Open Thread

by epi on April 30, 2012

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

April April 30, 2012 at 10:08 am

I have an intermittent problem with my mother inviting others to my home. My husband, 3 young children and I live 5 hours away from my mother and the rest of our extended family. My mom typically tells me when she would like to come to our house for a few day visit (usually 3-4 days staying at our house). I have never had a problem with this as I know she likes to spend time with her grandchildren. There have been a few occassions that she invites others with her (like my aunt and uncle, my sister and brother in law). I am always told after she has invited them, with a mention of “Is that OK?”. It puts me in a bad situation because I would upset my mother if I said no. Last year, we had a huge arguement about her inviting my sister and brother in law to my son’s first communion. I had invitiations that I was about to send out, and I was not even sure yet if I would be inviting them (my brother in law tends to be rude, dramatic, and makes scenes at family gatherings). At that time, I asked her not to invite them to my house without discussing it with me first. Now to my most recent issue…my mother has been dating a man for about 2 months now. I have not met him yet. My mother decided that she wants me to meet him and she proposed coming to out house for the Memorial Day weekend. (she did note thst they would sleep in different rooms). I was so upset by her lack of comsideration for me and my family. It is always about what she wants. I replied to her e-mail stating that “as I mentioned last year, my husband and I prefer to be the ones to invite people to our house..in order to avoid awkward situations like this…that I feel it is more appropriate and more comfortable for us to meet him at her house when we travel out of town this summer”. I have not heard back from her, which means that she is hurt, angry, annoyed, etc (she is very emotional and needy). Any thoughts on how I handeled this? I always second guess myself, because my mother makes me feel guilty for decisions that I make like this. She frequently alludes to the fact that I don’t care about the extended family the way that I should. Thoughts?

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Just Laura April 30, 2012 at 10:47 am

By allowing your mother to step on your feelings all these years, you have given her reason to think that she can bring whomever she likes to your house. How would she know differently?

It is your home. It doesn’t matter if she gets hurt/annoyed, and I hope you’ll stop acting as if it does matter. This is akin to a child crying and throwing a fit because he knows his parents will buy candy to quiet him.
You are kind to invite the grandmother of your children for extended visits so that they might enjoy each others’ company. However, when it comes to uninvited guests, you must put your foot down. With three young children, unanticipated extras add to your stress level (and probably the stress level of your husband). The only person making you feel guilty here is YOU. Stop feeling guilty – it sounds like you have enough going on in your life. I do agree with your mother, however, that you should meet her new gentleman friend, but I see why you may be reluctant to entertain a strange man in your home for a few days. Why can’t they get a hotel, and join you for meals? That might make everyone’s life easier.

And yes, I too have a very difficult mother. I simply ignore the behavior.

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Lilli April 30, 2012 at 12:50 pm

It isn’t clear from your post (so maybe I’m wrong), but it sounded like this time she asked you before issuing the invitation to her boyfriend to see if it was ok for them to come and visit. If that’s the case I’d cut her some slack – she’s trying to respect that you don’t want her inviting people to her home without your permission even if she’s still inviting people in the end.

If I’m wrong – then you need to get firmer with her and just tell her no. As for the guilt, haven’t you learned from her how to lay a guilt trip yourself yet? I’m personally a fan of giving people a taste of their own medicine :)

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April April 30, 2012 at 1:41 pm

Thanks for the thoughts thus far. Just for clarification, my mom suggested that she and her new man come to my house for the weekend. She had specific dates and sleeping arrangements, and it is evident that the two of them are already planning on it. In other words, she made plans, then asked me if it is OK, which always makes me feel like the bad person because I have to undo what she has already done (tell her that I don’t like her idea). I just wish she would stop putting me into situations like this. Unfortunately, when I go against what she wants, she gets overly dramatic. Last year, she did not speak to me for about 2 months (we usually speak every other day) over the First Communion weekend.

