Two days ago I wrote about the Asian cultural phenomenon of giving back to your parents. As I stated in that post, I don’t mind giving back during special occasions in the form of nice meals at restaurants or nice presents. I don’t mind because I feel like it should come from me, not because there is a cultural expectation or because my parents expect it.
My mother tends to take this notion the wrong way and as a result often puts us in uncomfortable financial situations. She feels (dare I say) entitled to receive her payback in the way that she chooses – and if she doesn’t get it her way, she’ll bulldoze us until she does. For example, she has no qualms about asking me how much my bonus was and asking for a portion of it (I declined on both questions). This trait of hers is definitely most apparent when it comes to eating out.
You see, in my family we tend to skimp on presents and place a large emphasis on food. We have a tradition of rallying and celebrating around food. Therefore, whenever there is a birthday or Mother’s/Father’s Day or whatever, we usually go out to eat.
In fact, the recent $300 meal at Fogo de Chao was my idea to celebrate my dad’s birthday. My mom was very pleased at that place because she knew it was expensive, and even suggested we take her there for her birthday which was two weeks later! When her birthday came around, I asked her if we could do something less expensive because we were still reeling from the previous dinner. Needless to say, she was quite offended. We ended up going to a restaurant where the tab came out to $70 for the two of us.
About a year ago we went to P.F Chang’s for my dad’s birthday. (Yes I know it is barely Asian food but it was close to where we all work and it was easy on the pocketbook.) Of course we offered to pay. While my dad was fine with the choice of restaurant, my mom definitely felt like we were being cheap, and it showed. She made snarky comments about the low price of the menu items and kept talking about other, nice, and more expensive restaurants. We decided to dine family style, so I suggested that we all pick one item from the menu and then we’ll all share. That apparently did not fly with my mom who then proceeded to order not one, not two, but THREE entrees. What was formerly a wallet friendly meal now ate up (pun somewhat intended) a large chunk of change.
Now let us fast forward to this upcoming mother’s day. This mother’s day, we decided to actually follow some advice floating around the personal finance blogosphere and instead of taking my mom out to a restaurant for mother’s day brunch, we offered to drive to her house and cook her brunch. So far she is extremely lukewarm to the idea – mainly because we’re not going to spend a lot of money on food for her.
We’ve already spend close to $400 on food for them in the past two months or so, and we definitely don’t need to spend more. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t mind giving back, but not when it is on these terms.