Don't you hate it when guest ask?

shesalittlebearDecember 18, 2005

Don't you hate it when guest ask...

Don't you have ham in the fridge for breakfast?

Don't you have corn oil?

Don't you have instant coffee?

Don't you have powdered creamer?

Don't you have...?

Well come to a visit from my MIL. I know that her intentions are not bad, but DARN these questions get on my nerves. I kindly ask DH to take her to the store (so I don't have to her the rest of her list). What annoys me the most is, I don't do this when I am at her house. There are lot of things that I like that she does not normally carry, but some how I manage to keep my mouth shut. My FIL always looks embarassed when MIL ask so many questions. I actually feel bad for him.

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I know what you mean. My MIL was over a couple weeks ago and we where getting ready to eat lunch and I was asking who all wanted garlic bread, and she says, Who likes garlic bread? Then I told her she can have white bread, then she says... I can't have white bread, I can only have wheat bread. Luckly, my daughter had just picked up a loaf of wheat bread. Well, I guess lucky for her!

    Bookmark   December 19, 2005 at 11:24AM
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Perhaps she should have said "do you have"....rather than assuming you don't have.
I think a lot of the problem is in your attitude toward what she is asking. You are automatically assuming she is reprimanding you because you don't have. A good answer would be..."no, I'm sorry we don't use powdered creamer, but I have some real cream. If you would like I will be sure to have some next time you come".....and then have it.
I don't normally eat sweet cereals nor poptarts....but will be sure to get some because I know my grand kids like that. When my parents visited, I made sure I had wheatena cereal, white bread and heavy cream.
But I wasn't insulted when they asked for something I didn't have.
A good host remembers the things that a frequent guest likes and keeps them in stock when that guest comes.
To answer your the list were constantly changing.....for example you made sure to have ham when she came and she suddenly wanted turkey sausage. But if you know she likes ham for breakfast.....why not have some for her when she comes?
Linda C

    Bookmark   December 19, 2005 at 12:53PM
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Hi Linda,

Thanks for the advice. I will have the thing that I can remember she likes on hand. The problem isn't what she says, it's how she says it. Tone counts for a lot. My own mother doesn't even use that tone with me. My husband asks me to ignore it...and I do to a point. Her questions also really embarass my FIL. He is always telling her, "Don't ask so many questions" OR "Can't you wait until tomorrow?" OR "Are you going to die without corn oil" OR "Why are you acting like a 5 year old". Then she pouts, which makes everyone feel uncomfortable.

I also do have issue with her sense of personal space. When I go to her house, I always ask for everything...Even a glass of water. Unlike her, I don't pillage through her cabinets. If I want something, I politely ask, "May I have toast?", for example. If there is something that I really want, I wait until the evening and ask my husband to take me to the grocery store. I intentionally try not to bother my host(ess) --whether it's friends or family.

Don't get me wrong. I don't hate her. She has a lot of awesome qualities. She is generous, fun, adventurous and very outgoing.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2005 at 8:19PM
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You've said that in many ways you enjoy your MIL. So, maybe, something else is going on?

It's possible she's having some type of feelings about her son living in a different environment that causes her to have anxiety in your home. She sees things are different and might be imagining that somehow she is your rival. Sounds crazy but I've got a friend that does just what you describe to her new DIL...and I know for a fact that my friend doesn't want to let go of her children & feels competitive with her DIL. Maybe, when she comes to visit you could gush compliments about how your hubby talks so fondly about his childhood (if, of course, he does!) that she would hopefully come to understand that her son has not chosen you (and your "no ham" kitchen) over her...there's room for both a wife and a mother in his life.

