Saturday, July 23, 2011

Squeaky Wheels

I am a spoiled brat, but what I am not is a squeaky wheel. While I am spoiled, I don't actually get any of the spoils because I don't squeak.

For the last week I've heard about all the things my in-laws do for their daughter and her children. They talk about their two other grandchildren as if they are their own children. I don't envy my sister-in-laws life, I really don't. What I do envy is the attention she gets. It's not enough that she gets all of their time, but now their resources as well. I would love to scream.... we are struggling here! Genuinely struggling. And not because we took too many vacations, or didn't go to work this week, or refuse to take our kids out of expensive programs. We are doing without instead of squeaking! We are making the hard choices! But that would be squeaking, and I don't do that. It's not in my nature. What is in my nature is to be the silent martyr, secretly begrudging the one who receives and the ones that cannot see our needs because they are so consumed by the needs of another. Once again, this is why this blog exists: to say all the things I would never make vocal to any living, breathing person. Get it out of my system and move on.

I've already ranted about how expensive our life has been as of late. Between tax hikes, commuter travel, fellowship interviews, student loans coming due, a million dollar baby, etc we are running on empty. And even though we've expressed all of that in a casual way, it doesn't seem to generate the type of sympathy that someone else saying it would. What makes things worse is that we have upcoming expenses that mean we will be doing without for a long while still.

My daughter won't be taking ballet lessons this year. Lessons that she loves, and enjoys, and wants to take. Lessons that her grandparents pay for their other grandchildren.

My children won't be going to summer camp, or day camp, or any type of paid anything. They never have, because we've never had the money to do that. But the grandparents help with their other grand-children's "tuition" for preschool and after school care in addition to being their childcare providers a couple times a week.

Our house payments continue to rise because of property taxes. They just bought a house for their daughter to live in a few miles from their own home. She'll pay rent, but with their generous down-payment and mortgage terms it is significantly less than our mortgage payment by about $400. Having parents as a landlord isn't really the same as making payments to a bank. I have a feeling they'll be more forgiving.

We're getting so "cost-conscious" that I'm even using cloth diapers for our baby. If that doesn't say things are getting bad around here, I don't know what does! Although, now that I've been using them I really like them and the money we'll be saving.

When we are out shopping, they are always keeping their eye out for things their other grandchildren need. One year while visiting, my mother-in-law bought all her grand-daughters school uniforms for the year. My kids are outgrowing their shoes. Another time around christmas, she was looking specifically for a bath robe one of the girls wanted. I know we don't get that same kind of thought, mostly because they don't spend enough time with our kids to know what they want or like.

Maybe spoiled isn't really the word to describe what I am feeling. Maybe jealous would be more appropriate. And while I hate to admit it, I am. I've never met anyone in my entire life who seemed to get whatever she wants and do whatever she wants, seemingly without consequence. Who wouldn't want that? She is in Los Angeles today getting her eye-lash extensions touched up! Yes, I am jealous!

These aren't even my parents, (my parents wouldn't do this for any of their kids). Why am I so concerned? Because I've always viewed my husband and I as the responsible ones. We save, we don't go into debt, we do without, we plan ahead and yet we don't ever really get ahead. She spends, files bankruptcy, does whatever she wants and always seems to come out on top. It's one of those situations where the good guy always finishes last. One of these days I'd like to finish first. And maybe that is ultimately the problem. The people in our lives already see us as finishing first. I mean my husband is a doctor (I hate that rationale)! In a few short years (it feels short for them) he will be drawing a nice paycheck and all that we've done without will be made right. I don't know if that is what they really think, but maybe it is. I'm certainly not going to ask.

And then I try to remind myself that they have spoiled us. They let us live in their second home for 2 years rent-free while my husband finished medical school and I stayed home with our baby. They purchased a van for us when our family was expanding. They visit twice a year and buy us groceries and take us out to eat and fix things around the house. Why can't I be more grateful for what they have done?  Because I keep score. What they do for their other grandchildren outweighs anything they have done or will do for our children. Keeping score is never a good idea, especially when dealing with family, but as hard as I try I can't help it. I wish my children had access to their grandparents to the same extent that their cousins do. I wish they knew my children the same way, and thought about them as often. I wish they knew what our life was really like, what our bank account looked like, and how my heart breaks every time they compare my children with theirs (I mean their grandchildren). And yet, I would be mortified if they ever found out how I felt. What a mess I have made for myself.


  1. Deep breath....

    StuDoc's parents favor his sister, very very much, and she can do no wrong in their eyes. They literally have no idea how huge the things StuDoc is doing really are because they only care about his lovely sister. The big running joke in our house is that StuDoc and sister will graduate one the same day (her undergrad/masters and obviously his MD/PhD) and both parents will go to sisters graduation since they have already seen him graduate once. Sad thing is, I believe it. I believe that they would leave him there and not think twice about it.

    Anyway, I don't blame you for feeling this way. My hope is that maybe with some subtle hints, the in-laws will catch on and realize what they are doing...

    (but, I won't hold my breath because they sound oblivious!!)

  2. I am angry for you. So, so angry. I'm assuming your sister-in-law is divorced. Perhaps your in-laws feel bad for her kids and are trying to make up for it in materialistic ways. They probably don't want her kids to suffer because their mother (who they raised) is such a flake. In every family there is always one child who sucks up more of their parents' resources than anyone else.

    I feel blessed that both my parents and in-laws have been generous in helping us when they can. But we've still had to make sacrifices that no one else has. My husband goes to school in lovely southern california. Our rent for a so-decrepit-they're-tearing-it-down-next-summer 850 square foot student housing apartment is more than all my sisters' mortgages. And their homes are twice the size of mine. And we have more kids than they do. AND because they're tearing down our apartment, we have to move into a 750-square foot apartment or pay $200 more a month for a larger one (which, of course, we can't afford). And we have four kids.

    Our oldest daughter just turned 7 and we can't afford to sign her up for soccer, or the swim team or any summer activities. Our apartment does not have a dishwasher or washer and dryer. We have to haul our laundry to one of the complex laundry rooms. The medical center where my husband does his rotations is 1/2 an hour away. My husband is the youngest of 5 kids and by the time all of his older siblings were our age, they had owned their own spacious homes for YEARS. Yes, someday my husband will be a doctor and yes, someday he'll make a good living. But we've also sacrificed far more than any of them have. And they don't get it. I remember my oldest brother-in-law asking once, "You mean you can't get a scholarship for med school?". Umm, maybe if my husband was 1/3 native american, 1/3 hispanic, and 1/3 african american with a missing leg.

    Of course, my husband is an MD/PhD student so he does get free tuition (which is great since the med school he attends has raised tuition by almost $15,000/year in 6 years) and a $26,000/year stipend. Half of that goes to rent, which means I have to work because since he's seen as getting over $60,000/year in federal aid, we don't qualify for ANY student loans. Not even private ones. Which means I have to work part time. It's sweet.

    Sorry for going off so much. I just feel your pain.

  3. Yes, I would be upset and jealous too. That is so very frustrating, to see them bestow all these gifts on their other kids and grandkids while you scrimp and save. I hope that something changes! In the meantime, hang in there. You sound like you are setting such a great example for your kids about how to be responsible and independent. That's a life lesson that will do them well their whole lives.


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