August being women’s month, I decided to write about family cash cows as I get more queries from women who are struggling with this. They have read about cash cows in the book From Debt to Riches. They want to know how they can handle a situation where they find themselves being the only ones who are working within the family so they have to provide for themselves, their families, extended families, in-laws for those who are married, nieces and nephews, etc… They want to start their own families but they find it hard to do so as they are fully responsible for and supporting their families. Also, as we have more and more younger people dying, some leave behind young children who still need to be looked after, need to have school fees paid, etc… Add to this the job losses and the high cost of living, the situation can really get out of hand. The cost of a funeral in and of itself can leave people in such families with a big hole in their budgets. Some people are blacklisted today because of such family challenges.
There are people who have divorced because the family wouldn’t let go and they wanted to continue to be dependent and provided for and they fail to realise that their son or daughter, brother or sister needs to start looking after their own family.
Nono’s* story [not her real name]
I met Nono at the Durban SMME fair while I was exhibiting my book From Debt to Riches about 3 years ago. She bought a copy of the book and she came to my stand the next day. Her eyes were red. She told me she didn’t sleep the night before. She read as much of the book as she could. Her biggest worry was that she was the only one in her family who had passed matric and gone to university. She was living with her parents and siblings in Inanda. She described her home to me and how small it was. She says the neighbours houses are so close you can hear what people are talking about in their own homes. To make matters worse, they don’t have a proper toilet and they share bucket toilets with the neighbours. This made her feel very ashamed and so she had never brought any friends to her home. She was in her second year of studies. She was already very anxious about finding a job as she wanted to start making money asap. Her biggest worry was, how will she bring her fiancé home one day? She felt the only way out was for her to work very hard and build a home for her family so that when she meets someone and has to take him home, at least she wouldn’t feel ashamed of her home.
For a start, please read chapter 14 in the book to understand what a cash cow is and see what insight I give to people who may find themselves in situations where they have to look after everyone. I will NOT repeat what I have already written about. But to add to that, I just want to share with you the words of a truly wise man, a Professor of Accounting in one of our universities, a business man, a good husband and father to his three kids and a colleague of mine. These are the words he shared with me on this challenge and he said them so easily and naturally I don’t think he realises how profound his words were and the lasting impression they left on me. He told me “ God puts us in the families we are in to play a role that no one else in that family could play… and He gives us the strength to do what we need to do”. I have pondered on his words and realise that for some of us, our families would be in distress if we were not born into them. So I hope you take heart in this and have the strength and wisdom you need to make the changes you can, contribute and assist where you can and to know when you have to say NO. Sometimes we do have to be cruel to be kind. I also believe that we cannot look after anyone if we are not taking good care of ourselves – so charity begins with us. People often ask me “how do I say NO when I am asked for money? They feel guilty that they have made it and some of their family members are lagging behind and even languishing in poverty. To share my humble opinion, I believe that we should only give when doing so gives us joy and fulfilment. When we give from a point of obligation and we feel resentful, angry and bitter – then we shouldn’t. We all have a different threshold of patience and tolerance and no two situations are the same. There are deserving cases that require that we do our best to help out but at times, we may be dealing with learned dependency. Sometimes the best gift we can give is love and guidance and not necessarily money.
Just a few tips on when to say NO
- If helping out will leave you in a high debt situation or even blacklisted
- If you are asked to help out because someone needs to show off at your expense. As an example, some funerals have become so expensive as we want the best of everything – the marquee, the casket, executive cars, wine, etc…. It is fine if you can afford it but don’t do it to impress anyone and then a week later, you cannot even pay for petrol or buy food.
- If you feel people are making demands on you because you have made it or just because you are the in-law so they feel they are entitled to your hard earned money
- Some people make babies and then leave them with their parents or big brothers and go on to make more babies – while they don’t have jobs. You are then expected to raise the kids because you have a job.
- Do not sign surety. Surety has a life time impact on you – it is like giving someone a blank cheque with no lapse date. If you can, you had better give the person part of the money they need than sign surety.
We also need to learn the art of saying NO and not explain ourselves. Say no and continue to give love and be kind. Easier said than done but it is possible. With all of the above, remember there are people who don’t have anything to offer financially but they have everything to offer in the love and care they give to you.
I hope this helps in some way.
Are you a family cash cow? Do you want to share your story? Is there anyone who wants to offer advice to people who find themselves not knowing how to continue with their lives and how to say no? I’m looking forward to your responses.What should Nono do?
If you are reading this email and you are a parent, I hope you will make a decision that you will do your level best not to put your children in a position where they have to look after you and find themselves worrying about your financial well – being. I hope you will not compete with your son or daughter in law and demand that you be looked after. The worst case I have come across is a mother who decided to leave her home and move in with his son when he got married. She left her home and moved in with the newlyweds! Hhayi khona bakwethu, we must learn to let go and let live.