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"No" vs "I can't afford it" - What I wish we had known

Skimonkey's picture

DH grew up with nothing, taught himself a trade, and has built a business over 40 years (with my help for last 20) that finally does well for us.  (I also have always had a steady, corporate job that provides a respectable salary and benefits.  When my SS's were young, DH couldn't afford a lot for them, but always did his best.  Kids were frankly quite privileged. SS's had ski passes & equipment every year, played club soccer and club ice hockey and related summer camps and travel teams.  They had dirt bikes and road trip/camping vacations.  When I entered the picture (they were 8 & 12), the gear and the vacations got a lot nicer, as my salary was 2-3 times what DH made, and I contributed.  But whenever they would ask for something DH did not want to get for them, or BM would demand for them, DH's stock answer was always "I can't afford it."  This got us into a world of trouble and hurt that has lasted 20 years, and shows no signs of abating.

"I can't afford it" is an easy thing to say, but is open to vast misinterpretation, by both children and divorced spouses.  BM would highlight things we bought, or trips we took, and characterize that as our greed/ neglect/ not caring about them.   And then DH & I had 2 kids, and the comparisons got really nasty.  I was resented for having a "private nanny" when SS's had been shipped off to day care.  The difference being, both DH & I worked full time challenging jobs, whereas BM occasionally dabbled in a part time job, but needed kids out of the house during the day so that she could have a little "me-me-me" time. ("Mental health is important, y'all!")

You gotta do the tough work of explaining to kids that although technically you could afford something, it's not aligned with your values and here's why. Doesn't matter if you are talking about cars, college, or the $20 cash they constantly ask for for nonsense.  "I love you but I think it's important not to get in the habit of eating out whenever you are hungry.  Compared to making yourself something at home, it's expensive and can be unhealthy." is a lot more work than "I can't afford to give you $20 every time you are hungry and are too lazy to make yourself something to eat."   In our case, the latter was said too often, and gave BM ammo to characterize it as DH didn't love his boys, was greedy and cheap.  

Lately SS #2 has been enjoying revisiting all the things he was denied as a teen and young adult, characterizing it as our cheapness and greed.  At one point, I told him it was unreasonable to expect us to buy a house/ new car for an adult child (he was 26/27 when he though we should do this for him. ) He said we had the money, but just didn't want to because we are greedy and cheap.  I said I certainly didn't have the money to do it for all four of our kdis when adults.  He actually told me we shouldn't have had an additional 2 kids if we "couldn't afford" to support the ones we already had.  

Yep.  He said that.







Tried out's picture

our parents should only have had two children. She would have been one of the two. I would not. And she was an adult to my preteen self when she said it.

So it's not just CODs who have these interesting beliefs.

Floral_SM's picture

My sister told my parents that they should have stopped having kids at 2 as they had the perfect family. I was number 3. She has been jelly of me her whole life and now we don't speak. Blood is definitely not thicker than water sometimes, 

CastleJJ's picture

1.) Your DH did support skids through court ordered CS. If he did not pay above that, that does not mean he didn't contribute. Your DH values hard work and living within your means while it is clear BM offered skids a more privileged lifestyle. That doesn't mean your DH should change his beliefs to accomodate skids and skids obviously hardly went without. 

2.) Your skids are not your financial responsibility and them expecting you to contribute to their lifestyle is bullshit. Their upbringing was their parents' responsibilities. Who cares if YOU hired a private nanny... that was your choice. If BM and DH wanted that for skids, they could have found a way. And how dare he say you shouldn't have had more kids... if YOU can afford them, you should do whatever you damn well please. 

3.) Please ignore their entitlement and cut them off (both financially and contact wise) if you need to. You don't need that toxicity in your life. If they want to talk selfishness and greed, they should look at themselves, demanding to be taken care of as fully functioning adults.

Stepdrama2020's picture

Geez Louise so much reading today regarding the skidtitled skids.

Again as I said on another blog, parents who entitle these kids are a menace to society.

