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is this common?

Posted by lovinlifesc (My Page) on
Fri, Sep 19, 08 at 18:35

I have a question. Do parents of grown children come to their homes and cook every meal and clean the houses of their children if they visit? Is this a commonly expected duty by grown children of their parents?

Last year I visited my son and his fiance'. I was a guest in their home and this was my first visit, and only the third time I had ever been around her. I was there for a week (longer than I wanted to be, but my son had driven down to pick me up and I had no car while there).

Over the next 9 months, I could tell she was somewhat cool to me because most times when I emailed her, she did not return my emails, and when I would call her cell phone or their home number (she was not working) there would be no answer. I asked my son what was wrong.

Well, I recently found out. It seems that when I visited last year, I was expected by her to cook a dinner meal every night and to clean their house. The way I found this out was to receive a scathing email telling me how ashamed I should be of myself for coming to their home and not doing this. I was stunned, to say the least. In talking with my son, it appears she told him to tell me she expected me to do those things, but he did not. He said it is what she is accustomed to.

I told my son I was being held to a standard no one told me was expected, and it deprived me of the right to say whether or not I would cook and clean when I visited (I likely would not have, but I did offer to help cook dinner and I did clean up after myself).

My question after this long story is--how common is this? My son (and her in her email) says that when her parents visit they do everything around the house. As a host, I would never expect that out of anyone, especially my own mother or mother-in-law. When you are a guest in my home, you are exactly that, a GUEST.

My son is 32 and his now wife is 26.

Do you parents out there cook and clean for your grown children when you come to visit?

Susan


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: is this common?

I have never heard of that kind of expectations, but some daughter's Mom might do that for her child without being asked. Personally I wouldn't want my MIL to clean my home, I would be insulted if she thought it needed cleaned and I wouldn't want her going through my things.

My son and his wife moved to our city for a job and spent 3 months with us during the transition. My son had a talk with his wife about me baby sitting. Seems they dropped off their kids at her moms every Friday evening and picked them up on Sunday night. My son was right on, no way I would have done that. The grandmother just turned them loose and let them run, it was no trouble for her. They even had to send out a search party for the youngest one. He was lost in the woods.


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RE: is this common?

I know a few friends that have moms come from out of town and yes, the moms do most of the cooking and a lot of the cleaning. In fact, just last weekend, I was going to a party and offered to bring something and my friend said, "No, don't bother, mom's in town and handling all the cooking". It's almost like the moms can't drop the role of caretaker.

I personally wouldn't expect my MIL to do much, but I would think that my MIL probably would grab a broom or do the dishes and help cook the meals if she was staying with us for more than a day or so.

Regardless, I don't think your DIL has any right to be mad at you. Families are different and expectations are way different. I would guess in her family, when mom visits, mom does everything and when you didn't help, she took it personally, but your family dynamics are probably just more prone to raising independant children who are able to treat house guests as guests.

I have a similar kind of problem with my huband... when their whole family goes out to eat, they let mom pick up the check... when my whole family goes out to eat, we cover mom and don't expect her to pay for anything. Totally different ideas of what is expected of mom.

I wouldn't make too much of it. Your DIL is young and she will learn. Explain you didn't want to step on her toes and insult her by cleaning her house. If she does expect it on visits though, I would probably pitch in. A week is pretty long to be staying without helping if they ask for or expect it. You don't need to do their laundry or clean their fishtanks, but cooking one meal a day, washing your bath towels and linens, and maybe doing some vaccuming and dishes, etc. may be expected.

One other thing, I wouldn't hold your DIL soley responsible for this mess. Your son really should have brought this to your attention before this problem exploded. He's the one flying under the radar, but really the cause of the miscommunication. I see guys dodge this stuff all the time and, IMHO this is often why DIL and MIL's don't get along. She's not the only one to blame here.


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RE: is this common?

Goodness, I hope not. What a strange expectation.

