Carolyn Hax: ‘Your family, your responsibility’ = her people go crazy

Carolyn Hax: ‘Your family, your responsibility’ = her people go crazy

Adapted from an 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 good relations with all of them and this generally works well.

We now have three nieces and nephews, two on his side and one on mine. The problem is that she constantly forgets our nephews’ birthdays on her side, even with a few gentle reminders, while I never forget our niece’s on my side. I’m totally happy to help brainstorm ideas, but I don’t want to take on the responsibility of managing your side of the family, including the logistics of ordering and shipping gifts. But I also feel bad that they grow old enough to notice our lack of gifts.

Is this a letting go situation or is it worth mentioning? His sister has never mentioned it, but she’s the kind of person who would notice.

— Your nephews, your problem?

His nephews, his problem?: Two options. One is to leave things alone and let the consequences land where they may. That could include her husband not being around her nephews. Oh good! And if her sister doesn’t like it, then she can call him, or you, misogynistic, or just move on as an adult.

(Full disclosure: I raised forgetting birthdays, randomly! In the worst way, to an art form, and if my sisters and their kids don’t know that I care a lot about them, but don’t make it a milestone priority- and I happily accept when they forget my and my children’s birthdays, then I see it as my fault for not being clear).

The other option is that you take charge of the gift delivery, because it is important yourand change something else from your plate to his.

You have a good system and I never ever want to be responsible for someone picking up dropped mind load items for someone else. But. If leaving it to your husband would be equivalent to causing collateral damage to your nephews in a chore war, then take control and delegate a different task to your husband. One where he’s better at doing it or it won’t hurt little feelings if he doesn’t.

Or, if you appreciate money/gift cards, which take +/- 00:00.47, then take control without an in-kind exchange. That is what allows you to make a functional system, based on trust, respectful and workload sharing. Your call.

  • They are also YOUR nephews, right? You also have a relationship with them, right? You hope to continue having a relationship with them, right? So… when the current system is failing these people who are also your 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 theoretically fair. For what it’s worth, I’m the social secretary because my husband sucks at it. On the other hand, I haven’t washed a dish or washed a load of laundry in two years. Because, I kind of suck for being aware of that.
  • Similar problem with my husband. I created a shared calendar with everyone’s birthdays as recurring events. We both get notice about two weeks in advance and discuss what to get and who is responsible for buying/shipping. Sometimes it’s me, sometimes it’s him.

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