MIL won't accept birthday gift

posted 4 months ago in Married Life
Post # 16
7045 posts
Busy Beekeeper

Why shouldn’t she have what she wants on her birthday over what you want on her birthday? You may choose what makes you happy for your birthday, respect her wishes for hers. 

For someone who loves cooking for her family and having them all around her own table it sounds like a wonderful celebration. (ETA: And please don’t call her to tell her that what she wants is weird or wrong just because you don’t get it.)

Post # 17
4783 posts
Honey bee

I’m also curious as to why you say “this takes away our chance to do something nice for her” as if this is the one and only way in which you can do something nice for her.

If she likes cooking and having her family in her home to celebrate, what’s stopping you from putting on an apron and helping her in the kitchen?  Or saying “the birthday girl shouldn’t have to get her own cake – will you please sit down and let me have the honor of bringing you a slice to thank you for this lovely meal you made?”  Or letting her have her birthday dinner on the night of her birthday her preferred way and then surprising her with a nice afternoon out just the two (or three with DH) of you over the weekend that YOU plan instead of making her pick – go see a movie or a play or a concert somewhere and grab some lunch?  There is no law that you can only be nice and celebrate someone on their birthday only.

And if all else fails then pick something to give her based on her likes and interests as a human being instead of what you think she should like.  And if you don’t know what that is, because it is hard for “children” to stop thinking of mom as mom and instead as an autonomous adult (there are tons of things I learned about my mom and what her interests are once I stopped needing her to be my full-time parent and started getting to know her as an adult and a friend), then spend some quality time getting to know her and find out.  She probably has other things she likes besides cooking for her family that will give you a whole new world of ideas of nice things you can do for her that she will actually like instead of taking away something she likes because it makes you feel guilty.

Post # 18
20 posts

If for my birthday my friends wanted me to take me to a club, or to a bar, I would decline because it’s not something that would make me happy. I would appreciate the thought, but I’m not interested. And I would hope my friends would know me well enough to know that that’s not something that I would want to do for my birthday.

I think it’s the same thing here. I think you’re making it too much about you, and your feelings, when it’s her birthday and should get to do what she wants to do.

Post # 19
10226 posts
Sugar Beekeeper
  • Wedding: City, State

Give her what she wants. Don’t take it personally, it’s not about you.

Post # 20
4130 posts
Honey bee
  • Wedding: August 2012

It doesn’t take anything from you. You have the opportunity to do something nice for her: go to the dinner she wants. You’re not upset that you don’t have the chance to do something nice for her, you’re upset that the thing she wants isn’t what you think she should want. 

Post # 21
7409 posts
Busy Beekeeper

I would let her do it. Some people are just like that lol. They find joy in having the family together, but don’t want anyone else to be inconveneiced.  Maybe you can take her out for a spa day or something separately? 

Post # 22
1058 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: July 2013

I don’t understand why you are making a big deal over this. Don’t create drama based on what you think she should want. Surely you can surprise her with a gift she will like. Stop overreacting.

Post # 23
794 posts
Busy bee

I find this bizarrely selfish and controlling. Let the woman do what she wants on her birthday!!

It would be totally out of line and tone-deaf to call her and address this. Address what? You’re annoyed that she doesn’t like what you want her to like? 

Post # 25
959 posts
Busy bee

I agree that being an ungrateful receiver is rude. Although I agree with PP that as a giver, you should give her something she actually wants. If she *wants* to dote over you on her own birthday, let her do that. I hate cooking, but I know a lot of women (especially older ones) who take a lot of pride and joy out of feeding other people and pleasing them with tasty treats…so by showing up, eating her food, and raving over it, you’ll be gifting her those warm fuzzy feelings. 

That being said, I don’t think other gifts need to be off the table. I like your wine idea, or give her a gift card to a restaurant, which would carry the same sentiment as taking her out and giving her a day off from cooking, but she can use it when she actually wants to. 

Post # 26
10020 posts
Sugar Beekeeper
  • Wedding: August 2016

The big deal is that it’s not what she wants and she’s been clear about that. It’s so frustrating to be clear with people about what you want and then they keep pushing. It’s her birthday, it’s not about you. If she doesn’t want to go out to dinner, respect that and just get her something else. You sound really self-absorbed in these posts.

