Monday, February 26, 2024
HomeVacationsMy family loves to give me surprise vacations I absolutely can't afford

My family loves to give me surprise vacations I absolutely can’t afford

Dear Prudence is Slate’s advice column. Submit questions here. (It’s anonymous!)
Dear Prudence,
I have a problem that no one is taking seriously. I was given a trip to a tropical destination with my child by my mom who also will be coming along and my sister (who is paying for herself) for my birthday. I am not happy at all. I cannot afford a trip, especially one in less than two months. All the main stuff is taken care of, but we still need to eat and spend “tourist dollars.”
I’m a single mother and just plain poor, plus I have major (diagnosed) social anxiety. The thought of going to one of the sunniest places in the world scares me. I know I’m being terrible and ungrateful but I’m honestly sick of these surprise gift trips for my birthday and Christmas that I can’t afford and then people get mad at me for not having the money. What should I do? Just suck it up, not pay my rent for a month and cry in the restroom when it becomes too much? Also, my family sucks at communicating, people’s feelings get hurt too easily, and I’m tired of being the broken, hermit villain.
—First World Problems
Dear First World Problems,
Advertisement
Advertisement
You should definitely not fall behind on rent and cry in the restroom over this. Here is what you say to your mother: “Mom I am so incredibly grateful for the birthday gift and it’s really hard for me to tell you this but money is so tight that I can’t afford to go because I don’t have the extra cash for meals and all the other odds and ends that come with traveling. It means so much to me that you wanted to have this experience but it just won’t work. Can I take a rain check for sometime in the future when I’m in a better place financially and with my anxiety? Given everything I have going on, surprise trips probably aren’t the best for me.” If everything is booked and you’d like for your daughter to have the experience with her grandmother and aunt while you stay behind and have time to yourself, propose that and tell her how much you’d appreciate it.
Advertisement
Advertisement
I know the idea of causing a conflict or hurting your mom’s feelings probably fills you with dread. And her reaction might, in fact, be really tough on you. But standing up for yourself this time, even if it means being painted as “the broke, hermit villain,” will make her think twice before booking another ticket without consulting you again. Wanting to have a say in your travel plans is not unreasonable or “terrible and ungrateful” by the way. It’s a normal expectation to have as an adult. You say your family sucks at communicating, but remember that you’re a member of the family and you can work to change that, at least on your end. By the time your child is grown up, things could be different. If you want your child to know that it’s OK to say no to things that don’t work for you and cause you massive stress, the time to start modeling that is now.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Get Even More Advice From the Dear Prudence Podcast
Dear Prudence,
My family moved around a lot when I was a child and it was hard for me to keep in contact with friends long-term, but for the last 15 years, I have managed to remain close with two dear ones: “W” and “J.” Over the last few years, there’s been this pattern where W won’t open messages from us for months on end (including our mostly-dormant group chat), and then when she resurfaces she says she was overwhelmed with mental health issues but missed us. I’ve always accepted this without question: I miss her too, and I more than understand unintentionally neglecting communication and then feeling awkward because so much time has passed! I’ve tried my best to be supportive and keep things going, not overloading her with messages and arranging low-effort (for her) meetups when we can.
Advertisement
Advertisement
But something has happened recently that is making me second-guess things. I got engaged last week (yay!) and posted a couple of announcement-type pictures in our group chat. J responded quickly congratulating us, but W didn’t. I thought no biggie: She’s currently in a no-contact slump, and I assumed she’d see them and say something when she “came back.” A couple of days later, I noticed that she had viewed the pictures, but still not responded. J then told me she happened to run into her and asked her about it, and she said she “just kept forgetting to respond.” This… stings quite a bit. I’ve never been one to think of weddings as the Single Most Important Thing in a person’s life, but still, I feel like this is a pretty big milestone that at least merits acknowledgment. Plus, my partner and I have always talked about a small wedding (less than 50 people), which doesn’t leave a lot of spots for friends once our essential family members are accounted for. As one of my oldest friends, we always assumed W would get one of those spots, but now I’m not so sure. Should I finally take this as a hint that she’s just not interested in maintaining our friendship?
—Don’t Wanna Give Up
Dear Don’t Wanna Give Up,
Advertisement
Advertisement
A category of friend we don’t talk about much is the old friend who still has special “close friend” status because of our history, but who we aren’t actually close to currently. I suspect that’s what W is to you. She’s important to you because you’ve known her for so long, but you don’t chat regularly—and you don’t even seem to have much detail on the mental health struggles that take such a toll on her. It sounds like they may be more intense than you know. So please don’t decide her silence is a “hint” that she doesn’t care about you without first speaking to her. There’s too much at stake to take her comment to J at face value. Instead, you need to bridge the gap between having close friend expectations of her and having close friend intimacy with her. Pick up the phone and call her. The conversation I’m imagining would include lines like this:
