Extend the Family Tent Pegs To Include Mom and Dad

by admin on December 26, 2011

I am a bargain hunter. I clip coupons, and buy holiday gifts year round. Because of this, I am usually able to give my three children a very good Christmas, in spite of the fact that we are a one-income family. (This year I bought my 20 year old daughter an $80 wool pea coat for $3.84 in May, which will be under the tree for her this year.) I also chair a holiday fund drive, which sponsors 3-6 deserving families, buying them everything from food, clothing, toys and household goods such as bedding and kitchen appliances, if needed. I don’t put much of my own money into this, but all of the gifts are collected at my home, where I photograph them and divide them up and prepare them to be delivered. I am a coordinator, more than a benefactor, though I do always spend something toward this endeavor.

My etiquette issue involves my mother. She, with my father, moved in with my family about 2 years ago due to my dad’s declining health and their inability to manage their finances effectively in the wake of the health issues. It has been a tumultuous time, with everyone having difficulties adjusting. However, it is working out okay, for the most part.

Today I took my youngest daughter out to lunch, and decided on the spur of the moment to leave the waitress a $50 tip, even though our bill only totaled $11. She looked tired, but was cheerful and pleasant, and I had been wanting to do something like this for quite a while. It made my day, that’s for sure! On the way out of the restaurant, she ran up to me and said “Thank you so very much!” I responded with a “Merry Christmas!” and went over to corral my daughter, who was playing one of those crane games that some restaurants have. Anyway, while I waited for my daughter, I could hear the waitress in the background, gushing to a fellow employee about how I told her ‘Merry Christmas’ and I could hear how excited and happy she was.  This further multiplied my good feelings about what had just transpired.

When I arrived home, I was beaming. I shared my good deed with my mother, who BLEW UP AT ME. She started shouting about how selfish I was, and how I never even spend that much on her or my father for Christmas, and how they are always at the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to presents. She then berated me further, saying that she couldn’t stand the fact that I bought my oldest daughter (the 20 year old) 8 different super-expensive gifts, and that no one person should ever have that many things under the tree, yet EACH of my children have at least that many. Following that, she was saying how sad that I spent all my time hosting the poor families for Christmas, but yet gave so little to herself and my father.

I was flabbergasted. As I’ve said, everything I buy for my kids is on sale or purchased with a coupon. She absolutely knows this. She also knows how much happiness I have in my heart, helping out others on Christmas.  What she said sucked all the joy out of everything.

For ALL of my extended family, I usually budget $25 per couple as a gift. My brother and his wife receive a gift card to Olive Garden, my other brother and his girlfriend get the same $25 gift card, only to Applebees. My husband’s parents receive a $25 card to Red Lobster. I gift this consistently, because this is what they ask for. My parents don’t like gift cards, so as a rule, I split the $25 I would have spent on a card, between them. Last year for Christmas, my mother had asked for slippers, and I purchased her a nice pair of $10 slippers, and my father received something separately, which costs around $15. The year prior to that, I actually spent more, as my parents were still living on their own and had been hit with an unexpected bill that they couldn’t pay, so I gifted them the $50 so they could pay it in full.

I brought all of these facts up to my mom while she was shouting at me, and she said that it hurt her terribly that I had ONLY bought her slippers, and nothing else, and that if I loved her I would have bought her the slippers and a second gift as well. “$10 is too cheap.” She also was angry that earlier this year I had told her I would try to buy my father a full-length hooded robe for the holidays, and a few weeks ago I had to tell her that it was more than I could spend, but that I would get him something else. She was really upset that I had given the waitress $50, when that $50 could have purchased the robe.  Now, this is true. When she pointed that out, I did feel bad, but I had already purchased my father a different gift, more in line with what I would normally spend.

I really don’t think I was wrong to give the waitress this holiday gift though, or that am I wrong to spend time coordinating my fund drive. I also feel that it is a blessing to be able to gift my children nice presents on Christmas, even if they are older, (22, 20, 13), if I can make it happen. Never did I feel that what I give my parents as “less than” but apparently my generosity to others has upset my mother.

What else can I do here? I feel awful, and a few minutes ago I was on top of the world.

The first thing you should have realized by now is that arriving home and announcing your monetary gift to the waitress was a mistake.   It’s somewhat crass to brag to others of one’s own generosity and how much money was given.  It is unrealistic to expect others to vicariously have the same level of good will and warm fuzzies as you do via a secondhand experience they hear about.    The enjoyment one gets from giving to others should be savored alone.

As for gifts for Mom and Dad, now that they are living in your home, they are your family and should be treated just as you would with the other adults in the home,especially in light of the fact that two of your children are aged 20 and 22.   We are not talking about minor-aged children that one indulges for the holidays.  I can see how another adult living in the home may feel slighted with one inexpensive gift when other adults living in the home receive quite a bounty, even if that bounty was purchased at discount.  Some people measure the fullness of your love cup towards them by the number of gifts that is given to them.   Gifts send messages whether we realize or like it and Mom may be interpreting your gift giving as a message that she and Dad really aren’t part of your family but merely guests that happen to live with you year round.

You apparently spend considerable time shopping for bargains for your adult aged children yet despite assuring your Mom early in the year that you would find your Dad a hooded robe for Christmas, you did not succeed in doing so.  I don’t know if that is because you did not invest the same effort into finding a bargain as you have for finding your children’s gifts or you tried and could not find anything suitably on sale.   If your Mom is aware of how you shop for your children’s Christmas presents, she may be perceiving your gift of a sole pair of slippers and the news that Dad isn’t getting a robe as promised as you simply not putting the same effort into shopping for her and Dad.   But having given Mom your word that you would find a robe, I believe that spending  money to acquire what you promised takes precedent over giving to a stranger.

