To chat with MIL about money- or get DH to

(38 Posts)
sagalsmith Tue 03-Sep-13 10:12:13

This topic raises its ugly head every time she visits (few times a year from US). It stresses me out no end and have to the point where I think it needs to be addressed (I normally run away from people like this and avoid confrontation but can't here).
Mil (who's financially doing well- we are doing ok too) is extremely stingy with my 2 little kids.I've stopped 'looking the gift horse in the mouth' (its cultural for me but I'm in a mixed race marriage so happy to adjust) so now appreciate any thoughts of gifts from her.
My gripe is her reluctance to spend a cent/pence when out with the kids- not even an ice cream- they come back hungry after many hours. She will claim that she only brought x-amount which turned out to be not enough. When out with us, if DH is around- doesn't pay for anything which is fine. When its with me and kids, she either looks in her very small purse for a really long time (I've been watching the past 10 years and have on purpose delayed my purse too which doesn't work!), or just turns away when its time to pay/toilet etc. So of course I pay. A recent example is- she wanted a canal ride (which I have to pay for of course) which had a 15 min wait, she was hungry and wanted to get herself something to eat and decided to bring one child. The other started crying and wanted to go along so I looked for them- found them and she was looking at pastries etc and naturally the kids wanting some (they are little and normally share one). I stood back. She then actually suddenly decided that she didn't want to eat anymore and left the place and later said to me that perhaps its a better idea to just all eat after the ride- I never had a coffee the rest of the day. The kids went for rides, little snacks etc, my mum was also there and paid for some of the rides (she wanted to as a grandma)- mil did not spend a pence on anyone else (but bought something for herself to eat on her own).
I'm quite generous and consider myself kind hearted and have worked extremely hard to have a decent life (forgoing fun as a young person). I prefer kind people and generally stay away from stingy ones. I find her lack of 'spirit of generosity' extremely hard to handle- I've tried for 10 years but it really upsets me. It was ok before the kids cause we always paid for her very happily (plus fil was there who had a sense of fairness).
But her tightness with the kids- then coming up with justifications for her actions (meaning she knows what she's doing!).
Should we bring this up or should I suck it up?

Hawkmoth Tue 03-Sep-13 10:14:57

I would take two lovely picnic bags out for the children and let her fend for herself. Odd.

CaptainSweatPants Tue 03-Sep-13 10:15:37

Next time when she says she wants to go on a canal boat say
'sorry we can't afford it can you pay?'

DuelingFanjo Tue 03-Sep-13 10:18:20

"they come back hungry after many hours"

Give her some money or some food to feed them. It's not her responsibility to feed your children. Perhaps she is somewhere starting a thread saying 'my DS and his wife never bother to provide any food or way of buying food for their kids when I look after them'?

Hmm, tricky. On one hand i don't think she should have to pay for you and your children. Sure it's nice to offer, and in her shoes I would, but I don't think she's under any obligation to. However, as there seems to be no give and take with her, I would be very reluctant to give. I would want to pay for rides/snacks etc for you and the children, and leave her to pay for herself. Would probably be pretty awkward to just start doing that without warning though, so I think you'd need to mention it first. "I don't want you to feel obliged to keep chipping in and paying for the children, so we'll all just pay our own way from now on." sort of thing.

oldgrandmama Tue 03-Sep-13 10:19:44

Blimey, she does sound mean - and unkind to your little ones. Don't know what the answer is - you don't say what your husband thinks of this behaviour of his mother's?

goonyagoodthing Tue 03-Sep-13 10:21:00

You are going to get the usual responses here "she doesnt HAVE to buy you food" blah blah. But I would starve her. Smuggle a packed lunch and feed yourself and the kids when she is not looking and leave her out. If you are going to an activity, have vouchers bought in advance for yourselves. I get what you mean about the spirit of genorisity, its not the money thing at all, its the blatant meanness and begrudgery.

SubliminalMassaging Tue 03-Sep-13 10:23:30

I'm not surprised you've found this hard - I would too. Unfortunately you can't change the nature of a selfish/stingy person, all you can do is play them at their own game. I would make a point of never offering to pay for her share of anything, saying 'we are going to buy ourselves something to eat now, do you want to get yours at the same time, or later?' and if she sits back when a joint bill is presented say to her 'your share is XYZ' from now on.

