Large Families/In-Laws/Christmas Gifts?


To all parents of large families: do you feel any guilt surrounding Christmas gifts when your inlaws (or siblings) have to buy presents for ALL your children (when they may have only 1 or 2 children that you buy gifts for)???

I ask this because we have many children compared to my inlaws’ families.

I think there may be some resentment creeping up because I just got an email from my MIL stating that my oldest daughter, who’s 14, has now been relegated to the adult category. (Adults in the family draw names, and we buy all the children gifts). So now the other families have one less child in my family to buy gifts for.

I suppose I feel a bit guilty that everyone had SO MANY gifts to buy my family (four children! :eek: )

But, I also think, “if you want more gifts, have more children!” :smiley: :wink:

Thoughts? Comments?


It depends on the family, but I would feel bad if my siblings ever thought that they had to get my all kids (not that I have any) presents.

We always pick names from a hat and everyone gets one other person a gift. Which still meant that there were 50+ presents under my grandparents tree on the morning, no one had a go broke doing it and all the kids have the same number of gifts. It still takes over and hour to open presents…

We had (and still have) more fun just getting the entire family together for the holidays.


My husband’s side is very large…he is one of nine kids. Now, that we moved away from PA, I probably won’t exchange gifts with my inlaws, like I did when we lived there–but when we lived there, I baked unusual cookies for the entire family, bought pretty tins (about $2 to $3 at Walmart or Target) to hold about a dozen cookies a piece. (By unusual, I would bake Italian style cookies, something he didn’t grow up with since he is not Italian, or I got recipes off of Food Network, for something delish, yet different from the run of the mill chocolate chip cookies, ya know?) Then, I typed out in pretty font, the recipe, and placed it in the tins. They were a HUGE hit! I’m going to do that again for my inlaws here, too. Give it a try…it’s nice to receive a homemade gift, I think.:slight_smile:

For the kids–I would agree on a dollar amount with everyone…we have done this as well, and it works perfectly every year, so no one feels like he/she overspent or underspent. Good luck, and may God bless your holiday season!


YES! But oh well, I ask no one to buy for my kids and if they don’t want to, then don’t. I have five kids. There are five kids total in my extended family split among five families. Everyone gets a gift from us whether it is bought or homemade.
Oh and the rule about getting put in with the adults is you have to be married. :smiley: Once married you no longer get gifts from all the aunts and uncles and such.


Maybe you could suggest having all of the grandchildren draw names? That way if someone has 2 children, they only have to buy 2 children’s gifts. I can understand resentment creeping in, and you certainly don’t want people feeling “obligated” to get your kids things when they don’t want to. You might want to suggest a drawing for kids now before anyone buys anything. On a side note, these types of issues are so tiring to deal with. I wish everyone could just try to enjoy the holidays and not find ways to be mad at one another! (I’m not accusing your family of this exclusively, as my family has the same issues–year after year after year…sigh)


Intersting that you should post this. I was thinking of addressing family this Christmas and explain that we can’t be giving gifts. We can’t afford it. We are paying out of pocket for a homebirth, we bought a new van in July, we put our two eldest in Catholic School about two weeks ago…

“So on that note, feel free to skip us for Christmas, and if you want to buy for our children, please know that we really can’t reciprocate in kind.”

MAYBE we can buy a few things for our very close family – in-laws etc, but our budget is so tight it’s rediculous.

So maybe let MIL know it’s fine that eldest DD is now in the adult catergory, and then follow the PP’s suggestion that the whole family have the kids draw names too? I feel pretty bad, but like you I am having my FOURTH child. Just buying gifts for our kids alone is going to break us! Much less everyone else buying our four kids each something. My eldest is 8! This is a hard and touchy subject, don’t want to offend, don’t want to feel cheap either. But if we don’t have the money – we dont! :shrug:


I try not to feel “guilt” anymore over situations like this. You might want to give it up for Advent too ;). They are “gifts”, not “obligations”. No one has to buy presents for my children.

One person we know is very generous, and she’s made it clear to me that she enjoys giving gifts to my children. I fear that I may have hurt her feelings or made her feel her gifts weren’t appreciated by telling her that she didn’t have to buy gifts for us. There’s a book about “love languages” and for that person, I am certain that gift giving is her primary way of expressing love.

