Richer Than Mami? Ay, the Guilt!

Like other Latinas, Skidmore shares most details of her life with her parents. But there are certain aspects of her profession and her finances that are completely off-limits. Not long after beginning her career on Wall Street, she was able to move out of the projects and into a luxury high-rise apartment with a doorman on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, one of the most upscale neighborhoods in New York City. “I lived in this beautiful apartment with gorgeous furniture and I was going out with clients in limousines. Then I would go visit my parents and they were in the projects. A lot of times I wouldn’t share what was going on with me because I would feel bad that they would think, ‘Wow, she’s living this amazing life and here we are in the projects.’ ”

Skidmore’s guilt was the impetus behind these thoughts, as her parents never expressed such feelings. In fact, despite offers to move them out, they graciously declined. “To them, it was home,” she says. At the time, her parents were uncomfortable accepting that kind of financial support and they wanted to leave the projects on their terms—and on their own dime.

Skidmore isn’t the only one who has worried about her parents’ reactions to her extravagant lifestyle. Jenny Castillo*, an associate director of promotions at a media company, shares a similar concern. Her 2011 wedding at a posh country club cost $90,000 and included white-glove service, a nine-tiered cake and a live salsa band. “My family thought it was a carnival. People are still talking about it; they thought I had a Trump wedding,” says the dominicana, 33. Her honeymoon? A once-in-a-lifetime adventure in Tahiti that set her back an additional $13,000. Her parents’ reaction wasn’t what she expected. “My dad gasped! He couldn’t believe how much we were spending.” Since then, when she and her husband go on vacation, she never mentions how much it costs.

Being secretive about their lifestyles is not uncommon for these women. Ironically, Rios had zero qualms about hiring a housekeeper when her demanding career left her with no time for housework. And yet she has never told her mother and doesn’t plan on it, either. “I have all this excess money to hire help, when maybe I should hire her a housekeeper because she’s so tired after cleaning everyone else’s house that she doesn’t want to clean her own. So I don’t want her to know that I’m paying for a housekeeper because I could be doing more for her.”

The concern of “not doing enough” doesn’t just stem from the guilt of having more than their parents. It’s triggered by the often unfair expectations that many parents place on their well-off daughters. Rios, for example, knows that her mother expects some help. While this wasn’t an issue when she was single, being married and putting the needs of her own family first have derailed that assistance a little bit. With a baby on the way, mortgage and student loans to repay and a major home renovation that cost as much as a new house, Rios doesn’t have as much discretionary income as she once did—which adds pressure to an already guilty conscience.

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