Iamcountingto3 Tue 03-Sep-13 10:25:12

I wouldn't have a Big Chat about it as she'll just deny it. And from her perspective, you've always been happy with it, and have never said anything - why is it such a big deal now?

BUT I would be a lot clearer about expectations - eg. if you're going out for a day trip talk in the morning about food - "Shall we eat out? I don't mind paying for lunch for all of us, if you don't mind getting the boys snacks?" or "Have you got enough cash for us to eat out, or shall we put together a picnic?"

If she's taking the boys out, I would ask if she wants any money for their lunch and remind her what/when they'll need to eat - she may well feel she's doing you a favour by taking the children out for the day.... and/or has forgotten how VITAL frequent feeding is for family happiness!

Iamcountingto3 Tue 03-Sep-13 10:27:08

Oh, and much sympathy - I do know how annoying this can get - my mum does it, and it's so obvious that she's waiting for one of us to pay (whereas my dad and my ILs will try and pay, which means we often fight them for the privilege of paying!)

CaptainSweatPants Tue 03-Sep-13 10:28:04

Does she always visit you?
Perhaps she feels she always forks out for flights

ElaineVintage Tue 03-Sep-13 10:33:26

How embarrassing! I would just call her out on it. Ask her why she seems to avoid paying. End this ridiculous behaviour now.

What does your DH have to say about this?

I think some people are just tight. I have a relative whose MIL is loaded. She once came over on an extended visit from Australasia, took her granddaughter out for lunch... and asked my relative to stump up for the child's share of the bill upon her return.

(Sorry, no help whatsoever!)

NeoMaxiZoomDweebie Tue 03-Sep-13 10:35:56

What was her childhood like? I ask because my friend is this way due to an extremely deprived childhood. She hoards money.

crescentmoon Tue 03-Sep-13 10:43:29

i cant bear stingy people, i wouldnt try to beat them at their own game - being as petty as that would be hard to beat - i just wouldnt engage with them at all! are you from a guess culture or an ask culture OP since you mentioned you are in a mixed culture marriage? maybe you are used to people offering and she is from a culture that is used to people asking.

ask.metafilter.com/55153/Whats-the-middle-ground-between-FU-and-Welcome#830421

lottiegarbanzo Tue 03-Sep-13 10:49:11

I find it a bit odd that it reads as if you're not planning how you're all going to eat on a family day out. Surely you'd either have taken snacks and picnic with you, or expected to eat out. So you'd either have had a treat available for your DCs, or you'd have been expecting to buy a pastry or something yourself.

I do see that she's being mean and it's as much the behaviour as the stinginess - dangling the idea of a treat, then not offering it is awful - but I think you need to cover all possibilities, then see any treat as an extra.

She may feel she pays for flights, you host, and really wonder why you are such a stingy host, not wanting to take her out and show her the sights - including her as part of the family, who you'd be paying for.

SkinnybitchWannabe Tue 03-Sep-13 11:41:51

YANBU. Take some sandwiches, snacks and drinks for your children in your bag. I would carry a couple of cereal bars for myself..let her starve wink

ShadeofViolet Tue 03-Sep-13 11:46:45

Totally off topic, but where did you go on this canal ride? My DS would love this!

redskyatnight Tue 03-Sep-13 12:33:41

If I had a visitor staying from another country, I wouldn't expect them to pay for anything for me/us - on the basis they'd already paid out a lot on flights (what is she like when you visit her?). I'd obviously be pleased/grateful if they did. I wonder if she's not as well off as you think she is - it sounds very like she's trying to economise. Or maybe she's fed up by your expectations that she will pay?

WorrySighWorrySigh Tue 03-Sep-13 12:54:17

I do sympathise with this. My DM is very good at grand gestures but otherwise does tend towards 'short-arms, deep-pockets' syndrome.