In summary, keep quiet about your giving and extend your family tent pegs to include Mom and Dad into the circle with all the same benefits of family living together.

{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

Louisa December 26, 2011 at 3:45 am

Spot on Miss Jeanne.


Kat December 26, 2011 at 6:13 am

I have to disagree with the admin. While I agree that the OP should have kept her generosity to herself as bragging about yourself is rather uncouth, I am appalled by her mother’s behavior. Her mother is a grown woman and she is behaving like a 5 year old! Waaaah she has more presents than me!!! The OP’s mother and her father are living with her rent-free – that is gift enough! Demanding a certain amount of presents and determining how much should be spent on them is total gimme pig behavior and should not be tolerated. It is the thought that counts, not how much is spent. It’s even worse that she is competing with her grandchildren for the OP’s already limited resources. She should be glad she gets anything!

Stories like these make me glad that I have the parents I have. Both of them try to convince me not to buy anything for them for Christmas as they don’t want me “wasting money” when they know I am saving for a house. I still get them gifts anyway because they’re my parents and I love them, but it’s nice to know they care 🙂


Lexie December 26, 2011 at 6:38 am

I agree with Admin that going home and announcing your act of generosity was a bad idea.

The OP has opened her home to her parents and makes no mention whether they contribute to the day-to-day running of the household. If they do not contribute to the household expenses – food, utilities et al – then I think that the OP’s present giving strategy is sound, though I’d perhaps extend the parental budget to $15 each if they are on such a limited income, especially since the independent adults receive the same monetary value.It also is also not stated whether the mother and father of the OP gift her with anything, due to the financial issues.

I think it was simply bad luck that the OP realised the cost of the robe was the cost of the gift. I’m pretty sure that it has happened to everything, realising that yes, we could have afford that item if we hadn’t done X.

I also think that it was highly inappropriate for her to comment on the OP’s decisions regarding gifting her children. It is the OP’s choice how she wishes to celebrate Christmas with her children and no one else’s, especially when care is taken to choose gifts everyone likes within the OP’s budget, including the extended family.

And, personally, if someone started yelling at me about the amount of number of presents and the cost of the presents, it would be a matter of ‘don’t feed the gimme pig.’ If they were willing to discuss it reasonably, then I would be prepared to talk about it and resolve the issue.


Sarah Peart December 26, 2011 at 6:40 am

I am not sure if I agree with the admin on the idea that her parents should get as good a gift from their daughter as their daughter spends on her children. If I were lucky enough to have a family member take me in when I was staring bankruptcy/poverty in the face that would be the last time I would ask anything from them. I have the feeling that her parents are not paying rent – but correct me if I am wrong! Okay you´re mouth can run away with you at Christmas and maybe she was feeling that her daughter could have used the money to pay for the robe but in the end she is a grown woman who is entitled to spend her money as she sees fit. What type/size or price of presents do her parents give her? Maybe quite big if they pay no rent and utilities, or are they verging on the gimme pig? I give the same size as before but you should give me a bigger one as well as taking us both in! I imagine that having two extra adults in the home is not so easy!


sv December 26, 2011 at 6:43 am

Admin, I must respectfully disagree! My first impulse is that this is your money and therefore your choice as how to gift it and spend it. The $50 tip was a wonderful idea and I completely understand your impulse in trying to share the joy of that moment with your parents. I do not feel that it was crass to share what you did as you were trying to share the happiness of the experience rather than bragging about money spent. I, too, run a toy drive that takes a lot of my time and effort ( but not a lot of financial outlay, although I also always spend money on it. ) I also gather and photograph and distribute all the gifts, which take time away from my family. This is time well spent and your family should never begruge that of you. They should be proud of you!

About the gifts for your parents …if your mother feels that you do not spend enough on them because you do not “love them enough ” then perhaps you should try to include them in your bargain shopping so that next year they will feel a less like guests and more like immediate family. I realize this was not your intent but as I am sure you know you cannot help how other people feel. The move into your home has changed their status in the family and perhaps the gifts should reflect the more intimate nature of the relationship now. You sound like a generous and kind woman and I am sure you would not intentionally want to make your parents feel slighted in any way. But please do remember – it is ultimately your money, and if you choose to make a year long effort so you can give your children the gifts you would like to give them do not feel guilted into doing less. They are your children and you are allowed to give them whatever type of Christmas you like. It’s a mother’s perogative 🙂


lkb December 26, 2011 at 6:49 am

I agree with the Admin on this one. While I salute the OP for her generosity to the disadvantaged and for taking in her parents (never an easy thing), there’s a reason that Jesus said in the Bible to “not let the left hand know what the right hand is doing.”
(Your mom should not have gone off on you like that, granted, but…)

Please, don’t stop giving of yourself, just keep quiet about it. It really will be all the sweeter.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.


--Lia December 26, 2011 at 7:41 am

I read this and get the idea it’s not about gifts and money. Maybe a little, but not much. During this tumultuous time, everyone is stressed, but who’s stressed the most? Mother! She’s had to leave her home, care for a sick husband, accept generosity from her daughter, a position I’m sure she never hoped to be in, and deal with increasing money troubles. She probably feels awful day to night. Add to this, she herself is getting older, probably worried about her own health troubles, and may have a bit of dementia creeping in. If not actual dementia, the worries probably don’t have her thinking straight, or don’t have her thinking like she used to.

