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A Reader Asks: Should Grandparents be House Guests?

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Question: A Reader Asks: Should Grandparents be House Guests?

My in-laws live around four hours away. When they come for a visit, they usually stay the entire weekend. My husband and I both have demanding jobs, and we have two small kids. By the time the weekend gets here, we desperately need some rest and some down time. Instead about one weekend a month, we come home to company. My mother-in-law is willing to help, but she asks so many questions that it's easier just to do it myself. How hard is it to make a salad or change a diaper?

But more than the workload, it's just the strain. Often on the weekend, I'll get up with the kids one day and let my husband sleep in. Then he'll get up the next day and let me sleep in. We typically stay in our pajamas until noon and have a big brunch once everyone is up. It's wonderful.

Do the grandparents really have to be house guests? Would it be really terrible to ask them to stay in a motel?

Answer:

Grandparents who visit once a month and who try to be helpful should, barring extreme circumstances, be welcomed. It's difficult for grandparents to bond with grandchildren unless they spend a substantial amount of time with them, and that would be difficult if you insist that they stay in a motel. If they are willing to spend four hours driving to see you and their grandchildren, you should do your best to accommodate them. The grandparents should not expect to be waited on, and they should pitch in with expenses, with child care and with household chores. Maybe your mother-in-law asks a lot of questions because you've given her the idea that you are very picky. Try reassuring her that whatever she does will be fine, and see if she gains enough confidence to be truly helpful.

One thing in your letter gives me pause. You say that they once a month you "come home to company." If the grandparents are just showing up without checking with you ahead of time, that is not acceptable. Getting approval of the dates of a visit is the very first item on my list of things that long-distance grandparents must do to make visits go smoothly.

Response From Another Reader: I understand your need for down time on weekends. Everyone needs R & R! I also understand the grandparents need to spend time with their grandchildren. Perhaps there is a win-win situation here. Share your needs with the grandparents and tell them how exhausted you are on weekends. Enlist their help. Ask if they would take the kids out for breakfast or lunch and to the library, park or movies while you catch up on your rest and have some alone time. I'm sure they will be eager to help you any way they can.

Adapted from a post in the Grandparents Forum. See more questions from readers.

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