We noticed this when we lived abroad - DM would visit (we paid for flights) regularly. She would buy gifts to take home, she would buy a takeaway (her choice, grand gesture) while she was with us but otherwise her purse stayed tucked away. She would then complain that visits to us were expensive.

Alanna1 Tue 03-Sep-13 13:00:49

Are you sure she has much money? Also lots of retired people get worried about money as must live off investments.

badtime Tue 03-Sep-13 13:33:16

OP, I can't give you any advice, but I am a massive pedant and am driven to point out that 'pence' is plural - the singular is 'penny'. 'A penny', not 'a pence'.

badtime Tue 03-Sep-13 13:33:42

Sorry.

MamaMumra Tue 03-Sep-13 13:34:38

Completely agree with redsky

sagalsmith Tue 03-Sep-13 13:51:00

Thanks! Just the support really helps and makes me smile. She owns a few rental properties, has her own and husband's pension, a part time job etc- so yes, there's some money. Flights are cheap as husband used to work on airlines-so perks remain. Goes on expensive cruises with friends etc, buys expensive jewelry, london theater etc- great that she's doing all that. When we visit, we buy our own food and do our own cooking (of course feeding her too) so as not to trouble. She is quite oblivious to my disdain at the stinginess- I always pay. Her son admits its a problem but has learnt to live with it. In fact another daughter complaints as well- she is generous with one daughter and kids but not the other daughter (in the US), and certainly not with us. She likes visiting us I think as she gets a lot out of these trips. What I don't like is that its turning me into a mean person because now I can't help but keep watching to see if she's going to pay or turn away etc- We used to invite her on holidays as well esp when fil first passed away and have a nice holiday planned for next year (home swap!) which I would have been happy for her to come along if it were not for this. So we told her no- and she's not too happy and can't figure out why. It really detracts from the positive aspects of the visit and she's not a bad person but its affecting 2 of her 3 kids. Plus its been 10 years and I'd like to continue a good relationship. The way I put it to my husband- she has to have one trip less on the tubes (£8) for her own entertainment and spend that on little things for the kids.

She's just a stingy old bat. If she takes the kids out without you, last words from you should be "make sure the kids get some Lunch" and see what happens.
My mother used to visit us in the US every couple of years and was always paying for stuff even when I said no it's my turn, same when me and the kids went to UK to visit.

mydoorisalwaysopen Tue 03-Sep-13 14:28:31

What's she like when you visit her? Is it about expectations of hospitality? Maybe say you're saving up to visit her as well as the other suggestions made here.

Runningchick123 Tue 03-Sep-13 14:44:09

She probably seeks it as you only have to pay for one extra (her) but she will be paying for many extra (you, your husband and the children).
I think you just need to stop expecting / hoping that she will pay. Make packed lunches before you go out for the day and set a budget for activities. Tell your MIL that money is a bit tight this month so you have a budget of x amount for the day and when it's gone its gone and then stick to it.

BrokenSunglasses Tue 03-Sep-13 14:44:20

Situations like this are SO difficult!

I can't abide people who are tight and stingy, and it's generally not hard to tell the difference between someone who has to watch the pennies and someone who is just plain tight. It's a really horrible trait in people, which ime, tends to go hand in hand with other unpleasant traits as well.

But it's so hard to deal with, because how do you tell someone you'd like them to show more generosity without looking rude or grabby yourself?

If its at the stage where its really threatening your relationship, something has to be said. Your DH should say something, but I think it has to be said in a way like 'we find this difficult to deal with and it makes us feel sad' rather than 'please spend more money on our children'.

You can't change her, you can only change the way you react to her. I don't think people like this ever change. You could make the point, she would put her hand in her purse once or twice, pay for the least expensive or cheapest version of things, but the lack of a generous spirt will still be evident.

