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My in-laws come to stay with us once or twice a year, and I am happy to have them – mostly. I enjoy their company, but the problem is that they behave like teenagers. They sleep late, don’t help around the house at all – and I’m talking not even putting away their own dishes – and generally stay too long. I really feel like I get two more children the minute they arrive. How can I get them to help out?
I’m gonna go out on a limb here and presume that these are people over 50 who have obviously raised children of their own, one of whom you married. Which means they have no excuse to sit back and let you do all the work when they are guests in your home. But rather than make a blanket statement about how inconsiderate their behavior is, why not ask them for specific help with specific things, which is much harder to say no to or conveniently “forget.”
I would start with something like, “Hey Gladys, hope you slept well. I’m short on time today. Would you mind going to the store to pick up a few things? The list is on the counter,” or “Could you put the dishes in the dishwasher, Fred? Thanks! And by the way, I would just love it if you could pick Snuffy up from camp this afternoon. That would be so helpful!”
Be direct, be specific and see what happens. If this still doesn’t work, have your husband ask them why they are not pitching in, since he knows them best. On the other hand, you could just forego their allowance, take away their electronics, or ground them.
Does it make me a horrible person if I didn’t respond to an estranged friend’s request to renew what was a one-sided friendship (all about her) while her husband is in hospice care with pancreatic cancer?
Since you don’t mention why you are estranged from this person, I’m not sure if you just drifted apart, or if you had an inciting incident that ended the friendship. In any case, it’s not a matter of whether you are a horrible person, it’s a matter of capacity. We all have different capacities for empathy and compassion (and unequal friendships) at different times in our lives. My guess is that you fear that reconnecting will end up being a burden to you. At the same time, no one wants to turn away a person in need, thus your quandary.
In this case I may try and put myself in my friend’s shoes. She is clearly going through a difficult time. Would it be so hard to send a quick card or email expressing sympathy? You could stop there. Or have a coffee with her once or twice. If you feel like even that is leaning toward the one-sided friendship of yesteryear, this would be a good time to flex your boundary muscles and tell her that your time and energy is limited right now. I’ll admit that is a little bit flimsy but unless you want to have a big relationship talk, that’s all I got (open to suggestions, dear readers!). However, in times of great stress – and this certainly qualifies – it’s always nice to hear from an old friend.
I’m thin. Get over it. Why do people think it’s OK to comment on my weight? I need a snappy comeback.
Patience wearing thin too
What a great reminder to everyone that it is not OK to comment on other people’s bodies, even if you think you are being complimentary. Are we not, as a society, over our weight/body obsession? Clearly not. Will we ever be? Doubtful.
Old habits die hard. A lot of us were brought up when all people did was comment on each others’ bodies. Nonetheless, we all can do better. Next time someone comments on your thinness, try something like, “It’s my tapeworm. Hatches eggs in your digestive tract. Highly contagious. Care for another brownie?” Or “I may be thin but so is my patience for people commenting about my weight, hint hint!” or, as a wiser person than I once plainly said, “I’m thin. Get over it.”
Dear Gabby appears in the RoundTable every Monday. Yes, Gabby is an advice columnist – but not just any advice columnist. Because that would be boring! Gabby combines wisdom with wit. And a pinch of snark. She is not a trained therapist by any means, but has seen and loved many in her day. Her aim is to make you think while she makes you laugh. Gabby welcomes all questions and queries and is only too happy to hear your opinion, no matter how much it may diverge from hers. Write to Gabby at email@example.com.