SS THINKS he can tell you how to spend your hard earned money. NFW

Dang if you win the lottery of 1000 million buckaroos I would hope you wouldnt give these shits a red cent. Heck I'd donate half of it to "save the whales" and the rest enjoy LOL

tog redux's picture

I agree with you that "I can't afford it" is a cop-out, and would be confusing for kids who then saw you guys spend lots of money on other stuff.  "You have enough things already and I will not be buying you more," would have been a better answer but harder.  So even though BM was an evil witch for planting this crap in her kids' heads, you are right that your DH's choice of how to handle their requests gave her the ammo to fire at him with.  Also, it seems he gave them a lot of stuff so that they wouldn't feel deprived as he did when he was a child, but that backfired on him big-time.

Now they are entitled adults who prefer to see themselves as victims who are owed something, than to work hard.  Too bad for them.  I think I would have pointed out that he is not MY kid, and I was never obligated to buy him anything, yet I did - and now that has come to an end.

CastleJJ's picture

In reality, if you did not enter the picture, your DH likely wouldn't have been able to afford all that was provided to skids from your joint finances, so in some ways it is a cop out, but in other ways, it is true. These kids are not your financial responsibility, but you graciously contributed because you cared, and I would make that well known to them. The buck stops now... literally. 

advice.only2's picture

Spawn once said to me "If you would get a job, then my mom could get more money."  that's the bullsh*t the other parent feeds them and they believe it.

advice.only2's picture

Right, this was after we had just gotten custody and I was like "Well don't you think your mom should get a job to support you?  Why do I need to get a job to support you?"   Spawn was 10 at the time and Meth Mouth had just gotten arrested again and we had just gotten sole custody.  But Spawn was raised to be entitled like that, she beileved we all needed to work to pay for her and her mom.   

GrudgingSM's picture

Yeah, same, skid proposed I could be the solution to her mom's financial issues. Hard pass.

Rumplestiltskin's picture

Usually the less explanation you give, and the closer to a simple "no", the better.

I prefer to say "you don't need that" to my daughter. 

Skimonkey's picture

I'm going to use "you don't need that"...if I ever speak to the jerk again.

As parents, we get it wrong sometimes and unintentially inflict pain.  I'm also all about forgiveness, and being the adult in the room, and 2nd, 3rd, 4th chances, especially for people I care about who are still growing and maturing.   But at age 30, when the kid I've cared about, sacrificed for, supported and advocated for still gets wasted drunk and hits me with his entitled attitudes and accusations of neglect and cruelty, I dont know where to go.  I always try to label the bahavior, not the person.  But at a certain point,  a kid who sometimes acts like an a-hole, actually truly is an a-hole. 

Rumplestiltskin's picture

I'd say by 30 the behavior is pretty set-in, but you never know. Maybe if he quits drinking and does some self-help he may get better?

CLove's picture

Skidult thinks that she should be allowed to move back in. Feral Forger SD22 cant seem to get it through her head that shes not welcome and shes needing to involve me in the discussion (nope never going to happen!).

Shes also mad that DH hasnt given her a car yet, forget about the fact that shes never bothered to get her license to drive, and currently is unemployed so no money for gas or insurance.

advice.only2's picture

When Spawn turned 18 she listed to DH things he was required to do for her now that she was an adult:

1.  give her a car

2. get her a job

3. give her money as needed

I'm sure in her mind she still believes he owes her these things.

CLove's picture

Makes me sick to my stomach the level of entitlement.

Harry's picture

That one could of gotten double.  BM fault.  If they had no kids. That one could of hade everything in the world,  if, if if 

ndc's picture

My parents are wealthy, and I rarely heard "we can't afford that."  I heard plenty of "that's too expensive," "that's not worth it," "you don't need that," and the old standby, "no."  But I had no one planting poisonous thoughts or telling me how cheap or greedy my parents were. I suspect it's semantics and your skids would be entitled and resentful, and complain about your cheapness and greed, regardless of what you said.  BM would have said what she said regardless of what you said - she'd find a way to mischaracterize what you said. It sounds like your skids were given too much, not too little.

