Dear Penny: Do I Have to Get Mother’s Day Gifts for My 2 Selfish Daughters?

A disgruntled mother and daughter with the background being presents in this illustration.
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Dear Penny,

I have two daughters with kids. Last year for Mother’s Day, I got nothing from one daughter. No card, nothing. The other invited me out to get our nails done, which I don’t do or value. Then she asked me to pay for myself and a tip for both of us (an extra $10). 

Am I supposed to give presents to my children for Mother’s Day?

— K.

Dear K.,

I’m a fan of giving what you get out of relationships. In other words, if your daughters don’t bother to celebrate you on Mother’s Day, you certainly don’t need to get them gifts either. But my question for you is: What do you want for Mother’s Day?

If you’d rather skip the mimosas and flowers and avoid the celebration, you’re off the hook. But if you were hurt by how your daughters celebrated Mother’s Day last year, I think it’s worth telling your daughters that.

Dear Penny

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I’m not sure whether the first daughter you mention completely failed to acknowledge the holiday. If you generally have a good relationship yet she failed to call or text you, that seems a bit cold-hearted.

I’m a bit more inclined to give your other daughter the benefit of the doubt. Granted, it seems tacky to invite you out for manicures on Mother’s Day and then expect you to pay for yourself, plus the tip for both of you. Maybe she wanted quality time with her mom but failed to mention that she was strapped for cash?

People often end up feeling hurt on birthdays and holidays because they don’t communicate what they actually want. Valentine’s Day is a classic example. For some people, it’s just a greeting card holiday, while to others it’s symbolic of so much more. But if you don’t tell your partner that it’s important to you, it’s not exactly fair to get angry when they don’t shower you with flowers and candy.

If celebrating Mother’s Day is important to you, let your daughters know that. Perhaps, in that case, you err on the side of giving them a small gift or at least a card and see if they reciprocate once you’ve made your wishes clear.

But if you’re hoping this year will be different, be specific. Don’t just tell them you were disappointed with last year’s Mother’s Day. For example, you could tell them that this year, you’d love it if the three of you could celebrate by spending an afternoon together. Since they have children of their own, you might tell them you can be flexible on the date.

I have no idea what your daughters’ financial situation is. But if money is tight and you want them to celebrate you for Mother’s Day, make it clear that you value quality time over gifts.

While your daughters may have let you down last Mother’s Day, it matters more how they treat you the other 364 days a year. If they’re generally kind and thoughtful, I’m more inclined to chalk last year’s disappointment up to a temporary lapse in judgment.

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Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to [email protected].