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I can't afford Christmas presents

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Thursday, 27 November 2014
Dear Patricia Marie,
My grandchildren always expect big expensive Christmas presents from me, but this year I just don't have the money to spend like I used to. I can't even afford to buy my daughter and son-in-law a gift.
I haven't told my daughter this, but I'm dreading Christmas Day because my son-in-law's parents are going to be there and I know they're very wealthy.  I can't bear the idea that my grandchildren are going to be disappointed by my presents or that they'll start to see me as the poor relation.  What do you suggest?

Patricia Marie says...

For most people who can't afford Christmas presents, the situation can create feelings of worry, disappointment and stress. Do not allow yourself to feel guilty - you are not obliged to celebrate Christmas by someone else's standards.

Don't be too proud to admit to your daughter you're having a tough time. Simply be honest and ask her to suggest something reasonably priced that the children would really like. Even a nice book linked to their favourite character would thrill them.

Children love looking at photographs, so perhaps you could make them their very own album, to include past and present family, which will give them great pleasure, and provide much enjoyment for the whole family.

With regards to your daughter and son-in-law, you could consider sending personal gift vouchers to include anything from an offer of two hours' ironing, to a day of spring cleaning or an overnight stay of babysitting - treats which I am sure will be very well received. This will also highlight the fact that the best gifts do not have to have monetary value.

As for trying to compete with your son-in-law's wealthier parents, do not  waste another moment worrying about that. Grandchildren love their grandparents in their many varied forms, indeed it is the most special relationship.
The true meaning of Christmas runs far deeper than a present could ever represent. Spend quality time with your grandchildren, give your daughter a helping hand with the extra work Christmas brings and remind everyone that Christmas is about love, not spending power.

That's what your grandchildren will remember in years to come - not some present, however lavish.

Have a dilemma? Please email  Please note, while Patricia cannot respond to all emails, she does read them all.

In need of further support? Patricia Marie offers a counselling service in Harley Street, contact details as follows

When the Smalls are away…

Posted by Mum About Town
Mum About Town
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on Wednesday, 27 November 2013
Lord and Lady Y have just called offering to have our Smalls for a sleep over this Saturday night. The offer makes me feel literally giddy with excitement and before I had even hung up, all activities previously planned for the weekend had been mentally cancelled. Because, quite frankly, 24 hours without offspring is Father Christmas come early for ANY parent - even if his big red sack isn’t yet full.

And now, while I should be sitting here working, I am dreaming of my freedom. Our freedom. We can talk, without being interrupted. We can read… to ourselves. We can just be, without being parents. I mean, how many films d’you reckon we could squeeze in? I know He wants to see Barry Humphries as Dame Edna so we could try and get returns for that too. Oh and I could trick Him into a little festive shopping before an early cocktail at the chic new Winter bar at the Churchill Hotel too?

Winter Wonderland also opens this weekend. But we wouldn’t want to see anyone else struggling with their smalls so we should avoid that. Our 24 hours must be childless, a make-believe world where little people and their running noses don’t exist. We need to remember those days without the responsibility, the nagging and the incessant planning.

Of course the list of what I SHOULD be doing is also endless: the tax return, client invoices or even a tidy up of this mess we call home. But that would be NO fun at all. Instead, this weekend I’ll sleep and play, because the Smalls are away…!

You can read more musings from Emma at


Posted by Nanny Knows Best
Nanny Knows Best
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on Monday, 18 November 2013
Daily feedback for parents is an important aspect of childcare and many families now require the nanny (you) to communicate via a diary.

Busy lifestyles, crazy schedules, even different time zones mean adults sometimes don’t have the opportunity to sit in peace to discuss the day’s events. It’s a combination of catching up on the ordinary affairs of life, and the more significant issues such as milestones and the “something happened on the playground today I need to tell you about” moments.

Hopefully the parents are in sync with the difference between an important matter for conversation and the regular daily routine. When 5-year-old Sammy loses his third tooth a quick note in the diary is fine (with the evidence alongside). If his teacher has approached you with a concern about his behaviour or development, the note should refer to this and the need to find time to relay the facts in person.

A few more tips:-
  • A little detail is good. An essay is unnecessary,
  • Even if you are exhausted and should have had your break 3 hours ago, ensure you at least write a few words before you clock off to say you will compensate tomorrow,
  • Don’t rely on the diary to write something you would never say in person.

Also smart phones can be a handy tool for messaging if you are running late, for reminders and even happy snaps. Every parent loves updated pictures of their offspring having fun and smiling. Just remember your employer is not your bestie so better to err on the side of “less is more”…unless otherwise instructed or demanded.

A diary is a convenient tool for communication. And like any tool it has its place and its time. Use it wisely. Regularly. Sensibly. And always have a pen that works close by or a charged up laptop.

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