Posts filed under ‘family’
Over the years I’ve written a lot about unequal financial gifts for children. In response I’ve received many personal emails asking for advice. Up until this week all of those posts came from grown children in these situations, but a few days ago I received this comment from a concerned parent.
I thought I would repost his comment and ask my readers for advice. What do you think this concerned father should do?
We very much love and have been trying hard to treat both our now adult children equally. We paid for their education, though they paid for their living away from home. They love and trust each other, and this is very important for us.
Our daughter worked hard in school, got a university diploma and has been working tirelessly, even now, while raising her three teen/pre-teen children. They have their own house with a large mortgage, but they live comfortably as both she and her husband have good income, and need no financial support.
Our son, several years younger, had a couple of false starts at college but eventually got a minor degree, while engaging in a more liberal and financially less responsible lifestyle, accumulating a sizable debt. We cleared most of his debt with a “loan” at one point, most of which was left unpaid. At the time we made it clear that it will be considered in the distribution of our estate whenever… Many years later, after getting married and having one child, he lost his job (not his fault…), and had a hard time finally finding one, which is still just an unpaid “Internship”, hoping it leads to a reasonably paying full time position. Now their second child is coming, and they still live in a rented apartment, in an area not preferred for raising children. Their savings are not enough for the down payment on a reasonable house. We live frugally, but would be willing to help him out from our limited retirement savings. However, it would be difficult to justify giving an equal amount to our daughter now, as our savings were meant for our old age, so we should have no need to rely on our children’s help. In a way, we would like to equalize the chances of our grandchildren.
So, what to do, and how to do it? We would love to hear from you, the contributors of this blog “on the other side of the coin”.
I know a lot of women who dream of having baby girls. I suppose the same is true in reverse. I’m sure there are a lot of men who want a baby boy, though it’s more unusual to hear them speak of it.
Unlike most American couples we decided not to find out my son’s gender before he was born. Shortly after I became pregnant I bought a journal with the word “BELIEVE” on the cover and in it I wrote “I want a baby.” I know it sounds absolutely crazy but I believe in telling the universe what you want in life. Writing it down seemed like an official declaration of my desire.
After awhile I changed my declaration and declared “I want a healthy baby.” This later changed to “I want a happy, healthy baby.”, and finally “Dear God please help me receive a happy, healthy baby.”
I kept that journal in my closet and wrote in it before every doctors visit and every sonogram. I never added a gender to that request. I never wrote “baby girl” or “baby boy.” My only hope and dream was that my child would be happy and healthy.
This post is not meant to sound judgmental. I certainly understand a woman’s desire to have a daughter. Just as I would understand a man’s desire for the same.
I was unbelievably curious about our baby’s gender, but I was not drawn to a specific gender. When I worked in daycare, many moons ago, my most beloved child was a three year old little boy. Every afternoon when I arrived he would climb into my lap and tell me stories like all three year old children do. I’m not sure why I connected to him, but I guess there doesn’t need to be a reason for bonding to occur.
Before my son was born a few friends and family members said, “I think you’ll have a girl.” They said it in a way that really meant, “I sure hope it’s a girl!” Other friends told me they would have been “devastated if they never had a girl.” This frustrated me beyond belief. Having a child growing inside of you is a miracle in and of itself and I did not want to think any less of this child because the gender was not what someone else wanted or expected it to be.
Whenever I heard these comments I replied “I will love it no matter what” and I meant that with all of my heart.
A few hours after my son was born a nurse came into the room. My husband was passed out on the couch after a 5:00 am deliver and I was snuggling with my newborn. She asked me what gender my child was and when I told her he was a boy she said, “Isn’t it funny. Once a baby shows up in this world you can’t imagine any other baby laying in his place.” In my life I have found few other statements to be so true. Before your child is born you may create mental snapshots of what color his hair or eyes might be. If you don’t know the gender you may think it’s going to be a girl or a boy, but once your child is laying in your arms you suddenly can’t remember that child you previously pictured.
I can’t speak for every mother out there, but I can tell you from the deepest region of my heart that I could not imagine loving a child any more than I love my son. Once you hold that baby in your arms you will completely forget that you dreamed of a different gender. At least I hope that will be the case for you.