The thing that stands out for me the most is the “if you loved me” statement. She’s insecure. She’s looking for proof of love. She may never get it if she’s insecure enough, but I’ll bet there’s something little that has nothing to do with money that could smooth things over for her and help her feel more in control and more valued. Cooking her favorite meal? Letting her be in charge of cooking you your favorite meal and thanking her like crazy for it? Something like that.

As for explaining what you spent on other people, I know it’s hard to think like this at the moment, but when someone accuses you of something from a completely irrational place, the last thing you do is answer with rationality. It only makes things worse. Your mother was not going to say “gosh, when you explain it like that, it makes sense.”


Lisa Marie December 26, 2011 at 7:48 am

I have to agree with everything the Admin says. Sorry to say, if I was the Mom I would perceive it as a slight if my daughter gave a stranger something five times the cost of what I received and then told me that. Perhaps you should start giving one heartfelt gift to each family member at Christmas to be fair to everyone and if you want shower them with more gifts on their birthday. I also hope your parents remember you opened up your home to them which is a gift within itself.


Rachel December 26, 2011 at 8:01 am

Obviously if you’re good with money and she’s not, you already know to ignore part of what she does. I would continue doing that with this situation. Your parents are already getting the gift of a place to stay. Merry Christmas.


NicoleK December 26, 2011 at 8:16 am

I think it’s great that you did that for the waitress. However, I also get why your mom is upset that you were bragging about giving $50 to a stranger, when you gave her a $10 gift.

Also, old people are weird about that. I tipped a ski instructor $10 once, and my grandmother got very upset and screamed at me that I asked everyone to pay for me and was spending the money playing “grande dame”. I explained to her that I had bought my own plane ticket, and lift ticket. It turns out she had been confusing me with another relative who is a bit more of a mooch, and had assumed that my parents were paying for me even though they weren’t. Old people can be touchy. I wouldn’t worry about it too much.

I WOULD however, bargain hunt better, or make a present, or something to make your mom feel special.

I will say I hate this about Christmas… birthdays are easier as you only had to make one person feel special at a time, but at Christmas there’re so many people to do it for that someone inevitably gets something with less thought put in, and someone inevitable gets upset.


Yertle Turtle December 26, 2011 at 8:44 am

Admin, I’m surprised by your response to this story.
I agree that sharing what happened with the waitress may have been indiscreet but I can understand wanting to share an experience that made me feel wonderful with my own mother.
The LW didn’t promise to buy a robe. She said that she would try. That’s very different.
Is it really so important to spend the same amount or go to the same trouble for parents as children? If LW’s mother asked for slippers and got nice slippers, I don’t see a faux pas.
I have no problem at all with people being more generous to their children than they would be to other adults in the household. I love my dad to pieces but find it much harder to shop for him than for either of my offspring. I see things my children would love all the time, but see good gifts for him far less often. If he ever lived with me because of financial difficulties, he would never dream of complaining about any imbalance in gift-giving – because he wouldn’t actually notice and he’d be grateful to be under my roof in the first place!
The advice I usually find here is that giving gifts is your prerogative and receiving them should always be done graciously, with no attempt to calculate expense or effort on the part of the giver. This mother strikes me as immature and ungrateful.
I’ll be reading other responses to this with great interest.


Weeblewobble December 26, 2011 at 8:45 am

With all due respect to Ehell Dame, I see it a little differently. Yes, the OP made a mistake by coming home and announcing what she had done for the waitress. I’m sure that it was just the excitement and joy that she received from the waitress’s reaction, that made her forget her manners momentarily.

However, her mother’s reaction was an over-the-top, manipulative, histrionic guilt trip. OP has already extended her tent to include Mom and Dad- literally. She has been generous enough to let them live in their home. She is extending her genrosity to them every day that they live under her room and eat the food that she and her husband help provide. Mom apparently doesn’t see it that way, or she would be more appreciative.


Ringo December 26, 2011 at 9:18 am

Something to consider with elderly parents is early dementia. My grandmother’s dementia first made itself known by how rude she was getting. See if there’s a pattern that emerges.


acr December 26, 2011 at 9:28 am

I’m kind of waffling on this one. I can see how it would make the Mom and Dad feel bad to watch the other family members open lots and lots of nice gifts and only each have a token gift. However, I don’t think it’s a daughter’s job to provide her parents with a home, much less with bountiful Christmas gifts. Frankly, I think the OP’s mom was most in the wrong. While I’m sure the OP loves her mother and father, the fact is their presence is a burden on the family. It just seems REALLY ungrateful to have to move in with your kids, be supported by them, then be all bent out of shape because they don’t give you enough presents.

A question if the OP is reading: Do you and your husband gift to each other in a big way, or is it more in the line of a small gift?


MellowedOne December 26, 2011 at 9:31 am

Once the obligatory gift giving is removed, the real motives and caring can show through.

Many do not participate in year-end gift exchange, for varying reasons. One of the things it eliminates is the ‘I’ll be getting a gift because you are expected to get it and the type gift represents your level of love/feeling for me’. Like the admin says, ‘gifts send a message’.

