Proper parenting comes at a price

Poor little rich kid. Her father is loaded. But she doesn’t live within his means. Home for her is Italy with her mother, stepfather and three half-siblings. Her very wealthy father also has three younger children with his second wife. They live here in the UAE. OK, so “poor” is a stretch. This teenager might […]

Poor little rich kid. Her father is loaded. But she doesn’t live within his means. Home for her is Italy with her mother, stepfather and three half-siblings. Her very wealthy father also has three younger children with his second wife. They live here in the UAE.

OK, so “poor” is a stretch. This teenager might not be living the lavish lifestyle afforded to her father and his younger fam­ily, but her dad more than pays her way. Every month he hands over a set – significant – sum to the mother, entrusting her with their child’s best interests and financial wants and needs. He doesn’t know how it’s spent, or on whom.

He’s fine with that. All he’s interested in is her well-being – and I’m sure he has figured out that it’s intrinsically linked to the overall well-being of her family in Italy – so what if it’s spent on his ex’s new family and not just on her?

Not every former partner is so magnanimous. Former neighbours of mine had a terrible break-up years ago – both parties went on to remarry – their two daughters moving in with their mother. Their mother, independently wealthier than her former husband, decided to draw a very thick line around financial responsibility – apportioning rent and all other expenses and charging their father accordingly – she has no children with her new partner. Her former husband went on to have three more with his second wife, paid what he was billed, and more, spending lavishly on all manner of things from designer wants to luxury apartments when the daughters relocated abroad to study – probably born of both guilt and competing with the stepfather’s lifestyle.

He is in mountains of debt as a result. I wonder how his current, younger family will fare. There is a definite financial knock-on effect. As for how his two older daughters will process this phase – knowing that the cost of their life was a sticking issue between their parents – time will tell.

There are more complicated lives out there.

Last week I was told of a situation where two families were united through second marriages – with five children between both partners. The youngest was born as a result of the new union. They all lived together in a big house. Unfortunately, the mother died two years ago when her youngest was seven. Her second husband couldn’t cope emotionally, and who knows whether he could financially? This meant that his older stepchildren moved in with their father, his biological children went to their mother, with his youngest staying with him. I ­haven’t a clue who is responsible for what in their current situation.

These stories are not unique to our modern age, but they are on the increase, whatever the cause. And with them is an evolving way of managing our interlinked lives and figuring out finances.

For example, would you be financially responsible for stepchildren if you had any? If your new marriage ended, how would that change things?

Few would dispute that the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is a fundamental human right. It states that the upbringing and development of children and a standard of living adequate for the child’s development is a common responsibility of both parents.

I am querying the definition of “parent” – a birth-parent isn’t always who the child considers to be their parent. The word “re­spon­sibility” also needs close inspection. One party always ends up with the lion’s share of the care – and so expecting them to find the money (that they can’t earn because they’re busy with the daily life stuff of looking after their brood, or at least don’t maximise their earnings) to support their children is not on.

Yes, courts can be involved – but what a nightmare – and a load of extra expense, not to mention emotional stress and lifelong scars to deal with – espe­cially born by the children the dispute is over.

Some still believe that divorce means losing a parent – not so. Some parents become more “present” in their child’s life post-split, plus they don’t lose a parent, they lose a live-in biological parent. Big difference. Children might even gain another “life parent”, aka step-parent.

I wonder how the patchwork family deals with the financial lines of responsibility though – especially in times of strife. Breakup, betrayal or death don’t always bring out the best in people.

Doing right by our former loved ones and our offspring would mean we’d have a tonne more rich kids – rich in kindness, well-being, giving and love. Money doesn’t buy that. Great relationships, blood or not, do.

Back to my rich friend with a teenage daughter living in Italy – they have a great relationship and share as much time as they can together. Yes she gets more than her Italian siblings, in the way of luxury holidays and designer gear. And, yes, it’s far from ideal that she doesn’t live close to her father, but she knows that she’s loved by everyone in her life.

Financial nitpicking is nowhere on the horizon. It’s not about him having the means (although it helps). It’s about him having the attitude and belief that her well-being must be front and centre.

Nima Abu Wardeh describes herself using three words: Person. Parent. Pupil. Each day she works out which one gets priority, sharing her journey on finding-nima.com. You can reach her at nima@finding-nima.com and on Twitter: @nimaabuwardeh.

Source: Business

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