My husband and I are the parents of two school aged children with a baby on the way. My husband and I both work full time. My parents (and the majority of my extended family) live about 1 1/2 hrs away from us and at times can be very helpful. However, we are expected to pack the kids up every weekend and visit them, often for both days of the weekend. If we fail to visit on a given weekend, we are inundated with calls and questions about why we cannot visit. Often when we do visit we will plan to head back home on a Sunday afternoon to get ready for the week ahead, but then a family member will find a reason to get us to stay later, for example one of them will ask our children if they would like to go to another relatives house to swim, play etc...
We have tried setting clear boundaries such as only visiting every other weekend, only staying a few hours, etc... We have tried to explain that since we both work full time, weekends are our only opportunity to do chores, spend time together with our own family and visit friends. When we do this we are met with feelings of hurt and anger and are told we are depriving our children of their time with their extended family and that we don't care about our family. As a side note I will mention that most of my relatives are retired or work part time and NEVER visit us in our town.
This has become a very frustrating problem which I fear will only become worse after our new baby arrives. I would like to avoid hurt feelings and fighting about this issue on a weekly basis. Any suggestions?
From: Exhausted, Cambridge, MA
Usually I tell parents that they need to learn to tolerate their children's unhappiness when they set a limit. In your case, you need to learn to tolerate the unhappiness of your relatives.
Since you've already tried setting boundaries and explaining why you want to leave early (which, by the way, is perfectly reasonable), the answer lies with the two of you. Think of your family as toddlers and then set limits accordingly: "We're going to leave at 4 pm today." Then when a relative offers to take a child to swim at 3:45, you need to say, "No thanks. Remember? We're leaving at 4 pm." And then develop thicker skin so that their comments don't bother you as much and you don't wimp out. Once you follow through, hopefully they see you are serious and be more respectful.
Use the up-coming birth as your deadline (explanation) for setting a new schedule. Let them know that you will visit once or twice a month, whichever suits you best. Ask them to choose which dates are best for them. Invite them to come to you on one of the alternative dates. Your relatives have forgotten what it's like to have a young family; they also sound selfishly impervious to your needs. You're not telling them you don't love them or don't want to see them. You're just saying that you need space to make your lives and schedules work. Let them know, in a nice way that the baby is the tipping point. Because, really? It is.
Readers, do you agree?
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