OP, you don’t have to tell me you’re a caring, giving person. I’ve ‘survived’ through the sacrifices involved in taking care of elderly, infirmed parents. Although a labor of love, it is still a labor, and quite often the load is borne by one sibling while the others enjoy undisturbed lives. So I KNOW you love your parents, and are devoted to them. That’s the best gift you could give them, year round. The second best are gifts, regardless of size, that are given for no reason whatsoever.

Once my 21yr old daughter had been having a rough week, so when she got home I had a big bouquet of flowers waiting for her. The giant smile and hug are etched in my memory 🙂


Shea December 26, 2011 at 10:12 am

I absolutely disagree with the admin on this one. While I do agree that announcing one’s generosity is a bit of a faux pas, the mother had no right to belittle her daughter by how she manages her gift budget, or money in general. I’m assuming she’s keeping a warm, safe roof over her head (and her parents’ heads!). Beyond that, she really has no obligations to the family.

If she wants to spoil her children a bit by wise shopping tactics, she’s well within her right to do so. Her mother should smile and accept any gift gracefully and be happy she got more than a card. She’s not 5. Not that the OP needs any excuse or justification for her gift-giving excuses, but at 20 & 22, most people are still getting their financial footing and full independence (especially if they’ve been in school). I imagine it feels good to give her kids things they would likely find out of budget for themselves. Shame on the mother for behaving badly and trying to make the OP feel some sort of obligation or guilt that is undeserved.


icekat December 26, 2011 at 10:15 am

I agree with Lia. This isn’t about presents. This is about a woman undergoing major changes in her life, feeling insecure, feeling left out and left behind. She needs to be included. She needs to know that she has value, as a person, to the people in her life. There are a zillion ways to make this happen, not just at holidays, but throughout the year. Hopefully, now that the OP has been tipped off that this is an issue, she will be able to find ways to include Mom and Dad in the daily life of the family.


alex December 26, 2011 at 10:44 am

I have to disagree admin. These are her children and those are quite different than her parents. She can spoil her kids no matter how old they are. Now, I do feel like $10 slippers for your mom is a little cheap for a Christmas present but I do appreciate that you have a budget as that is definitely important. I think it would be better if you bargain shopped for your parents year round too as for some reason that would make them feel more loved. Then on the other hand I think your mother is definitely old enough to realize that love is not measured in the amount of gifts underneath the tree!!


Angela December 26, 2011 at 11:04 am

I’m with Ringo. The first thing I thought about was early dementia, especially since the OP’s reaction suggests that this was out of character for her mother.


i_love_penguins December 26, 2011 at 11:05 am

I agree with Miss Jeanne 100%. If OP is such a great bargain hunter, I highly doubt that she was unable to find a good deal on a hooded robe. It doesn’t say specifically how long she had, but it sounds like more than enough time. Especially if the father is sick, I think I would prioritize getting my ill father something to keep him more comfortable than tipping a waitress above and beyond the social standard. I’m sure even getting half the tip on a $11 meal would have had the waitress gushing with happiness. $25 saved from that tip + $10 “something else” gift = $35 toward a robe. Combine this with OP’s shopping skills, and I think dad could have had what he really wanted/needed, and perhaps a little something extra if the right discounts happen to align.

Yes, mom should not have brought this up, if only to keep the peace in the household. I applaud your efforts for trying to bring a random someone a happy holiday (and taking in your parents, regardless of whether they’re contributing to the household), but I would hope that you will reconsider your parents’ gifts in the future. If you really couldn’t afford the robe on your own at that time (which I doubt), , surely the kids could pitch in a little. Again, taking my earlier scenario, $5 times 3 children (and even the 13 year old can come up with $5…dig under the sofa if necessary) = $15. Add that to the $35 earlier, and you have enough for the robe, even at full price.


AMC December 26, 2011 at 11:06 am

I disagree with Admin. First of all, what OP does with her own money is no one else’s business. Second, I find it appalling that OP’s mom berated him/her for not spending more money of on her and dad, as if money is equal to love. All this after generously allowing Mom and Dad to move in with OP and assisting them with their bills. Mom is in the wrong. I do agree with Admin that it is in OP’s best interest not to discuss gifts or money matters with Mom anymore.


Jennifer December 26, 2011 at 11:10 am

I agree on the bragging about leaving a big tip BUT

It’s rude to compare your gifts with someone else’s presents. The LW took her mom and dad in, so they probably don’t want for food or shelter. The kids, however, are likely starting off on their own and the daughter may not be able to get herself a coat and pay rent. So grandma comparing what she gets with her granddaughter is over the top rude. Sure, the rules about how much she spends are a little strange – but with her savings and such the LW might be on a limited budget and it is very easy to over-spend around Christmas.


Hmm December 26, 2011 at 11:21 am

I don’t consider coming home and telling family what she had done as bragging. Going on and on about it, telling EVERYONE, maybe. Sharing a story of generosity is not bragging.
Would the story have been different if it was the adult child ranting about lack of gifts, instead of the mother?


David December 26, 2011 at 11:23 am

The OP’s mother was way out of line with reading the OP the riot act about how the OP handles gifting and charity. That is completely the OP’s decision. Hopefully the OP will have learned her lesson and no longer talk to her mother about any charitable things the OP does.

That said, hopefully the OP will be able to find coupons that help her get presents for her parents during the rest of the year. Mother’s day, Father’s day, their birthdays, etc. This probably won’t fix her mother feeling like she doesn’t get enough, but at least the OP will know that dada and mom are getting presents, even if they don’t remember them.


