Soliciting Opinions Re Family Gatherings!

bigbabyJune 17, 2013

(Sorry this is so long)

Hey y'all! Long time no post here!! No matter how long its been since I've been to the KT, I still think of you as a fantastic resource. Ron and I have an issue and would love your wise feedback!! Here goes!

Background: We have 5 children, ages 19 to 31. Three are married and we have two grandchildren. Ron and I live on the farm he grew up on. His parents live a few miles away and his brother and sister-in-law live across the road.

The dilemma: For every holiday and family gathering we meet at our house because it's the most centrally located and the biggest place. What this means is, I get to do 90% of all the work. I spend days organizing, shopping, cleaning and getting ready. The day of I spend all morning cooking and getting the house ready. Everyone else shows up (sometimes after having told us that they weren't going to make it) minutes before we are going to eat with one dinky dish and ask "what can I do to help?"

After the meal then we play cards or games or goof around. The dishes sit piled up with not one single person offering to wash them. So, at the end of the day again I get to work my rear off to get the house back together.

I have tried everything I can think of to make these kids understand how much work it is and how fantastic it would be if they would help but they completely ignore it. If I ask outright, "can you please do such and such" I get attitude.

Yesterday was the same old deal on a different day. One by one they left throughout the afternoon. Ron's brother and sister-in-law showed up empty handed 5 minutes before we ate after telling us they weren't going to be here. One son and his wife informed me the day before that they couldn't be here for lunch but would be here for supper (huh? now I'm supposed to cook two dinners?) And our daughter invited a friend!

In true fashion, they all went about their merry ways as it suited them and our 19 year old son (the only one still at home) disappeared in the early evening. It was father's day and I really wanted Ron to have a break (he really needed it) and I was left again with a huge pile of dirty dishes (we don't have a dishwasher).

Today I'm exhausted and really angry and it's hard to focus on my own work. I keep thinking about how everyone was describing their leisurely mornings yesterday and just getting even more steamed!!! Ron (usually my biggest helper) felt terrible that he suggested we spend Father's Day here, but honestly, we love our family so much and I love having things here and being with our family, but it's too much. I don't like how much time it all takes and how physically demanding it all is. We have tried all kinds of things (I won't go into it here because this thread already too long!!) Is this really what being middle aged is about? Do I have to say goodbye to having fun on holidays until I'm too old to do anything? Sheesh!!!

Any ideas at all for us? I'm at the end of my rope!!!

(I just read through this and realized how grateful I am to all of you for being here. It is so incredibly helpful just writing this all out and imagining someone reading this with the heart of understanding!)

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Oddly, we were just talking about this when my sisters (and one brother in law) came up to visit last week. My one sister and brother in law have decided to quit hosting family holidays. In addition to the things mentioned above, they said they had people (he's from a family of 10) that would say they were coming, and bringing a particular item for the meal, and then never show up.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 11:15AM
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Wow, that's really pathetic! The thing is we have good kids. It just seems like they don't have any idea, even though I've practically written a book about it!!

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 11:26AM
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Sally Brownlee

We have a large family, thankfully we make sure Moms house sparkles, and tables and chairs put are put away before last person leaves.

You just need to tell them! ... In advance and mean it. Remind them the day before of the new procedures.

Here are a couple ideas...
Mom just makes the meat dish.
volunteers sign up..We will need:
1 starch
2 veggies
1 dessert
rolls and drink
(remember to bring enough to feed xx amount of people!)
If somebody does not bring food...they are automatically assigned to dish detail.

Hide the games. Bring them out when the kitchens clean. It takes a group 30 minutes at most
Nobody leaves until dishes are done!
Make that VERY clear when menu planning. (every now and then we make a "men-only" clean up and we ladies enjoy our cake and coffee.

Make a get-together a Pizza party. Everybody brings their favorite pizza. You supply drinks, chips and paper plates.

Do not give in...if they go home hungry once, it'll never happen again.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 11:35AM
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Post removed.

This post was edited by Fun2BHere on Mon, Jun 17, 13 at 19:34

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 11:52AM
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I like Salgal's ideas.

