MILs 80th B-day in Europe?

judithnMay 28, 2012

Hi All, since vacations are coming up, I'd love to get your feedback on this one. I'm married to a European ex-pat. His mother is turning 80 this year. When she turned 75 she threw herself a birthday party in Amsterdam and our whole family went. We paid our own way but since we wanted to go to Amsterdam we felt it was okay. It seemed like a special event.

Now my MIL is turning 80. She has decided it is ALSO a special event and wants to have a birthday dinner at a hotel in a resort town in Switzerland. At first, she said she was going to pay for everyone's trip ( the rest of her children are in Europe) and then when she added up the total expenses said she wouldn't be paying.

To be honest, I was NOT in favor of going to this event even WHEN she was paying because I'm not interested in going to Switzerland. Also, DH has very limited vacation time and I feel like we're always using it to go there and not having our own family vacations.

One of DH's siblings is giving him a hard time now because we've waffled on going/not going. The sibling is demanding "we're all family, you have to go, your mother's turning 80." That may be true, but she wouldn't consider moving dates to make this trip fit into our schedule and our kids schedules. She wouldn't consider moving the location to a place where we can actually have our kids and their cousins spend a few days together. This is a one night dinner, no time for family visiting.

Also, it's expensive. Airfare alone is close to $4500. That's before hotels, food, activities, etc. We have one daughter in college, another child on the way to college, I'm in grad school, and the cost of the trip would be around $12k.

Here's the kicker. At the last minute, DHs company said they needed him to be in Germany for a business meeting, and he could schedule it around his mother's dinner so part of the cost of the trip would be reduced to cover his flight and expenses on the days he's doing business. It's still going to cost a bundle, even with him being able to write some part off.

The birthday party is literally a dinner. In a hotel. My children will see their cousins for only that 1 night (they only see their cousins when we go to THEM of course, and we can only afford to go to Europe once every few years). DH is saying we should go, the trip to the birthday party is incidental, we should just make a quick stopover, see his MIL and go have our own vacation.

But I am SO upset about what I see as everyone's utter insensitivity to our situation, the expense (and they don't pay much for college in Europe so no one there is really dealing with crippling tuition payments like we are). They also don't understand the whole US two weeks of vacation (and we've given up many such vacations to see them instead of going new places that WE want to go). They get months of vacation and are very happy to "spend" ours for us.

How can I deal with this, even maybe go to this event, enjoy a vacation, and not want to wring everyone's necks on sight?

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12K ???! Whew...


1)DH goes alone and does what he can afford to do/business

2)You and your family go and spend the money and stay longer and see the cousins and turn it into "your " vacation" so that you are getting what you want too.

Stay home and do your own thing and don't let other people dictate your life.

4) Go spend the money and then go on and do your own thing.

Those are the only choices I can see. Hope you can come to a good decision. As was noted on the other is your life and your family and you can't have others telling you how to live your life. Your MIL won't live forever...I agree that the extended family seems very insensitive . You , as a family, have to weigh it all out and see what you can comfortably live with money wise and emotionally. Good Luck ! c

    Bookmark   May 28, 2012 at 5:58PM
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trail, the problem is there won't be any chance to see the cousins. Because MIL wouldn't reschedule to fit our kids schedules, the way it works is that we won't get to the town where the dinner is until the morning of the dinner. We will see everyone for a few hours that night. We will then leave the next morning. You know, my kid had a big event and we actually changed dates several times, once we even changed the date AFTER the caterer had been booked (luckily the caterer had the new date open) because the in-laws kept changing their availability on us. No, no one's whole family came (like they're asking us to do). And I was THRILLED to pieces just to have the few who could came, treated them like royalty, fed them and carted them around because To me, having family is the important part of these events. I was willing to consider (and wanted to consider) everyone's needs to accomodate them. My MIL on the other hand wants us there but wouldn't switch to a new date (4 days later than her actual birth date) to make it easier for us to get there and see everyone longer. I don't know why, how often does anyone celebrate their birthday on their actual birthdate? By the way it's a WEDNESDAY night.

Luckily, DH is on the same page as I am. He thinks his M is being really selfish about her choice of venue, date, etc. No one wants to budge on these things but they are all closer by, vacationing near her chosen location already or can be there in a few hours by inexpensive train. It's much more involved for us!

By the way, it's in a out-of-the-way place that is personally very meaningful to her, but less so for everyone else. It has crossed my mind that she's actually losing it...

    Bookmark   May 28, 2012 at 6:21PM
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Let DH go alone combined with his business trip. Tell the family it's too expensive right now and you are heartbroken not to be there (heh heh). Tell them to take a lot of pictures.