Our family operates a little different. I don't feel invaded when my DIL pillages through my pantry. Rather, I feel happy that she feels comfortable enough and at home enough to do so. I do the same in their home. I would never ask them for a cup of tea in the evening. I just get up, go to the kitchen, and holler out that I'm making tea...does anybody else want some? We are not guests in each other's homes...we are family and act accordingly. I've almost bit my tongue off a dozen times in an effort to let my DIL know that I understand and agree that she is first in my son's life now...not me as his mother. That's hardiest on issues concerning his health (he's diabetic). It bothers me that I have to get my info filtered through either my son or DIL...can't talk to the doctor myself anymore. lol Letting our kids grow up can, sometimes, be fraught with unforeseen leaning experiences.

Now, if it was some 3rd cousin I'd not seen in 20 years...that would be another story.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2005 at 11:47AM
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Can you ask her to email you a list ahead of time of things that would make her stay more comfortable?

I can understand why her tone and questions might make you unhappy - no one likes to feel like they are not a good host. The above poster could be correct about her being competitive. My MIL is extremely competitive with me and her daughter. She goes out of her way to not ask for things. She only comes for short visits since she lives close by, but brings bags of stuff with her, from snacks to drinks to reading material. Then whenever she opens something she brought, she makes a big production over how she brought it for herself. I do try to have things on hand that I know she likes, but she won't even go into the refrigerator because she says she doesn't want to move things around. Now I just shrug it off, whatever works for her...

    Bookmark   December 20, 2005 at 12:47PM
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Hi TriciaE and ArabellaMiller,

My husband and I have been together for about 9 years. The first few (about 3-4) were rough with MIL cause of SIL. SIL was very jealous of losing her baby brother. Things have mellowed out a bit over the years. That's part of the problem.

The other part is, well how do I say this nicely, I was raised with a lot more. I also am 1/2 Mex and 3rd generation at that. My husband's family father is from Mex and his mom was raised going back and forth from US and Mex. When I cook, for example, I was raised using olive, canola, walnut or sesame oil, NOT CORN (which is a typical Mexican staple). I like tortillas, but I don't love them. I may or may not have them in the fridge. Could I live without them YES, Could I live without a good sourdough HECK NO. I try my best to be sensative/considerate. For example, my FIL only likes instant coffee (double yuck). In the past, I thought that I was being nice/courteous by buying whole beans and grinding them fresh from Peet's.

I also think that it annoys my MIL that I have so much cooking "stuff". Because I was raised by so many different and influential cultures, I have spices, sauces and gadgets from around the world. Ironically, I have a crepe pan, tempura frying pot, a wok but don't have a comal (cast iron will ruin my glass top).

MIL seems to do best when FIL is not around. I think that part of the problem is her trying to serve him breakfast (or other food) in my house. If he wasn't there, we would just as soon go to breakfast...

The tone is more like a "scolding". Even my mother knows how not to talk to me. It is better to kill me with kindness than p--- me off. (Example, Mom, "honey would you mind picking up some...when you have a chance" Me, "Okay Mom, I'll go to the store in 15 minutes"). If my mom were to ask me why I don't have corn oil, I'd tell her "Because I don't like it...But I can go get you some if you want (not rude, just truthful and direct)"

Because my in laws are very poor (seasonal migrant farm workers), I try not to ask for too much. Usually when I go through the cabinets, containers are almost empty, so I feel bad asking. Additionally, during the summer they have renters (sublet one room), so I never know how what belongs to them.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2005 at 1:01AM
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shesalittlebear, it really sounds to me like your MIL is feeling out of her comfort zone and almost pleading with you to provide a familiar environment. People react in odd ways to new and different things/surroundings. It's hard to combine family traditions especially foodways. Food is such an important part of our identities whether we realize it directly, or not.

I come from an immigrant German/Russian family and, boy oh boy, venturing outside that "box" was not popular with first & second generations. By the third generation, the family was becoming more blended with young people marrying outside the German/Russian community. The older family members behaved in various ways...some defiantly holding on to old country ways and others more liberal. Since it was highly unlikely that older family members were going to change much, I decided early that trying to meet them on their turf was the was to go. So, I always served their favorite ethnic foods and honored other customs that were not a part of my normal routine when they were visiting. That generation has passed on now and the family no longer has the culture divide.