Pixie December 26, 2011 at 11:41 am

Yes, she should have kept her good deed to herself. That is where my agreement ends. Her mother’s behavior is just appalling. Gifts are not a necessity and should not be treated as such. Her mom needs to grow up. I seriously doubt her parents would be living with her if she didn’t love them.


Steph December 26, 2011 at 11:42 am

I agree the OP probably shouldn’t have bragged to her mother. However, I don’t understand her mother’s anger. They live with the Op and are squabbling about how much some slippers cost? Perhaps they shouldn’t exchange gifts any longer if it will be tit for tat.

I don’t agree that there is the same expectations on gifts now that the parents live with the OP. I don’t see how providing for the parents now brings with it the added gift burden. Also, if the OP is spending $4 on a coat for her daughter, she may well be spending $25 on all 8 gifts. But even if she isn’t, money isn’t a sign of how much a gift is worth.


original poster December 26, 2011 at 11:42 am

OP here. I gift to various causes all year long, and never feel the urge to brag. For me, the tip to the waitress was was a much more personal, impulsive experience, and the joy it gave me was a definite high I don’t normally experience. I thought my mom would share in my excitement. In hindsight, I obviously will not be sharing any donations or gift giving information with her.

I find it interesting that a couple of people have mentioned dementia. My husband and I have actually had a few brief conversations about whether or not this could be something we are going to have to deal with – there have been other issues with my mother lately that caused us to take pause. Extreme rudeness to just about every person in the household is a big one, in instances where it is completely out of left field.

One fact that I left out was that all of my kids were adopted as older children, and coming from a deprived background. My son (the oldest) also lives with us and will probably be on disability for the rest of his life due to mental limitations he has – he still reacts to Christmas as a much younger child. My oldest daughter is fresh out of the house and in her own apartment, and we are still very close. And our youngest was only recently adopted, so the holidays to her are still full of wonder. So, part of the reason I still strive a lot to give them a good Christmas with lots of gifts is because it is still a very magical holiday to all of my kiddos. I just find it very hard to understand why my mother would be so against me giving my children a bountiful holiday.

I do take the point from the admin that I should have found a way to buy a robe for my dad. I did NOT do due diligence in trying to find one, as I became sidetracked with other things. Then, as the holiday approached and my budget shrank, I realized that I would not be able to find it at the price point I needed it to be. I should have budgeted better and made it a priority.

I absolutely treat them like members of the household and family though. When we go out to eat, they are invited along and I buy them surprise gifts all year long if I have a coupon. When we got our tax return back, we bought them new clothing and paid for my father to get a new pair of glasses and an eye exam, since he hadn’t had one in about a decade. I strive very hard to make our home a positive place for them.

My mom buys my husband and I a $5-$10 gift every year for Christmas, and the same for my sister. My brother receives gifts totaling somewhere around $50. There is no doubt he is the favorite, but my sister and I deal with it, with good humor. Writing this out makes me really focus on the fact that it seems my mom equates quantity with love. Next year I am going to have to step it up with her, I suppose.

We had a very awkward Christmas morning this year – my mom sat beside the fireplace, staring at us and clucking her tongue whenever a gift was opened. Later, I’ve heard, she complained to my sister over the phone that the way that we do Christmas is “RIDICULOUS.” Apparently, she felt that our – open one gift at a time – routine was terrible, and that my children should run over and rip open all of the presents at once. I’m rolling my eyes here.

Honestly, I just feel that no matter what I do, my mother is going to be unhappy at this point.


Threepenny December 26, 2011 at 11:42 am

I’m sorry; I would be ashamed of myself if I thought $50 for an unknown waitperson because she “looked tired” was better than buying my mother (who probably is also tired, but I don’t know) only a $10 pair of slippers. IMO, the gesture toward the waitress was nice, but seriously – you’d spend only $10 on your mother then hand a total stranger a $50?

I don’t get it.

Your mother, OP, was very, very wrong to berate you in such a way, but I do understand the feelings behind the tirade. You say you spend “$25 per couple”. Your parents are “just a couple”? Yes, I realize they live in your home and (possibly) rent free – but, honestly. ONE (very inexpensive) gift each, dividing up $25 between them while everyone else has eight or more gifts to open, then to come home bragging about your largess toward a waitperson (nothing against waitstaff, so let’s not get into that). WOW… you spent more on the LUNCH than you did your own mother’s gift. To top that off, you gave $50. $50. Hmmm.. Let’s see. Your mother got a $10 gift. You bought an $11 lunch (already more than you claimed you “could afford” for a gift for your mother, then not only gave $50, you went home and bragged about how great it made YOU feel. Maybe you should have thought how great it’d make, oh, I don’t know – those who live with you, who raised you (and, hey, I don’t know your family dynamics but I came from a completely dysfunctional home and even I would have bought the robe before I gave the money away to a total stranger, whilst claiming that a $10 pair of slippers is just great for mom to open while everyone else has eight or more.

Don’t they say giving starts at home?

I am completely with admin on this one. Even if your parents had NOT been living with you, the idea that you would split $25 between them (BETWEEN THEM) yet give a waitress you have never in your life before seen twice that amount is just… wrong.

So, so very wrong.

(and before I get blasted, Christmas is not about money; I know that.)

If you had stopped into a shelter for homeless, maybe I’d see it a bit better. I do not at ALL find it altrustic on the OP’s part to give a total stranger $50 only giving her parents a split gift of $25.

