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Thread: Dealing with extended family guests - advice needed please

  1. #1
    Senior Member razz's Avatar
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    Dealing with extended family guests - advice needed please

    At our recent Thanksgiving gathering, extended family couple were included for the first time as they were in the area. Lovely couple.

    Problem - the woman kept wanting something to do, to help. I didn't want any help as all was planned ahead and my kids all had a part. The woman was also contributing dessert to the menu. She kept looking around the living-dining area and asking 'should I do this or that". I kept saying no as I know my space capacity, my routine. The house was cleaned and prepared for the family.

    EG: I always simmer the turkey carcass with remaining meat attached finding it so much easier to remove after the cooking, mixing with the resulting broth and then freezing it. She wanted to do it ahead of time. I was feeling as though I had lost control of my own home. Eventually, family were asking me why she couldn't help with something as she kept asking for a job to do. Almost everything she did was disruptive. After meals, I routinely take the placemats, shake them over the sink and return then to the same spot on the dining table. She shook them over the table spilling some debris on the chair and floor and put them all in the laundry walking through the spilled debris and then cleaned the table of the spilled contents. I had to fetch a broom to clean up the floor.

    What does one do when a family member visiting is needing something to do constantly?

    Whenever I visit family, I offer to help but since I am a guest, I wait to be directed to where and when I can help. It is their home, their routine and I respect those boundaries.

    I want to have a more positive relationship with this delightful family member in her late 40 to early 50's who will be in the area for some time attending school before returning to her home out of province. I am not prepared to struggle to find things for her to do all the time.

    My life is simple, my routine is simple as is my menu. I will happily plan an outing to a special area during a visit.

    I have considered asking her to bring some of her homework with her next time both to share and keep her occupied.
    What other ideas could be considered? Help! TIA
    Gandhi: Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony .

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    This is a family member that I would encourage to stay at a hotel. Then, since you enjoy her company, I would do things with her like go out to eat, etc. Maybe meet her in the middle to explore a new area, if you really like her. But I would not have her over if she bugged me this much, and I don't believe in dumping on people publicly who want to help, so I would cut it off at the root, and cease to entertain her in my home.

    but that's just me!

  3. #3
    Senior Member herbgeek's Avatar
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    Is there some small chore that you aren't picky about, that can be done outside your work area? Can she straighten, sort, organize something?

    If I were not invited back to someone's house just because I was trying to be helpful, I would be sad.

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    Senior Member razz's Avatar
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    I have downsized so everything has its place.

    I have other guests over and am glad of their help - some do taste-eating, some move dishes to the table, some simply sit and chat or entertain the other guests or greet them when they arrive. They wait to be included after offering assistance. None keep asking what job they can do. This is my first encounter with this behaviour. I think that she wanted to have the sense of 'family familiarity' so free to do whatever she would do at her home but as her husband said to her, her house is very different in so many ways.

    We will work it out somehow but I wondered what I could do to divert this need for a 'job' to do.
    Gandhi: Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony .

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    I think it's nice she wants to help, however, it's a level that is bothering you. At the same time, you want to cultivate a good relationship with her so not inviting her into your home is not conducive to accomplishing that. My suggestion is the same as herbgeek's, or ask her to bring something of her own to share as well as keep her busy.

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    Thank you, I appreciate that you want to help, but I have my own ways of doing things and am happier doing it myself. If I think of something I need your help with, i’ll Be sure to shout out, but meanwhile, i’d Love your company. Could you just pull up a chair and tell me about (your classes, your traditions, whatever....)

    after years i have actually looked at my mil and said “I want you to not help.” But I am also at the point where I no longer care what she thinks about me.

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    I have found that some people are used to holidays being this overwhelming stressful thing and don't adjust to it just being simple. I know my sister's MIL was shocked one year that we set up the turkey and then went to walk a 5K. Everything was really fine, it does not take nearly as much time as you think to put together a holiday in a simple place.

    I like CL's advice. This is why I always bring crochet with me!!

  8. #8
    Senior Member herbgeek's Avatar
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    We will work it out somehow but I wondered what I could do to divert this need for a 'job' to do.
    Some of us were raised with the notion that the right thing to do was to help someone else. Really, we aren't trying to drive you crazy. We have hosted ourselves and realize its a lot of work, and are trying to take away some of that burden. I like the way Chicken Lady phrased it. I would be happy to just sit down and keep someone company, but I've run into enough passive aggressive people who say no the first time I ask, and then continue to complain about all the work they have to do, that I often ask more than once.

  9. #9
    Senior Member SteveinMN's Avatar
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    Or find something else in the house for her to do: chat with the other guests ("Oh, you've been to Alaska? Cousin Itt has been to Alaska. Let me introduce you."), tend to the kids (or lead them in some activity like finding a song to regale the assemblage or talking about their favorite Thanksgiving memories or Christmas decorations), lead a post-prandial walk around the neighborhood for those with full stomachs,...

    I don't think she means ill for wanting to help. Redirecting her (or following CL's approach) will give her something to do and get her out of your way.
    If Americans expended even a fraction of the energy on civic engagement that we spend on consumer ideology, our democracy would be much healthier. Can you imagine people camping out to vote? -- Charles Roberts, Amherst, Mass., Nov. 25, 2006

  10. #10
    Senior Member razz's Avatar
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    That is the problem. I do the turkey, stuffing, squash and gravy and then I am done. Both DD's have a share with snacks, Sunday brunch and salads. Everyone helped set the table. She had brought dessert. There was nothing else to do!
    Quote Originally Posted by herbgeek View Post
    Some of us were raised with the notion that the right thing to do was to help someone else. Really, we aren't trying to drive you crazy. We have hosted ourselves and realize its a lot of work, and are trying to take away some of that burden. I like the way Chicken Lady phrased it. I would be happy to just sit down and keep someone company, but I've run into enough passive aggressive people who say no the first time I ask, and then continue to complain about all the work they have to do, that I often ask more than once.
    Gandhi: Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony .

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