Everything is relative, as I'm sure you know. I'm an only child who always wanted to be part of a big, close family. If we could all exchange problems once in awhile it might be an interesting experiment. :-)

I have admired how far you've come since deciding to switch careers. You've made a name for yourself, and seem to be working quite a bit. I know work is work, but some work is more fun than others, and I imagine yours can be a lot of fun at times. And I imagine it takes you away in the evenings quite a bit. No, of course you shouldn't have to say goodbye to having fun on holidays, but maybe this is the kind of situation where you'll have to accept at least some sacrifice some of the time. It's unfortunate that Ron felt terrible about the way his Father's Day went.

As for non-contributing relatives, Dear Abby (I think) once said people take advantage of us only when we let them. I hope you'll take Salgal's suggestions seriously, and brace yourself for attitude. Ask yourself, "What's the worst that can happen?" And then ask yourself what you would tell a client if she came to you with this problem way back when.

PS: Buy a dishwasher!

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 12:06PM
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If the most important thing is spending time with the family, skip hosting a meal and make it dessert only. If folks show up hungry, point them to town and recommend a place to eat. It's expensive to host family gatherings and a lot of work.

You just have to stop catering to people that walk on you. If they all want to continue meals, tell them you'll provide the location and they can provide all the food. And then use paper/plastic plates to minimize clean up.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 12:09PM
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You've spoiled your family Bigbaby! Starting with the next get-together you need to put changes into effect. Like Salgal said... you supply the meat dish (have Ron grill something) and have everyone else bring a dish (one large enough for all attendees to have a serving). If there's not a good selection or if someone goes hungry.. they'll do a better job next time. :) Play a game right after dinner and the losers do dishes. Men can do dishes too... don't exclude them from that chore!

Let other family members host at their house occasionally... way less stressful for you! You might even consider renting a pavilion at a local park... no pre-cleaning plus paper plates and plastic utensils can go in the trash.. and you can relax!

Give us an update after your next get-together!

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 12:17PM
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A question for you. Have you ever asked them to help?

Or better yet, tell them the maid has the day off, and they'd better get in the kitchen and do the dishes!

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 12:18PM
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I think Salgal's suggestions are fantastic!

I know you don't want to miss out on the fun family get-togethers, but your very strong hints are ignored and your pleas get you "attitude", so you know something HAS to change. You could insist that the get-togethers be at someone else's house, because doing all the work is taking too much out of you. Sure, it might be a little less convenient travel for some. So what?

I hope this doesn't seem harsh, but you can only be taken advantage of if you allow it.

You either have to (1) implement strategies that require everyone to pitch in and help, both with the food and the work, (2) insist it is at someone else's house, or (3) quit complaining and do it all yourself.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 12:20PM
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I too come from a large family and seemed to have been saddled with hosting most of the family dinners. For me, it was always about control - I wanted everyone to have a great time and that belief pushed me into thinking that the house had to be perfectly cleaned and decorated and the menu had to be huge and delicious.

What I finally realized is that everyone only cared about being together and having some laughs. They didn't care about the actual menu nor about how clean my house was. I now tell people what they are bringing (the vegetarians bring vegetarian dishes, those who are lactose/gluten intolerant bring those dishes, those with kids bring something that the kids will eat - but there has to be enough for everyone) and I don't care if the menu is a cohesive one or not.

I only clean one bathroom and I vacuum only if the area rugs have grown a layer of cat hair. I clean the house after and not before.

I do bring out the good silver and china but that's for me.

My sons are 23 and 25, but still at home and they are on dish duty and it is up to them to corral the GF's and the cousins to help out. They wind up having a lot of fun.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 12:30PM
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If you don't enjoy it, don't do it. It probably won't change. My mother used to get her panties in a twist about hosting family gatherings. While the food was always great, the amount of time and effort that she put in (we always did the dishes) made her unpleasant to be around. I would much rather go out so no one had to do any of the work.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 12:42PM
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I LOVE this place! So many great suggestions! Reading all of your posts helps me get it in perspective as well as feeling emotionally supported!!

@Alisande, I have been bugging for a dishwasher for years but the reality is that we really need a total kitchen redo (our house is nearly 50 years old) because installing one would mean cutting up the cabinets which would mean getting a new counter, etc.

My new career is both the biggest challenge ever (yes, it rivals child rearing) with also some great rewards. I am gone a lot but I'm also home nearly every day writing, which the kids translate as farting around. Most people don't get how much work it is to work from home!! I'm constantly battling distractions and usually feel like I've made very little progress at the end of the day. I am usually writing and performing from about 10 in the morning until 11 or 12 at night. Last week I had one day off and that was yesterday! I am getting better and better at managing my time, though, as well as learning how to write creatively on a schedule, not just when the muse wakes up!