While I will offer to cook a dinner or two when I visit (usually for a week or two) my DD, SIL and precious grandchildren, she certainly doesn't expect it. We do usually try out a new recipe or two, together, when I visit, and if it's a success, she'll prepare it when I'm gone. As for house cleaning, I help when she's cleaning up, and pick up after the kids if we are playing with something, but I'm not the hired help. I take the kids out and give her a break from them for a few hours.

My mother, and certainly my XMIL, never did either one of those when they visited me, and I never expected it.

I think you need to have a serious discussion with your son, about expectations and reality. She sounds very immature (a 9 month cold shoulder). I would imagine that I wouldn't visit a DIL very often who behaved like that.

Good luck.


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RE: is this common?

I'm an adult child, but I'll chime in. I'm stunned, myself, at the audacity of this young woman.

I can assure you our mothers do not clean and cook for us when they visit. The only time they did even a little of that was when I was still in the hospital after children were born. They came for a couple days when we had another child/ren at home, so it was more childcare than housework.

My mother would not accept the thought that she was supposed to cook/clean for us. She doesn't come to babysit, either. She comes to visit, and that's what we do. She would tell me that I am perfectly capable of taking care of my own self, home and family. Her not doing things for me is her way of saying she knows I am independent and taking care of things fine on my own. In her own way, it's praise. And I know when she sees that she is not needed, she in turn feels her job raising me was well done.

From having that relationship with my mother, if MIL came in and cooked and cleaned for us, I would take offense. I would read into her gesture than she sees me as so imcompetent that she has to come in and do it or it won't get done. I can hear myself rant to DH "Tell your mom to stop! Honestly, what does she think happens when she's not here? That I don't feed anyone or clean things?! Is the house not clean enough for her? Is she too good for my cooking?!" LOL. No, I would not accept it graciously, I'm afraid. I'm sure she'd mean it to be helpful, but I'd take it all wrong, I know I would. I was raised to do things myself, and take unrequested help as an insult.

They will both do little things they see need done, just to be polite. If I'm doing dishes, they will keep me company in the kitchen and sweep the floor or wipe the counters. If I'm cooking, they'll set the table. I don't take offense to that. ;o) And if they didn't, I wouldn't be offended either.

I guess you'll have to work out a comfort zone with your new DIL. I don't know if she just likes to be taken care of, or if she really sees it as good manners for a guest to work, or if she expects all mothers to be like hers. I hope you are able to build a MIL/DIL relationship that works for both of you.


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RE: is this common?

Why not send her an email with something like... "I didn't want to insult you or offend you in your own home by taking over the duties".. just to smooth things over with her.

IMO, to expect a mother or MIL to so such things is rude. Myself, I'd be insulted if my MIL took over while visiting!

When my mom comes over to my house, she's always trying to do something to help me (I have rheumatoid arthritis) and I always tell her to stop. If she insists on doing something, we bake together.


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DH's job

Oh, and if I felt over burdened by having parents as guests for a few days, I would not be upset with the parents for not helping. I would be letting DH know he has to pitch in more!


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RE: is this common?

Thank you for your comments. I had never heard of it either.

I surely don't blame just my DIL for this. My son should have told me before hand, which I explained to him.

I am basically a shy person and many times hold back because I don't want to offend someone. I would have been offended as well if my MIL came and started cooking and cleaning. I think most people tend to treat others how they would feel and if you are not used to having others come in and start doing things, you don't think someone else would, either.

I did help her cook when she asked me if I would make a dish. I said sure, and when I was done making that I asked her what else I could do. She said nothing else. After dinner, her mother helped her clean the kitchen (she was not there before dinner) and so I stayed out because there was not room for 3 of us. Later I said to her I will be happy to do whatever you would like me to do, but you need to let me know. The second time I was there before the baby was born I washed 5 hampers of clothes for them. I fed the kids and cleaned up after them. I entertained them while she rested in bed, yet she told my son I did nothing that time either.

