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Most of the images and discussions surrounding mothers and motherhood are positive ones. We talk about the sacrifices mothers make, the love they give to their children and the bond mothers and daughters share with one another. But in many relationships, that is not the full story. Some relationships are tinged with strife or have been completely destroyed by dysfunction.

In order to tell these very real stories, MadameNoire, is launching a new month-long series called Mommy Issues. These stories are from real Black women, sharing their real experiences.

This second installment in the series comes from Shonda*, a 30-year-old budding entrepreneur and wife. Raised mostly by a single mother (with the help of her parents), Shonda stays with more than one job– a reality likely born less out of necessity and more out of fear one day she’ll have to rely on someone else the way her mother has relied on her.

Shonda was just a teenager with no idea what a credit score was when her mom began putting things in her name: utility bills, phone bills, credit cards, you name it. In college, it was calls from creditors about accounts she had no knowledge of that tipped her off to what her mom had been doing for years, forcing her to borrow money from friends and use what little income she had from a campus job to pay off debts she didn’t truly owe. 

Now, as a financially stable adult, Shonda still struggles with telling her mom no, wrestling between being angry at the predicaments she’s been put in and ignoring the lack of financial responsibility her mother’s exhibited at her expense for the sake of having a good mother-daughter relationship. Even our interview was cut short as the memory of the past took Shonda to an uncomfortable, angry place she didn’t fully want to revisit, remarking “today is another day, a better day.”

Here is her somewhat abbreviated story.

What would you say is you and your mother’s biggest issue?

My biggest issue would be — hmm it’s not necessarily an “us” issue but more so her taking responsibility for her actions, being accountable, knowing how to apologize when she’s wrong. I guess that is an “us” issue.

When did your mom start relying on you financially?

The first time she put a utility bill in my name. I found out when I was about 20, but I think the actual bill was from when I was about 15. Eighth grade year she “borrowed” the money my grandad had been saving for my first graduation. It was about $800 in coins — I never saw it.

Did you say anything at the time?

I was, what, 13 at that time so what was I going to say? When I turned about 21-ish I had to learn to say no. Sh-t was hard as hell. I feel like some parents put their children in this “I took care of you, now you take care of me” bubble and that’s not fair. Now we’re at the point where if I have extra I’ll give it [to her] but she better not ask. Money was always the biggest issue [with us] and it still is, and then she finds a way to make you feel like you don’t do sh-t once you start saying “no, I don’t have it.”

Would you agree that you’ve cleaned up a lot of your mom’s financial messes?

I totally agree. Then I get put in this position where I’m like, “this is my mom I should help her,” but now that I’m older I’, like f-ck that. When are you going to help yourself?

Did you always feel something wasn’t right about your mom taking and borrowing money from you?

No, I saw it as “helping my mom.” But then it left me in the position to borrow from others — robbing Peter to pay Paul type of stuff.

I never got an apology for my credit score [which was ruined] before I stepped foot on a college campus. It’s just one of those things you kind of brush under the rug.

What happens when you bring this issue up with her?

I haven’t… It’s weird, we’ve definitely argued, but it was never about what happened in the past; it was about what the f-ck are you going to do to change it? I told you that past was always brushed under the rug so I took full responsibility for being an enabler because I felt like that’s what I was suppose to do. But when you owe me lump sums of money and you’re out here traveling and sh-t there’s a problem. My grandparents are still enablers and it pisses me off. Like when are you going to grow up? Be accountable for the sh-t that you do.

How much money would you estimate you’ve given your mom or paid toward these bills?

I have no clue, I’ve never paid on the (credit card) bills that were over the limit; she eventually did or my grandma.

How would you describe your relationship with your mom overall?

I think now we’re in a much better place but there’s always room for improvement. She’s more open about stuff going on in her life that has absolutely nothing to do with me and I appreciate that. She was always so secretive. I have to learn how not to let her relationship with my grandparents interfere with ours. That’s their baby and they’re always going to look out for her. I have my opinion on it, but it’s really none of my business.

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