Ron and I talked about doing deserts only, etc. One thing I did on Saturday was to make a Facebook group for our family only so I can post things about upcoming holidays like sign up lists!!! We do paper plates now, too. I love the idea about the losers doing kitchen duty!! Also I like the idea of not starting any games until the kitchen is clean, except that there are always the afternoon dishes as well.

So many great ideas and you can't know how much I appreciate it.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 1:04PM
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We were in the same boat as yourself for years. If the family gathering wasn't at our lake home it didn't take place.

It didn't bother is when we were in our 30's, 25 years latter it's just too much. It is my wife that bears the brunt of the workload. I did the grilling and made a few dishes and made sure everyone had a libation.

I finally just said OK no problem having it here, decide what food and drink you would like to bring and let is know. Anyone under the age of 30 is responsible for clean up, that includes the canoes and my big boat. A few gatherings where every had to work and presto, no more family bashes here. We really didn't mind as we did it for Mom and Dad not my nieces and nephews and their parents we only see on holidays.

We now book a restaurant and get separate cheques. I pass the hat for the waitresses as there are 22 of us and make sure they are tipped very, very well.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 1:29PM
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I have always done the family holiday meals since I am the one with children and have a home big enough. It is too much for me to do all by myself, so my reliable sister always brings the salad, dessert and vegetables ready to cook. I make everything else, though my new DIL likes to bring her delicious homemade yeast rolls.

My kids are in their 30s; two are married, and DD has two darling little boys. In recent years, they have all pitched in more as they see me inundated. At 71, my aches and pains make the day too much to do without help, but I have the largest table and love hosting the clan. I love to set the table with my old set of Limoges china, my mother's crystal and silver, and the banquet cloth I crocheted. So DIL and sons and DD do dishes, set the table, and one son will even iron the cloth liner for the table the day before. We have reduced the number of dishes offered over the years to one or two starches, the meat, one vegetable, salad, pumpkin bread, corn pudding, dessert, coffee, wine and champagne.

Your kids are old enough not to have an attitude when you need help with the meal. Time for mom and dad to have a family conversation before the next family get together.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 2:26PM
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Have you told the family that this is how you feel? It has been my experience that the younger ones really have no clue how much these get-togethers are, or how expensive. These are the same people who never questioned how the clean laundry got back in the drawers. Mom waves her magic wand, right?

You really must give out assignments and stick with them. Ar you accepting offers of help if they come your way? My mom grouses (with good reason) about how much work it is to do big family dinners, however everyone offers help in advance and she never accepts it. Even worse, she accepts it and does it herself anyway. For instance I said I'd bring the appetizers last time and when I got there, she had made one, too.

I will say that our gang pitches in with the dishes. If I am washing and no one is drying I just tell them to get over here and grab a towel.

If someone offers to bring the potato salad and then doesn't come through, make sure the rest of the crowd knows it -- "oh sorry there is no potato salad this year". No need to name names, but the guilty one will know.

Seriously, you must delegate. I think just cleaning and providing dishes, paper goods, grill, etc is enough for one person. It has to be a group effort.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 2:37PM
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Started to post but waited to see others who had this problem. Lots of good ideas but you mentioned you work at home. Suggestions from me regarding this---when I sold Avon I had several that worked from home and also home schooled due to distance. They established time they either worked or taught and I always tried to respect their times. That is what you need to do. Establish times during the day/week, and let others know what they are. Do NOT answer the phone (I love caller ID) , door bell and if any still live at home and are old enough to be responsible, assign them things to do for you while you are working.
This does not have to be the same every day EX Monday 8-11 lunch then if you feel you need to work later do it. I know writing is different and sometimes you are just not in the mood. Adjust your schedule. Inform others you are working and please call back. If any of your kids are home they can take messages.
As to the dishwasher??? can you use a portable one? You attach it to your sink. Other than that? Have people bring either their own dishes or paper goods. Late ones --no food? come on in--glad you made it for dessert have a seat and we will be with you after we finish our meal. Sorry, it only takes once to educated some people.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 2:42PM
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Yesterday we had a Pizza meal for our family, one daughter brought that and bread sticks, another a big salad and corn on the cob. I made Fettuccine Alfredo, desserts and some other things. The youngest isn't into cooking that much so she provides the place. I seldom tell people what to bring, just let them bring what they want. I tell them what I am fixing and they fix whatever to go with it. Foam plates and plastic cups. Today one daughter and I went back to the youngest and had some of the left over pizza and cherry pie. Cheryl cleared the plates away and washed up some things and we came home. We all have dishwashers and we do use them a lot. Works for us. At my age I don't feel like cleaning and doing the cooking also. I just can't. We also provided a lot of baby sitting so youngest could do what she needed to do at home for the supper we had.