Seriously, that is way too much to spend on a trip you don't want to take unless $12K isn't a big deal to you.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2012 at 6:23PM
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I agree with Dedtired's answer.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2012 at 6:50PM
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Lets not forget that vacations are also much more liberal there too. My husband is from Europe and when he came here to live, he was shocked to see that we only get an average of 2 weeks vacation. In Russia, the minimum was 4 weeks and in Sweden they get 5!

I would say do what's right for you and your family first. If DH can (and wants) to go on his own during his business trip, great but if not, then that is a huge amount of money to spend for one night and a lot for your in-laws to expect from you and your husband. After all, MIL wasn't willing to pay for it once she saw how much it cost, why should she expect you to? It's not reasonable.

I have to add that last January, my mother also turned 80 and also wanted all the family together for her special day. She's in California so a lot closer but we're in Michigan and I have a sister in Texas. Rather than put any of us on the spot, she paid for all of us (7 total) to fly to California to celebrate her day. On her 75th birthday, we missed a surprise party the sisters in California gave her. Once I said we couldn't afford it, she was very understanding, more so than my sisters were. :c) So I've sort of been in those shoes and can totally understand the duress you're feeling; I hope it ends well and they finally understand your side of things. If not, ask them if they'd be willing to split the bill with you so you can afford to go. When I said that to one of my sisters, she backed off fairly quick. :c)

    Bookmark   May 28, 2012 at 6:58PM
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I can only speak for my own feelings on this so - unless you can turn this into a holiday that your family will enjoy and it is something that you might be planning for the future but circumstances allow you to do it now, for $12,000 I'd be staying home. For me, $12000 is one heck of a lot of money and that money is for me and my DH to decide how to spend and it is no one else's decision. I don't allow any one to guilt me into spending my hard-earned money and that is what they are doing. As far as I'm concerned only go if your own family will benefit from it as a family unit.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2012 at 7:51PM
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You've already gotten excellent advice above as far as empowering you to stick to your gut feeling; I don't think your MIL is reasonable, yes it's a big deal to turn 80, she should want to be with her family and she could very well spend time with all of you in different countries if she so wishes. Her birthday could be celebrated many times.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2012 at 8:19PM
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I think mitch as well as everyone else is right on too. Her birthday is when YOU say it is...celebrate for a year ! My kids always make a week of it and always have. So when you next get to be with her it will be a celebration...of life and love and all things meaningful. A particular date is not the is the time you have together. (( )) to you and your family. May you have many years to enjoy together in spirit as well as in reality. c

    Bookmark   May 28, 2012 at 8:42PM
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I don't think your MIL is being unfair in her selection of date/time/place to celebrate her 80th birthday, but no one is obligated to attend.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2012 at 9:01PM
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I would tell her that much as you all would love to be there to help her celebrate her 80th birthday, it just doesn't fit into the kids' schedules or your budget. I think that your husband should go because he has the business trip footing most of the bill. Then, if you can afford it, offer to pay her airfare to come and visit you, as your gift to her.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2012 at 9:01PM
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I agree with Dedtired and Terriks -- Since Hubby can be in Germany at the right time and on someone else's nickel, send him bearing the entire family's congratulations and best wishes, and your regrets that you couldn't all be there. $12K for a one-day party that is not your dream bash is just too much...

    Bookmark   May 28, 2012 at 9:23PM
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I would go only if you can free up your kids' schedules so you can stay for more than 2 days. Goodness, it's at least a 9-10 hour flight over there. You'll be just getting acclimated to the Switzerland time zone, and you'll be flying back! You won't know which way is up!

I would send DH and tell the family that it's too far of a trip to take the kids for two days. If everyone in Europe has such flexible schedules, why is the family not doing a longer reunion at the hotel? That would make more sense to me.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2012 at 9:58AM
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dedtired, Gosh, it would be nice if 12k wasn't a big deal to us but with all these college bills, believe me, it is!
I do think though with some of DH's expenses covered it will come down closer to 8 - 9 k.

caroleoh, we would combine the dinner with DH's business so it would start at her b-day dinner then we would have a 2 week trip w/DH going to his meetings and me and the kids tagging along. It would end up being a driving trip mainly. Gosh, I need 2 - 3 days just to get over jetlag and feel semi-human.

Terriks, I love the idea of skipping the whole thing and sending her airfare for a trip here at a later time. DH thought this was a good idea too.

We are pondering the options and doing the math. By the way, my 50th birthday is in August, only a few weeks after hers which doesn't help. No one is giving a seconds thought to that.

...there are reasons DH is an ex-pat!

    Bookmark   May 29, 2012 at 10:58AM
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Have you thought of paying for her to fly here for a birthday celebration later? It would be a lot cheaper to pay for only her than your entire family. Tell her how much more you would enjoy having her to yourselves than having to share her with the family.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2012 at 6:27PM
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