My wife and I have four children, ages three to 12. Both sets of grandparents are helpful, but have to be asked.
They don’t just offer to help out.
It’s been 13 years since my wife and I have been away for a weekend without our children. My wife is soon turning 40.
I’d love to take her somewhere nice, for just us two.
I asked both sets of grandparents three months ago, but both refused. I suggested they share the “burden” of taking two kids each, or taking one night each with all four. But no takers.
I feel let down about it.
I know they did their time raising us, but how do I impress upon them how much this would mean to us if they could help out?
It’s hard for many people to see the “other side” of a generation divide. But try.
Four children from toddler age to an adolescent, are a major responsibility. Some grandparents love to pitch in at any time, but others have their own busy routines, or limits of endurance and patience.
You know both couples and probably could’ve guessed their reaction ahead.
It’s now unfair and unwise to hang all your hopes for a meaningful 40th birthday celebration on grandparents’ lives and energies.
Some couples make arrangements with closer-in-age siblings or friends. But still, the responsibility for someone else’s four children requires absolute trust from you that they can handle it.
If not, this “break” from the kids must wait.
My sister in-law seems to blow hot and cold with my husband and me.
I don't know what we did wrong.
It mostly seems like she’s jealous of our life, because they’re so tied up helping their single daughter with her four kids.
That's their choice.
Maybe she’s jealous without realizing it. They were planning a potluck for family and invited everyone else but us.
We haven't been invited to anything in ages… besides my husband was in hospital for five months.
They didn't visit much, seemed self- righteous to me. He’s also had problems with anxiety till now.
I’ve felt that things have been different since we bought a house. Or maybe she’s jealous maybe because I dress nice.
She does tend to turn against people very easily, so I try to be careful what I say around her. What’s your take?
You’ve already decided for the “jealousy” angle. It’s possible of course, but so is an atmosphere of judgment and criticism between your two families.
Here’s a case unlike the above one, where the grandparents respond to a more obvious need to be involved with their single daughter’s four grandchildren. Lucky daughter and kids!
But, here too, this surely saps their energies and likely their savings, too. Sure, that might cause your sister-in-law some envy about having a house or nice clothes, yet why dwell on that?
If you want a better relationship, make an effort. Invite them over, that street goes both ways.
My “take” on in-laws, after years of writing this column and three years of having hosted a TV show scrutinizing in-law relationships, is this:
Truly “toxic” in-law relationships, which are so painful they require ending all contact, are rare.
The rest are annoying, disappointing, upsetting, etc. But they’re almost always being fueled equally by both sides.
Instead of trying to pin down blame and labels on the other person, do something different yourself. Change your reaction. Reach out.
I’m allergic to dairy and eggs. But I still purchase milk, eggs, and yogurt for my husband to enjoy.
He informed his mother of my dietary needs. However, she disregards them and brings food using dairy and eggs, offering them to me.
Or, she’ll make a one-portion size just for him, making me feel extremely excluded. How should I handle this?
If you take the “in-law” factor out of the situation, what matters is looking after yourself.
I, too, have some dietary restrictions, and in my case it’s mostly friends who forget, or get the information wrong.
I buy or prepare my own food, as well as have regular food for others. I’ll prepare a selection of cheese and crackers for guests, but have lactose-free cheese for me on an attractive platter with strawberries and figs.
Whatever his mother brings, thank her, put out your own food for yourself, and eat worry-free.
Tip of the day:
Grandparents don’t owe babysitting duties. Be grateful for whatever help they provide.