    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 2:52PM
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If it's not too far for these people to come to YOUR house, it's not to far for you all to go to THEIR houses. Take turns. Nothing will teach your freeloaders better than having to host the party. If nobody will take a turn...ask them what they DO want to do. Do they want to all eat out, or make the gathering 'just dessert', or 'games & dessert', or a pizza party? You hosting again is NOT AN OPTION.

Maybe they don't really want the big dinner and all the trimmings. Is that going to be all right with YOU?

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 3:12PM
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Yesterday Ron got to pick the menu because it was Father's Day. It wasn't that complicated but it adds up. Burgers and Dogs on the grill. I provided the meat, some chips, buns, cheese and condiments (which added up to a tidy sum when it was all said and done).

The other's houses are not options. Ron's brother's wife is unwilling and uses their business and her diabetes as an excuse. Ron's parents home is really small and they are really not up to the task at all. The other kids are a 30 minute drive away and their homes are too small for us now. When we are all together there are 18 of us.

I think part of the problem is also that Ron's mother always did everything in the past including hosting. Also the kids stop over there any old time and no matter what she will make them a meal, so I guess they think that's what should happen at home!

Another part of it is that they hardly ever reciprocate. Maybe once a year the kids will invite us to their homes and we have Christmas eve at his mother's house. That's it. Ron's brother and sister-in-law haven't invited us to a meal in probably 10 years, but every single event they come to our home. Then we hear stories about "oh, we were over at so and so's house for a meal and cards." Sheesh!!

At Easter I washed half the dishes and I stopped and said, I'm ready to be relieved. Our daughter got up and came over to the sink so I dried my hands and started to walk away. She said, "Oh, I was just going to dry because I don't like washing the dishes." WHO DOES? Honestly!!!

Wow, I'm having a serious rant here! Sorry but it's really helping to vent.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 3:35PM
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In this kind of situation as well as many others, I like the KISS system.


Here's is an example, especially because so many folks now have restricted diets. Tell everyone who is coming to your house, since there seems not to be any choice there, that this time it will be BROWN BAG!!

Everybody brings their own favorite dinner, in a bag. No muss, no fuss. If there happens to be some snitching from someone's bag, snitch back, and the fun begins. The host, which will be you, can have an assortment of cold drinks, tea and/or coffee available.

After all, it is the being together that matters. If Joe or Mary don't show up, no problem.

I am serious about this. Might be the best holiday you've ever had. And will definitely make an impression.

BTW, I miss Ron's pics of the green houses in the Spring.


    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 4:41PM
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I personally thrive on throwing big parties/events, for families and/or for others.

But, since, it is too much for YOU, speak up. Let them know what will be expected, both as far as food AND cleanup. And stick to your guns!

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 4:59PM
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Just wanted to add that Dedtired and I must have the same mother. lol
My mom grouses (with good reason) about how much work it is to do big family dinners, however everyone offers help in advance and she never accepts it. Even worse, she accepts it and does it herself anyway. For instance I said I'd bring the appetizers last time and when I got there, she had made one, too.
Sounds exactly like my mother!

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 5:01PM
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When my boys were young, my MIL would have Sunday dinner at her house EVERY week...her 4 kids, their spouses, and all their kids, plus anyone else who might show up. Sometimes, that meant over 20 people. But, we all knew that she made the main dish, the rest of us brought anything and everything else, including drinks, and sides. Part of the fun was being together to get the meal out, then being in her tiny kitchen, trying to wash, dry and put away the dishes. No one was left exempt from the cleanup, including the guys, and the older children. The garbage was taken out, The kitchen was left spotless. Her having us all together was her gift to us. Us cleaning up and leaving her no mess, was our gift to her.
I am talking EVERY Sunday! I really loved that woman, and miss her still every day, tho she's been gone over 15 years now.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 5:24PM
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I know the last thing you want is an argument, so I feel sorry about saying this, but...