I also agree bragging “I GAVE A WAITRESS A $50 TIP ON A BILL THAT WAS MORE THAN I SPENT ON YOU.” is wrong. I understand the mother was upset. I don’t agree with the way she portrayed that hurt, but. Somethings sometimes just come out.

As for those suggesting “dementia”, I really wish everyone would stop assuming that with age comes sudden dementia and that those over 50 are suddenly incapacitated. I find that EXTREMELY rude (not to mention against forum rules). My own mother is only 66 and if I had posted that she’d gone off on me and received that reply, I’d be livid. And I GUARANTEE she does not have dementia.

But I will guarantee that if I had bought my mother a cheap pair of slippers then gave a waitress $50 on an $11 bill she’d be hurt. She wouldn’t have expressed it in the way the OP’s mother did, but she would be. And I would not blame her. Had I given it to a shelter, or the like, she’d be fine. But a $50 tip on an $11 bill that was more than mom’s gift? Uh-uh. Cold. Sorry. That’s my opinion.

That $50 could have bought a robe for your father, and you know it.

I know of no one who claims to split a certain amount “between couples” then includes his/her own parents into that mix as just another couple.


Kovitlac December 26, 2011 at 11:46 am

While I would never throw the temper tantrum your mother did, or even say anything about it at all, if I was a close family member and had been told that someone very dear to me had spent $50 on a perfect stranger but $10 on me, inside I would be crushed. I’m not saying that the amount of money is all that matters (it is, after all, always the thought that counts), but it’s a very clear point being made – you would rather make a stranger genuinely happy then your parents. I would guess that it’s not so much the money that bothers your mother, but the clear priority being shown. At least when it comes to the stranger – your mother was acting rather petty when she was bringing up your children. Of course they would get the most when it comes to presents.


Threepenny December 26, 2011 at 11:52 am

Just wanted to edit my comment to say that I meant I don’t know if the OP’s mother is tired… not mine. : )

I also disagree with the poster who said “the fact is their presence is a burden on the family.”

The OP never said that. She said that it was working out reasonably well.


Erin December 26, 2011 at 12:03 pm

I agree with Admin on this one. The real issue isn’t the dollar amount, it’s the thought and effort. It’s possible there wasn’t a hooded robe in your price range somewhere, but you could have found some wiggle room in your budget if you had $50 to give to the waitress.

Also, you didn’t just give $50 to the waitress, you bought yourself $50 worth of feeling like an awesome person. Then you bragged to your mom that you bought yourself a $50 gift when your total budget for both of your parents is $25. Dollar amounts are an easy way of judging priorities.


Tabby December 26, 2011 at 12:05 pm

I can see why people are disagreeing because it is the OP’s money, and gifts are in my opinion more or less the choice of the giver. However, I read the mother asking her to get the robe for her father and wondered if the mother was unable to gift her husband with a good gift herself – do the parents even have any income right now? Asking her daughter to purchase it may have been her way of making sure her sick husband got a nice gift. The OP doesn’t say that mother pitched a fit when she was told that the robe wasn’t affordable. At that time, I think she accepted it as part of the limitations of OP’s budget. It wasn’t until the OP happily tells her that she left $50 on the table for a stranger, that the mother was upset. I think she understood that action to mean that the OP had more disposable income than she had told her mother with regards to presents. Basically, it might have come off as “I won’t spend extra on my sick parents suffering from severe financial troubles, but dropping $50 on a stranger? No problem.”

Now is that a nice thing to think when your daughter has done something charitable? Not really. But it is understandable that the thought came to her mind and then everything else spilled out with it in a moment of anger. I think that in general, your money is yours to spend. But in this situation, if you had extra money, it would have been better to make good on your promise to buy your father that robe. I find it very strange that you are able to find such amazing deals for your children, such as a pea coat for $3, but then can only find slippers for $10. You don’t buy gifts for your siblings – you give them money essentially, would it have really killed you to put some extra thought into your parents’ gifts?


original poster December 26, 2011 at 12:09 pm

Oh, and to answer the question – my husband and I do not exchange gifts, as we love each other all year long and don’t feel that it is necessary to spend the cash. The gift we give each other is the joy we share at seeing our kids happy.


GroceryGirl December 26, 2011 at 12:13 pm

While I agree with Admin that she shouldn’t have bragged about giving the waitress a $50 tip I disagree with the idea that presents should be equal among everyone in one house. Since I was a teenager Christmas gifts were never “equal” in my house. OP’s mother is an adult, adults should not throw hissy fits because they didn’t get as many presents as someone else, that is the behavior of a small child.


danielle December 26, 2011 at 12:15 pm

Admin I am shocked that for once I disagree with you, OP has been waiting for a chance to leave a nice tip for awhile as such she clearly had budgeted this in her own mind so that 50 was never left over for anyone else gifts.

Also putting ones parents at the same level you do your children seems off to me. I am 25 still living with my mom as well as being the primary caregiver to my grandmother (I should also mention I am unemployed) I bought one nice gift for my grandmother and a number of small things for my mom who in turn bought me a number of things I had asked for throughout the year (she keeps a list and spoils me a little because I am her only child) we have both been told over the years that I am a spoiled brat because I tend to get a lot of what I asked for however I am the only only child in my family so my parents never had to buy for anybody else. While this may be rambling I do have a point, OP budgeted her gift giving in a way she saw fit to give her parents and siblings gifts worth the same amount while spoiling her children-something all parents do for there children, OPs mom is in the wrong here not OP and in my opinion sharing something that happened during your day that made you feel really great is wonderful.