Post # 28
5890 posts
Bee Keeper
  • Wedding: July 2018

View original reply
missmollybee :  How can you still not understand what has been explained multiple times in multiple ways?

      I don’t get what’s self-absorbed about wanting to do something nice for someone you love.

You want to do something that you would think is nice, not what Mother-In-Law thinks is nice. What you would appreciate as a gift, think is nice or want to do is irrelevant.

     But rejecting someone’s gift (especially from your own family) feels really hurtful to me after we’ve tried so many times and just keep getting shut down. 

This makes the previous point even more relevant.  Why would you try “so many times” to do the same thing for someone that they don’t want? You/your husband have asked her straight up and she has told you she would rather have everyone together at home.  

     Doesn’t really make me want to do nice things for her if we’re just gonna be rejected. 

So you insist on trying to give someone the same gift over and over and when they don’t want it you throw your toys out of the pram and decide you’re never going to do anything nice for her? See previous point on being self absorbed. 

      It makes it hard to have a reciprocal healthy relationship with someone who won’t let you in at all.

It sounds like she does let you in, she makes a big effort to take care of the whole family when you are in her home she just isn’t who you want her to be. 

      BC honestly part of gifting is about the giver as well and that’s the truth. We give bc we WANT to.  

In this case you seem to think it is all about you as the giver.  Your wants are not more important than her on her birthday.  If you actually want to be a good gift giver may give selflessly rather than selfishly.  This is supposed to be a gift for your Mother-In-Law to feel special, not so you can feel smug about what a lovely thing you did whether she wants it or not. 

 Look, no one is saying you’re a terrible person for wanting to treat someone but when you get so annoyed when they say ‘no thank you’ to your offer you have to step back and question who you are really doing this for?

Post # 29
541 posts
Busy bee

I’m going to take a different route on this one and agree with OP that this is kind of troublesome.  Only because I’ve dealt with many matriarchs who approach all family get togethers this way (I’m southern); it’s not that it’s an isolated incident, but that it’s ALWAYS like this.  My Mother-In-Law is this way, and so was my aunt.  Whenever we did ANYTHING, they always hosted, insisted that no one else bring anything, and did EVERYTHING regardless of what anyone else offered or wanted to do.  

If your Mother-In-Law is this type (and she may/may not be, I understand it’s her birthday and this time it really is about what SHE wants, but maybe this is a pattern) – she likely insists on hosting, cooking, and having everyone sit at the table and compliment her on what an amazing job she did.  This really gets to me because sometimes other folks want an opportunity to help, share, and perform acts of service for those they love.  Domineering matriarchs make this an impossibility for younger women because they insist on doing it all themselves, which is selfish.  I get tired of asking what I can cook, bring, or do to help, and being told “Nothing.”

Again, disclaimer on the above, I understand it’s HER BIRTHDAY and in this instance it is about what SHE WANTS, but if this is a pattern of behavior (on holidays, other people’s birthdays, etc.) this would really get to me.  Sometimes it’s nice to give others a chance to love on you, too, instead of always insisting on being the one to bask in divine domestic glory.

Post # 30
6796 posts
Busy Beekeeper
  • Wedding: September 2016

View original reply
missmollybee :  OP- I understand what you are saying and I can see how your MILs inability or unwillingness to receive a gift graciously would be offputting and discomfitting. A lot of women have that training and don’t realize that there’s an element of toxicity to it. We don’t talk enough about women’s inability to receive and how receiving is a sacred act, just as giving is.

In this case, I think finding creative ways to give to your Mother-In-Law is the best you and your husband can hope for. Maybe, on another occasion, you can ask your Mother-In-Law what she likes to receive and find a way that your desire to give and her desire (or need) to serve can meet and benefit all involved.

Also, I’m not sure why PPs are all up your ass about this post. It’s reasonable, imo, to be uncomfortable with someone serving everyone else before themselves, particularly on a day that is about them. I wouldn’t be comfortable with that, either. It doesn’t seem like it comes from a healthy place.

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