OK, their homes are *small-er*. Eighteen isn't an enormous party if you aren't doing sit-down dinner. We had thirty in our first 1 BR apartment. No, it won't be as spacious as your house, but so what?

That 30 minute drive is the same either way.

PS -- You are not in competition with your MIL. If she *wants* to be spur-of-the-moment hostess, that's her decision. You don't have to do this. (IS it possible your kids feel obligated and don't really want to do this either?)

I like the Brown Bag suggestion by Sue-va, but I fear from what you posted that your family would 'forget' their bags!

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 5:33PM
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I also don't mean to stir the pot but if your SIL uses her house/business/health as an excuse for not hosting the party, why does that fall on your shoulders? She understands how much work it is and isn't willing to put the effort into it! Or she's a hoarder! :) :)

Draw a line that you're comfortable with. Set expectations and go. That's all you have to do. Don't try to be anybody but yourself. And have some fun! Life's too short!

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 5:54PM
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When your daughter said she was only intending to dry, what did you do? Go back to the sink and wash? I amassuming, from what you typed, that the answer is yes. Why??? I think you are enabling and giving in too easily. You can change their behavior by changing yours.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 6:39PM
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In my family I was the one that always did it. I finally just didn't offer one year and it ended. I was tired of the expense and al the work. My husband's family get together once a year at Christmas and we now rent a building and take turns. The one hosting it furnishes the meat, drinks and dinnerware. Everyone lets the host know what they are bringing. Every married family brings food. My 3 kids are great to help with everything.

Sounds like some are bullying you into having it and I would stop that now. Let them know you are done furnishing everything and ask for suggestions. If you don't get cooperation from everyone let them know there will not be anymore. The cost for this many is staggering now a days and the many hours to do it becomes a real chore. I know "my" limits now and it would not be happening here. Get your husband to help back you with letting others know. If they don't want change they don't value you or your husband. Stand your ground..

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 6:43PM
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Hey! If I didn't want the pot stirred I wouldn't have asked for opinions!!! Please, I want ALL of your opinions!!

I only mentioned my MIL because I think maybe the kids think I should be like that too. What she does is her business but it does bug us that we never get invited to anyone else's house!

I did NOT keep washing the dishes when my daughter said that. Someone else stepped in and washed and she dried. My SIL is a lost cause! She actually has my MIL making her meals for her and doing her laundry when the Greenhouse is going!

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 7:04PM
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Him/(her) wot don't/won't help ....

... don't eat!

and by that I mean ... really pull their weight.

ole joyfuelled ... with help from a nice Pa's Day dinner with son and partner at her place

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 7:27PM
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There are several options. You could look at how much it would cost to have it catered and tell every attendee what their portion would cost. You could simply announce that you are willing to provide the house but everyone will have to take part in a portion of the meal. Tell your SIL that never invites anyone that this time it's her turn to bring the main course (she probably won't come) and tell everyone what side dish they have to bring. Assign clean up duties to people. Maybe two dishwashers taking turns, two clear off the table people, two dish driers, two people to put the dishes away, etc. Back in the days when I was dating my husband and there were no dishwashers, I loved the part of Thanksgiving dinner when the men went in the living room and watched the football game and the women worked together in the kitchen chatting away. You just have to make it happen. Tell them this is a trial basis, and if they don't all agree to it, it will have to be the end to family get togethers at your house because you cannot handle it anymore. You will all have to go to a local restaurant and get separate checks. Once you make your decision on what has to be done, stick to it.

p.s. It was always my house the family came to but we're so wide spread we don't get together anymore. I must say I enjoyed it and I miss it but I'm not sure I could do it anymore.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 8:01PM
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Maybe the kids should emulate grandma and be gracious hosts. Heavens knows they know what a gracious host is!

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 8:27PM
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You don't need a whole kitchen redo to have a dishwasher.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 8:59PM
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Good suggestions so far. I can imagine not wanting to be the bad guy, and rock the boat in the family, but some tough love is in order. You can start small, by serving only on paper plates. Plastic utensils, other throw-aways. Say you are starting a new rule, regarding doing whatever dishes need to be washed. (This time it's everyone under 30 yrs. old, next time will be ______) There won't be that many to wash.
Maybe by taking small steps, people will see you mean it!

Have a meeting with them, and ask what they would like to make for the next gathering. Before the dinner, send reminders on what they chose, and tell them it will be expected.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 9:10PM
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I read over and over how the young people immediately go to parents place for the holiday meals, their huge excuses are we don't cook and leave it up to parents that aren't getting any younger.