Some of our relatives don’t view gift giving in that same way, and they may not have quite such a generous spirit when it comes to giving gifts for a variety of reasons, (from cost and time, to feeling lack of appreciation, to misguided notions of “fairness”.) And yes, I believe our having 7 children is a huge part of that. This year, we will have a gift exchange with that side of the family where everyone will get give and get only one inexpensive gift. We still need to plan the details on how that will work.

If you sense there is resentment building, you might want to remind people that they don’t have to buy gifts for your children, and maybe consider alternative ways to celebrate Christmas with those people. But keep in mind that some people enjoy giving gifts and see gift giving as an expression of love; if you suggested not exchanging gifts to them, they may be offended.


In my family there are 26 grandchildren on my dad’s side. 8 married aunts and uncles, and my Grandma.

The 25 cousins do a secret santa with a $15 to 20 limit (parents usually pay for these). The 8 married Aunts&Uncles and the one Cousin who is married w/his wife do a secret santa with a $50-120 limit.

Grandma tries to get a little something for everyone. Godparents get Godchildren gifts. No more exchanges are expected so there are no disappointments. It is really kinda necessary since our family is so big. We inherited from the generation before us where my dad and his siblings were part of a set of 60 cousins on one side! I cant immagine, my family is clickish with just 26 cousins! Much less over 60.


In a way it really does all equal out, say your sister only has 2 kids and you have 5, because she only has two kids of her own to buy for, it kind of leaves her with more of a budget to buy for your 5. Whereas, you have 5 kids of your own that you need to worry about, so it’s a good thing she only has 2 kids that you need to shop for. And as far as your MIL and FIL, the kids are their grandkids. Do they really even give a second thought as to which family unit they belong to and how much is being given to each family unit? Most likely they are thinking about the grandkids as individuals.

…and hopefully in the end, the adults who are buying the gifts are mature enough that they have gotten over the point of worrying about what is “fair” and are more concerned about giving out of love.


we solved this problem years ago we both are from large families, and had the largest family among the sibs, and by common agreement nobody gives individual gifts, but we do give household gifts, such as a game, box of homebaked goodies, book, video, magazine subscription or something that can be enjoyed by the whole family. In response to pleas from SILs for “no more toys” our daughters’ families get zoo/science museum memberships which are good for several institutions locally and around the country.


we are doing this also, names in a hat, everyone gets a gift and feels special because the person that picked them makes a special effort because it is only one present, so more time and care is taken in choosing it also think puzzleannie’s is a great idea too ,:slight_smile:


We’re just now starting our family, but we have the opposite problem. DH’s family ( my ILs, his aunts and uncles)is ridiculously extravagant and buys tons of gifts. I WISH they wouldn’t.

In my own family, we do family gifts. As in, one gift for a whole family. More fun that way…you get things like a blockbuster giftcard and a box of popcorn. Or a fun boardgame, etc.

Among my DH’s cousins and brothers we are instituting a no-gift policy this year, and instead each family is expected to do something charitable. I am looking forward to that. I hate the commercialism of Christmas.


Yes. No one has to buy my children gifts. The gift-opening scene on Christmas day is so chaotic–lots of conversation/music/laughter and everyone opening gifts that I really have very little idea which child is opening which gift from whom. If someone “forgot” one of my children no one would really know, or care! There are some people in the family, however, who seem to do an “inventory” on the gifts they’ve been given…I don’t get that! :confused:

There’s a book about “love languages” and for that person, I am certain that gift giving is her primary way of expressing love.

Yes! I’ve read that book, too.


Several years ago when my family starting expanding (siblings getting married, children) we started to draw names, siblings and in-laws names in a hat, give lists of what you would like, $50 limit. MUCH simpler and cheaper. With the kids, my dad (Grandpa) usually gets each of them something for under the tree, and the rest is up to their parents. I don’t feel compelled to get Christmas gifts for all the nieces and nephews, that is for their parents to do. I rarely buy them birthday gifts anyway :o Good luck sorting this out.


Absolutely not because we try very hard to DIScourage any gifts, encourage a family gift instead (board games, museum or zoo family memberships, outdoor stuff like a basketball hoop for the driveway), or 1 very simple gift per child (a book, art supplies, a toy).