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Elizabeth April 30, 2012 at 4:24 pm

I wonder if the solution to your dilemma isn’t to just give some excuse for why her plan won’t work. You’ve already made it clear that you don’t appreciate being put on the spot, and that you would prefer to be the one to suggest the plans. If she calls and says, “Oh Bill and I were thinking about coming down on June 11+12, and while I’ll sleep in the guest room, he sleep on the couch in the sunroom…” You can simply reply, “Oh, that’s too bad, I think we have some other plans for that weekend, I’ll have to check my calendar.” Then get back with her make up some birthday/BBQ/tickets to a show/other kids’ event that you have that weekend. THEN, follow through and make the plans YOU would prefer to make. “Instead, how about we come to visit you and meet Bill in July?” That way you don’t have to tell her you don’t like her idea, but instead you get to propose what you would prefer. I wasn’t sure from your original post whether you really preferred not to meet the new boyfriend at your home, or whether this was just another instance of her overstepping the boundaries.

With respect to her guilt-trips about your relationship with your extended family, you may have to explain to her that, as an adult with your own family, you will have the kind of relationships with those members that you can manage, have time for, and prefer – rather than the relationship that she has with them. You are no longer a child and you no longer need her to manage those relationships for you.

If she invites others to your home, you might ‘teach her a lesson’ by switching the date or changing things up such that she has to go back to people and disinvite them. For instance, you might decide to travel instead of celebrating a child’s birthday. One embarrassing episode might scare her off from doing it in the future. Rather than allowing her to make you uncomfortable, allow her to experience the discomfort of her own overstep. Confrontation seems to not have produces the results you want, perhaps something else might.

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Jerry April 30, 2012 at 7:46 pm

I concur with Laura and Lilli’s excellent advice. What you’re describing is classic bullying behavior. And as anyone who has been a school boy knows, the only way to get a bully to back down is to punch him (metaphorically in this case) in the nose.

Elizabeth’s advice to make up an excuse is bad advice: you need to instruct your mother to follow your rules, punish her when she refuses to follow the rules. And more importantly, tell her why you’re punishing her so she learns not to continue bad behaviors. (You train adults using many of the same techniques you’d use to train a child.) Feel free to put her in the uncomfortable situation of having to disinvite people; if it happens enough she will learn to stop doing it. If she gives you a guilt trip, you can and should call her out on it — you can (without being rude) tell her that you won’t stand for emotional abuse and then terminate the phone call. If you want to see a really good example of defusing a guilt trip, watch “Guess Whose Coming To Dinner” with Sidney Poitier when Sidney tells his dad that he will marry who he pleases.

As someone who lives with a drama queen mother (seriously, she refused to come to our wedding because she couldn’t control the guest list), I can relate to how difficult it is to have emotionally abusive parents. It doesn’t get any better if you’re passive aggressive — you can stick to your guns when your on your own turf.

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Ashley April 30, 2012 at 10:49 pm

I am living with a roommate from China. We have lived together this semester and will also live together next year. I have been able to deal with the cultural conflicts thus far. However, I recently saw her brush her teeth in our kitchen sink. I was disgusted! That is where we prepare our food and wash dishes. I told her, nicely that in America we do not take care of personal hygiene in kitchen areas. She said in China, she does. How should I handle this? I really am not comfortable with someone brushing their teeth, etc where I work with food. What can I say so she gets the idea that she is not in China, she is in America and therefore, needs to follow our cultural norms? Or am I not being fair? Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance!

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Just Laura April 30, 2012 at 10:53 pm

Does she rinse the sink when she is finished? Do you only place clean dishes in the sink, or do dirty ones go in there as well? If dirty dishes do, in fact, venture into your sink, how is that more disgusting than a person brushing her teeth?

I’d say you should let this one go.

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Elizabeth April 30, 2012 at 11:00 pm

I’m an American, and I sometimes do the same thing. There is nothing inherently clean about your sink – this is an irrational ick-association that I think you just have to get over – as long, as Laura said, she rinses it out!

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Sandra May 3, 2012 at 2:06 pm

Hello: I will be moving from my current location in Ontario to another province where I know very few people. What do you suggest I do before I leave this province and when I get to my new homes location to develop and maintain my social relationships?

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