Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Sister wants 12 Thousand Dollars to Freeze Her Eggs”

My sister, “Rose,” and I are both in our late 30s, but she has always been supported by our parents. I think she suffers from anxiety and possibly mild bi-polar disorder, but to my knowledge she’s never been diagnosed so I don’t know for sure. However, I strongly believe that my parents are hurting her rather than making things better. They have a very co-dependent relationship, which I feel has isolated her from her peers and has contributed to her low self-esteem. I think if they withdrew support or at least strongly encouraged her to seek mental health help, she would be in a much better spot.

Rose has always wanted children, but since she is afraid to date and works sporadically (she quits when things become stressful), she has never had a serious relationship or been in a position to make children happen. Now that she’s approaching 40, she realizes that she’s running out of time. She recently asked me to lend her $12k to freeze her eggs so that she can use them later when she’s self-sufficient.

At first I felt like it was something I had to do; it’s heartbreaking to think that if I don’t, I might be standing in the way of Rose becoming a parent. But after thinking it over more, I just don’t know if it’s the right thing to do. I’m extremely doubtful at this point that anything is going to change in her situation. And I feel that in giving her the money I’ll be making the same mistake my parents have made. Finally, in her current state, I just don’t think she’d be a stable/healthy parent.

Ideally, I’d love to help her get to a stable point and then help her with fertility, but I’m not sure there is time for that. And my efforts to help her in the past haven’t panned out.

Thank you for any advice you can offer! — My Sister’s Keeper

I think you already know what the “right” answer is here, as much as a situation like this can have a “right” or a “wrong” answer. It’s all terribly unfair. It’s unfair that Rose struggles with mental health issues. It’s unfair that the ability to become a mother is dependent on so many things out of one’s control and that the ability to provide for a child is also dependent on many things out of one’s control. It’s unfair that you’ve been tasked with a moral dilemma that threatens your relationship with a close family member. There’s so much that is unfair in this situation, and I’m sorry you’re in it.

You already know what you have to do, but it doesn’t feel good, and those are always the hardest decisions to make – the ones that feel so hard. It may help, then, to think about both the likely scenarios and the worst-case scenarios in each choice you could make and consider what would be less awful to live with. The likely scenario is you loan Rose $12k and you never see that money again and it doesn’t result in your sister becoming a mother. That’s something you might be able to live with just fine, especially if it meant preserving your relationship with Rose (which could only happen if you truly gave that 12k to her with zero expectation of its being returned to you and little anxiety of its resulting in a child your sister would be unable to care for adequately).

I don’t need to tell you what the worst-case scenario would be if you give Rose the money, but what would be the worst case if you don’t? Maybe she refuses to talk to you again? Maybe she harbors resentment against you for a long time? Maybe she’ll blame you for her never becoming a mother and, maybe worse, you’ll blame yourself for standing in the way of Rose’s lifelong dream? All of these are possible outcomes, and they’re all heartbreaking. I can understand any desire you might have to avoid them. But avoiding these outcomes is not dependent on your actions, your behavior, your giving your sister money to freeze her eggs. More than anything, the outcomes you wish to avoid are dependent on your sister achieving some emotional stability and self-sufficiency. In fact, you hardly have any power in this situation at all. Whether you give or don’t give your sister money, a positive outcome can only be achieved if your sister gets the mental health help she needs. Your giving her money is not going to nudge her in that direction at all, but telling her no just might.

You need to tell her that you want to support her in pursuing her dreams, as your past efforts have proven. Tell her that the kind of support you’ve offered in the past still stands, and if and when she’s ready to address her mental health needs, you’ll be there for her. But until then, you cannot in good conscience support her pursuit of motherhood when you haven’t seen evidence yet of Rose taking the first steps toward prioritizing her mental health, which would enable her to better care for a child. This won’t feel good, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. The path of least resistance often fails to lead us in the best direction.

***************Follow along on Facebook,  and Instagram. If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.

20 comments… add one
  • avatar

    Miss MJ February 18, 2021, 9:59 am

    Oh, man, this is a tough situation. First of all, LW, it’s not your fault that your sister hasn’t gotten her life together to have the children she wants. None of this is on you and it’s not on you to fix. So, if you don’t want to give her the money, then don’t. I don’t think I would get into the issue of whether you think your sister would be a good and stable parent with her, though. I feel like that’s overstepping and unnecessary and much more likely to cause a rift than saying no for non-personal reasons. I’d just tell her that you don’t feel comfortable loaning her the money at this time and cannot do it and leave it at that. If she presses, just tell her that it’s not something you can do right now. If she continues on, tell her you don’t want to discuss it any further and change the subject. Frankly, asking someone for $12K is a big ask and your sister should understand that no one – even family – is obligated to loan (or give) her that money. Good luck.

