Help! my sibling is OC, part 1
QUESTION: I read your advice to the “slacker siblings” (Dec. 20 and 27, 2013), and need your help for our family problem. I am the youngest of six adult siblings. Four of us are employed professionally, one is unemployed but helps our mother with chores, our eldest brother (X) manages the family business. The family business no longer makes money; our father needs to infuse his own funds to keep things afloat. We, working siblings (WS), tell him and Brother X to close the business down to no avail. X blames us for not helping, but for 10 years, we WS have paid for all household and our parents’ medical bills.
X, in his 50s, has obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). He cannot do anything without repeating many times (e.g., one hour to wash dishes). He cannot finish basic tasks, he sleeps very late, he is exhausted. His eyesight is failing (detached retina).
Lately our father has been ill, and cannot help X at the store. We told X to hire a helper or close the business. X rejected both options, and tried managing the store by himself. He opens the retail business late, at 1 p.m., only for half a day, so sales are not enough to pay suppliers or rent. We implored X to get employed elsewhere, but he refuses, saying he doesn’t know what to do next when there is no business for him to manage. In our mind, he can just stay home and take care of our parents, make himself useful for a change.
X insinuated that we WS should pay the rent of the business using our personal savings. Why should we infuse money into something that doesn’t earn money? After sucking our father’s lifetime savings dry, X now wants to go after ours. Besides, he wants to prop up the business only to show his friends he is doing something with his life when actually he is just living out of our generosity. He tries to get sympathy from friends by saying he is the only one doing everything for our family’s sake and suffering health problems as a consequence.
The business perpetuates X’s OCD. X counts items, like nuts and bolts, even newspaper pages, again and again till early morning. My mother confronts him, but he shouts at her to mind her own business. It’s like an addiction.
The sad part is our father keeps putting his money (or “our money”) into the business, that he doesn’t have enough for his own medical bills, which we WS are paying for without any help from X.
We take leaves from work to bring our father (who had a stroke) to the doctor, but not once did X accompany him, saying he is too busy.
Please help. I’m fed up.
Answer: You’ve read my advice on the “slacker sibling” problem, so you know that a family business needs to be financially viable. It is not a charity, after all. But while your brother X appears to be the main culprit, he would not have been acting the way he does without the tacit consent of everyone.
Take your father. Psychologists would call him an “enabler,” since he enables X to continue with his actions. Why sink money into a losing proposition?
The easy answer is X is his son; your father loves him, even in his misguided way. But there is more. You did not state this, but I assume your father started the business, to put a roof over your head and send all of you to school. Shutting down the store would be like a stab to the heart, erasing what he worked all his life for.
For the sake of your father, I need to ask: Is there really no way to save the store? Has anyone exactly calculated profit and loss? Can’t your other unemployed sibling, who I assume is healthy, also help out in the store? He or she can do the morning shift and X can start at 1 p.m.
I know you WS respect and love your parents (you are concerned about X, too; that’s why you asked my help). But love does not mean being “enablers.” Love means doing what is right for everyone. Tell your father he has to focus on his health. If there truly is no way to keep the store going, lay down the law. You are all adults who can stand on your own. You WS pay the bills; you have a big say.
Continue to pay household and medical bills, and to bring your father to the doctor. But you say your father puts “your money” into the business; this has to stop. I don’t know if you give your parents an allowance; it may be wise to pay the food, utilities, medical bills directly, lest your money goes where you don’t want it to.
Accompany Brother X to a psychologist, a psychiatrist, or both immediately. He needs help, and in his own way, he is trying to cope.
This sounds baffling, but next Friday let us discuss OCD.
(To be continued)
Queena N. Lee-Chua is on the Board of Directors of Ateneo de Manila University’s Family Business Development Center. Get her book “Successful Family Businesses” at the University Press (tel. 4266001 loc 4613, email email@example.com.) Email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.