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Equality amoung siblings

May 6, 2009

My older sister got married about 5 years ago, and my parents paid for nearly everything.  My brother-in-law’s parents picked up the bar tab, along with all the other regular “groom” expenses.  My sister in her husband paid for very little.  I would estimate my parents spent about $8k, but that is mostly a shot in the dark.

So then, wouldn’t I expect my parents to pay for most of mine?  Or at least $8k of it?  No, not really. They have expressed a desire to do the same for us, but I just don’t think it is realistic or even fair.

My sister was a few years younger and was no where near as financially independent as I am now.  There really is no good reason my parents should pay for the bulk of my wedding.  We can afford it.

As a nurse and an electrician, this recession hit them harder than it has hit me (so far).  My dad was out of work for several months is thrilled to have recently started something new — with overtime opportunities.  My mom has been working fairly consistently, but not quite full time due to all the nurses wanting more hours.  They never had trouble paying their bills, but I think they were mostly treading water for a few months there.

I do expect them to pick up some stuff, the way parents do, but I don’t want it to be a source of stress.  I’m going home this month to look at dresses with my Mom.  I wouldn’t be surprised if she pays for it.  Nor will I be surprised if she doesn’t.   I haven’t talked to them about what they will pay for, but even if it turns out to be “very little”, I’m fine with that.  They gave me a lot growing up and gave me the ability to provide for myself.

I’ve read a few bloggers who say that when they give something to one child, they intend to gift an equal amount to any other children, to be fair.  It sounds really nice, but that isn’t the way it worked in our family at all.  We were communists, I guess — “To each according to her need”.  And I’m totally fine with that, even though I have not “needed” too much.  [I'm sure it is a fine policy to gift equally.  There is nothing wrong with that idea.  I just don't think it is something anyone should get hung up on.]

The things that they did give equally and generously are the things that matter:  Emotional support, encouragement, discipline, trust, and lots of love.

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. May 6, 2009 5:01 pm

    I’m glad it worked for you and you don’t feel resentful.

    My parents just didn’t give anything to any of us, (well.. somewhat), so we don’t feel major resentment

    But when it gets to be parents giving two brand new cars to their son and his girlfriend and making their own daughter buy a used one out of her pocket when she makes a quarter of what they do.. it doesn’t make any sense.

    I intend to gift equally. Now and forever. If I don’t have $8k saved for each child, Neither gets the money. Or, they get the money at the same time I gifted the one.

  2. May 6, 2009 5:14 pm

    I think it’s great you are getting your parents involved with the wedding planning but without expecting them to pay for everything. I’m planning my wedding now and it’s a touchy subject with parents and money.

  3. SP permalink*
    May 6, 2009 6:57 pm

    @FB – I think that is a good intention, but I also don’t think my parents should refuse to help my youngest sister just because they can’t afford to gift me and my older sister equal amounts, when we don’t even need it. You know? Ideally there would be enough money to go around, but life isn’t always ideal.

    Of course, you are right, they could give all of us nothing. But whether or not they help my little sister out really doesn’t concern me. If they want to, they can, and I don’t know how it makes my life better or worse.

  4. SP permalink*
    May 6, 2009 7:02 pm

    Though of course the crazy car situation you described is totally not cool! Within reason!

  5. May 6, 2009 7:13 pm

    This might sound weird, but one of the fears I have about becoming a parent is that I’d love one child more than the other (one more point for having an only child!). If I have more than one kid, this fear would make me want to ensure that I’m giving equally to my children.

    Not to equate love with money – but I think that every parent have a favorite, and I’d just be afraid that I’d unwittingly demonstrate my favoritism through money.

  6. Shuchong permalink
    May 6, 2009 7:26 pm

    Hmmm… as the one whose “need” has so far waaaay outstripped that of my siblings (my parents will be loaning me $60,000 for law school at zero interest, and paying $60,000 out of pocket), I do worry a little bit about the whole fairness issue. My parents have pledged to help my brother and sister out if they ever want to go to graduate school, but so far neither has any plans to (er… though my sister is 15, so there’s definitely still time). I have a feeling that my parents will work something out to balance things in the end (perhaps helping my siblings with down payments and not helping me?), and I don’t think either of my siblings resents me in any way (they both know about the arrangement, including the exam sums of money involved). However, I can see how something like this could become a sore point, especially if one sibling felt that parents were playing favorites.

