Gift-giving can be one of two things. It can be a display of lovely affection with the intent solely being on the giver getting pleasure from giving the gift, or it can be a weird and competitive act of manipulation for someone to lord over you.
So when people start expecting gifts in return, you can almost always say it’s #2. Redditor milis_annoying was in this situation with her mother-in-law, who became invasive and upset when her daughter-in-law wasn’t giving huge, lavish gifts for a birthday.
Unsure if she’d done something wrong, she went to the popular subReddit “Am I The A**hole” or AITA to get the feedback she wanted from objective strangers.
“AITA for not getting my in-laws birthday presents and telling my MIL [Mother In Law] to grow up and get over it?”
Our original poster, or OP, talked about the gift tension between her and her in-laws.
“My in-laws are gift-crazy. Everyone gets a gift for every single birthday, life event, mini holiday, etc…”
“Additionally, there are like 15 little kids between his siblings and they give gifts for like… every moment of their lives.”
“Starting school year, Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day, end of school year, birthdays.”
And then came the big moment of conflict.
“Two weeks ago one of the nieces turned 18. We sent a card. MIL called and started asking questions about if we were doing okay financially.”
“I thought that was weird (and inappropriate!!) and asked her what she was getting at.”
“She was like ‘You’re constantly talking about trips you’re going on, you post all the pictures of all the fabric and yarn you buy.'”
“‘I’m just wondering why you can’t send your nieces and nephews a measly $100 for their birthday and then some for Christmas? It’s the least you could do.’”
OP was wondering how she were supposed to afford that.
“I was honestly shocked because what I was hearing was that we’re expected to send $100 for every single holiday.”
“I asked her if that’s what she meant, because that was a LOT of money, and she was like ‘Well I don’t see what the big deal is? They’re your FAMILY’.”
“I started to say that maybe she should talk to my husband, but she was like ‘Well I’m talking to you right now and quite frankly I don’t understand this me-me-me attitude’.”
OP cut off this conversation while Mother-In-Law went for full character assassination.
“At this point I was ready to just get off the phone, so I said ‘You’re getting angry at me because I didn’t buy an ADULT a birthday present?'”
“‘You need to grow up and get over yourself. I’m done talking about this.’ I hung up and put my phone on silent.”
“She took the whole mess to facebook where she framed it as an innocent question.”
“’How would you feel if your son and daughter in law decided they no longer wanted to do simple things like send birthday presents and come visit for holidays?'”
“‘Would you feel heartbroken and abandoned to have them say “Grow up and get over it?” When does a mother get over feeling rejected by her child?’”
And then it turned into a full fight between OP’s husband and his mom.
“I texted it to my husband and said he’d handle it. When he got home, he said that he called her and she ripped into him.”
“EVERYTHING came up—that we live on the other side of the country and don’t visit, he never calls her, I’m ‘cold’ to everyone.”
“For the record, my family does like… occasional birthday or Christmas gifts. We stopped making a big fuss years ago.”
“Also the ‘trips’ she makes a big deal out of? Those are camping trips we take to areas around our state.”
Anonymous strangers weighed in by declaring:
- NTA – Not The A**hole
- YTA – You’re The A**hole
- ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
- NAH – No A**holes Here
Redditors definitely did not think OP was at fault here.
“$100 per person every birthday? And Christmas and life event??????? Plus gifts? And there are 15 children in the family??????”
“Even if you make a good living that’s an enormous amount to give out and frankly no one should expect or feel entitled to expensive gifts and handouts from every family member.”
“That’s a special kind of avaricious. Maybe gifts are MIL’s ‘love language’ but what she chooses to spend her money on is her business.”
“She shouldn’t be counting out others money and assigning it to a specific purpose. Especially for a big family who aren’t millionaires.”
“And keeping score of holidays and purchases (looking at yarn and totalling up the cost and deciding it should be spent on gifts, wtf?)”
“Then having the audacity to say OP and her husband shouldn’t be enjoying their money and instead spending it on gifts for people they rarely see and aren’t close to?”
“That’s a special level of entitled. Dang. NTA. Maybe MiL is a Farengi.”~Lulubelle__007
“Agreed. MIL is, at the best, extremely self centered, but I suspect narcissism here, tbh.”
“OP did you know you can add any of your facebook friends to your ‘restricted’ friends list? This way, you will still be facebook ‘friends’ but they will not see anything you post ever.”
“I may or may not have done this to my entire extended family.”
“Make sure you do it to MIL and anyone who would be in contact with her regularly and likely to say ‘did you see the picture OP posted?’ Because then it could blow up in your face lol.”
“My answer to family about how I seldom post is ‘oh I just decided this year to live in the moment and stay off social media and my phone so much. Plus, my life is pretty boring anyway I don’t have much to post about.'”
“Good luck, OP.”~MrsBoopyPutthole
“NTA – It’s called a ‘gift’ not an ‘obligation’ for a reason, no the real issue here is that she is unhappy with your arrangement, where you’re living etc.”
“And feels that she somehow has a right or say; which she doesn’t. Personally I find a card to be very considerate, it says that you’re thinking about them; the expectation of a gift is just greedy also.”~Wise_Manager_5104
“Tbh even though 18 is a milestone, I would have only been surprised not to get a gift from my parents and grandparents.”
“My aunts and uncles (and certainly younger cousins and brother) got me nothing, they just called and sang happy birthday to me like every year.”
