Wednesday, September 02, 2009

What a Spoiled Brat!!

Hat Tip: Jeremy

I thought I'd seen it all vis a vis entitlement, but THIS tops it all. I'm glad I'm not a social worker with a column in the Five Towns Jewish Times because it would be near impossible for me to maintain any civility towards a wife whose maturation process apparently ended around the terrible twos.

This wife of 10 years and 4 children is beyond petty and vindictive. She doesn't want to go to her in-laws for Shabbat or yom tov because they don't give, give, give to her, her, her. She writes, "I don’t think they deserve to enjoy our company. They haven’t earned it." She is mad as could be because her mother-in-law spends money on nice things for herself instead of skimping and giving that money to her and the grandchildren. This is contrary to her own parents habits. While they are not well-off and always look for a bargain, when it comes to their own children and grandchildren "only the best will do." The wife complains that her husband "doesn’t really see what’s wrong with this situation."

She complains that they can't make it without help because her 5 Towns home, purchased 2 years ago at the height of the market, taxes, and tuitions are out of control. And she wants what "everyone" else has: someone else to pick up the tab.

If she wrote me I would have told her that I think it is a miracle that her husband hasn't divorced her!

The columnist writes:

In many circles today, the focus for many young adults is strictly on getting married, and they let the parents figure out who will take care of what bills. I think that we need to step back and ask ourselves whether this is fair to the parents. Some of them have struggled all their lives to manage their affairs, only to finally arrive at a stage of life where their children are grown and moving out of the house. Is it so terrible if they begin to finally stop working so hard and begin to think about themselves for a change?

Are these parents not entitled to take care of themselves and enjoy a little? Is it selfish for such a mother to finally splurge on herself in a way that was previously not possible? Or should this mother continue to deny herself for the sake of her grown and married children and grandchildren? I’m sure there are differing opinions in answer to these questions.

Differing opinions? Perhaps amongst adolescents, 2-year olds, and grandparents who have issues with their grown children being adults and like to experience feeling of martyrdom.

And quite frankly, I think it is irresponsible for parents to exhaust their own resources propping up a generation that not only can't support itself, but refuses to do so. Kol hakavod to this "stingy" mother-in-law who is treating herself, rather that throwing her money down a black hole.

The columnist also writes: "However, if a young couple is fortunate enough to have one or two sets of in-laws who are capable and willing to help out, they are indeed very blessed."

Personally, I beg to differ. While I don't oppose parents assisting adult children (see Better and Worse Ways to Help Adult Children), I don't see any "blessing" this daughter and wife has received from her parents. While they have made sure that she has "only the best," her husband gets to put up with the temper tantrums, pettiness, and selfishness.

I will say this. . . . . . . after we are done raising children and getting them on their own two feet so they can do the same for their own children, I plan to spend some on us and I won't feel a bit guilty!


mother in israel said...

I think the columnist is very skilled. She gave a wonderful answer, in a way that the questioner may be able to hear it.

Commenter Abbi said...

"I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how difficult life is for young couples starting out today. "

Young couple starting out? After 10 years and 4 kids, I think they've outgrown "young couple" status. Most normal grownups are beyond "starting out".

Commenter Abbi said...

Sorry, I have to comment again. "I see what my friends get"????!!!

She really sounds like she just stepped out of 9th grade. Un, unbelievable. I feel sorry for her kids and especially her husband.

Anonymous said...

I almost thought the letter was a spoof it was so outrageous. It appears that the writer's own mother has not done this woman a favor by spoiling her. There is a fine line between helping out and spoiling someone.
If it was a choice between this wife who wants to cut her in-laws off from the grandchildren because the in-laws have not paid a high enough price for the daughter in law's love and the woman discussed on this blog the other day who didn't tell her husband about her student loans, I would pick the student loan lady in a heartbeat.

Anonymous said...

Pehaps the saddest thing is that this lady is teaching her kids that love is something to be bought and the more gifts and bling the better. I hope she is prepared to be shut out of her children's and future grandchildren's lives when she can't buy her way in.

ProfK said...

