Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Help! What do I do for a minimalist mum?

Dear Diary,

I'm getting the feeling that my dear daughter/niece/etc doesn't like it when I bring over lots of presents for her kids.  How ungrateful!  I guess I'll stop trying to help out if it's not appreciated.  Hmmph!

From:  A Generous Relative

Dear Generous,

Don't despair!  Your favourite younger mother is really happy that you are thinking of her and her kids.  You loved it when grandma brought you special gifts when she visited, and it's your turn to carry on the tradition - that's what grandmas are for.   I bet both the kids and mother think the toys you brought are fun and cool.

While you may have grown up in a time of particular austerity and wished you had more to play with, today's mother's household is probably already spilling over with toys.  Our culture means that toys arrive constantly - Christmas presents, birthday parties (everyone attending often gets toys), promotional items, rewards for patience and cooperation during boring parent jobs...

Any new toy is very attractive, but the mother is probably wondering where in her home to find a home for the new resident.
  • A mother working at home with children is constantly faced with the neverending task of holding back the toy tides for another day.
  • A mother working outside the home as well can be totally demoralised because it takes almost no time to create a toy avalanche and she has limited time to restore order.
At the end of last year, I found myself wanting to hire a caravan and go travelling around the country for months.  With the young kids, I would probably find this quite stressful, but the main impulse was to escape the daily toy herding in our house.   I wanted to leave the house (which I like) because of the stuff!
    This shouldn't just be the mother's job.  Every member of the family should help, and your role, Generous, is to consider other ways of showing your love than arriving laden with gifts.

    Generous Gifts of Love
    • Ask what some favourite family meals are, and bring your casserole dishes, pie plates, and cookie jars full
    • Ask the children to show you their favourite toy or game, and play it with them
    • Before you visit, phone and ask if there is anything on the shopping list that you can pick up on your way
    • Tell the children some fun family stories about you or some other family member they know
    • Share your favourite fairy tale or teach them a nursery rhyme or simple song
    • Offer a warm lap and lots of smiles and patience to a child who might be missing out from a busy mother
    • Babysit
    Thanks for the advice, but no thanks!

    At my age I'm not so interested in doing things that don't make me happy.  I really like to shop better than any of those things - not all Grandmas wear permanent oven mitts you know!  A young family doesn't have lots of money to spare on toys so I that's what I want to do.

    OK, OK...
    Yes, CinderGrandma, you shall go to the mall!

    But you could ask her what is on the kids' wishlist at the moment before going on a spree.  That way you give the kids a super treat and take something off the "pester the parents" list as well.  Happy shopping!

    Has your family been involved in mismatched generosity?  How did you handle it?


      1. haha, i love the grandma's response to your wonderful suggestions! i sent out a children's wish list this year to those who asked and it was mostly ignored but i have trained my mother-in-law to give vouchers for me instead of clothes i will never wear, etc. i hope your wish list thing works xxoo becky

      2. If it makes anybody think twice, I'll consider it a success!

      3. This is still a work in progress for us -but we are getting there!