Imagine sending your child off to visit her grandma and then getting an itemized invoice for expenses upon your child’s return. That’s exactly what happened to one mom who wrote to Ask Amy, a nationally syndicated advice columnist, about what to do in this situation.
Using the pen name "Burned by Grandma," the mom wrote that she'd sent her mother a $300 check in advance of her daughter's visit to cover expenses. But what happened next shocked her. Her own mother sent her an invoice for $475.50—yes, down to the cent—itemizing everything from "the cost of gas to and from the airport to transport her (45 minutes away), train tickets to go to the city to a museum and the cost of the museum admission."
Wait, what?! When did visits to Grandma’s house turn into a transaction that requires an invoice?
The writer goes on to explain that she’s hurt and angry (obviously; we would be, too). She’s also considering not sending her daughter to spend time with Grandma anymore because the cost is too high—as she put it—"financially and emotionally.”
Now, granted, we don’t know the grandmother’s financial situation. The letter mentions that she's a retired college professor, but that tells us nothing about what she can and can’t afford. Here’s the thing, though: If mom sent $300 to cover the child’s expenses, why the funk did Grandma choose to go over that amount and then bill for extras without at least calling her daughter to let her know she'd run out of money?
If you're going to turn your grandchild’s visit into a business transaction and charge for each and every thing, then you need to get those expenses approved BEFORE you make them. You can’t assume that you’re going to get reimbursed for costs that you choose to make without consulting the bank.
Plot thickener: Last winter, the grandma lived with “Burned by Grandma” and her family for four months and paid for nothing. She even got to go on an island vacation with her daughter's family. How would it have gone over if, after her extended stay, the grandma had been presented with a bill? Methinks not well.
Ask Amy responded with solid advice that the writer needs to express her concerns directly to her mother.
“Is your mother financially insecure? Is she worried about maintaining her own lifestyle in retirement? These are legitimate concerns,” writes Ask Amy. “But is there a legitimate reason she couldn’t stay within the reasonable $300 budget, spending over twice that amount? Is this itemized bill her passive-aggressive way of telling you that she doesn’t actually want to host your daughter for such a long visit?”
It seems that Gran has a serious case of Petty AF syndrome, as she's literally asking for petty cash. Sorry, but if money was an issue, pick up the phone and discuss it—don’t send an invoice after the fact.
What sucks most of all in this situation isn’t how hurt the daughter is or how petty the grandma's invoice was; it’s that a granddaughter’s relationship with her grandmother is reduced to a transaction.
Ask Amy ends by telling the mother that she’ll “simply have to decide whether this relationship between grandmother and granddaughter is one you can afford to foster.”
What do you think? Is the relationship worth the cost?