When their daughter and son-in-law bought a house, the parents helped out--with advice and counseling (both solicited) on the building plans and by babysitting their grandson, especially on moving day. They also helped paint rooms and gave the young couple furnishings from their own house that they no longer needed.
Their problem, as they expressed it in a letter to Carolyn Hax, is one of feeling left out. The daughter planned a house warming party and didn't invite the parents. When the mom complained, the daughter told her she was "over the top" to be upset.The mom, who signed her letter, "sad and disappointed" expressed her pain this way: "It seems to us that we were good enough to do all the legwork but not good enough to be invited to the celebration."
Ah yes, The left out feeling. No one likes it. Being slighted is one of the least feel-good feelings in the world. And to be excluded by our own children! But as Hax pointed out, "when adult children live near their parents, they're faced with a small but sensitive puzzle: how to lead social lives that are both independent and inclusive."
Hax's advice to the mom, who said this was not the first time she felt like she was the "hired help rather than part of the family," was to look at the situation in a more positive light.Instead of saying "We're the hired help," the mom could tell herself, Hax writes, "We're already a huge part of their lives. I'm glad they'll have this time with friends."
In other words, we are often hurt when we get over-invested in our children's lives--and especially so when we expect them to repay our many "investments" with a coin from another country. We may love our children and they may love us, but we aren't --and shouldn't try to be -- their social life.