Do not underestimate how powerful foodways can be to a family, especially women. Men can just be defiant as in your FIL's insistence on instant coffee. It is familiar and he is comfortable with it. His morning coffee is an important part of his daily routine and he doesn't want it you or anyone else. He's probably just plainly not open to discussion on the matter. Women, on the other hand (especially those who never worked outside the home) define themselves in large part by foodways. Your kitchen is an alien environment to your MIL and she's trying to get you to make it more familiar, hence more comfortable.

You probably cannot win this battle with that generation. My guess is that if you did little things to make her feel overall more comfortable and less "different" her behavior would mellow. The economic divide is not helping either. As parent, we always say we want our children to do better than we did. And, that's certainly true. But, when large changes happen quickly (one generation) it can and does cause family conflicts. As an example, my German/Russian culture is extremely conservative and frugal beyond believe to most Americans in our society today. They saw the prosperity of their grandchildren and conflicted heavily on life-styles. The grandparents would have stashed every single penny under the mattress and lived outwardly in near poverty and the grandkids had two cars, three TV's, and a pool in the backyard. The grandparent never did accept that as changing times...they were always just wasteful kids with a poor work ethic.

I'm an amateur genealogist and have learned much about different ethnic culture clashes as a result. The blending of cultures, traditions, and foodways is an interesting subject...more so for the historian than those stuck in the middle! lol

Good Luck!

    Bookmark   December 21, 2005 at 7:55AM
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Tricia, you are absolutely right about food. It does tell a lot about who we are and our live experiences.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2005 at 10:59PM
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oh i had the houseguests from hell who not only "required" all sorts of crappy junk foods and drinks but a spaceheater for thebathroom and an electric blanket.

when i am having a house guest I ask what they like in the morning so I am sure i have those things but i dont make total dietary changes for them. people can be so weird.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2005 at 11:45AM
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Yikes, dayenu, I'd say those guests "required" a hotel room. I can't imagine placing those kinds of demands on a host.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2005 at 2:06PM
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I had a BIL that did that to his sister -- long list of must haves in the fridge and around the house. Even worse, he didn't use or eat the stuff requested!

He stayed with me for a few weeks once years ago, when DH was away on a trip. He tried to give me his list, I cleared a shelf in the fridge and said he could stock it himself (we were on a very limited budget, I was as generous as I could be giving him a room! Things were really tight.) He never did.

We did have a bit of a go round about his shaving kit -- with the old fashioned drop in razor. He left it on the bathroom counter, where my very inquisitive 5 yr old DD could investigate. He said she should be taught not to touch, I said be an adult and look out for your neice's welfare -- put dangerous things in the medicine cabinet (or back in your room), where she has been taught not to touch! The counter was for soap, lotion and where she kept her toothbrush and paste. It was a very small counter too.

DH came home, BIL ambushed him before I could even say a word about how inhospitable I had been, the kit, the food etc. DH said "fine, you don't like it here, move."
BIL, stayed a couple more days, still didn't get his way, even called MIL to complain (on our phone, not his cell!) DH, got on the phone to talk to Mom and mentioned safety issues for DD, MIL instantly was on BIL for indangering her GD! He left the next day for hotel room.

This isn't to say that we would not do what we could to make guest comfortable, and are much more able to do so now. But there always are limits!


    Bookmark   December 30, 2005 at 10:32AM
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Forgot to mention, BIL tried giving his sister a list of things for a visit a few years after he had stayed with us -- she also cleared a fridge shelf for him -- he stayed in a motel. "Better service" was the reason he gave MIL for the change.


    Bookmark   December 30, 2005 at 10:35AM
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Your MIL and mine sound like they could be twins lol. She's great to have a conversation with and is a great friend but as a MIL she's not so great. She just can't understand why everyone doesn't do things just like she does. She also competes with me on being the mother of my children. All of her little birdies have left the nest and now she looks to take mine under her wing and I refuse to let her take over. Everytime she comes to my house she has something to say about what I'm making to eat and how I'm making it. It's not so much the words she uses it's the tone of voice and underlying disapproval of everything I do that gets to me. Even my FIL will speak up sometimes and tell her that it isn't her house so quit it.

