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My SO has a habit of playing Disneyland Dad when we see his daughter. I totally understand it, she's not even mine and I want to spoil her rotten, but we just can't. She is a super sweet eleven year old but she is very spoiled in the material sense. Her mom and stepdad have way more money than we do, and her grandfather will put himself in the poorhouse to buy her anything she wants. The only thing I can think of that she wants but doesn't have yet is an ipad, and she'll probably get that for Christmas. It's wonderful that her other family can afford to buy her what she wants and take her to a theme park every weekend, but we can't.
SO doesn't make money like that, I am not working now because of my pregnancy, and we have a new baby on the way. How do we scale back with her and quit being those people?? Every time we see her we go in with a budget in mind, and we totally blow it. We end up taking her out to eat three times a day, taking her to some funpark, and taking her shopping. When I'm not there it's easy for me to lecture SO on it, but up until now I've been just as bad. He does it because he is trying to make up for moving so far away, I'm doing it because I don't have kids yet and it is super fun to get to do all of that fun stuff. I should mention that this is new for SO, his ex (not SD's mom) wouldn't let him spend anything on her above child support. She literally got no presents for her birthday or Christmas. So maybe he is also trying to make up for that.
Any ideas on how to bring all three of us back to reality? Or what we can do at holidays when we watch her open expensive gift after expensive gift from her mom's side, and we have 100 dollars total worth of gifts for her?
Why not find fun things to do in your area that don't cost a lot. I live in the suburbs of Chicago - lots of cool things to do but megga expensive too. But when I was laid off last year, I found a ton of free things to do in our arear. Some of which we have gone back to this year when we had some money.
We go to a park or something and pack a picnic lunch - which my kids enjoy!
I agree with Kris. I would definitely look for some free or inexpensive things to do with her in your area. And she's 11, so she's not a baby and I certainly think that you could sit her down and talk with her about living within your means.
We do come up with fun free things to do but somehow they always get vetoed. She will say, "let's go to Funland!" and SO is like, "sure Funland sounds amazing!" Of course it's amazing, it has fun in the title, but she goes to Funland 3 weekends a month, she could skip it and go to the beach with us.
I think it would be easier to say no if we lived closer and had more time with her. It's so easy to turn their visitation into a big deal though, when we only see her once a month or every other month.
Since you said that we could discuss living within our means with her, is it okay to point out that we'd love to do all of that stuff with her or buy her expensive presents but the trip just to see her is expensive? We could spend 500 dollars on christmas presents if she didn't want to see us for christmas, but between gas, meals, and hotels it is an expensive trip that we make many times a year. Then again, it isn't her fault her father moved a million miles away and I don't want her to think it is a sacrifice for us to come and see her. I still view it as a joy to do it.
I don't think I would put the trip itself into dollars and cents for her. I think that might make her feel guilty, kwim? I would just tell her that as a family you have made a decision to manage your family's money better and to live within a budget. I would explain it to her in a way that makes sense to her, like take her allowance and help her come up with a way to make it last till her next one comes (if she gets an allowance, that is).
I would also let her know that by not splurging every time you come see her that you'll be able to save up money to do something really special a few times a year and because it won't be the same old thing every visit, it'll be really special, make sense?
Anyway, that's how I would do. Kids do understand. I mean, I'm sure she'll be disappointed, but kids have short term memories. I'm sure she'd much rather have you and her dad there for the holidays then get more gifts and miss out. And if you're worried about how meager your gifts will look next to her mom & step-dad's gifts, plan a time when just the three of you are together to give them to her.
Thanks so much for your advice! I will try to implement your suggestions on our next visit. We are spending a week there at Thanksgiving.
Thinking about it though, I think a lot of the problem is him and not stepdaughter. No matter how much guilt he feels, we still have a finite amount of money. If he wants to spend more on her when we are there, then that money has to come from somewhere. I should probably put the budget on paper, keep track of what he spends on those extras, and then later ask him where he wants that money to come from.
I don't mind spending money on her, but we don't have a lot of it. More importantly, I think by playing Disney Dad he is avoiding doing real parenting. Gosh that sounds harsh, especially from someone who doesn't have kids yet. It seems like it is easier to take her to Disney World and keep her happy that way though, than it is to sit down with her and really learn about her life.
I know what you're talking about. I think a lot of non-custodial parents end up doing the same thing. I know that even though I raised my kids and had custody of them, I spoiled them and over-compensated to try to make up for the absence of their dad in their day-to-day lives. I don't think it's necessarily wrong to do that, but it has to be within reason and certainly you have to live within one's means. If you constantly over-spend it really could set your SD up for bad spending habits later in life. I think if you approach or DH with that sort of conversation, he might be more receptive to it, kwim?