In Defense of the ‘Mercenary’ Mom

Things you don’t tend to think when you hit Send on an email:

– ‘I hope this gets misconstrued.’

– ‘I hope my relative then bitches about me to their colleagues.’

– ‘I hope one of their colleagues then uploads it to the internet where it’ll go viral.’

– ‘I can’t wait to read all the vicious backlash, including judgements on my parenting skills and jokes about one-year-old son getting kidnapped.’


Ok, the email in question wasn’t exactly worded brilliantly:

You can see why it raised the hackles. Maybe a lighter tone wouldn’t have gone amiss.


The actual points are pretty valid. And so I’m here to stick up for Mercenary Mom (and Dad, cos his name was on that email too, but – unsurprisingly – Mom’s getting 75% of the blame, because guilt is a mum’s default setting).

 Shoddy assumptive journalism ensuring the blame is squarely attributed to Mom? Oh, it’s the Daily Mail – no surprise there then.

1) Host a kid’s birthday party and you will get asked what people should buy. In fact, it’s my instant response to an invite: ‘we’d love to come. Is there anything in particular little Johnny/Jill would like?’ And if I get a definite reply I’m over the moon because it saves me standing in The Entertainer in a fit of blind panic trying to pick something when chances are if they like it they’ve already got it and if they haven’t there’s a reason why not.

Misery averted all round.

2) They weren’t asking for a Swarovski-encrusted quad bike. If you’re going to resent spending $14.99 on a play tunnel for your grandson/nephew (because they were only asking grandparents/aunts/uncles) then shame on you, original recipient.


Obviously just a money-grabbing bitch to have the audacity to ask for one of these for her son! How dare she!

3) Duplication of gifts does suck. It sounds like it’s going to be a small gathering of family. Chances are presents will be opened in front of everyone. So the list avoids the following scenario:

– Oh, a play tent. That’s perfect! Just what Timmy will love playing with that so much! Thank you so much, Granny!

– Oh, another play tent! Wow! Err…no, no, Pops, don’t worry about the receipt – no, don’t you worry either Granny. No, I’m sure we can have one indoors and one outside. I mean, who doesn’t need two play tents right? 

Awkwardness avoided all round.

4) Retailers can be arseholes. Too right if you don’t have your receipt they’ll sting you when it comes to a refund or exchange. 

Retailer: Yes, the water table is very much in its original box, in line with the new repackaged product. And with a reference label showing that it was purchased from us. However, we once featured it in our one-day-only 99%-off sale in 1934 where we sold it for 9 shillings and 6 pence, so without the receipt that’s all we can offer you as a refund or exchange price.

All right, there was no need to start banging on about milk, but still, the point is clear and not unreasonable: if you can’t stand to buy from the offered list or talk to us about what you’re thinking, please provide the receipt. We then have one up on the thieving shops. 

Frustration avoided all round.

5) The kid’s just not that into books right now. It would appear that possibly the family is. And to be fair, again, if I’m not given a definitive gift to purchase and I’ve had a meltdown in The Entertainer I will then head to Waterstones and buy a book. I’d rather know in advance than later see it marked as ‘unused’ on a Facebook selling page (as happened to me with a toy train I bought a friend’s son for his birthday).

Landfill – or the nuisance of refitting – avoided all round.

6) Internet reaction has been incredulous at the personalised clothing thing. No, having your name on a t-shirt doesn’t mean your child will be snatched. BUT if a stranger can use a child’s name they’re going to assume familiarity and trust. It may be over-protective, but it’s also their choice. 

Or maybe they think personalised clothing is tacky and they’re reframing it in a way that they thought wouldn’t cause offence? I have a friend who was aghast to find her daughter’s name on a personalised plate because a) the name was therefore ‘common’ and b) those things are ghastly but kids love them.

If the parents don’t want personalised stuff though then fair enough. They’d only be put on for a single ‘Thanks for the t-shirt!’ photo and when visiting said relative. (Oh yes, been there, done that!) With the speed a year-old baby grows that’s possibly three wears max. And instead the parents would have to go out and buy other clothes.

Pay attention to the email and it’s money saved all round.

And so, Mom and Dad, I couldn’t agree with you more! The way you worded the email? Erk! You may want to rethink that in the future. But that doesn’t mean you deserved to be slated from every comer. I hope Black Rectangle’s 1st birthday is lovely. I assume the  family member responsible for sending you viral is uninvited? I’m sure it will be a better day without them.

Some of the commenters have got it right though:

[–]lmfoley79 4676 points 4 days ago 

Whoever wrote that has absolutely NO social skills. Clearly they have no ability whatsoever to analyze their own actions and predict the reactions of others, whether spoken or unspoken. 

‘No ability to…predict the reactions of others’? No, I don’t suppose you did expect the email to end up all over the place with the world adding their fourpenneth. And for adding to the fire I’m sorry. I just wanted you to know that from where I stand you’re not in the wrong and, in fact, I wish more people would do the same. Ok, not the same, similar (I’m British and we’re not so good with tell-in-straight brusqueness). I get that your intentions were to be helpful rather than mercenary.

I also hope your son gets the water table – that looks ace!



13 thoughts on “In Defense of the ‘Mercenary’ Mom”

    1. It looks like great fun, doesn’t it? I’m really not sure requesting it warranted a torrent of Internet abuse, no matter how horrendous a mess they made of the request itself.

  1. I think they did have good intentions but putting in the part where they said they would go right out and buy the items if others could not is where the tone changed. Also, where is their tact? You cannot control everything for your child always! Gift giving is supposed to be out of kindness for those who can, not mandatory. I guess the email came off as greedy and pretentious. Definitely terrible presentation. I feel like the mom has entitlement issues ……..that poor child growing up with such expectations.

  2. How is that mercenary?? I don’t kids, nor do I want them, but that seems totally practical to me. I would suggest that any parent who reads it would think the same thing.

    Also with the personalised stuff outside the house, my Mum has said for my entire life that she has concerns with plastering a child’s name in places that it can be misused, and while it may be paranoid, I agree with here. That doesn’t happen often…

    1. I know! It wasn’t a great long list of ‘I wants’; it was practical guidance to fight against the ongoing tide of plastic crap that seems to come with a child. From non-parent to parent-of-a-1-year-old their house will have been swamped in baby equipment. I don’t blame them at all for wanting to claw some control.
      It’s just a shame they chose to go with condescending and authoritative for their tone. But no one’s perfect.

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