I feel for you and wish you luck!


    Bookmark   January 16, 2006 at 7:04AM
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Wow! I guess I am lucky that my mother and my in laws live close enough that they do not stay for overnight visits! LOL! When we do have guests that stay overnight, they are our friends and everyone pitches in. Lots of times they bring tons of food with them or we all shop together and split the bill. Our friends who regularily come for overnights are both chefs and insist on cooking, it's great!!! I usually just handle the clean up, which works for me. The meals are always incredible and we always have great time.

I'm not sure how I would handle the MIL and BIL situations you guys have described. It seems like it would be hard to keep them happy, and as far as the BIL goes, I wouldn't care if he was happy!

    Bookmark   January 19, 2006 at 11:58AM
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Emmhip...You are very lucky. :-)


My MIL is a handful, but she is not mean. My husband says (and agree) that she is like a six year old. She has no inner voice self discipline. She says what she thinks, without understanding the consequences...Her response is, "Well it's the truth, right?". This behavior has severely impacted, for the worst, her relationships with her own siblings and in-laws (fil brothers and sisters). So, I don't think it's me. In other words, knowing that she is like this with everyone makes it a little better.

DH and I don't have kids yet. I know that she will have some opinions that I will not like. DH (34)and his older sister (37), both are college educated professionals; neither has kids. The youngest of the three (now 20) had a baby with his girlfriend while she was in high school. BIL and GF stay with my in-laws part of the week and the rest of time w/her family. My mil is really hard on BIL's girlfriend about how she takes care of her baby. Some of it is valid, some isn't. I hope this isn't a reflection of what is in store for me.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2006 at 4:06PM
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dayenu makes a really good point about breakfasts. I don't know what it is about breakfast -- maybe because we so often eat it alone? -- but it seems to be so idiosyncratic; the meal where we are most likely to eat something no one else wants, and the meal we are least likely to feel adventurous. A lot of people eat the same breakfast every day, or at most choose from a limited list; how many of us do that for lunch or dinner? Same for different menus; we sit down to the same dinner, but at breakfast, we each do our own thing. And some people hear "breakfast" and think of eggs, some want only bread or cereal and fruit, some want vegetables or fish, some want last night's leftover chicken, some want the last piece of pie, some can't handle anything but coffee and juice ... and NO ONE wants to have to discuss it. Plus, as a guest, I don't want to be putting my hosts to trouble when they may be hurrying out the door for work or otherwise trying to get through their morning routines (which, likewise, we don't like to have disrupted).

It's hard to know how to be polite in that situation, because trying not to make work can actually be the most exasperating to the host. When I am the host, it used to be so awkward: "What can I fix you for breakfast?" "Oh, anything." "Well, I make really good omelettes -- how about an omelette? I have cheese, mushrooms, and onions." "Oh, no, not eggs." "Well, how about a bagel, or some cereal, or some cottage cheese?" "Oh, just anything." "Would you like juice? I have grapefruit, orange, and tomato." "Any kind; I don't care." [Honestly, now! Of course they care! But *I* don't care what kind of juice THEY drink -- I just want them to give me an answer so I can get on with it!] As you can see, this goes nowhere fast. It drives me, as the host, crazy, but I know that my guest is really trying not to put me to any trouble.

Even worse is when they say, "I'll just have whatever you're having." BIG mistake -- good chance I'm having no-fat cottage cheese and a bowl of Cheerios and granola with skim milk, or maybe some leftover kasha. That would probably come as a big surprise!

But if I just go ahead and make and serve a breakfast, the way I might just go ahead and make dinner and serve it without consulting the guest on the menu, that can be really bad -- even a breakfast that's a treat for some people is a real ordeal for the poor person who is accustomed to only coffee in the morning. It's just so much harder to be a good guest and eat what's put in front of you at breakfast time.

