Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

Ask Natalie: Mother-in-law’s cheap gifts no good? Want to move in together but worried what his parents will say?

DEAR NATALIE: Hi, my mother-in-law keeps buying my toddler cheap toys and any other thing that doesn't cost a lot of money. We have told her many times in the past

that our little boy does not need anything. Furthermore, the problem is that the toys she buys for him break quite easily so we end up throwing them out usually after a day or two. My mother-in-law does not have a lot of money, so we have told her to just save it. We try to buy our son healthy foods, as well. My mother-in-law claims to only buy

the best, however, she doesn't read the ingredients of what she buys. She gives our son these snacks, after we have asked her not to, just because they don't cost a lot and they claim to be good for you. I feed my son, he never goes hungry, but every time she comes over, she brings him these snacks. I don't know what to do because she just

doesn't listen when we tell her not to get him stuff. She really just needs to keep her money. — NO CHEAP GIFTS PLEASE

DEAR NO CHEAP GIFTS PLEASE: I don’t think confronting your mother-in-law at this point is going to do any good. She clearly feels as though this is how she shows

her love for her grandson. I would simply thank her for the gifts and give them away if you do not want them in the house. It isn’t worth damaging your relationship with her,

especially since this clearly makes her feel of use. You could also redirect her efforts and say something like, “Instead of buying him snacks, why not come over and bake

cookies with us? I bought all the ingredients, just come join the fun.” Try including her in other aspects of his life, or tell her things that you would like for him, like books to read together. This way, she can still be a part of the nurturing process without wasting her money on things that you do not want your son to have. Family dynamics are always tricky, so please try to show her some patience and grace. If you can help to guide her gently, that may be what keeps your relationship flowing in a healthy direction.

DEAR NATALIE: What do you do when your partner’s parents are against you buying a house together before you are engaged? —OUR CHOICE

DEAR OUR CHOICE: Unless your partner’s parents are paying for your home, I don’t really see how it is any of their business. You are adults, and if you choose to live together and invest in a space before you are married, that is up to you. Now, the question is, why are they against this? If it is for religious reasons, there may not be a way to reason with them. But, if it’s more logistical, in the sense that they don’t want either of you making a big financial commitment unless you commit to one another in other ways, I can see their perspective. It may be old school, but that is a legitimate reason to be concerned from their perspective. At the end of the day, though, it doesn’t really matter what they think. If you are planning on getting married at some point or know that this is your life partner, you may want to at least sit down with them and smooth this over so that you can have a happy life together without the side eye from the in-laws cramping your style.

Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week: Keep in mind that if you are utilizing Zoom for virtual meetings, people can read your personal comments along the side of the screen after the meeting is over, even if the conversation did not include them. If you don’t want to share it with the group, better to text offline than risk saying something you may regret.

Please send your questions to Natalie Bencivenga to Follow her on Twitter @NatalieBenci and on Instagram @NatalieBenci