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    brise February 18, 2021, 10:27 am

    Just tell her no, sorry. Don’t condition a loan with a mental health treatment. People are not entitled to get money to freeze their eggs. You don’t owe her that. She has the right to ask, of course, and you have the right to decline without an explanation. So decline gracefully without explaining yourself.
    If she asks why, tell her that you don’t want to do it, sorry. But you love her and will always be there for her as a sister.
    I wouldn’t speak at all of her mental condition or her ability to be a parent. Not at all. Just answer the question, don’t express a judgment about her potential parent capacity.

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      Dear Wendy February 18, 2021, 10:39 am

      I wasn’t clear, and that’s my fault. I would not advise to condition a loan to getting mental health help. I would not say anything along the lines of “Once you start getting help, I’ll consider giving you the money” or anything like that. And, I think you’re right that to avoid that being misconstrued, it’s best to leave out anything about the mental health angle and just say “No, I’m not comfortable with that.”

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    • avatar

      Anonymous February 18, 2021, 3:03 pm

      @Brise, I like your response. Just simply “Sorry, No I cant.” No need to give further reason nor have an opinion on the matter.
      LW, your sister is a 40yr old women, who doesn’t have much of a dime to her name and is willing to possibly go further in debt over a potential frozen egg that she may never use. That just screams irresponsible. If a bank wont loan her money, you dont do it. And, I agree her mental health needs no judgement about whether or not she will be a good parent.

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  • avatar

    LisforLeslie February 18, 2021, 10:33 am

    I wish you could have a normal conversation with your sister in which you ask her what steps she’s taking to actually get control of her life and become financially stable. Because we all know that the $12K is going straight into the void, never to be seen again. The best case is that she freezes her eggs and never uses them. The worse case is that she comes with her hand out to ask you to pay for IVF. The worst case is that you are taking care of both her and whatever child(ren) result.

    The sad truth is that unless you put your financial boundaries in place now, your sister is going to expect you to take care of her until one of you dies.

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  • avatar

    ArtsyGirl February 18, 2021, 12:21 pm

    LW, I am so sorry you are in this situation. I agree that giving your sister the money to freeze her eggs would be a bad idea. Best case scenario, she never uses the eggs and worst is she has a child that she is not emotionally and financially stable enough to support. I wonder if it would be possible to talk Rose into meeting with a financial advisor to discuss the expenses of raising a child along with encouraging her to seek therapy. If she has reached her late 30s and cannot hold a job for more than a few months at a time, she likely never will without major intervention. I agree with LisforLeslie, if you give Rose money to freeze her eggs, she will then ask you for money for IVF, then she will ask for money for medical bills, then she will need help paying for diapers and school fees. I imagine that you and your parents will have to financially support Rose and her child for the rest of your lives.

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    • avatar

      ArtsyGirl February 18, 2021, 1:24 pm

      I was also wondering what your parents thought about all of this – I know that you mentioned they are co-dependent, but I would expect that they are unable or unwilling to pay for the procedure since Rose came to you. Are they supportive of you giving money to Rose? Does she still live at home with them since she cannot hold down a job? If so, are they willing and prepared to have a child also living at the house? If not, are they offering to pay Rose and her child’s rent and utilities? Does Rose have a timeline for straightening out her life and having the child? Does she want to have a kid in a year, 2 years, 4? Normally, I would suggest that Rose volunteer her time at a children charity like Big Sisters or offer to rock babies at the hospital, but considering her mental health these are probably not great options either.

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  • avatar

    Helen February 18, 2021, 1:26 pm

    Seems like a simple solution is to tell her you don’t have $12,000 just laying around. Am I the only one who can’t fathom having a spare $12,000?

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    • avatar

      Kate February 18, 2021, 1:36 pm

      The average American’s savings account balance is $3500.

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      • avatar

        Helen February 18, 2021, 4:28 pm

        Glad to know I’m not alone

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    • avatar

      Dear Wendy February 18, 2021, 1:47 pm

      No, but I think the LW would have mentioned if she didn’t have that kind of money. She probably does and her sister surely knows that she does. Obviously, that doesn’t mean she’s obligated to do anything with it that she doesn’t want to do.

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  • avatar

    Kate B. February 18, 2021, 2:05 pm

    I would just gracefully decline. Say you just can’t afford it. Just because you have $12K in your bank account doesn’t mean you can afford to give it away, especially in these difficult times.

