Who should be responsible for my ex-wife's birthday gift?
February 8, 2013 11:10 AM   Subscribe

I've been divorced for several years now. My ex-wife and I get along amicably. I am single and she has been involved in an LTR since the divorce became official. Everything's fine, everyone's happy. Our kids are thriving.My ex-wife's birthday is in three weeks and up until now I've been the one to coordinate helping the kids get her something for her birthday. It occurred to me that it's probably time for the New Guy to take this over, right? They're not engaged, he still has his own place, but he does spend a lot of time there in your standard domestic situations. I have no problem discussing this with my ex, I'm just looking for a sanity-check on this idea before I bring it up. Am I missing something? Is this even a good idea? (For the record, I am single and she will probably be responsible for my birthdays (vis-a-vis the kids) for the forseeable future.)
posted by Setec Astronomy to Human Relations (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
How old are the kids? If they are teenagers, I'd put them in charge or co-ordinating it themselves.

I don't think it's fair to push this responsibility on New Guy until he actually asks for it.
posted by sparklemotion at 11:13 AM on February 8, 2013

You're their dad. He's her boyfriend.

You get to be responsible for helping the kids get her a birthday present for a good long while yet.
posted by lydhre at 11:13 AM on February 8, 2013 [40 favorites]

Sanity check? These are your kids. You are responsible for helping them get gifts for their mom (for birthday, for Mother's Day, for Christmas, etc.), for as long as they need help with that. It is not now and never will be New Guy's job.
posted by drlith at 11:13 AM on February 8, 2013 [35 favorites]

As a divorced parent myself, I would think that helping your kids get their mother birthday presents is the sort of thing that they might not be comfortable with the new guy doing. Unless they bring it up I would continue as you have been doing.
posted by TedW at 11:14 AM on February 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

You're the dad. You're responsible, not the mother's new boyfriend.
posted by dfriedman at 11:17 AM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I see this as a parenting responsibility, in terms of modelling good, respectful behaviour. Your ex-wife's partner is not taking on the role of even a step-parent. But, even so, unless he asked to take it on, I would see it as within your domain for as long as they need help to do so. It also suggests to your kids that you respect their mom and it is a valuable teaching time, in terms of showing them how to consider someone's interests in light of the budget available and how to give a gift.

If my kids' dad had a new partner (not even a married partner) and she started taking the kids shopping for his, I personally would feel a bit weird about that, unless they had married and we'd talked about it. Honestly, unless they were in a married relationship, I would want to continue doing it, because I don't ever want my kids to think that parenting responsibilities can be tossed to boy/girlfriends who may not be permanent. That's just me.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 11:17 AM on February 8, 2013 [7 favorites]

My uncle and his kids' mom have been divorced and re-relationshipped for a decade and a half. My cousins are both adults. One of them has a kid of her own. Their parents STILL coordinate all the gift-buying for the other parent--birthdays, christmas, mother's/father's day, etc.

I'd say if your kids are all over 10, your role in this should be to remind them about the birthday, give them some cash, and drive them to the mall. If one of them is old enough to drive, give her the cash and have her coordinate it. If they're under 10, you're still doing all the heavy lifting. Either way, the main coordinator role is yours.
posted by phunniemee at 11:21 AM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's you. Even when the kids are 16 and 17 you should be saying "What are you doing for your mom's birthday next week?" and be ready to support them and help them with whatever the plan is. Including coming up with the plan. They are your kids. She is the mother of your kids. Don't ditch this.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 11:24 AM on February 8, 2013 [4 favorites]

This is a parent thing and not a husband thing. You didn't give it up in the divorce and shouldn't try to pass it to your ex's new guy. Parents, after all, help kids get gifts for all sorts of people including siblings and friends.

At some point, you can pass it off to the kids themselves (though they may need reminders and cash), but don't try to speed that up just because there has been a divorce.
posted by Area Man at 11:25 AM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have to say that the concept of parents coordinating gifts from their kids is foreign to me. I thought it was the kids' responsibility (to draw/make a card or other gift if they are young, and buy something if they are old enough). In any event I agree that this is not the responsibility of the boyfriend.
posted by payoto at 11:26 AM on February 8, 2013 [10 favorites]

I have to say that the concept of parents coordinating gifts from their kids is foreign to me. I thought it was the kids' responsibility (to draw/make a card or other gift if they are young, and buy something if they are old enough).