    It’s great that it won’t be a sore point for you and your family though! Best of luck with the wedding planning:)

  7. El Cheapo permalink
    May 6, 2009 8:24 pm

    SP, I can completely relate with this post. Whereas my sister has gotten the brunt of (financial) support from my parents throughout her life and up through her marriage, I’ve prettymuch floated along with minimal assistance financially. But yes, they have loved us both the same.. or pretty close to it.

    I’ve never felt salty or gotten wound up about it, but I would imagine it as a source of contention for other siblings out there. SP, I hope you keep up the writing… I’m loving the recent posts!!

  8. May 6, 2009 10:05 pm

    Not a new reader, but this is my first time commenting.

    This is definitely a post I can relate to. As I get ready to move out, I can recall a lot that my parents have done for my older sister and her husband when she got married at my age. Since I’m a lot more financially stable than she was/is, I’m not really worried about them trying to help with anything because the economy has affected them too. Knowing I have their love and support is more than I can ask for when I’m out on my own.

    Love the blog. Always something interesting to read.

  9. Bonnie permalink
    May 7, 2009 7:46 am

    My parents have always given to us equally–for instance, when my dad gave my brother a downpayment for a house, I was given the same amount toward a new car. Etc. etc. Still, I love my brother so much that I honestly wouldn’t care if they gave him a ton of money for whatever and didn’t give the same amount to me. And I know he would feel the same way. We’re both very grateful for what our parents have done for us.

  10. May 7, 2009 9:55 am

    My parents are very scrupulous about being fair – I think because they were the least favored children growing up. So they paid for equal amounts of our college and have a set amount they’ll give us for our weddings. Smaller things are probably not as even, but I tend not to worry about it. In fact, I enjoy spoiling my sisters & they do the same – we almost compete over who gets to pay!

    Chad’s family is really uneven, but his sisters are both in lower-paying fields so I think it just makes sense. They paid probably around $50K for his sister’s wedding, but we would never expect them to do that for us!

  11. May 7, 2009 10:26 am

    Do most parents have favorites? I mean, they’d never admit it, but do they really?

    My dad manages to make us all feel like we are the favorite. My mom was a little more difficult to read. I’m sure my older sister was the favorite in the sense that she was the easiest to raise, did the most chores around the house, and gave them grandkids first, etc. My little sister was the most difficult to raise, but now she still lives in town and sees my parents all the time. I always felt that my mom thought I was the most similar to her when she was young. So maybe I was her favorite. :)

    Was going to try to spin this comment into another post, but there wasn’t enough to it. Regardless, the amount of $$$ I’ve received (or not) has never made me think that I’m favored more or less.

    I do think it is ideal to set aside equal amounts for each child. But in my case, it is more like our parents set aside nothing specifically for us, but if any of us need anything, they will help.

  12. May 7, 2009 10:45 am

    I don’t know if parents have favorites, but I do know that for a while everywhere I would go with my mom it was all about my sister. For example, in her classroom she has a big picture of my sister and none of me, also for a long time her desktop was a picture of my sister and her friends! It really did start to bug me and I gave her a hard time about it.

    My parents are really good about splitting things evenly about the two of us.

  13. May 8, 2009 10:40 am

    I think it’s great that you are OK with the situation. It would be different if your parents were very well off – in which case I might argue they should pay for both weddings regardless of how old or financially independent you are. But I would never want to put a financial burden on my parents either, even for the sake of sibling equalify. They could always make it up to you later when/if their finances are stronger (by giving you two a nice vacation or simply leaving a tad more to you or a nice piece of jewelry in their will).

  14. May 8, 2009 12:52 pm

    My grandmother has a compulsion to be exactly even in giving gifts. My sister and I are her only grandchildren, and it reaches the point where she will give money to the other sibling when one of us has a birthday to keep it ‘even’. I think it’s over the top, and honestly her constant record-keeping and reporting is more likely to highlight inequities or make us aware of the accounting than to make us feel good.

    With my own kids, I just try to meet their individual needs as best I can. That doesn’t mean treating them in exactly the same way. That wouldn’t make sense, after all they are different people who want different things of their parents. I feel the same way about money. It’s up to me to assess their needs as best I can, not to keep everything exactly equal all the time.

  15. May 8, 2009 1:01 pm

    @Meg – I agree, if they were wealthy would be a different story. I had to smile at the “tad more or a nice piece of jewelery” in their will. Let’s just say that isn’t likely. I’m not worried about that either though. Sometimes it seems easier this way–no expectations or fights.

    @amber – I think your approach totally makes sense. Exactly. Meet their needs as best as you can.

    @asgreen – that would bug me too! Splitting the $$ evenly apparently doesn’t solve issues of feeling like they are playing favorites!

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