Lessons from a Mother’s Debt


Watching my mother struggle under debt’s colossal weight had some serious repercussions on the both us. My mum paid off her debt slowly: a homeowner loan and a personal loan, and settling with brokers to hand over every last penny she could afford. She managed to pay off the debt when I was 12, but by then our house had been irreversibly tainted by an oppressive concern with money. “Can’t afford” and “too expensive” were phrases I often heard leave my mother’s lips, and always with a hint of guilt, as if she were apologising for the fact her money alone would never be enough to provide for the both of us. Spending unnecessarily was absolutely taboo, and this fear of never having enough money mutated seamlessly into a dogged fixation with earning money. Here was my third lesson: the significance of work.

Gena-mour Barrett has a really good essay in BuzzFeed ideas about being raised by a single mother mired in debt, and what she learned and came to understand for herself when she acquired student loan debt after graduating from college. “Money scares me,” she writes. I felt a particular connection to her descriptions of how her mother made Christmas feel like magic with the few dollars she was able to spend on the occasion.



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