Photo by: mormones.org
My husband has many good qualities and a few that drive me absolutely crazy. He’s the type of guy that won’t let his parents buy him an expensive birthday gift, even though they clearly have the money to pay for it.
When we’re in a restaurant he always yanks the bill off the table and immediately hands over his credit card. This ensures that no one else can share in paying the tab.
If he rides your jet skis he’ll pay for the gas he used. If you cross a bridge on your way from point A to point B he’ll dig cash out of his wallet before you reach the toll booth.
I admire his desire to pay his own way, but I wish every once in awhile that he would accept gifts from someone else. Do we really need to pay for each and every item we use?
Do we need to split the cost of dinner when someone says they really want to treat us? Shouldn’t we keep our credit cards in our wallet when our parents offer to buy us an expensive birthday gift. Especially when we know they have more than enough money to pay for it.
No one else ever offers to split the bill or pay for the gas they’ve used. To be honest no one other than my husband ever even seems to think about it.
Today I was complaining about my husband’s desire to pay for things when my mom stopped me dead in my tracks. “You know”, she said, “It’s good that he’s not a moocher. You could never accuse him of that and you would never admire him if he was like that.”
She’s one hundred percent right. I don’t think we should have to pay his parents back every time we eat with them, but deep down I do admire him for wanting to share in the costs.
Better to be married to a giver than a taker. Better to be married to a man who wants to give of himself than one who wants to hoard all that he’s given.
Thanks mom for the reminder.
When I was in middle school I started writing a daily journal. Unfortunately, when I turned fifteen I destroyed it. I was embarrassed by all of my tales of wanting to fall in love and decided to rip up the pages and throw it away. (Such a silly thing to do.) I returned to keeping track of my thoughts intermittently in high school and college, but over time those records were also lost. I’m not sure if I purposefully discarded them or if they were caught up in some mass cleaning I performed when moving from point A to point B, but either way I can no longer find them.
I’ve maintained a variety of other journals along the way. While I was traveling in Barcelona I wrote down everything I could remember each evening about the places we visited throughout the day. And when I unexpectedly fell ill eight years ago I kept a daily journal listing my thoughts and fears.
In this digital age it seems a lot easier to keep track of my thoughts. As soon as I feel the need to dump out my thoughts I can grab my laptop and start typing. Over the past seven years I’ve created four separate blogs to address my desire to write. The first blog was focused on the time of my medical problems. I started One Frugal Girl second. It was my attempt to clear my head of all of my aches and pains. It gave me something else to focus on during a time when it was truly difficult to focus on much else.
Before my son was born I started a pregnancy blog. Actually it goes back a month before he was conceived when I experienced a chemical pregnancy after months of trying to get pregnant. I now maintain a blog for my son. In the beginning I listed details about his growth, milestones and what he was learning, but over time it has become so much more than that.
Now I write about his personality, the things I love about him and how much I’m learning as a mom. Sometimes when I can’t sleep at night I pull out my iPad and click back to the very first blog entries and read the entire blog in order. I only write intermittently when the mood moves me, so there aren’t a ton of entries in the pregnancy blog or my son’s journal, but it can still take a few hours to read things from start to finish.
Looking back last night I wish I would have written more. As I read through the pages I now realize how much I have already forgotten about those early months. In the beginning I focused more on his abilities and less on the emotions and I wish I could fill in the cracks with how I felt throughout that first year.
Initially I thought I was writing that blog for my son. I wanted him to be able to look back on his early years and know what I was thinking, but as time passes I realize my words are really being typed for me. It’s a way to treasure and retain the wild emotions of parenthood. It’s a way to relive those moments so I can treasure them as long as I live.
For the most part I try to focus my energy and my life on the positive. To be perfectly honest it’s difficult to live in the negative. Life is full of ups and downs, but I don’t want to be one of those people who constantly lists all of the bad things that happen to me or the way my life disappoints me.
Whenever I write about luck and opportunity on this blog I inevitably receive comments and emails pointing out how perspective, (the desire to see things positively or negatively), impacts my outlook. While I definitely lead a blessed life I know in my heart that perspective plays a role in just how good it feels to live it.
Marriage is one of those tricky situations where husbands and wives can choose to focus on the positive or the negative. Sometimes I write and think about the negative aspects of my spouse, but that really isn’t fair to him.
Here is the truth about my husband.