If THEY have a probelm with that, then why should I feel guilty? We also do not allow adults to buy for each other at all as a general rule, some years we see something that is “just right” and will surprise the grandparents, but normally not. We try very hard to make the focus of christmas be the season of joy, not the season of debt and giving gifts people don’t even really want or need. ( I loathe junk and trinkets and knick-knacks!) **

We buy for our kids and that’s it. Once in a while, if money is more plentiful that year, we’ll buy a little something for Rob’s parents if we find just the right thing - not easy for people with lots of money who like to shop! I can count on one hand how often we’ve bought even for each other.

I really don’t like Christmas. Nothing but bad memories frm a cruddy childhood and mob rule and debt.

However, my reaction to that sentiment is to go out of my way to make our Christmas’ NOT LIKE THAT! We stay home, eat great decadent foods, savor the gifts we have gotten, especially the gifts of a loving family able to spend the entire day together in warmth and plenty on a cold winter day.:thumbsup: My kids seem to love Christmas and not associate it with a mountain of gifts, so I think I’ve met my goal.

**Yet, my mil still whines about christmas gifts. I think it’s because she is used to tossing money to get/show affection and feels we’ve robbed her of that. Even when she can’t afford it, she’ll feel that this is what a loving grandmother does.:shrug: And the kids don’t remember a single gift she’s ever gotten them because she doesn’t believe me when I tell her they aren’t interested in the popular junk. :cool: **


I wouldn’t feel quilty that people HAD to buy for all your kids. If that is how your IN-laws choose to do it…well, then it is their choice. I would feel offended by my 14 year old daughter being suddenly excluded from the realm of childhood. How will she feel, sitting there watching all of the other kids opening several gift each and her being left out? Not cool.

My SIL and I stopped buying for each others kids several years ago. We each have 4. They were having financial hardship at the time and I didn’t want them to feel burdened further with having to buy for my kids…who get plenty already. The kids never missed it, and we never went back to wasting money on gifts that just got lost in the shuffle. I buy my kids what they want and she buys hers what they want…better that way. I do still swap gifts with my sister’s family. They live far away and we usually just swap packages in the mail. It is a way to be present in each other’s families at christmas when we can’t be otherwise.


Here is one from the other side.
I never said anything, but I always thought about it.
We have one DS. And DH’s brother and sister have 3 boys each, so by the time we buy for each of them, it does get pretty $$$.
But oh well, cannot do much abbout it…just keep working on having more babies :wink:


This brings to mind something my MIL said when we announced baby #6. She wasn’t very happy about it. Among many of her objections (what did she want us to do at that point–have an abortion?) was that our having another baby means she has more shopping at Christmas.


We told her to not buy any gifts at Christmas. We don’t really want Christmas to be about gift reception anyway.

Two years ago, they gave us a very generous gift of money at Christmas because they felt guilty----they took my dh’s brother and sister and their kids to the Bahamas for Christmas. We weren’t invited. They explained we just have too many kids–plus, our kids are younger, so it wouldn’t be as much fun for the adults.

It kind of hurt even though we had been so adamant that we didn’t care about gifts. I guess we really do care. :stuck_out_tongue:

Oh well. They did give us the money–which was helpful because we were in a state of semi-unemployment at the time.

Anyway, this year, I feel really torn. We can’t buy gifts this year for nephews and nieces. In fact, I’m not sure we can buy gifts for our own kids. So, I hope that the uncles and aunts will still buy gifts. But, I feel guilty that I can’t reciprocate.

So, on one hand, I don’t want them to buy gifts because that is so awkward when we aren’t providing gifts. But, on the other hand, I hope they do because it may be the only gifts our kids get.

I hate money. I know God’s working on my attachments.


Ohmygosh!! :eek:

And I used to feel offended when my MIL would invite my SIL’s family and BIL’s family out to dinner but exclude us! That pales in comparison to not being invited to the Bahamas for Christmas. Wow.

So at least they gave you the money.


yeah, we miss out on those dinner invitations, too.

We probably needed the money more than a vacation, but it would have been nice to have been asked…

I need to remember all this when I am a MIL. :slight_smile:

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