So OP congratulations on your gift of good cheer I wish I had the ability to be that generous.


Sarah Jane December 26, 2011 at 12:15 pm

OP, you have learned that you cannot share with your mother stories of your own generosity and expect her to share in your joy.

I am a little surprised by some of the comments I’ve read in response to this story.

I’ve never heard of a parent berating his or her own child (adult or not) for not spending enough money/ not giving him or her adequate gifts. Why on earth would a grandparent presume entitlement to the same quality of gifts as her own grandchildren receive? My parents would as soon receive nothing if my children could have even more (not that that’s what we do 🙂 )

Many parents who have to move in with their adult children are appreciative, helpful, and determined to keep themselves from becoming any more of a burden that that which they already perceive themselves to be. OP, as some have mentioned, maybe dementia could be the issue. Otherwise, your mother sounds dreadfully ungrateful.


Order December 26, 2011 at 12:52 pm

I am certainly on board with admin on this–anytime someone is in our home during the main gift gifting time, everyone gets about the same number of presents–maybe not the same amount of money spent, but we think everyone present should be on somewhat equal ground. it doesn’t matter to us who they are, relatives, friends, or foreign exchange students, we go to extra lengths to make it all equal. if there is a reason to give something extra or a little more expensive, or something potentially emotionally wrenching, we do it one on one with the recipient at a different time, alone.


Sterling December 26, 2011 at 1:55 pm

Sorry but the poster did nothing wrong. She sounds generous and loving. Yes it stinks that mom and dad end up having to live with their child but a mother’s job is to take care of her children. Token gifts to her grown parents is completely ok. It isn’t her job to lavish them with expensive gifts.

Also giving her daughter a coat that she only spend $4 shows that she is not giving them $1000s while giving the mom $10. Personally it sounds like mom is feeling a little entitled.

The only thing should have not been done was tell the mother about your generosity since she seems to be a little selfish.


Caros December 26, 2011 at 2:07 pm

Sorry admin, I think you’re wrong too. The mother & father have been provided with a safe, secure, loving home, presumably for the rest of their days, which easily trumps any package that could be found under the Christmas tree. This is a gift that the OP was in no way obligated to provide. I think the mother should be reminded of that, if anyone is being selfish, it’s her. How nice & sweet of grandma to begrudge her grandchildren the gifts they receive. How sweet of grandma to begrudge the caring organisation of gifts to other people who are in a far worse & therefore far more needy position than herself.


SV December 26, 2011 at 2:49 pm

OP, you sound like a generous, kind, lovely woman. Be proud of yourself and the positive vibe you put out in the world. You never know – that $50 tip just may have changed that waitress’s life. I think the only thing you can do is try to put this experience behind you. Whether the outburst was caused by hurt feelings, early dementia, jealousy or anything else there is really nothing you can do about it at this point. Remember all the good things you have done in the world and go from there 🙂


Mary December 26, 2011 at 2:52 pm

I understand being on a budget and trying to gift accordingly. I do agree that she should not have shared the news of the tip with her mother.

I would do my best to make more of an attempt to make my parents feel like they were members of the household family. I would try and buy their gifts throughout the year when you can buy things on clearance like you do with your children. This way you can stretch the dollar as much as possible.

If your parents have specific requests closer to Christmas when it’s not possible to buy on clearance, then try and stretch that money even further. If let’s say you can spend $15 on each person, take advantage of the store deals. In the last two months, there have been a number of stores offering coupons that will take $10 off a $25 purchase or $10 off any item $10 or over. This means you can buy a $25 item for $15 and not go over budget. Deals like this enable me to spend my allotted amount per person but get them something a little nicer than I can afford.


June December 26, 2011 at 3:02 pm

OP, I hope you and your husband continue to investigate your mother’s health. My siblings and I have also had to keep an eye on our parents as they have problems with their health.

I also volunteer a lot, and my siblings have (rather snarkily) suggested I spend more time with my own family instead of other families. It can be hard to find a compromise.
Maybe she should have received other little presents in addition to the slippers, but there’s not much you can do about that now.

I’m a little disappointed in the comments about how the mother should be grateful she has a roof over her head. Do you really think reminding her of that will help? That might just add to the resentment, IMO.


Julia December 26, 2011 at 3:11 pm

I must say that I’m very surprised by admin’s response to this. I completely disagree. Leaving the tip was a lovely gesture and the OP simply wanted someone to share in her happiness. I’m shocked that the mother, who is a grown woman, still equates material things with love. Obviously if the daughter took her and her father in, she loves them. That being said, I think it was wrong on the OP’s part to promise to buy her father a bathrobe and then not buy it. I’m sure she could have gone $5-$10 outside her budget to buy something for HER father. Not to mention that there are many 20%-30% coupons to department stores that all sell bathrobes. Also, even a small box of chocolates or something similar under the tree along with the slippers would have been a nice gesture.


squishyfish December 26, 2011 at 3:19 pm

Oh, what a pickle. I can see both sides of this story, though I do think that one party was more “in the wrong” than the other.

From Mom’s perspective, I can see how knowing that she usually gets a $10-$15 dollar gift, and then hearing OP brag about spending 5 times that amount on a total stranger, would sting. In general I find it is never a good idea to divulge the dollar amount you spent on your gifts, either to the receiver or to anyone else. It is just asking for bruised feelings.