Yes, this sounds more like a kindergardener complaining that mommy won't buy her everything that she wants, but what do you expect? As a Klal we have moved towards younger and younger ages of marriage for our kids. This is what you get when you let babies get married and have babies themselves. This is what you get when you overindulge your kids and give them everything and anything out there, with no effort on their parts. This is what you get when mothers don't teach their daughters BEFORE marriage how to run a household and how to manage the finances available. This is what you get when shidduch questionnaires routinely ask about parental finances and when shidduch negotiations are to see which parents will put in how much money to support the kids. This is what you get when the emphasis in education is not on acquiring the right skills for making a living.

And from the perspective of someone older, this is what you get when you do not teach the younger generations how to respect and value the older ones. And if this woman's in laws would give her everything, beggaring themselves in the process? Do you really think she sounds like someone who would then take care of her in laws in their older years, when they had no money to do so?

More and more I think we need that old advertising slogan resurrected: I made my money the old fashioned way: I earned it.

LapsusMentale said...

It's time for adults in the frum community to quit acting like children and make an effort to live within their means, on their own.

jdub said...


I disagree. I married at 23, my wife was 22. She was finishing up college, I was in law school. My father-in-law insisted on paying our rent, I declined. he offered to pay the amount he would have paid to the school for my wife's dorm. I declined. My student loans would have to do.

It's not an age, it's a values system. My next door neighbor makes less money than I do, yet has nicer things. His parents help. I don't begrudge him or them. I have little debt (and we're financing because we choose to, not because we have to). School tuition for our four kids is a struggle, but I've been blessed with a good job.

Values can be taught, or not. It's a choice.

Thinking said...

Clearly, her parents let her down. Instead of teaching her that they were giving because they wanted to, out of choice, they taught her to expect to be given. There is nothing wrong with giving, if you are so inclined, but you need to be careful about explaining to children that what they are getting is not something they should expect.

JS said...

To add to ProfK and jdub:

When I read this woman's letter, it reminded me of a lot of younger couples I see around me in my community. The couple in the letter were likely married when they were 22/21 - probably just finishing or about to finish college. After 10 years of marriage they're in their early 30's. They have 4 kids (3 in school) - likely they didn't even wait 1 year and had a kid every 1.5-2 years. The wife likely does not work and is a stay at home mom. The husband, even if he has a 6 figure salary, is not earning nearly enough money to live in the 5 Towns with 3 kids in yeshiva. The house likely cost over $700k even for a smallish house at the height of the market in that area and tuition is likely $12k-$15k per child.

Even if this couple was mature, just making these lifestyle choices means money would be tight and they'd be off to the poor house. Add on this woman's unbelievable sense of entitlement and they're in a lot of trouble.

Point is, the decisions they made (married young, kids right away, live in expensive area) are the same decisions being made by all the young couples I see around me. A big topic of conversation is how much help people get from parents usually in the form of "my parents are buying us X" or "We just got back from vacation with our parents" and what have you. And of course, you get the typical complaints this breeds such as "They won't buy us X because they think the one we have now is fine" or "The vacation would have been better if they weren't there."

The point is, you've got an ingrained system leading people to make horrible decisions compounded with a system that leads to spoiled brats. So, decisions that lead to poverty coupled with an attitude that feels entitled to riches. It's just bad all around.

And like jdub said, it's not everyone - my wife and I are not like this, for example, and I know lots of other people struggling to make do on their own and to make the right decisions. But, it's far too common. People just don't think of the consequences of their actions - for example, if we have a kid now will we have enough income/saved for tuition? Will we have enough saved for a house? On our current income can we afford a house and tuition? No one thinks of these things which is one of the factors going into several of the crises in our communities.

If the couple in the letter had thought things out, they may have delayed marriage a little or at the very least delayed having kids a bit. The wife would likely be working. They would likely not be living in the 5 Towns, there are far cheaper areas they could live. You get the idea. But again, such a "cheshbon" is never done and is not encouraged. In fact, in some communities, you're looked at strangely if you do consider these things.

Anonymous said...

Good for you jdub. Nonetheless, I do think there is a bit of a generational shift. I too am a lawyer. If you are making enough to pay tuition for four kids and pay off your student loans and pay for everything else, you probably are working 60 hours a week, and maybe more. How many people your generation who are not lawyers or drs. work 70 hours a week to pay their own tuition and avoid parental help, and how many people sit back with a 9-5 job and ask for tuition assistance ot take parental support before getting a second job?

JS said...


