I have two married children, a son and a daughter. I am blessed not only to have grandchildren (son has 3 yo and 12 month old, daughter has 14 month old) but also to have them all live close by, and to have good enough relationships that we have keys to each others' homes.
Recently, I dropped off something at my son's when no one was home. (They were expecting me to.) Their house was a wreck! My DIL clearly had left in a rush, getting two kids off to daycare and herself to work.(I'm not judging, I get that.) I cleaned up the breakfast dishes, emptied the dishwasher, picked up toys, folded the pile of laundry on top of the dryer.
That was three days ago. No one called to say thank you. By the same token, no one called to say, "Why did you do that?!" NOT that I did this for a thank you. I did this because I wanted my son and DIL to not come home to all that work after picking up the kids. I did it because I could. It was exactly what I would have done in my daughter's home.
But now with this silence, I am worried they are angry with me. I feel paralyzed. What should I do?
From: HT, Hartford
You are over-reacting. Sure, good manners would your son or DIL calling to say thanks, or, on the other hand, to say, "Butt out!" But working parents of young children are usually exhausted, not to mention busy, and the best of intentions don't always get acted upon.
Pick up the phone and call them. If you sense iciness, then say, "I hope it was OK that I picked up the other day. I had some time and I wanted to make life a little easier for you." If that doesn't elicit a thaw, ("Oh mom, I've been meaning to say thanks!") suggest a new way of going forward: "Next time I have to drop something off, would you prefer I leave it between the door or wait until you're home?"
As you hint, the liberties you take in an adult daughter's home may not be appreciated by a daughter-in-law. Getting this out in the open models flexibility, sincerity and respect. It also gives your son and his wife the opportunity to set boundaries that might otherwise feel uncomfortable for them to establish for fear of hurting your feelings.
Daughters-in-law, please weigh in!