LeoandBoosmum Tue 03-Sep-13 14:47:13

Does she stay with you in your home when she comes? Next time she's due I'd make sure there was no room for her in your home - decorate spare bedroom(s)or something, anything to make it impossible for her to stay - and tell her she's welcome to visit you but she will have to pay a hotel! Cheeky old biddy! No wonder she's well off! Otherwise, I would really have to have it out with her politely. I'd just sit her down and tell her that she is welcome etc but that you find it hurtful that, while she's under no obligation, she does not feel compelled to offer to pay for things sometimes, especially inexpensive treats for her grandchildren (who, I presume, she doesn't see too often given that she lives in another country).
Stinginess is ugly and does not sit well with me. If I had a fiver in my pocket I'd rather buy the kids an ice cream and put a smile on their faces... Miserable mare! The fact she doesn't seem averse to indulging her own expensive interests makes the situation more abhorrent.

Hissy Tue 03-Sep-13 15:17:46

If the kids go off with her, send them off with a picnic. A couple of bits for her too.

If you're all going out do a packed lunch for each of the DC, and then ASK if she wants a sandwich to take with, or if she wants to buy her own lunch.

If you normally take a picnic out for yourself, say so.

Put her on the spot.

But DON'T allow her to let your DC go hungry!

zirca Tue 03-Sep-13 15:28:49

I think if she's not willing to pay for ANYTHING it's a v strange attitude. I remember my Grandma, (who struggled on her tiny pension and I know now received help from my parents with her rent), giving me £1 pocket money when I visited to spend on sweets/stickers. I LOVED getting that something from her, it was special. We made things too - teddies from the scrap fabric box, fudge to share with friends, cake etc. She had very little, but shared all she had. As an adult, I don't understand stingy people. I understand being careful with money, but that's not the same as stingy!

Just provide for yourself and your DC when she's there. Bring a picnic (with enough for her too if she wants) but don't buy lunch out ever. Pay for your rides and those of your DC, and leave her own ticket up to her etc. If she takes them anywhere, send then with bags with cake/fruit and a drink. You won't change her, so work round it. You feel hard done by because you have to pay for HER, yet she won't return the favour. So just don't pay for her at all, then you won't mind so much!

NutcrackerFairy Tue 03-Sep-13 15:53:05

I agree with the poster who wondered if MIL had a deprived childhood?

Therefore however 'rich' she might be in the present day she might actually feel poor iyswim.

Also, as she has the expense of flights from the US to the UK and is a guest in your home might her expectation be that she gets 'looked after' or 'treated'?

I'm not excusing her behaviour, and I understand how irritating it must be.

But can you perhaps ask your DH to have a word... or just ignore it?

Send MIL out with some food for the children when she takes them out, I think you should really be doing this anyway if she is effectively minding them for you... otherwise, it's small stuff really. So you buy her an icecream or pay her admittance to a attraction. Not worth having a feud over imo.

For all that I do feel your pain as my DM and DF, also DFIL are all very similar. None of them spend money easily and will accept a treat [icecream etc] if someone else is paying but would never think to offer themselves.

I just shrug my shoulders and feel a bit sorry for them as all three came from backgrounds of having little and therefore are quite careful [tight] with money.

EldritchCleavage Tue 03-Sep-13 16:04:09

I actually think the solution is just to have money matters out in the open, always. Lay out your boundaries, let her state hers. What you will and won't pay for etc. You can't force her to treat her grandchildren, only tell her that it would be lovely and much appreciated if she did do so (in a small way) then leave her to decide whether she wants to.

And growing up poor (if she did) is no excuse at all for freeloading.

coco27 Tue 03-Sep-13 16:12:31

If my kids were going out with someone for the day I would either send a packed lunch or hand money to the adult to buy them alunch and a few treats money for their lunch

coco27 Tue 03-Sep-13 16:12:59

sorry typed that wrong but you get the gist

MayTheOddsBeEverInYourFavour Tue 03-Sep-13 17:35:20

I think you should simplify things...

You pay for everything regarding the children, all food all treats. But you don't pay for her, that way everyone knows where they stand. Just start getting things seperately, don't make a big deal out of it just buy your own and wait for her to get hers

WorrySighWorrySigh Tue 03-Sep-13 22:21:02

Is it possible that she is seeing her DCs and GCs as a sort of collective? That she is generous with other DCs/GCs and doesnt see that she always treats one set and is treated by another?

I think this was what my DM did. At an intellectual level I think she knew it wasnt fair but at an emotional level her logic evened things out.

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