Last year I sent packages of presents for her and the children (2 by her first marriage) for birthdays and after two weeks I had to ask my son if the package came and if the clothes fit because I never even knew if they had received the gifts. My husband and I bought all the nursery furniture and bedding for the baby and she never said thank you or anything about it, although my son did thank me.

I'm not saying these things to make myself look good and her look bad, but to explain that I have tried to have a relationship with her. That was one reason I asked my son what was wrong, because I could not figure it out. She would not say these things to me while I was there, but waited till I left (a visit 9 months later) to tell me what a low life person I was.

It's a bad situation right now because my DIL is not interested in hearing anything from me except an apology. She said some other hurtful things to me that are not true, and I don't know if she made them up, or if my son told her differently than he told me (for example I wanted to drive my car down. He said let him come pick me up so we would have some time together in the car there and back-it's a 7 hour drive. In her email she said she was appalled that I would ask my son to pick me up and deliver me to their house. Yes, those were her exact words in the email).

Right now, I'm not sure what to do. My husband says I have nothing to apologize for and that she is being unreasonable. I have backed off until I can figure out what to do. She has sent another email demanding that I apologize to her.

My son has said her family dynamics are like that. She will have a fight with her parents or relatives and they will all blow up, then time goes by and they are ok again, then the cycle starts again. In our family we don't have such interactions with each other that way, and we did not raise our children to blow up, but to calmly talk out differences looking to solve conflict, not pick fights. If it weren't for that, I would chalk it up to pregnancy hormones, but I'm fearful it's more.

When I first met her my son said she really likes you, Mom. In fact, she likes you better than her own mother. That should have been a red flag. Then a few weeks before I came to visit, my son called me and said he was tired of how she was treating him and that he was going to break up with her. Then she called me and said she was afraid he was going to break up with her. Looking back now, I should have never agreed to visit at that time, because I was pretty uncomfortable with the entire situation. Shortly after that, she announced she was pregnant. My son did not plan to marry her until he was sure her treating him better would last. Then a month later, she lost her job and had no insurance. He married her the next day. So, lots of things going on there.

The complicating thing is my first grandchild has just been born, and when I was there for the birth she would not even be in the room when I came; and further more told me I'm not welcome in their home and if I come to see the baby I have to stay in a hotel room. I would probably have done that anyway, however I'm pretty hurt that my son is just standing by letting all this go on. I'm not asking him to take sides with me, far from it. I raised him to be an independent man and to cleave to his wife when leaving his parents.

My son tells me it's just a "situation" that will be worked out and that his wife gets angry and takes out her frustrations and says things she shouldn't. I did tell him I can't be a target for frustrations. My husband says that if I apologize for not doing something I didn't know about, that it will set up a pattern to where I will be apologizing for everything in the future. He says that is the pattern of doing business in her family, to be aggressive until your victim submits, and the victim remains passive until vulnerabilities are seen in the aggressor. He has based this on things both she and my son have related about what goes on in their family before we got married and when we met her parents and they told us things. So much drama!

I want to be involved in my grandchild's life but will not be held hostage to unreasonable demands.

Thanks for listening.


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RE: is this common?

My son in law asked his dad and I to go camping with them at a lake over labor day one year. I stammered around a couple of minutes before I set the record straight. I told him we would go but not as baby sitters for the grand kids and I told him I felt bad about mentioning it. His reply was "don't worry about it, my mom said the same thing." I thought that was hilarious. We both know the kids pretty well. We borrowed a tent trailer and the first night out the mom's decided to put all the kids in our trailer and I said, no, no. I will have to get up in the night and take them to the bath room. We did volunteer to baby sit one time. I took a very large inter tube to use in the water and none of the adult kids would swim, they wanted to ski. My husband, bless his heart is claustrophobic and is scared to death of the water, wouldn't let me go in the water alone, so he went with me. Every time a boat went by he would take deep breathe when the wave hit him.


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RE: is this common?