Kids forget, they have other priorities. The parent always needs to stay on top of it, even with older kids.
posted by Dragonness at 11:29 AM on February 8, 2013

The blogger who writes Ask Moxie* has a blog she writes with her ex on co-parenting after a divorce. This post deals with your same question. I don't think she really has a definitive answer but reading how she dealt with it might help you sort out your feelings on the subject.

*her site is down at the moment
posted by dawkins_7 at 11:40 AM on February 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

I hear you guys loud and clear. Thank you. I shall continue in my role as Gift Purchaser and not mention a thing.
posted by Setec Astronomy at 11:41 AM on February 8, 2013 [10 favorites]

The blogger who writes Ask Moxie* has a blog she writes with her ex on co-parenting after a divorce. This post deals with your same question.

Ha! I know Ask Moxie personally through non-blog connections and this question reminds me of how she had this exact concern. I know she helped the kids with the present though.
posted by sweetkid at 11:45 AM on February 8, 2013

Divorced father here of teenagers. Since they were 12, 13 and 14 when we split, I have always just given them a gentle reminder that Mother's Day is in two weeks, Birthday is next week, etc. Did you make (or buy) a card? After that, at the age of my kids, I think it is time that we test our own parenting skills and see if they learned basic manners and want to do their Mom (or Dad) right. I am pretty sure my ex does the same thing. For me, all I ever want is a handwritten note or card that says whatever they want.

It is my opinion that you should be involved, but also that new guy should himself proactively ask them if they want help (if they are young) or give them a reminder if they are older.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 11:48 AM on February 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'll cast my vote here in the extreme minority, but I have a much more acrimonious relationship with my former spouse than you do. I do what JohnnyGunn does with our 8-year-old daughter -- gentle reminders, and that is all. If she ever asks me to help more, I probably will, but I'm helping our daughter, not my ex.

But I'd say the real question here is What does she do for your birthday etc.? If y'all have settled into a comfortable post-marriage relationship where she helps the kids buy your presents and you help the kids buy hers, then let it be a thing you do with the kids until they ask New Guy to help them.
posted by Etrigan at 12:03 PM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Divorced dad here. Think of this less as about getting your ex a present, and more about teaching your children how to be good, or even great gift-givers. Gift-giving is difficult to do well because it requires a pretty healthy sense of empathy and it requires knowledge of what the person for whom you're getting the gift wants in the first place. The goal of the gift is to communicate to the recipient that they are known, loved, and accepted, even valued, for who they are. That's hard to do.

You're not getting your ex a gift, you're teaching your kids how to get their future significant others really great gifts that communicate love and respect and joy in the relationship.
posted by eustacescrubb at 12:44 PM on February 8, 2013 [15 favorites]

You've heard from a lot of divorced parents, so I'll chime in from the child's perspective.

The fact that my dad always made a point of making sure that us kids gave gifts to mom made a huge impression on me. In addition to modeling respect and gift-giving, it made it very clear that our relationship with our mom was important to him, even if he didn't get along with her.
posted by Metasyntactic at 2:39 PM on February 8, 2013 [9 favorites]

My mom helped with my dad, but not vice versa. He'd probably tell you it hadn't occurred to him.

Which meant that mom also had to help with mom's presents. Oh god, I still remember the lonely feeling of wandering around the big box store with the $20 she gave me, desperately trying to get her something special and knowing I had to remember to pick something less than $20 because of taxes, but not sure *how* much less, and scared to not have enough money at the cash register, while she waited in the parking lot.

Thanks for doing the right thing. Your kids will totally remember your generosity of spirit.
posted by paddingtonb at 3:19 PM on February 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Child of divorced parents here. The times when my parents did kindnesses for each other, after the divorce, stood out incredibly in my mind. Over the years, these included things like:

- My mom going to the hospital when my dad had heart surgery
- My mom having my dad over for Christmas lunch, or making him a plate of food, as it had been our family tradition for decades
- My dad giving my mom health insurance through his business because it costs less for her that way
- My dad coming over occasionally to help with yard work

It was comforting for me as a child to see that my divorced parents were still treating each other with love, kindness, empathy, consideration, and respect. If you take the opportunity to do this even in small ways (as long as it is not too costly to you emotionally) it might similarly bring comfort to your kids.
posted by htid at 11:47 PM on February 8, 2013 [4 favorites]

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