I had a series of major medical problems shortly after we were married. During that time my husband never wavered in his devotion to me. Although we had known each other for seven years before we were married it was certainly scary and unexpected. I’m not sure what my husband thought deep in the back of his head, but he NEVER showed any desire to abandon me.
On the night that I was admitted to the hospital he came home, gathered up the blanket I slept with as a child and brought it back to my hospital room. Given the circumstances he wanted to make sure I was at least comfortable. He called me on his drive back home that night and cried at the thought of leaving me there without him.
My husband is the small gesture, big bang for your buck kind of guy. When we were dating, (it was early in college), he left love notes on my door and in my notebooks in the hopes that I would be happy and surprised when I found them.
When he left for Colorado one winter he stowed them in all sorts of places so I would find them as I went about my day. There was one inside the dishwasher, one inside the freezer, one next to the cat food and a bunch of them in my car and dresser. Just sweet little notes to show he thinks of me and knows my daily routine.
At night he often makes me an ice cream sundae. He scoops the ice cream, drizzles chocolate syrup on top, with sprinkles, mini chocolate chips and whipped cream. He knows exactly how I like it.
He checks in on me at night. While I’m writing in my blogs or reading a book he’ll come by from time to time to say hello. He touches my feet, shoulders and arms and makes sure I have a glass of cold ice water.
At night he often turns down the corner of my blanket so I can slip inside without displacing the covers. He’ll charge my laptop or iPad and leave it next to my pillow.
Whenever I’m sad or upset he immediately knows something is wrong even when I don’t tell him. He always manages to find just the right way to cheer me up. Whether it’s giving me a big hug or making me smile.
He says the sweetest things. The kind of things that make my eyes swell with tears because I immediately know how much he loves me. It took us a few months to conceive our son and he once told me it was perfectly okay, that it was in fact a good thing, because it meant we had more time to share together. I can’t tell you how much I needed to hear those words at that moment in time and how much they meant to me.
He supports our family by trudging off to work five days a week and coming home to run his business until two o’clock in the morning. It’s important to him that I stay home with our son, (rather than placing him in daycare), and he never waivers on this fact even when I do. He tells me often that I’m a good mother, especially on the days that are the most trying.
He’s always looking for ways to improve our lives. Although I usually squawk about spending the money, he’s often right about the impending changes. They do make our lives both better and easier.
He’s a handy guy, which I would definitely recommend as a trait in a husband. He can fix just about anything and usually does. If he can’t he never complains when I ask him to call the electricians or plumbers. It’s a job I don’t like to do and I’m happy when he’s in charge of communicating our needs with those guys.
There are so many positive things to list that as I type this I’m surprised by how much I harp on the negative. In life we often take the people around us for granted. I hope he reads this list and realizes just how much I love him!
While it’s always nice to hear from readers who agree with my posts there is nothing I love more than finding an intelligent reader with a different point of view. I received an interesting response to a recent post in which I asked readers whether or not they would turn down a financial gift from their parents.
My post focused on the gift of financing a home, but the reader, (a long time reader at that), said I was being hypocritical and at the very least a bit unfair. She pointed out that I accepted a sizable gift from my parents in the form of tuition and at times room and board. It’s an interesting point, which made me reflect on parental gift giving.
In theory I like to believe that I will make the right decisions for my son. He is not even a year and a half old yet, but I still dream about who he will become. I want my son to be kind and compassionate without getting stepped on and walked over. I want him to stand his ground and simultaneously reach out his hand to help others stand up. I want him to be proud without being vain. I want him to take life seriously, but also to find happiness and joy in all of the little moments that make up his life.
Having said all of that I also believe that the majority of a child’s personality is programmed long before birth. I know that I will have an influence on my son, but I’m not certain how much. And of course as he grows and matures he will be whoever he is and we will love him because of who he is not in spite of it.
In terms of gift giving I want my son to appreciate what he has to work for as well as what he receives. The reader who emailed me asked if I would have appreciated my degree more if I had to pay for it. I can’t say for certain. I do feel that I have a greater appreciation for my homes because I had to work for them. If someone handed them to me I don’t know that I would feel the same. Do I have less appreciation for my degree, because I didn’t pay for it? Possibly.