We have a small family and the times we had times together when they all came for a vist, there was no help and my mother owuldn't ask and that I felt was the whole problem, I was the one who had to clean up after them all. I said to my brother you should get out there and clean up the dishes, he did at home and used the baby as an excuse and so who was out in the kitchen with baby on her hip, me cleaing up the dishes and putting into dishwasher and wiping down and clearing the table and they did nothing. And later as both their boys were growing up, we have to take them out and wear them out for bedtime and they didn't help pay for anything and one son of theirs was not eating much and they wouldn't help my mom out at all, my brother did have to eat special and he wouldn't help with that either.

Yes, you do have to have rules when you have group gatherings so you aren't paying for it all plus doing it all.
You job should be providing the house and that is it, they do all the work otherwise and that means buying the food even if you grill it at your house, they add up fast all the food you gril and condiments to go on and buns or bbq sauces or whatever you are doing.
And all the sides that is eaten, even chips and dip, those items add up fast as they are eaten up lots.

I would plan along with a family meeting, costs and divide them up, kids and I agree any special eating,you bring your own or go without.
And yes, clean up is now before dessert as that may work better then games, they might say lets go then and then you don't get to enjoy that time together which is nice and enjoyable. And yes, if they don't bring what they are expected too, then yes, mention that it never arrived or however you want to express it. And also even paper plates, plastic silver ware too add up. And get them to bring their own grill food, bring package of weiners or patties for hamburgers and buns too.
Don't let them get away and do hardly anything, make them own up to expense of it all too.
Its not fair for parents and aging ones, many are on tight budgets and can't afford to feed how many adults kids and spouses plus how many grandkids and some have great grandkids too to feed.

If they won't provide their house, then they provide the costs and food and cleaning up and all that goes with it.

Also talk to them that some have to come early to put out chairs,etc. that you need for those times with
everyone and get any lifting for sons or old enough grandsons to help doing those. And also do anyone grill in the family so your husband can relax and not have to do it especially on fathers day.

Get them to know they can all come over but from now its up to them to do it all in your house and these are the rules and what is expected to get it all done and properly and not take off.

Too many parents in the same boat but the problem is as someone says, we love to have them all here and it was fine when we are in our younger years and energy and no health issues but now aging and seniors and its the kids jobs to do the work and clean up for the parents to sit and relax and be waited on by the kids and old enough grandkids.

And if anyone brings dishes in things that need washing, they take it home and wash it.

I have been out and saw and hear that and people really didn't mind as that way too no losing their dishes or hostess has to get it back to them and run around trying to connect with them..

and yes, people think they don't have to bring stuff and will still get fed if they don't and that isn't fair either and yes, they should be punished in some way. And yes, mean can clean upt too. If you are a fussy person, don't go into the kitchen or to other areas, look the other way and tell yourself, I will just clean it up what wasn't done my way and when no one is here. don't put anyone down or say that isn't the way as that way they won't do it and use that as excuse. I have hear that on the internet, mom is too fussy in her kitchen.

And if they load up the garbage, then have someone take it out where you put it.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 9:40PM
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I think Ron really has to back you up here and be the bad guy to the kids with attitude. Don't let anyone take advantage of you. You and Ron have 5 grown kids who should be assigned to clean up. That means clearing the table, doing the dishes, wiping the stove and counter tops down, taking out garbage and sweeping the kitchen floor. I know that a lot of 20 and 30 somethings today don't know how to cook but they should know how to clean up.
Again, I say don't let anyone take advantage of you Sue.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 9:56PM
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I have a sign on my computer desk that says " do not take unfair advantage of anyone & don't let anyone take unfair advantage of you. I think this is very good advice. Just how to accomplish it is another question. You have many good ideas to choose from. Will take a lot of willpower to do it though.
All the best.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 9:59PM
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Laughing at Lydia's comment -- glad I am not the only one!

Tonight my niece and her new boyfriend stopped in at my mom's house. They were in the area, so they wanted to stop in. My mother immediately starts cooking dinner, she didn't even ask if they wanted to stay to eat. I swear she presumes she must feed everyone who shows up. After they left, she complained and complained about having to feed everyone. My niece and her BF did all the cleaning up. BTW, my mom is 95! I guess she's earned the right to complain if she wants to, but I wish she would would just say "don't come" instead of the constant complaining.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 10:12PM
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Your house, your rules....simple as that. Lay out the rules and those who don't abide by them will not be invited or welcome again, plain and simple. Send each person a copy of the "Rules at Mom and Dad's House" if need be.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 10:32PM
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FlamingO in AR

I think part of the problem is that you don't want to HAVE to ask the family to help. They should step up and not take advantage. I know that feeling of wanting them to do what's right without being prompted.

