My mom just had a big argument with me tonight. She's turning 70 this summer and we were talking about party plans. Out of nowhere she mentioned that she would like to have a cruise to Alaska, with everyone in the family, and have her party on the ship. I probably said it too fast but I told her that's too expensive for us. We're starting a small business and haven't made much money in the last year. We could theoretically afford this, but don't want to spend that our savings on vacation. I told her we're planning a trip to Seattle this summer (not too far from us) and she's welcome to join. She flipped and ranted on and on about how disappointing her children are. Well, my brother just had bankruptcy and lives mostly on disability. I don't see how he can afford that either. I suggested some other cheaper vacations and she turned them all down (actually I suspect she stopped listening once she's in the ranting mode.) saying they're not good enough for her 70th birthday. She doesn't want just a big feast with family and friends, that's so old. It has to be special. Then she complained more about my brother and I (as a SAHM) not making much money. Said if I made the money I'd have no problem with expensive vacations. I finally told her she's judging our worth based on money, despite knowing that both brother and I are good, caring people. She's putting money over relationships and she'll never be happy that way. She hung up the phone.
I guess my question is: how do you deal with materialistic people like that? When they think you're inferior because you don't make a lot of money, or don't appear to make a lot of money. We're not poor, just naturally frugal. She always attribute that to me staying at home. If only I worked we're never need to be frugal and I can buy her all sorts of stuff and join her in vacations. I guess she can keep dreaming. I wouldn't change my habit even if we're rich. Sometimes I want to tell her that I'm equally disappointed about her.
*BTW I already bought her a birthday present. It was $300. More than what I usually spend on birthdays because this is a "big one". She doesn't know this of course.
I wish I had a better answer for you but I think unfortunately that there's not much you CAN say to people who feel that way. My friend/boss is this way. She spends a lot of time shopping and spending money and thinking about money and how to make more of it. She's very ambitious and thinks nothing of opening credit cards and charging them up because she can always make more money and pay it off. She works hard and deserves to spend like she sees fit. Her baby daughter who isn't walking yet has a rubbermaid tote full of shoes and at least 3 pairs of ray-ban jr sunglasses at $75 a pop.(we sell sunglasses and get a 50% discount). Those are just examples but obviously she spends like this everywhere in her life. This baby's first birthday party is being planned 3 months in advance with a guest list of 70 and it's going to cost about $400-$500 BEFORE a gift is purchased. I know because I helped pick out the invitations and the venue and the decor. So obviously when I talk about not being able to afford the basics in life, she can't relate. So we stick to subjects unrelated to my (lack of) finances. And I smile and nod and commiserate when she talks about her daughter's baby gymnastics class and the merits of a certain high-end maternity/boutique vs the local gymnastics place that churns out National champions yearly for her 9 month old. How do you tell someone how stupid that sounds to you when you can't afford food or CHOOSE not to buy your kids Ray-Ban sunglasses or Ugg boots at the pre-walker stage? They don't "get" your lifestyle just like you don't "get" theirs. So I don't think there's a compromise that will please your mom. I think she is just going to be upset that she's not "good enough" to warrant that money spent on her, because in my experience, that's how materialistic people view it. The people I know at least see the money spent as something they deserve and are entitled to and NOT getting to spend that money or have it spent on them is a personal slight to their worth.
As for the money judgements, it's hard. We have the least money of anyone in the family. So, when my mom and sisters sit around talking about this designer bag or the new luggage they bought, I totally zone out. I can't remember what it was that I was admiring of my sister's, but she said,"oh, you could get this, it's cheap. It's only $100." My middle son spit his drink out laughing and said,"$100? That's cheap." Then walked away chuckling to himself. The look on my sister's face was priceless. I don't think she even considered that $100 might be a big deal to our family.
Coming from my 7 and 9yo, it would sound bratty but age appropriate. At 70? I'm trying to be understanding, but my initial reaction would be similar to my kneejerk response to my kids: well, we can just not celebrate your birthday, if it comes to that. If you want tosuggest something more reasonable like a party, I'm happy to oblige. If not, tough. Have a fun birthday.
Hopefully I'll have simmered down before I actually said something, though.
"Let me see you stripped down to the bone. Let me hear you speaking just for me."
I have no idea how you could say this to your mother, but here goes:
My Dad was pretty wealthy, and also was the type who wanted all the family at his birthday parties. So it was up to him to get us there. For his 80th, he flew one sister to LA from Spain, and another from Osaka, Japan. Those of us from the US drove, but he paid the expenses. For his 70th, he flew me to London, and managed to get everyone else there as well. I appreciate that he understood that we wanted to attend, but simply could not afford it.
It was HIS shindig, and he was responsible to pay for it. Our family is geographically scattered. International trips are beyond the means of most of us. It seems to me that your Mom should pay for this cruise for everyone who cannot afford it, if it is really that important to her. Otherwise, there are a hundred cheaper alternatives.
Rhu - mother,grandmother,daughter,sister,friend-foster,adoptive,and biological;not necessarily in that order. Some of it's magic, some of it's tragic, but I had a good life all the way (Jimmy Buffet)
Thanks! She actually called today and said she shouldn't have ask for a cruise vacation. I said that's fine, it's not gonna happen anyway. Guess she cooled off overnight. That would have been fine but she had to keep talking more. Anyway she's disappointed in her children (both brother and I have many health issues and couldn't work a full time job even if we wanted to, no chance of big money for us). I wanted to say "sorry you feel disappointed, but that's not my problem", but I had to go then and couldn't risk getting into another argument. Her problem is she keeps comparing to her friends and their children, then feel ashamed that her children give her nothing to brag about. She's been bragging about her grandchildren, though, even distorting the truth a bit, saying they're all straight A students. :D Only one of my sons is a straight A, my other son and my brother's daughter are only above average in grades. As far as I know this is pretty common behavior for average people. I myself will never be able to understand why people do this(comparing to better off people), it only brings disappointment and make their life unhappy.
I am so so sorry. My mom has some issues with money too and it makes it very hard. I am sure you already know this, but really, it is not about money with your mom- it is probably something bigger that is bothering her- something that is much bigger than money and no matter how much you spent, it wouldn't make a difference because it is only something that she can change- nothing to to do with you or your brother. It is very hard when you have a person like that in your life, especially a parent. I think the only thing you can really do is listen to her when you can and try as hard as you can to set up some clear emotional boundaries in your own head. It sounds like she is not happy with some things in her life but it is not up to you to make her life happy, only she can do that. It sounds like your a really great daughter who tries hard to please her but make sure to take care of yourself too.