A guest in my home is a guest. They don't cook, clean, do laundry, clear the table, load the dishwasher, etc. I can't imagine my father (my mom has passed away) or my MIL coming to my home and being expected to cook a meal or do laundry.

DH and I visited BIL (DH's younger brother) and SIL in Florida. Her parents came over for a barbecue and never left the house. Her father watched the kids and her mother did all the cooking. To me, it was beyond bizarre. But I guess that's the way their family is. However, when they come up here they seem to think MIL is a built-in babysitter. All the "adults" will go out to eat and MIL will stay back with their kids. It bothers me, but MIL always says she wants to stay. It's none of my business, so I stay out of it. But DH and I both don't like it. Now, if it was my sister and mother I WOULD say something, but it isn't so I keep my mouth shut.

I thought we were supposed to take care of our parents as they get older, not vice versa?


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RE: is this common?

loveinlife,

You know the main message I get form your last post... the fact that your son seems to be siding with you over his own wife... big no, no in my book. I totally see where you are coming from and understand your viewpoint, what I don't understand is your son's more or less bashing of his wife to you. I think this is where the real problems lie. Ok, she lacks some class and doesn't thank you for gifts etc. but can you honestly tell me that your son calls his in-laws to thank them for every gift even if his wife already has? Maybe she never intended to marry your son either until she got pregnant and felt she had to, who knows?

Things and stories always have 2 or 3 sides to them. It sounds like her familiy dynamics are different... Maybe in her family if the wife asks the husband to tell his mother something, he actually does it. Avoiding confrontation can be just as damaging as too much confrontation and fighting. And, by the way, I too may be a little mad depending on the circumstances if my husband spent time driving his mother back and forth when I had small kids in the house. It's nice that he wants to spend time with you, but are you sure he wasn't needed at home; how much free time does he get to spend just with his wife?

You don't know all the background and discussions they are having on all this stuff. Maybe he compares her to you all the time and she's sick of it.

I don't think you did anything wrong, but I think she feels she's in a position that she has to compete with you and wants you to apologize to make it feel like she has won especially considering it sounds like maybe your son has picked you over her in some instances. You two shouldn't be competing; he married her; she comes first, bottom line. Hopefully you raised a man who will stay by his wife instead of his mother if sides have to be chosen.

You need to help make these kids have a healthier marraige... not feed into their problems. If your son starts talking bad about her and her family dynamics, just tell him every family is different, etc. I'm sure you're not really bad mouthing her, but try to stay away from negatives. It the long run, it's what's best for your son and he will probably respect you more for it. It's not about who is right and if MIL's are supposed to help do the dishes are not. There is no 100% right answer to that.


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RE: is this common?

loveinlife,

You know the main message I get form your last post... the fact that your son seems to be siding with you over his own wife... big no, no in my book. I totally see where you are coming from and understand your viewpoint, what I don't understand is your son's more or less bashing of his wife to you. I think this is where the real problems lie. Ok, she lacks some class and doesn't thank you for gifts etc. but can you honestly tell me that your son calls his in-laws to thank them for every gift even if his wife already has? Maybe she never intended to marry your son either until she got pregnant and felt she had to, who knows?

Things and stories always have 2 or 3 sides to them. It sounds like her familiy dynamics are different... Maybe in her family if the wife asks the husband to tell his mother something, he actually does it. Avoiding confrontation can be just as damaging as too much confrontation and fighting. And, by the way, I too may be a little mad depending on the circumstances if my husband spent time driving his mother back and forth when I had small kids in the house. It's nice that he wants to spend time with you, but are you sure he wasn't needed at home; how much free time does he get to spend just with his wife?

You don't know all the background and discussions they are having on all this stuff. Maybe he compares her to you all the time and she's sick of it.

I don't think you did anything wrong, but I think she feels she's in a position that she has to compete with you and wants you to apologize to make it feel like she has won especially considering it sounds like maybe your son has picked you over her in some instances. You two shouldn't be competing; he married her; she comes first, bottom line. Hopefully you raised a man who will stay by his wife instead of his mother if sides have to be chosen.