Advertisement
Advertisement
“I wanted to check in on you and hear your voice.”
“I know you go no contact every once in a while, and I think because I don’t want to overwhelm you I haven’t asked about your mental health and how you’re doing.”
“When I didn’t hear from you after announcing my engagement, I realized you might be having a tougher time than I realized.”
“We’ve been friends forever and I want to be here for you.”
“If you need space from our friendship or if I’ve done something to make you not want to be in touch as much, you can tell me that, too.”
“When it comes to my wedding, do you think you’ll feel up to coming? If not, do you want me to keep you in the loop about it?”
“If you’re not sure, why don’t I ask you again a month before and see how you’re feeling?”
“What’s the best way I can respond as your friend if you go silent?”
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
I think if you’re able to have a discussion around those themes, you’ll come away with a pretty good feeling—based on what she says, how she says it, and what she doesn’t say—of what’s going on. Maybe she truly doesn’t want to be close anymore and has quietly demoted you from “close friend” to “childhood friend” status. But it’s possible that she’s doing poorly in a way that’s not personal and has nothing to do with how she feels about you. If it’s the latter, hang in there with her and try to be patient. Because yes, weddings are important moments when we hope for support from friends, but dark times are too.
Advertisement
Advertisement
How to Get Advice From Prudie
Submit your questions anonymously here. (Questions may be edited for publication.) Join the live chat every Monday at noon (and submit your comments) here.
Dear Prudence,
My husband had a short, adoring marriage to his college sweetheart when he was 23. By the time they married, her cancer was already very serious and she passed away barely a year later. She left him with a beautiful gift—she pushed him to try again when he was ready and encouraged her family to remain in his life, if possible. I met her family (we call them by a too-identifying title I don’t want to share here so I’ll call them “her family” but we don’t see them as just hers) when we got serious, and they’ve been incredible—supportive, loving, and treating me with warmth and kindness. My family has been normal about this blended situation even though they aren’t close with hers. His parents seemed a little cold about it but were polite at our wedding and events over the years.
Advertisement
Advertisement
But now we’re having a baby and his parents are up in arms. I see our extended family as three parts, all with grandparents in them, the same as I would if someone had divorced and remarried. His parents see themselves and mine as the only “real” grandparents and are already getting weirdly pushy about all the grandparents having to split up potential visits after our child is born and gifts that “only real grandparents should give.” I don’t know what their problem is but I want them to stop. My MIL seems to be the biggest problem but my FIL will back her up once she starts. My husband has told her to stop and so have I but it never seems to last for long. They don’t have other grandkids, which might be where the possessiveness is coming from but it seems very directly aimed. They’re fine about my parents, but hers are somehow not good enough. What can I do?
—Harem Today, Gone Tomorrow
Dear Harem Today, Gone Tomorrow,
Advertisement
Advertisement
It sounds like you and your parents are fine with your arrangements. Your in-laws are the ones having issues. So what you can do is say to your husband, “How do you think you’re going to handle the battle of the grandparents?” Put this squarely in his court. If your mother-in-law and father-in-law come directly to you with their complaints, your line is, “I’m really tired and also trying to keep my stress down while pregnant so your son is going to be taking care of the logistics of visits to see the new baby and any gifts. So grateful for him!”
Advertisement
Advertisement
I know you’re probably thinking, “But what if he doesn’t say anything? What if he lets his parents push him around and excludes his ex’s parents?” You’ll have to live with it. It’s not ideal but it’s better than taking on a part-time job managing the emotions of other adults. I understand how tempting it feels to jump in and try to ensure fairness and justice for this wonderful, supportive couple who’s so important to you and your husband. But don’t do it. This is part of a long-term plan to make sure you aren’t juggling these people’s needs and feelings in the days after you’ve given birth, when you need all of your energy to recover and take care of the baby. Your husband will be in a less vulnerable position, physically and hormonally, so he can be the one to repeatedly respond to his parents’ nagging, hopefully with something like, “We do consider them real grandparents and when it comes to caring adults in our child’s life, our philosophy is ‘the more the merrier.’ We hope you agree but if you don’t we’re not open to feedback. We’ll see you Thursday! It would be great if you could bring dinner.”
Classic Prudie
My friend has always been delighted that she had a “rom-com” relationship. After being a bit of a wallflower in school and not very successful dating as an adult, she ran into an old schoolmate at our reunion and had a whirlwind courtship, marriage, and stepkids. I was recently told by someone that her husband had been burned by his (beautiful/popular/outgoing) ex and had told them at the reunion that he was going to “settle” for my friend when he saw her.

RELATED ARTICLES

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

- Advertisment -

Most Popular

Recent Comments

Translate »