I COULD just put out everything I can think of and let them serve themselves, offering to make eggs, pancakes, or whatever, too. That's what I do if there is a big crowd (usually a bunch of teens), especially if they will be wandering into the kitchen at different times and levels of fogginess.

But for real houseguests, I have learned to do what dayenu does: I ask them in advance, "Tell me what you like to eat for breakfast -- it's so personal, and we each eat something different in the mornings anyway." They start to say, "Oh, anything -- " but then they "get it" and tell me. They and I both appreciate not having to try to find something we both want to eat or to do a complicated minuet about trying not to inconvenience each other -- especially not first thing in the morning!

    Bookmark   April 5, 2006 at 11:41AM
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I hate when my SIL comes to visit. she's single, lives alone, lives in apartment, working. She also drinks only instant coffee and diet soda, both of which I hate. When she comes to visit, I buy a bottle of both just for her to use. Then she procedes to drink my regular soda. So I'm stuck with a two-litre bottle of Diet Pepsi. I guess I'll save it for her next visit. She also never offers to clean up after the meal, and generally breaks at least one thing every visit. Let's see, she stepped on my driveway solar light and broke it, dropped the glass mustard jar on the patio, flushed the toilet and it overflowed. She's a one-person-demolition crew! Oh, and, yes, she incessently brags about her other sister's belongings. "Margi bought a new car, a new dishwasher, an inground pool. . ." My least favorite guest.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2006 at 9:50AM
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We were always taught to help out when staying at other peoples places, help cook, clean up after ourselves, bring any special foods or eat what we are given without fuss. A few years back my father and I visited an Aunt. We were washing the dinner plates when a friend of hers called in, she stood there shocked and asked where she can get guests like us, she had just gotten rid of guests who acted as though they were in a hotel with maid service. Also we paid for our share of the groceries.

My inlaws used to send all the kids into their bedroom to watch videos, toddlers included. FIL leaves all his pretty coloured heart, blood pressure medications sitting on the bedside table, he got a little upset when I asked if we could put them out of sight while the kids were there, was told it was where he always kept them. I said fine, turned the tv off and took my kids out. Next time we were over the tv was in a spare bedroom.

1 Like    Bookmark   May 22, 2006 at 10:15PM
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Go ahead and buy her what she wants. It's not that big of an effort. Someday we will all be old and would wish someone would have our favorite things in their cupboard. How nice to be thoughtful. Aftr all, she is a guest in your house.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2006 at 2:17AM
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I have some unusual dietary needs/preferences, so when I visit someone for more than just a day I generally bring along a load of food for me. I know my DM doesn't mind, but do you think this is offensive to my MIL and FIL? I certainly don't expect them to remember everything, or to change all the menus just for me - but I do have to eat! Anyone else do this?

If your MIL always asks for the same things, I would try to provide them. It does sound to me that she is making more of a comment on your lifestyle, though.
Best wishes.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2006 at 3:03PM
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My point is, my MIL doesn't always ask for the same things. For the things that she does request, she often brings them herself. It's always Murhpy's law with her, I buy them, she brings 'em. I don't buy 'em, she doesn't bring 'em.

DH doesn't help either. He'll call me to ask me to pick up a specific type of sausage, bacon or whatever he wants his parents to try. As usual, they still complain and go off to the market to buy what they want. So now, not only am I mad at the in-laws, DH is now on my bad list for sending me to the store.

In MIL's defense, she is a lot of fun once we leave the house. She is up for anything (miniture golf, movies, museums, going to the lake, etc.).

SIL is more of a piece of work. Although she is not a picky eater, she's a handful. She never ever does anything to help out. Not even pick up her plate from the table(after I have been cooking and cleaning for hours) or make her bed. She always boasts that "she is a guest and is going to relax". I made it very clear to DH that she is NOT a guest. My understanding is a guest is someone you INVITE. Her calling DH and tell him that she needs to get away from her city, so she will be coming to our house is not an invitation.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2006 at 3:28PM
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