Exactly the point I have made several times on this blog. We've created a system where those who push themselves to get professional degrees, study hard, get good grades, get the jobs with the big salaries, and work long hours just to pay full tuition and not ask for a handout get screwed. The system rewards those who take it easy.

I'm not saying everyone should (or even can) be earning 6 figures - but, we've created a system where you need to be to pay full tuition because built into the system is subsidization of everyone who isn't trying to pay full tuition.

Commenter Abbi said...

I just want to know why a couple married 10 years with 4 kids is considered "young and just starting out". Aren't you supposed to be a bit more established by the time you have that many kids and are celebrating double digit anniversaries?

I'm 34 and we're married 8 years with three kids. I haven't considered us a young couple since 2003.

Dave said...

Part of the problem I see is a lack of what I would call, for lack of a better term, "honest pride".

Pride in personal accomplishments, and standing on your own two feet.

I see a lot of unearned pride (*), which is also a problem.

I remember that it was a point of pride for me, as I reached adolescence and early adulthood, to be able to claim the check if eating with my older, more established relatives. It didn't matter that they had more money than I did, it mattered that I had earned enough to be able to pay the tab, and I could give something to them instead.

As I've grown older, I've been on the other end of that, and have learned how to balance reciprocity when I'm the person with the higher income. But this is what I was raised with; both doing what you can for the people you care about, and giving them the room to do what they can for you, so that they aren't a dependent.

(*) Unearned pride is anything that isn't any merit of your own. Ancestry is unearned pride -- you didn't accomplish it, you just happened.

Fellow Sufferer of MIL said...

Who are we to judge this woman? Do we know her mother in law? We all know what mothers in law can be like. Its very possible she is quite selfish and distant from this woman and that may be the root of this complaint. I am sure there is more to this letter than what has been written. And a grandmother that never has something for a grandchild certainly sounds like a witch.

Leah Goodman said...

I agree with MII, the columnist got as close to the right answer as possible while still keeping the answer in a range that the writer might be able to hear.

I think it's very easy to fall into the trap of wanting others to give to you, because it's easy and life, the real way, it's not easy.

JS said...


Are you kidding me? If there was more to the story, the letter writer should have included it. All she wrote is the mother in law refuses to buy her or her children gifts or pay for other things. Her "crime" apparently also extends to buying things for herself. Because the MIL is so terrible, the woman refuses to talk to her, visit her, or give her the benefit of her or her childrens' company. Unless this is a case of a horrible grasp of English or basic story telling, this woman is a spoiled brat.

As for "a grandmother that never has something for a grandchild certainly sounds like a witch" - maybe this woman is your sister? My grandmother loved all her grandchildren tremendously and all she had for us other than $40 for a birthday was a candy or bringing Challah or cake for Shabbos. Your attitude is just horrible and confuses love between people and love between a person and things. Get your priorities in order or at the very least, if you're suffering from what you think the letter writer is suffering from, explain yourself a bit better.

Commenter Abbi said...

I'd take my Grandmother's cake over any other type of gift any day of the week.

My grandmother brought little Woolworth toys for my kids when she came to visit. She's on a very limited income and I really didn't have any expectation that she would bring anything for my kids except herself!But I realize now it was really important to her to bring a gift as something they will remember her by. My kids loved the gifts and her visit. But I could never imagine expecting a certain amount and type of gifts from parents or grandparents. That's imply obscene.

Anonymous said...

Fellow Sufferer of MIL said...
"a grandmother that never has something for a grandchild certainly sounds like a witch." I vehemently disagree. My grandmother, who escaped Russian and then lived through the depression, never gave any of us gifts for our birthdays, Chanukah or any other occassions. They simply believed in saving for a rainy day. What she did give was incredible love and warmth, hugs and kisses and her wonderful home cooking. I could not have loved and cherished her more even if she had given the most elaborate gifts. It turns out, unbeknownst to me, she was saving to help with her grandchildren's college. Even if she had not and had spent every penny on herself, I still would not have loved her less. In fact I wish she had spent some of her money on herself before she died.
I'm so sorry you feel that a grandmother who doesn't give tangible gifts is a witch. What I got from my grandmother was more priceless than any baubles.

Anonymous said...

Whatever happend to honor thy father and mother. I don't recall it being to add "but only if the price is right."

G*3 said...

