Carolyn Hax: “Your family, your responsibility” = his folks get zipped

Adapted from online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: My husband and I generally take the “your family, your responsibility” route. So he handles the details of trips to visit his family, etc., and I handle mine. We have a good relationship with everyone and that generally works well.

We now have three nieces, two on his side and one on mine. The problem is that he keeps forgetting the birthdays of our nieces at his side, even with a few gentle reminders, while I never forget our niece at my side. I’m more than happy to help come up with ideas, but I don’t want to take on the responsibility of managing his family, including the logistics of ordering and sending gifts. But I also feel bad as they get old enough to notice the lack of gifts.

Is this a release situation or worth mentioning? His sister never brought it up, but she’s the kind of person who would notice.

— His nephews, his problem?

His nephews, his problem?: Two options. One is to leave things alone and let the consequences fall where they may. This might include your husband not being close with his nephews. Oh good! And if his sister doesn’t like it, then she can call him, or you, misogynistic, or just roll with him like an adult herself.

(Full disclosure: I grew forgetting birthdays—accidentally! in the worst way—to an art form, and if my sisters and their kids don’t all know that I care about them a ton, but don’t prioritize milestone- marking and I happily accept it when they forget my and my children’s birthdays, then I consider it my fault for not being clear.)

The other option is to take over the gift yourself, because it is important youand move something else from your plate to his.

You have a good system and I never ever want to be responsible for anyone picking up spirit cargo items that drop for anyone else. But. Leaving it to your husband would amount to collateral damage to your nephews in a chore war, so take over and give your husband a different chore. Which he’s either better at doing or won’t hurt little feelings if he doesn’t.

Alternatively, if they would value the money/gift cards, which receive +/- 00:00.47, then take them without an in-kind transaction. This allows you to make a workable, trust-based, respectful, workload sharing system. Your call.

  • They are YOUR nephews too, right? And you’re related to them, aren’t you? You expect to continue to have a relationship with them, don’t you? So… when the current system fails these people who are your own people in a way that feels wrong to you, then it’s time to sit back and say, “This isn’t working. How can we fix it?” Even if the current system seems fair in theory. For what it’s worth, I’m the social media secretary because my husband screwed up. On the other hand, I haven’t washed a dish or done a load of laundry in two years. Cuz I’m kind of crap for being over it.
  • Similar problem with my husband. I created a shared calendar with everyone’s birthdays as recurring events. We both get notices about two weeks in advance and discuss what we will be getting and who is responsible for the purchase/shipping. Sometimes it’s me, sometimes he does.

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