My father did not make a lot of money when I was growing up. For as long as I can remember he stressed the importance of paying for our education. While a lot of parents pay for their children’s tuition I do not know how many of them stress the importance of the gift. My brother and I knew that my father was sacrificing his own goals in order to pay for our schooling. My brother struggled in his first semester at college and wrote my father a letter telling him that he would do better, that he knew my father wanted us to earn a degree and that he didn’t want to lose the gift our father had worked so hard to give us.
The reader’s question to me is an interesting one. In my opinion if your parents provide money for college you still have to study hard and perform well to graduate. The degree should help you maintain independence and self-reliance as you can now start your career and earn money for yourself.
I’m not sure you can compare the gift of a house with the gift of tuition, but I guess the real question is does the gift need to teach you something? Can’t your parents give you something just because they have the money to do so? Do you have to learn to be better or do better with every gift you receive?
I need to take a little more time to think about the answers to those questions. In the mean time I’d love to hear what you have to say. What do you think?
For the most part my husband and I speak open and honestly about our finances and since we can both log on to our bank accounts, request free credit reports and view the details of our credit cards I like to think that we can’t hide much information from one another. Being equally responsible for our finances certainly helps us remain accountable.
Every once in awhile my husband leaves out a few details about something he plans to purchase or a project he plans to complete. Last year he told me a landscaping project would cost $600, but forgot to include the additional costs of moving dirt and buying plants, which more than doubled the final price. We prioritized this project quite differently, so it’s certainly possible that he purposely left out this information so I would agree to spend money on it. Of course, it’s equally possible that he just didn’t think about the additional costs when we first discussed it.
I don’t hide purchases, but I certainly don’t point out every new outfit or toy I buy for my son. I figure my husband will eventually see my son playing with something new or dressed in something cute. Plus, he journals the credit card transactions and is free to ask me about any of the purchases I make. In other words even if I don’t tell him, he still sees exactly where the money goes.
I would like to believe that we discuss our financial concerns with one another and that neither of us feels like anything is off the table. When I worried about losing my job, (I was eventually laid off), we talked about it often. And since my husband owns his own company we often talk about contracts and employees. When he’s worried about losing work we usually talk about that too.
Over the past two weeks I’ve written a lot about unequal financial gifts from parents and during that time I’ve noticed a definite trend among the comments and emails I received. It seems that most people simply do not talk to one another about money matters.
I can certainly understand why it would be difficult to talk with a sibling about perceived inequalities and that a child might not want to discuss their hurt feelings with parents who provide unequal gifts, but sometimes just talking through these things helps clear the air.
I wonder how many people discuss money matters with their family members. Do you talk with your loved ones about your financial concerns? If not, why don’t you talk about money with the people you love? Is it because you don’t feel like it’s any of their business or that their details aren’t any of yours?
If you feared job loss would you tell your significant other? If not, why not? Is it because you don’t want to worry them unnecessarily? Why would you choose to keep financial details to yourself, especially if they were matters that weighed on your soul?
I received an interesting question in response to my recent post on unequal gift giving. A reader emailed me about a situation in which parents provided financial assistance to a child who earned less money than her sibling.
Here is the scenario: The family consisted of two children who were both girls. The older daughter worked as a system administrator. According to the email this sister earned a high salary and was easily able to afford the items she desired. The younger daughter worked as a kindergarten teacher. Salaries were never discussed between the two sisters, but it was assumed that the older daughter earned at least twice as much as the younger one.
The parents routinely provided gifts to the younger daughter who taught elementary school. They paid for smaller items like sports equipment for their grandchildren as well as bigger items like summer vacations and the down payment on a new car.
The younger sister knew the older sister was upset about these gifts but she couldn’t understand why. In her mind her sister was set in life. She earned a lot of money and didn’t need anyone to hand her anything. The email went on to say, “I need the money to pay for sports equipment, cars and summer vacations, my sister doesn’t. So why is she so jealous?”
Based on the short email I received it’s difficult to say just how much financial assistance the younger sister received from her parents. Here are my thoughts based on the information I was given.
Need is an interesting choice of words. The reader says she “needed the money,” but her older sister may beg to differ about that. The older sister may think the younger sister could find used equipment for her children or ask them to play a sport that isn’t so expensive. I wanted to play the piano when I was little, but my parents couldn’t afford one. I played a rusty old, hand-me-down trumpet from my brother instead. This may have harmed me if I had been a musical prodigy, but since I wasn’t I survived just fine.