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  • avatar

    ron February 18, 2021, 2:06 pm

    You absolutely cannot give her $12K to freeze her eggs, in the hope the eggs are never used and that the $12K is the price to maintain family harmony. She definitely will push for IVF. Why else would she want to freeze her eggs? She will push the IVF sooner rather than later, because she is very focused on having a child and will quickly realize that her mental health and job situation aren’t about to improve.
    She is 30, mentally ill, and totally dependent upon your parents for her own survival. She is a horrible choice for parenthood. If you give her $12K, you are running a finite risk that she gets IVF and a child is doomed to a hellish life with her. Do you want to have to live with that?
    I agree to simply tell her you can’t afford $12K and not get into her mental health, joblessness, and absolute unfitness for parenthood. But, you must say no.
    Your parents won’t be able to support her forever. If nothing else, they will die. You will then be your sister’s guardian, or at least that will be the push from family. You need to think about that and set appropriate boundaries. Your sister is almost 40 — the chances of her mental health significantly improving are almost nil.
    If you truly believes your sister suffers from nothing more than undiagnosed bi-polar and social anxiety, then you need to talk to your parents about the need for more aggressive mental health treatment. Social anxiety and mild bi-polar are both treatable and people with these conditions can become far more functional than your sister is. Talk to your parents. They certainly were asked for the $12K and said no, so that’s an opening for a discussion.

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  • avatar

    Kate February 18, 2021, 2:44 pm

    So my brother has been supported by my parents his whole life. He does have a job, but it’s not a job that would actually pay his bills. Anyway, he has this sense that things will kind of be provided for him, a kind of entitlement I guess. Which makes sense if you haven’t had to manage all your own finances and live on your own income. The sister in this letter probably has some of the same thing going on. It’s absolutely fine to just say no, you can’t give her money to freeze her eggs. No explanation even needed. I get it if she needs funds from mom and dad to keep her off the street, but she doesn’t need luxuries from her family. Egg freezing is totally a luxury. It’s not your job to find that.

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    • avatar

      Kate February 18, 2021, 3:05 pm

      *fund

      Also, I help my brother with stuff to try and make his life better, like talking to his insurance, making doctor appointments and going with him, getting him to a support group, a nutritionist, etc., or giving him a ride when his car breaks down, but giving him money? No way. Again, if someone needs food or has an emergency, okay, but otherwise no.

      My parents used to send my cousin money to pay her mortgage and Omaha Steaks boxes to feed her kids, which, fine, that was their choice. She lost the house anyway. I think she did pay them back though, which was nice. Again, that wasn’t a luxury though. She needed basic help.

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  • avatar

    Hazel February 18, 2021, 4:57 pm

    You don’t need to enable her to birth children you may fear she will not be able to take care of. I realise this depends greatly upon what the criteria are where you live, but if she finds herself in a position where she is able to look after a child, and can prove that, fostering and adoption might be a way for her to go.

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  • avatar

    Bittergaymark February 19, 2021, 10:25 am

    I would so NOT loan her the money. Honestly? Not everybody should have children. And that’s all I have to say on that.

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  • avatar

    Dear Wendy February 19, 2021, 11:57 am

    From the LW:

    “Thank you so much! I really appreciate your response. You are absolutely right that I knew what I needed to do, but just felt really bad about it. I had told my sister that I needed to think about it and talk with my husband. I also asked her some questions about the process to see how informed she was. It seemed like she had done some research and had already been tested for fertility, but in the end I think me asking so many questions made her realize she didn’t want me involved. She said that she probably shouldn’t have asked me and said she was worried it would create issues between us. So I was luckily let off the hook in terms of her not being angry that I wouldn’t help her, which ultimately would have been my response.

    Thank you to everyone who commented as well. To answer some questions that came up, my husband and I are lucky to have jobs that allow us to save a decent amount. $12k would have been a large portion of my savings, but it would have been possible. If she needed the money for a different, but extremely important, reason, I could give it to her and not expect it back. But it definitely wouldn’t be ideal.

    My parents don’t seem to be supportive of the idea, but I’m not sure what discussions they’ve had. I think they know that if she has a child they’ll be paying for everything and possibly taking care of the kid themselves if she can’t handle it. But they always seem to give her what she wants, so I’m not sure what will happen.

    It’s been so helpful to hear from impartial folks that there is nothing I can do to change this situation. I try to tell myself that, and my husband tells me this all the time, but I always end up feeling guilty and stressed that I don’t have the answers. So again, huge thank you to everyone! I shall re-read this post whenever I’m in doubt.“

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    • avatar

      ArtsyGirl February 19, 2021, 2:19 pm

      Dear LW,
      I am so happy that it resolved itself without you having to upset your sister. Hopefully this might have also made her reflect a bit and realize that having a child would be a grave mistake in her current state. Maybe it will be a wakeup call for her to seek therapy and get her life in order. Best of luck!

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  • avatar

    Sea Witch February 21, 2021, 8:32 am

    If she quits a job the minute it becomes too stressful, she really shouldn’t be considering parenthood. Caring for a baby is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and you can’t just quit when it becomes too hard. Kids don’t become semi-autonomous until at least age 9 or 10, and even then they still require a lot of care.

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