When I read the article last Shabbos the first thing that came to mind was, "What a spoiled brat!" I think the columnist was too nice to her. Someone needs to point out that no one owes her anything. That she chose to live in an expensive neighborhood and buy an expensive house is her problem. Her in-laws aren't obligated to get her things becuase she wants a particular lifestyle.

She needs to grow up and learn to be responsible for her own choices.

jewpublic club said...

Normally, when I see something outrages I try to thwart it off by a joke, but here I just feel sorry for the kids and husband, but SHE may get it back when HER kids will grow up and marry, after all they have a great example from their mother.

Miami Al said...

Let's separate tangible gifts for grandchildren from expecting to be supported. Ten years of marriage and 4 children, this isn't a couple starting out, but if they haven't gotten anywhere, it sure can feel that way.

However, my mother always had an issue with her mother-in-law because she didn't bring us (the grandchildren) gifts. It was a cultural thing, her mother would never show up without something for the grandchildren, whereas her wealthier mother in law would. It wasn't about money, it was about warmth.

Bringing us dollar store nick nacks, snow globes (I loved as a kid), something would have made my mother happy, she always found the not wanting to bring something for the kids odd. My parents see their grandchildren at least once a week, and there is always something for them, a coloring book, stickers, whatever, it isn't always big money, it's a special treat when grandma takes the kids out.

However, the princess complex is a problem, and I see a LOT of it. I joke that my parents are spoiled with their children (and therefore grandchildren) all living near them and they aren't paying a mortgage, but it was never considered an option in my family to sponge off our parents. It wasn't a lack of ability (my parents' friends of significantly less means have 25-30 year old children living at home, being supported, whatever), it's an expectation. We were expected to go on and support ourselves.

Did my parents sacrifice for their children? Of course! Did it look that way, absolutely not. My parents always made it clear that they worked hard, had a nice life, and got nice things. They never complained about sacrifices they made for their children. Net result, children that want nice things but expect to work hard for them.

Have a friend, an only child, with the same problem as the woman here, expecting to be spoiled. Her parents aren't rich, but if your peers were all families of 4-5 kids, and you were an only child, the wealth to dote on you is huge. Her inability to transition from child->adult stuns my wife, plus her inability to sacrifice for the future. We had our lean years early in the marriage, and unfortunately they cropped up again, and we know how to dial back our life, not lean on parents for money.

In terms of young couples not working hard and instead expecting tuition assistance. Sorry, you set up a 100% tax bracket and people that can't pop out of the top don't work hard. It's the Laffer Curve in Frum land, as you raise the tuition, revenues increase to a certain point, then drop off, as more and more people not only can't pay the full amount, but start paying less.

It took a while, because in the past tuition increases brought in more money, even if more suffering and stress, but we're past the point of inflection now, where tuition increases will, over the long term (3-5 years) bring in less and less money, as more women drop out of the work force/don't enter (a full paying family dropping an income to stay home probably gets booted out of school instead of tuition assistance, but their single-income neighbors gets tuition assistance), etc. The tuition situation is decimated the overall income, and all the leadership can say is, "my 12 kids needs free education and to be supported in Israel by you and your tuition dollars/Shul dues," so like an addict looking for a fix, up go dues and tuition.

Leah Goodman said...

Miami Al,
That's definitely a cultural thing. My parents are incredibly generous, but they definitely don't bring gifts every time they visit grandchildren.

If they don't have a hug, a kiss, a kind word... then you're in different territory.

My father's father often didn't quite send us our heart's desire for our birthdays. (I remember getting six Israeli lira when the old shekel was already the currency, and I lived in America, for my sixth birthday) My parents always made us call and thank him, and told us that the gift was special because look how much he thought about me because I was six and it was six and it was from Israel and he probably saved it from the trip when I was a baby... and anyway it was a present and I should be super happy to get any present at all.

Which was the point. Nobody owes you anything. Even when you're six and it's your birthday, nobody owes you a present. You should be thrilled that they thought of you.

Kal V'chomer, when you're 10 years married +4, and you've got a mortgage that you chose to take, nobody owes you gifts.

Orthonomics said...

Fellower Sufferer-I think nearly every DIL has conflicts with her MIL to some degree. It is part of the nature of the relationship.

This girl is in her own special category and is incredibly bratty!

Orthonomics said...

P.S. Plenty of people with "generous" mother-in-laws have conflicts too. And plenty of mechutanim also have conflicts because one set thinks the other set is buying love/not generous enough/too spend-happy.