The reader doesn’t say what type of car she purchased. Her parents may have provided a down payment for a reliable used car or a less expensive sedan. On the other hand, she may have asked her parents to help her with a brand new, luxury model. Is the younger sister driving a nicer car then the sister who pays all of her own bills? The older sister may get jealous when the younger one receives bigger and better toys then she owns. Since the older sister does not receive financial assistance from her parents she only buys what she can afford, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t want a nicer, bigger car too.
The reader didn’t mention where she went on vacation. Did her parents pay for a week’s stay at a luxury hotel that included ocean views and spa treatments or did her parents provide $300 for two nights at a nearby hotel? I wonder if the younger sister is taking a nicer vacation then the older sister who has to pay for everything herself.
One thing that should not be overlooked is job satisfaction. The younger sister may love teaching school. She may go to work smiling at the thought of teaching children to count and read. While she earns less per her hour her overall enjoyment and job satisfaction may be leaps and bounds higher than her sister who sits in a cubicle all afternoon.
As the older sister trudges to work each day she may be bitter that she doesn’t enjoy her chosen career. She’d love to quit her job to teach, but she also knows that it can be hard to support her lifestyle on a teacher’s salary. If the older sister quit would her parents support her like they do her younger sibling?
Perhaps the jealousy comes from being stable, following the rules, paying your bills on time and working at a job you don’t enjoy while your sibling works in a fulfilling career and lives a lifestyle that would be unachievable if it was not subsidized by her parents. It is possible that the older sister believes her younger sister should have chosen a higher paying career if she wanted all of the perks that come with having more money.
Of course, it is also possible that sibling rivalry started way back when the two sisters were children. Sometimes children feel that a sibling receives much more love and affection from their parents then they do. When you are a child you may use hugs and kisses as a barometer of your parents love for you. As an adult you may begin using gifts and dollars.
What do you think?
I want to thank all of the readers who left comments on last week’s posts: What Do You Think: Unequal Financial Handouts From Parents and Unequal Financial:Handouts Would You Turn Down a Gift From Your Parents? I appreciate the honesty and sincerity in your words. I wanted to leave a few last remarks on the topic.
I have never dealt with financial inequality in my own family. For the most part my parents treat my brother and I equally. If my mom buys something for me she makes every effort to purchase a gift of equal value for my brother or his family. There is only one time in my entire life that I can remember my parents not evening the score. They once paid for gutter covers for my brother’s house, but did not offer my husband and I any money in return. When I brought the inequality to my parents attention, (I only mentioned it because the discrepancy had gotten into my husband’s craw), they offered to write me a check for the same amount of money. (I did not take them up on that offer.)
My parents do not have a lot of money, which may make it easier for them to treat my brother and I fairly. I really cannot say. I do think it helps that my brother and I hold/held down high paying technical jobs and that we are both careful with money. Thankfully neither one of us has ever needed to rely on my parents. When we were growing up my father stressed the importance of a college education. My parents paid for our college expenses with the understanding that once we received our diplomas we would be on our own.
As for my own immediate family, I have only one child, so I cannot comment on financial equality among children in my own household. Though I hope I would always be fair, I’m sure that many other parents who treat their children unfairly once believed the same thing. In an ideal world wouldn’t we want everyone to be treated equally?
Although I have not dealt with financial inequality in my own life I have certainly witnessed it within my extended family. Regardless of the reason for unequal financial handouts the result is usually the same: someone gets hurt. No matter how strong and capable you are it can be difficult to watch a sibling receive financial handouts from your parents, especially when that sibling does not appear to work as hard or focus on saving as much as you do. There is nothing worse then seeing a loved one hurt by members of his or her own family. Parents may feel that they are simply providing more money to one of their children, but in reality the other child is left feeling unappreciated and unloved.
In my heart I like to believe that most parents do not willing hurt their children. I like to think that these parents do not realize how their actions are perceived by the children who are not receiving gifts. I hope that they want the best for all of their children, not just the one who is always holding a hand out for them to fill.
Am I being naive? Perhaps parents know exactly what they are doing and proceed with their actions fulling knowing that one of their children will be hurt. Maybe they think that their other child is strong enough to handle their decisions. Perhaps they really just don’t care.