Probably won't happen, though. If you want help, tell them. Don't even ask. Just inform them ahead of time. The number of attendees might just drop to a more manageable level. ;)

Usually I am envious of people with large families, but at holidays, I'm glad I only have to cook for the 4 of us. My parents come over or we take food to them. It's pretty easy.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 10:34PM
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As usual the KT has offered a wealth of opinions and suggestions and I don't have anything new to add except to ask what Ron thinks about all of this. How often do you host these family dinners? 2 or 3 times a year or once a month?

As Linda in Iowa said you need his help to change the situation. Perhaps the next time you're about to host a family get together maybe the two of you could send a mass email to the family. Start it by saying that you really enjoy it when the family all gets together to celebrate and then tell them whatever it is that you and Ron decide to do ........rotate homes, sign up lists, etc.

Good Luck.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 10:38PM
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Sue, sweetie, the ones sorry we said we would not host the coffee klatsches for all us German ladies anymore are me and Margot.

Cause, now, we don't get together anymore.

With other words, do it, or don't... but realize, you might not like the outcome.

Hire a cleaning crew to come in and wash up after! Put a dish out, pass it around like at church, and tell everyone, it is to collect money, to pay for the cleaning crew. Explain, you can no longer do it all.

Good luck.


PS, now I will read all the other replies. :)

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 11:39PM
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I have a large family, and we are all big eaters. We love to have get togethers, and I agree it is a lot of work for the person whose house it's at - cleaning beforehand mostly.

Usually whoever hosts it supplies the meat/main dish and the rest of us provide the rest of the meal. We used to use disposable dishes and cutlery but since we all have dishwashers we made sure they start off empty and each person is responsible to scrape their own plate and put it in the dishwasher when they are done.

Something more recent though, is we all chip in to have a cleaning service come in before and after. It only works out to like 20 - 30 dollars per family and it makes it so much nicer for everybody.

Now, in my house, I prefer to clean my own kitchen and usually do it after everybody is gone. But my kitchen is small, I have a dishwasher, and I usually plan things so that I don't have a hundred pots and pans sitting waiting to be washed.

I feel your frustration with people that say they are coming and don't show up. When I cook for DH's family, it is either 4 or 8 people. If they don't show up, I have cooked double what I need for people that don't come! Which really means triple because I always make way more than I need. Unexpected guests are not usually an issue as far as food goes when I cook for a party!


    Bookmark   June 18, 2013 at 9:48AM
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I agree with foggyj, some tough love is called for. I've read all the posts and see some seriously spoiled "children" here--and not just yours, Bigbaby. Even if they say they don't cook they can make or buy a relish tray, or nice rolls from a bakery. Or bring drinks. Or make a dessert. A 10-year old could follow most dessert recipes. Geesh! I say kick 'em in the keister :-) And I agree that if they don't bring anything then tell them before hand that they will be on cleanup duty.

Good luck, to you, Bigbaby. Better to just do what you think you need to do rather than dread the family gatherings. They take a heck of a lot of planning and $$$ and work.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2013 at 10:36AM
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DH's parents are in their 80s and his mother never really enjoyed cooking much and as she got into her 60s she was less willing to cook the big holiday dinners. So for family get togethers- parents, four siblings and their partners, an uncle and sometimes a couple of adult grandies, we generally meet at either DH's parents' home or his sister's, as she lives close to his parents and it is easy for them to get there. The sisters in law all get together and plan between us who's going to bring what (and we always bring extra stuff as well) and MIL can make something or not as she pleases. She does like to be asked to do a little something so I usually plump for her trifle because I love trifle and hers is good :-) All the younger ones do the dishes and putting away, so there's not much for MIL and FIL to do.
I don't think there had to be any big announcement for us, it just evolved- I was the first DIL and love to cook, so I would always ask what to bring, and as the other siblings who had moved far away came back, they joined in until we were doing it all.
It's a lot of fun seeing what each one will bring, since we just say "A will do the appetisers, B the meat, C the sides and D the desserts" so generally the appetisers and desserts are a bit of a surprise. With at least three different nationalities cooking it's interesting and fun :-)