If the problem has to do with another issue, then I would assume she would state it. But this clearly seems to be all about money. And it seems that she exemplifies "what's yours is mine" mentality which is a midda of Soddom.

Ateres said...

Someone who says "what's yours is mine" is a rasha.

The person who says "what's mine is mine and what's yours is yours" is either considered average or midas sodom (two opinions).

Orthonomics said...

Ateres-Ooops. Thanks for the correction. I know that.

Anyways, seems this girl has co-mingled the in-laws funds with hers. I like the book "The Millionaire Next Door" and it talks about children who mentally co=mingle their parents money with their own. These kids are bigger spenders and worse savers.

I really feel that a terrible midda eminates from the article. On a positive note, it gives me the chizzuk to continue with the hard job of parenting as one constant battle is ensuring everyone respects the boundaries of other people's stuff.

Anonymous said...

When my MIL's elderly parents gave her some money, they used the funds to renovate their kitchen. My husband's sister complained to him that her parents used the funds for themselves, rather than disbursing them to their own children, since obviously her parents didn't need the money as much as she did. My parents/ in-laws did not provide financial support after our marriage, but we didn't expect it either. My husband learned in kollel for two years & then finished his schooling/ training while I supported our family. Sometimes when we flew in to visit (we did not live close enough to drive in for visits) my parents/ in-laws did help pay plane fares (I felt a little uncomfortable with this but accepted when otherwise visiting would have been impossible) but did not give us money otherwise.

My relationship with my in-laws is now strained, but that isn't why. Rather I decided to limit contact with them when my children grew old enough to understand their nasty remarks to me, and when they started taking their dislike towards me out on my children. Now we see them for brief visits 2 or 3 times a year.

I rarely discuss my relationship with my in-laws with anyone in "real life" because no one I know of has had to deal with this situation. But I suspect that "Sufferer" has had serious problems with her in-laws too.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me from regular reading of this columnist that she writes her own "letters," as the style is always remarkably similar- either that or she edits liberally to highlight what is going to be the "problem of the week," which she then answers, usually very sensibly.
My feeling is that the columnist is trying to highlight the pervasive attitude of entitlement in a readable way. Yes, this "letter writer" is a spoiled brat.
The sad thing is that we recognize her so clearly as a type we all see in our neighborhoods (not just the five towns).

Orthonomics said...

I have no doubt that the author writes the letters, or edits the letters. If she didn't, the letters would likely be virtually unreadable.

We all know spoiled brats like this.. . . and not just from the 5Towns. No question about that!

Ariella's blog said...

I agree with Commentator Abbi. Some parents want to keep giving to their "children" who already have children of their own and should have learned how to be self-supporting at that stage. There are parents who buy the houses, furniture, and more for their grownup children -- even those who are not in kollel and should be capable of supporting themselves.But by giving them nearly everything, they actually rob them of their opportunity to mature and experience independence.

mlevin said...

I think there are a few issues here. Not bringing anything for the grandkids IMO is wrong. There is no excuse not to bring a piece of cake or banana or stickers. It’s very easy and grandchildren feel loved and children feel appreciated.

MIL problems are very real and it’s very possible that this woman is disgusted by her MIL’s selfishness and selfcenterness but in complaining about it, it makes her look petty, because she chose to dwell on small things rather than big things.

Now, it’s very possible that this woman is very selfish and feels entitled, but what else could be expected from the graduates of our yeshivah system. Here are a few examples of what they are teaching there (and if parents complain, then there is a threat of expulsion or bad shidduch to quell all insubordination).

Schools convince parents that everyone must be the same or there will be jealousy. So they have uniforms, homogenous classes, and instituted a taboo about grade sharing... They even demand maximum spending on Bar/Bat mitvahs and weddings. End result is that girls/boys grow up thinking that everyone must have everything the same. Anyone different is looked down upon and even shunned.

So if Rivkie has a new car from her parents every year, Rochel must get a new car from her parents every year. If Chanie’s in laws are paying for her mortgage, then Rochel’s in-laws must pay for her mortgage. If Chaya had a baby 10 months after marriage, then Rochel must have a baby 10 months after marriage. And if Rochel doesn’t get all of these things, then she is lost and without directions. She was never taught a concept of individuality.