From what I’ve seen in families where financial inequality exists there is also a lack of communication among family members. The golden child continues to receive handouts, while the other child sits by unable to speak up about the situation. Of course, in these situations communication may not matter. When the topic is broached the parents usually have one reason or another to continue favoring a child and while the parents try to legitimize their actions the other child may hear nothing but excuses.
The best course of action in this situation is to try and release the bitterness you feel. You have to accept the situation for what it is and try not to let the negative feelings overwhelm you. At the end of the day you have absolutely no control over the way your parents dole out their money, so your best action is not to brood over the fact that you are being treated unfairly.
If you are lucky enough to be successful then the good news is that you don’t need your parents money. You made it on your own. You can count the blessings in your life and focus on the positive things that surround you. Do you have a good relationship with your spouse or significant other? Are the people in your life healthy and strong?
I know that this won’t make up for the injustice you feel, but the truth is you have little to no say in the matter. If your brother or sister is willing to put his or her hand out for money your parents will continue supplying them with gifts. This will probably continue for most if not all of their adult lives. Since the situation is unlikely to go away your best option is to try to relax, breathe and do your best to look beyond it.
I realize this is all easier said then done. Believe me, I do, but in time it does get better if you change your frame of mind about it. I am thankful that we do not need the support of other family members. It doesn’t make their actions right, but it does feel good knowing that we don’t need to rely on anyone other than ourselves. These days I’ve changed my perspective on the topic of unequal financial gifts from family members. I know I can’t do anything about it and as a result I’ve decided not to carry all of that bitterness around with me anymore.
I received quite a few comments and emails after writing my last post What Do You Think: Unequal Financial Handouts From Parents. Many readers felt that the situation was unfair, that the younger, less driven sibling should not receive additional gifts from his parents and that the more successful brother was being penalized for his accomplishments.
Via email one reader wrote, “It would be difficult to turn down a gift from my parents. Why would I want to turn free money away?” This is an interesting question and I can certainly answer it from my own point of view.
First of all, in my experience free money is rarely free. There are usually strings attached in one form or another. If your parents bought you a house they may set rules on how it should be maintained, they may get angry when your children roughhouse on the furniture they purchased or when walls and floors are damaged. They may feel like they have liberties to offer suggestions and even make changes to your home without your permission. They may hire contractors and lead them through your home to investigate changes when you aren’t around.
In the example of parents buying a house there may be many bumps along the road. What happens if you want to make improvements on the house? What if they don’t like the decisions you make? What happens when you decide to sell your home? Will they now tell you where to buy your next house or tell you that the new neighborhood you choose is not suitable for their tastes? What if they think you are selling at the wrong time, for example your family expands, but market prices are low?
They may also hold this gift over you. This may make you feel like you need to visit with them more often, agree in conversations where you clearly have differing opinions or allow them to hold a greater control over general decisions in your life.
When my husband and I first looked at beach properties my in-laws offered to loan us some money to buy our second home. My husband was eager to own a property and would have taken his parents up on his offer, but I politely refused. Given our circumstances we certainly were NOT in need of a beach house and I did not want to become indebted to my in-laws.
I believed we should fund the home through our own means and if we could not wrangle enough money for the down-payment and monthly mortgage payments then we should not own. I held true to that belief and my husband now agrees that this decision was the best one we could have made. We have gotten into quite a few arguments with his parents over the years and owing them money would have complicated matters extensively.
In the particular scenario I mentioned in my last post I believe it would be even easier for the less successful brother to turn down the house he was offered. In addition to strings and complicating family relationships there is also the issue of inequality. If he earns as much money as his more successful brother did at the time he purchased his beach house, then there is no reason he too cannot buy a beach house all on his own. He could also offer to pay his parents for the house if he wanted the particular house they picked out for him. He could explain that it seems unfair to receive a house for free when his brother pays for one.
The problem I have with this scenario is that the brother always seems to accept the gifts his parents give him. At the root of it I suppose I simply have a very different perspective on taking things from people. Right or wrong I want to make it on my own. I’m sure the less successful brother feels like his parents WANT him to have the gifts he offered, so there is no reason not to take them. In fact, he may feel like he is insulting his parents by refusing them. Do you believe this may be the case or is the truth that the brother wants all that the successful brother has even though he didn’t have to work for it? In the end is he just being selfish? I really can’t decide.