But on the other hand, if I had opened my home to my elderly, ailing parents and then had to listen to one of them explode at me and call me selfish (!?) and complain about the quality of gifts that I’d given them, and also that they weren’t getting as many presents as my children? Wow. OP’s mom’s reaction was way, way out of line. At best it was immature and at worst emotionally manipulative. Bean-counting gifts when you are living with your adult child is not only outrageously rude but also “biting the hand that feeds you.”

OP, you don’t say whether your folks are living rent free, but it really doesn’t matter if they are contributing financially or not–having your parents move back in with you, especially if one or both of them is in poor health, is a burden, and opening your home to them is an act of great generosity. I don’t really know where your mom gets off calling you selfish while living under your roof.

And as for the idea that all the adults in the house receive the same caliber of gift–not only have you opened your home to your parents (a gift in itself) but, in my view anyway, it seems perfectly natural to give more to your own offspring than to others in your family, and I’m kind of surprised anyone would interpret this as an insult or snub. (Might just be me though!)

In my opinion you have already “extended the tent pegs” to your parents. Your only mistake here was being indiscreet with the dollar amount you spent on another person’s gift. You are free to spend your money in any way you choose however.


Rhonda December 26, 2011 at 4:05 pm

A person can spend their own money however they want.


Hellbound Alleee December 26, 2011 at 4:15 pm

I think one thing to keep in mind is that no matter how old or mature you are, you still need to have your parents approval. I have yet to meet anyone who has absolutely managed to get over that psychologically.

So yes, it seems crass that she was crowing about her charity, but one should remember it was to her own mother. Someone you confide in, someone you share things with and–no matter how hard you try to get over this–someone whose approval you crave.

I’d give her a break, and say I am sorry about how this went, and I know how hard it is to be an adult living with your parents. It messes up a good relationship.


Edhla December 26, 2011 at 4:21 pm

While “blowing up” is not exactly etiquette, I can’t imagine how humiliating it would be to have a close relative, who routinely spends ten dollars on you at Christmas, boast to you that they just handed a fifty dollar note over to a complete stranger on a whim.

OP, regardless of who you buy for, what you spend, and why- I think you need to seriously re-evaluate WHY you are giving. Because I can’t help but think there’s something instinctively wrong with giving charity/gifts to others just because you like to get high on the warm fuzzies it gives you. It then becomes a form of selfishness. If you can’t do these things without the boasting, you’re better off for your own sake and the happiness of your family in not doing them at all.


Gracie C. December 26, 2011 at 4:28 pm

I can see both sides of this and agree with the Admin to a point – particularly about not telling people about your own generosity. Enjoy the warm and fuzzy feeling it gave you – there is no reason to go shout it from the rooftops (which I know the OP didn’t exactly do, but I think the lesson is the same). But the thing that struck me about the post was the OP describing her parents as “extended family.” I know every family dynamic is different, but jeez – to me extended family isn’t the term you use for the people who gave birth to you and raised you. I imagine if the OPs children described her that way it would be hurtful. Yet, the OP gives extended family $25 per couple (which I think is plenty generous, btw), and because her inlaws are happy with a gift card to Red Lobster each year, and her parents don’t like gift cards she splits the funds. But it doesn’t sound like she goes out of her way to bargain hunt like she does with her children. Sure her mom said slippers, but my guess is because she doesn’t want to be a bother not because she’s just dying for her daughter to buy her $10 slippers. Frankly, I tend to spend more on my mother in thanks of everything she has ever done for me and all she has given me through the years (despite the fact that she always insists to me and my siblings that we don’t). And obviously the OP is doing much for her parents, and I think it’s wonderful that she and her family have been able to take them in, but I can completely understand the mother’s reaction – however wrong she was in voicing it.


Pam B December 26, 2011 at 4:38 pm

I think the mother was out of line. She is living in her daughter’s house out of her daughter’s generosity, so everyday she is recieving a gift. It does cost something to have someone live with you! I take it that the daughter’s family are providing utilities, mortgage and food. How much is the mother/grandmother buying for her daughter and grandchildren for Christmas? The daughter was telling her mother – not bragging to a perfect stranger – about something she did that made her feel great. I could tell my mom something like that and she’d “share my joy” about being able to help someone who looked like they had a need.


gramma dishes December 26, 2011 at 4:51 pm

I agree with Threepenny.

Yes, it was wrong of your mother to react the way she did. For sure. But I must say there is something “off” about handing $50 to a stranger you know absolutely nothing about. For all you know, she could be the owner of the darned restaurant! She may have looked tired because she was out all night partying the night before. There was no indication that she “needed” the money any more than your own family members.

I know it made you feel good — it was very VERY generous indeed and doing something like that once in awhile is fun for the spirit. But it was also a strange choice, given your frugality with your own family members.

However, I also notice that YOU are the one that took your parents into your own home and are apparently financially supporti9ng them. Not the sister to whom she complained; not the brother she has always favored. To me that means that she has no right to comment on how you spend your money (or give it away).

So I guess it’s a draw. You did something that made you (and a total stranger) feel really good, but in doing so you unintentionally diminished someone else (specifically your father and to a lesser extent your mother). And she’s basically not getting that their living with you is a very costly year round twenty-four hour a day gift that neither your sister nor your brother are able/willing to provide.

It seems to me that nobody really deserves any accolades here!


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