You need to help make these kids have a healthier marraige... not feed into their problems. If your son starts talking bad about her and her family dynamics, just tell him every family is different, etc. I'm sure you're not really bad mouthing her, but try to stay away from negatives. It the long run, it's what's best for your son and he will probably respect you more for it. It's not about who is right and if MIL's are supposed to help do the dishes are not. There is no 100% right answer to that.


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RE: is this common?

Hi Carla,

I don't want my son to take sides with me over his wife. That's the last thing I would want and have raised him not to. I don't want to be part of their relationship or privy to their problems. I told each of them that when they called me, before they married.

I acknowledge I'm using her not thanking us for presents, etc as an example of the lack of communication that bothers me. Before they married, she was emailing me all the time, then all of a sudden it stopped. This was after I was at their home, and I didn't understand what happened.

My feelings are he is the one she should be angry with, not me. I don't want her to compete with me, nor do I want to compete with her. I have my own life, goodness. My son and I have a good relationship as peers, but it's not a smothering relationship. We talk on the phone maybe twice a month, just to see how the other is doing. He's not a mama's boy, far from it.

I agree, you're probably right in that I should just not let him talk about her family. I don't want to be drawn into anything, I just want to be a MIL and a grandmother who has a decent relationship with her DIL. I really barely know her, having only seen her a total of 5 times now. I am sorry it has started out this way.

Thanks,
Susan


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RE: is this common?

As I read your post I found it funny because I have the opposite issue with my mother in law. When we lived close to her she would come over to our home to visit and immediately start cleaning. It made me feel like crap that she felt the need to clean our home! I was almost insulted.

After we moved into a larger home that was not so close to her we would have to go pick her up and bring her over because she could not drive so far. After arriving here the last time she did not even get into our house right away because she started weeding my flowers around the front of our house and telling me how to garden. When she did make it into our house she began looking around and I felt like she was going to take out a white glove and swipe for dust!

One of the kids wanted to show her the WII game they had gotton and she began talking about how kids do not need video games!

I feel so uncomfortable when she is here, but I just grin and bear it because I know she means well.

I wish that she was more like you though and would come over and just relax! I like to take care of my guests, not have my guests come over and begin taking over my house and suggesting what I should do in it!


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advice

So now for the advice. I would send an e-mail to your son and daughter in law and just say someting like "I never meant to offend or upset either of you and I love you and my grandchildren very much."

This way your not really apologizing for anything, but your letting them know you want a relationship. Maybe it will be enough to smooth things over.


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RE: is this common?

Thank you for the advice, mom2emall. I did send the email, but it must not have been enough. Unfortunately, there has been no response in the 3 days since I sent it.


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RE: is this common?

My mother was a neat freak (God rest her soul).She had no problem vacuuming and such where ever she visited. My Aunt's house, my cousin's house, out of town friend's, you name it she cleaned it. Her friend's told me that when she was going to come for a visit they cleaned like crazy so she wouldn't do it. I didn't like her doing it at my house although she thought that she was really helping me when I was a single mom. She was but not when I would come home from work and she had let herself in the house and was there on her own!

I would not want, let alone expect my MIL to clean and cook when she comes to visit. I feel like she is on vacation and should be taken care of for a change. If she wants to take us out to dinner, no problem.


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RE: is this common?

Yes, I believe this is common. But to expect anyone to come to your home and clean, then be angry because they didn't is rude and passive aggressive. I think it's a lot more common with mothers than mothers-in-law. My mother would come over, do laundry, dishes, etc. But I never expected my MIL to do any of that, nor did she offer. (BTW she didn't offer at her daughter's house either, it just wasn't something she did).


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RE: is this common?

"to expect anyone to come to your home and clean, then be angry because they didn't is rude and passive aggressive."

& if you'd cooked & cleaned, she'd be angry because you overstepped your boundaries.


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