“They do live in California but had a history of visiting 1-2 times a year and I’m know closer with them than my parents, though we talk way less.”
“They’re the kind of people you can call after 6 months radio silence and it feels like it’s only been a day.”
“I don’t feel like OP is TA here for not wanting to make a ‘big fuss,’ that goes both ways. They’re not bitter and rude, but the relative sure is.”
“She’s demanding a gift for her adult son and then putting up a twisted version of events on facebook to play the victim, after asking an invasive question about OP’s finances.”
“I could maybe understand this ruling if she had called to ask what OP was doing for her son and OP had said ‘a card’ and she had said ‘oh, no gift? would you be willing to send a bit of money just for the big occasion?’ Even that would be pushing boundaries but not crossing them.”
“And this coming from someone who would buy all four of my cousins from one aunt/uncle an equivalent to a gaming system every birthday and Christmas if I could.”
“And something slightly smaller for the cousin by marriage from my other aunt and uncle just because I don’t know her as well and don’t know her older brother at all. I love giving gifts.”~sunshadowsburn
After all, MIL did butt into their lives without permission.
“I’m going with NTA. First, you tried not to engage and she pushed until you snapped. Second, she was rude af with her passive aggressive round about way of asking.”
“Third, it does not sound like there’s a wild imbalance of generosity here. Forth, a card does show you’re thinking of someone – same as a hand made scarf or whatever.”
“I will say this, which does not negate my NTA decision – some people genuinely feel loved through gifts and don’t really get that love button hit any other way.”
“I am not one of those people. Gifts stress me the hell out. I like giving gifts just fine, but usually if you feed me or spend time with me I appreciate that 100 times more than even the most expensive gift.”
“So when it comes to giving gifts, you’re more likely to get a small/consumable/experiential gift from me.”
“It’s really awkward, because like you I’m a ‘please don’t get me anything’ person who married into a ‘we’re dropping $500 on you for Christmas here take this thing you’ll never use’ family.”
“I’ve found that it sometimes works best to just… play ball. Sucks. And I DO have and enforce limits. But you can strategically plan.”
“For example, JC Penny is running a massive mother’s day sale on jewelry right now.”
“My mom and MIL are only getting cards this year because we aren’t seeing either of them (my MIL will probably be super sad – but as I said, I have limits) but you bet your tush I’m shopping for jewelry now to have a decent stash of gifts bought cheap come more ‘significant’ occasions.”
“All that being said, the passive aggressive intro, the passive aggressive FB post, and the fact that she lit into your DH for like a billion other things is setting off my spidey senses.”
“I don’t think this is about the card sans gift. This is about something else that she’s too chicken to bring up, but is hell bound on getting you guys to ‘figure out’ so she doesn’t have to say it.”
“Good luck with that one. I’m 12 years into a MIL relationship like that and I still step in dookie multiple times a year because I’m dense as titanium and don’t understand that game.”~UnApprovedActivities
“Well, on the plus side, most of the people your MIL is connected to on Facebook don’t know you and you will never have to meet them since you live on the other side of the country. So, that’s good.”
“And as for the others in the family that do know you, well, they will just have to get over it, too, if it is a problem for them, when their birthday or whatever is acknowledged simply by a nice card.”
“They will come to accept that op just isn’t a big gift giver. And that’s OK.”
“NTA and how dare your MIL demand you give better presents. You do what you are comfortable with, and putting your MIL on ‘mute’ on Facebook might be a good idea, too. NTA”~Servantofbosco
“NTA. If this is your husband’s family’s tradition, then he needs to do it or convey to you how important it is.”
“I just have to ask…how many members of his family acknowledge your birthday in the intended way (not FB, but hand written cards and money/gifts)?”
“And have you received thank-you notes for every gift you have ever given to this family?”~devlin94
“My aunts and uncles have never even sent me a card for my bday. My siblings rarely do more than just text to say happy bday.”
“Such a ridiculous expectation. Also, if that’s what’s expected, why isn’t your husband the one who is responsible for buying the gifts? It’s his family. NTA.”~the-willow-witch
And it seemed like she was taking out a lot of things meant for her son on OP.
“NTA. That’s a lot of relatives, a lot of money and a lot of occasions. You’re not obligated to give everyone a gift for every single occasion.”
“Your MIL is the a-hole for expecting all that and when you explained you weren’t doing that anymore, she was really wrong to take it public.”~No_Proposal7628
“NTA. Honestly, sending anyone other than immediate family a gift for a birthday and holidays is beyond generous.”
“Even just a card to a niece you live cross country from is more than my family would ever do.”
“Generally, gifts are reserved for close family and people who invited you to a party. Your MIL is acting ridiculously entitled on behalf of your niece.”~grw313
“NTA. Sure, maybe you could have worded it better, but it sounds like she is being incredibly selfish on ALL fronts, not just gifts but attention too (I.E. not coming home often) and then trying to spin it like you’re the selfish one.”
“You’re not little kids, and you lead your own lives. She needs to understand that neither of you are obligated to make them the center of your attention or make sacrifices for it.”~Hans_of_Death
“NTA and this has become very much a not your circus problem. This is your husband and his mother’s problem.”
“It’s his job to meet or manage these expectations of his mother’s. Throw your hands up, back away slowly and let your husband know it’s his family’s crazy and you’re happy to support him.”~recyclopath_
Family drama is a difficult thing to get sucked into when you’re not directly related to the family.
It can just invade your space.
Hopefully MIL and OP’s husband can work out their issues on their own time.