wanted and never, ever asked her mom for money.
Not that Mommy didn’t continue to provide for me endlessly. She took on loans for my college education. She let me live with her for years after school when I was gainfully unemployed. She bought me stocks. She covered my car payments and auto insurance. The list goes on. But I could proudly say that I never asked her for money. I’m not sure what I was so proud of. I guess it just never felt like mooching because helping me get ahead financially was what made her happy. And she knew she didn’t raise a slouch. I have always worked hard for my own cash. And used that money to fund trips, clothes, happy hours, music…my wants, not my needs.
Even when I did move out on my own and I took over paying for both wants and needs, Mommy helped me out. She deposited money (from a family rental property) in my account frequently and on many occasions she helped me replenish my savings account — the one she opened for me when I was a child that now boasts, well, an impressive amount for a starter nest egg.
Still, I never asked her for anything. Until a couple of months ago. Like Mom, I am pretty frugal about cash. When I travel, I always look for the best deals and don’t tell her but I have stayed in some pretty seedy places just to save a buck. Smart? No. Cheap? So! But my spending caught up with me one fine day in March after back-to-back weekend trips from LA to the East Coast. I had just moved to Cali and I was missing my friends and family (one of the trips was to visit Mom herself). It looked like I had enough money to cover everything, even though I clearly hadn’t gotten a good grasp on how costly California living was going to be yet, the payroll tax cut disappeared and chopped my income significantly, and my student loan repayment plan suddenly increased my required monthly minimum.
Post-trip, the bills rolled in and…boom! I was broke. Like for real broke. The checking account was a day away from dipping into the red. I panicked. I couldn’t even access the childhood savings account because it was located in another state and I’d opened it so long ago that I didn’t have the information to do an electronic transfer handy. Usually, it’s money that I’m happy I can’t easily put my hands on, except that I was desperate. So, I made the call I thought I would never have to make. I called my mom and asked her for money.
The cash was in my account the next day. Mom was, of course, a little concerned since this was something that has never happened before, but I could tell she was happy to be of service. I explained my budgeting mistakes and thanked her profusely for the deposit. But I was pretty embarrassed. I couldn’t believe I had to ask her for money after all these years. And I couldn’t believe she didn’t even give me too hard a time about it.
The whole scenario sickened me. But it motivated me as well. I will never ask Mommy for money again. No way. And even though I am stretched pretty thin on the salary I make and with the bills I’ve acquired, I am too old to be reliant on my wonderful, but aging mother who has spent her whole life taking care of me and who deserves to be spending money on herself after all these years.
I know she wouldn’t agree. I am hers to spoil until the end of time. And I thank her not just for the love and the loans and the little financial pick-me-ups along the way. I thank her for raising me to be the type of woman that believes the Mommy Bank is for emergencies only. Even if it is always open.