    Bookmark   June 18, 2013 at 12:25PM
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Well, there's been lots of great advice.. I like the portable dishwasher.. We had one at our first house & took it to our 2nd house that had room for it to be installed.
Announce that the next holiday party won't be held at your house and just say that it's someone else's turn. Then stop talking and make no excuses.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2013 at 1:31PM
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I stopped reading the messages yesterday at about the 25th response because I had to get ready and go do a show. I am just now getting back to this thread and wow, you're responses are really great!! So many good ideas to choose from! And Ron has been so busy he didn't have time to read everything but enough to get the gist of things.

Thank you KTers!!!!

    Bookmark   June 18, 2013 at 1:52PM
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thank goodness we don't meet here any more! got stuck a few times, but now I sit and watch at the other's homes!

we do paper plate all the one ds home it's impossible to help, the kitchen is the size of a postage stamp! but the kids make sure the stuff is in the trash, food put away, and stuff stacked as best as possible...

    Bookmark   June 18, 2013 at 4:18PM
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mama goose_gw zn6OH

I've read every response with interest, because I host a big family dinner (usually 16-20), one Sunday each month. We eat at tables, but a buffet is served from the kitchen. If someone can't be there because of work, vacation, etc, that's OK, but they mostly keep the day open. I contact everyone a week beforehand, tell them what I'm fixing, and ask what they'd like to bring. I'm usually asked to make suggestions, but if the suggestion isn't always followed, no big deal--no one's going to starve. Each one wants to know what the others are bringing, so if someone drops the ball, everyone knows.

I'm the eldest of 5, and have 3 grown children. Neither the house I grew up in, nor my own house, has ever been spotless--no one expects to eat off the floor, but the monthly dinner is a good incentive to hit the high spots.

When everyone gets quiet for the blessing, I first lay down the law, and as someone mentioned above--my house - my rules. Any time someone brings a guest, I take the opportunity to refresh everyone's memory. I put out a bowl for scraps, another for silverplate, and at this point in history, no one stacks an unscraped plate with his/her silver still resting on it. I load the DW while volunteers take down tables and chairs, then we older folk continue the visit in the LR, while the youngsters play games or take a stroll. My younger daughter is the favorite aunt/cousin, and usually takes charge of the little kids.

This is my gift to my mother--having most/all of her children, grandchildren, and now great-GC, together every month. It took a while to get this routine set--it's still a lot of work for me, but I enjoy it so much. My only advice would be to let everyone know exactly what you expect--BEFORE they eat, so anyone who doesn't want to help clean up can leave immediately, lol. IMO, if you don't want to lift a finger after dinner, you shouldn't have to. Be strong, bigbaby! :)

(Oh, I just want to mention this story: When my late husband and I started talking about building an addition to host our 'designated' holiday dinners, one of my sisters said, "I'll give you a thousand dollars, for construction, if you host ALL of the holiday gatherings." I said OK, she wrote a check, and we're all happy with the arrangement.)

    Bookmark   June 18, 2013 at 7:37PM
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You have been given a lot of great options. When my late husband's mother was very ill, she asked them to always get the family together once a year for a family reunion so they would keep in touch and get to know the newcomers to the family. We started with the oldest child and work our way to the youngest and start over again. When it is our turn, it is up to the host to set the date and place to have it. We have grown to about 60 now so only one has a place to accommodate us the rest of us find a Sr citizens center, 4H building, community building etc. The host provides the meat, paper ware amd drinks...everyone brings a salad and dessert. Everyone helps clean up! Works for us and no one has to do much work.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2013 at 9:10PM
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i did that for 5 yrs. when we were all within driving distance,(holidays, birthdays --17 of us 4 adult kids and spouses and grandkids.) . Holidays, birthdays --I did it ALL -- food prep to cleaning up. And yeah, I kinda resented not having any help. But I miss having them all together now that they're 1000-2000 miles away. And I haven't had all 4 kids/spouses/grands together for a family pic in over 2 yrs. Yeah, you feel used. . . But you are SOOOO blessed that they are close by. I sucked it up then (kinda, maybe resentfully?) But I'd pay a million dollars now (which I don't have -- LOL) to just have them all together again (with me doing everything from prep to clean u,)

    Bookmark   June 19, 2013 at 1:36AM
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