GrudgingSM's picture

It sounds like your skids were MORE than provided for! Also, what you treat yourself to (vacations and such) is not what your kids are entitled to either. You're allowed to spend your money on what you want. And frankly o don't think the problem was the phrasing I think it's their attitude/BM.

CLove's picture

When we would go to fun street fairs and such, would cry later because "she didnt get many things" or "Clove got more things than her".

SeeYouNever's picture

These kids think parents are put on this earth to funnel all of their resources towards their every whim, to them "no" might as well be abuse, or at least a character flaw (see selfish and cheap). God forbid an adult actually enjoy the money they put in the work to earn.

My parents spoiled my brother and I but they also said no and we accepted it. They did a lot for us but they enjoyed themselves too, vacations were destinations they wanted, not just kid friendly places. 


notarelative's picture

I don't see a problem with what DH said. He was truthful. He couldn't afford it. It doesn't matter if he could not afford it as there was no money or if he could not afford it because he had other priorities. His financial decisions do not have to be explained to his kid. 

SS#2 needs to be shut down. He doesn't get to continually revisit his entitled attitude grievances. I'd tell him he's free to raise his children how he wants. He can give them whatever goods and money they want if he likes. But, you will not discuss your finances, past or present, with him any longer.


Kaylee's picture

Ugh. The entitlement. 

But people are products of their upbringing. As a child growing up in a large family, I didn't get or demand things like cars, holidays etc. We were brought up strictly but fairly, and as a family we are all very close. I love my family.

With my own kids, I tried to bring them up in a similar way....and they are both very nice young men making their own way in the world. They would never dream of demanding money, cars etc or accuse me of neglect or greed. 

Ex SD's bio mum was very very entitled with big expectations and expensive tastes, and her daughter has turned out exactly like her. 

Daddy has a lot to answer for though...never took a stand and said "no"

The_Upgrade's picture

I sort of agree and disagree with this. I think it’s better to say “no” and explain why you’re saying no than to say “I can’t afford it” and then go on to spend money on other things. But it also depends on how deep the entitlement runs. In my DH’s case, I know for a fact that saying “no” doesn’t stop shit from hitting the fan. If the answer isn’t “yes” accompanied by the motion of reaching for the chequebook then BM and SD will lose their collective shit. When they ask for something it’s not a yes/no question, it’s a demand that the answer is yes or we’re scum of the earth. But yeah, in a more neutral setting, saying “no” might be what saves the relationship from a whole pile of unnecessary resentment. 

stepmomnorth's picture

To me it's always been about teaching my kids the value of money. For example is it a need or a want. Just because you want something doesn't mean you actually need it. I bring the kids grocery shopping with me and we pick out items together. We're looking for good sales. Which item offers the most for the quantity at the best price. My kids can now spot a good bargain and explain to me the value of something. I'm not rich but we live ok. I could spoil my kids rotten but it wouldn't do them any favours and they'd become entitled.

Yesterday there was a radio ad on about a Rolls Royce, and mentioned the price. My 14 year piped up, "I don't need all that! Does it drive and get me to places?! That's all I need I don't care what it is!!" lol. I'm the same way. I talk to my children all the time about money and the value of things and I also teach them about handling fiances and making good choices with money.

I'm a couple years I am going to strongly encourage they all get a part time job, same as I did at their age. I've already talked to them so much about jobs that I had as a teenager. Working in the bean fields for my aunt, working at numerous factories. Having a job as a teenager is great and I've let the kids know this already. The fun times and friendships you make as well as having some spending (and saving) money.

Earning that money will be great for teaching them the value of money. They will think differently about what items they really need when they work hard to earn that money. Then all of the sudden they realise why mom made money choices as she did. Why we often shop at secondhand stores. Why we go out for dinner once in a while as a treat.

So.... I could easily go overboard spending money on my kids but I don't think it would be doing them any favours. I'd rather teach them the value of money at an early age. 

Booqueen's picture

He is acting like an entitled little shite who is rude and demanding. Agree with some comments here. Cut him off. Make sure he's not in your will! He sounds like he will be nasty to his half siblings just for $$.