(Names and situations changed when requested)
Like my previous story of Irv and Chaya, Seymour and P’nina were both beginning second marriages and they too had grown children who were married and had children of their own. Seymour and his new wife also decided to pursue their lifelong dream of living in Israel and had decided to liquidate their possessions, leave their families and make aliyah. Seymour was a well spouse who had nursed his chronically ill wife for years before she died. His decision to follow his dreams at this point in his life upset his children. They too, like Irv’s family, began to feel abandoned by their father and concerned about this quick romance. They did not know their stepmother very well and felt she was taking him away from them.
Seymour, though not wealthy, was financially comfortable. He and his first wife had lived well. They had their own home, two cars, had always paid full tuition, took family vacations once a year and had even supported all their children through a few years of kollel (learning full time after marriage). Though all his children were now self-supporting, they were just beginning to have their own large families and finances were not as easy as they had hoped. They were not poor by any means. They were all well dressed, had domestic help periodically and there was never a shortage of food at the table. However, they had all dreamed of owning their own homes and now, that did not seem feasible.
When I was told about the children’s many concerns with the new marriage, one of the anxieties mentioned was that their mother had told each one privately that she would help them with the down payment on a house when they were ready to purchase one. They were all now concerned that, with their mother gone, would their father honor the pledge their mother had made? In fact, did he even know of it? What would having a stepmother and step-siblings mean for their future, financially and otherwise?
Second marriages bring with them all sorts of problems. Feelings of abandonment and favoritism arise in our children (just as they did in adolescence – when they felt that “you obviously, loved ‘his sister’ or ‘her brother’ more”). As the newly married couple decided with whom to spend the Yomim Tovim (holidays) this year, her family or his – negative feelings arose among the children. What if a simcha on both sides of the families occur in the same week or, G-d forbid, on the same day? How would the parents handle it?
Our children seem to have a short memory and forget that only a few years ago, when they were newly married, they too were making these same decisions of choosing between parents and in-laws. Forgetting the difficulty and pain any controversy or ill feelings their decisions made back then, they now inflict their desires on the newly married couple, to have the parents at their table.
But the financial issue is often the hardest. Whose money is it anyway? Aren’t the parents entitled to spend the money they worked for as they see fit? Why shouldn’t Seymour shower P’nina with gifts and make a good life for themselves in their golden years? Wasn’t raising their children, educating them and supporting them until they got on their feet, enough? Does Seymour still need to put his children’s needs and desires ahead of his own?
But what of the promises made? Most young adults today cannot afford to buy a home without their parents’ help with the down payment. Haven’t we told our children and shown them repeatedly, that they can rely on us? But now, there may not be enough money for both. Seymour may have to decide between his dreams and those of his children. How will he decide? Is there a right way to deal with this?
Seymour and P’nina welcome your ideas and experience. If you have been in their situation and have worked it out successfully with your children; or if you’d like to air your comments about this difficult but all too common situation Please write me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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