"No one says Thank You." That is my friend Lily's complaint as the first few weeks of a six-week visit--by her daughter and her family--unfurl. Her daughter, who lives half a world away in Jakarta, was here on an extended business trip, 7-year-old son in tow. While Lily's daughter went to work, Lily entertained her grandson. Two weeks later, her son-in-law arrived with the 5-year-old granddaughter. While he took care of errands and family business, Lily took care of both grand kids, stocked the fridge, made the meals, kept the house in order, invited her other daughter and her family over for get-togethers--and put her own life and activities on hold.
Six weeks is a long visit--and exhausting for everyone, visitor and host alike. Midway through the visit, a small irritant led to a venting of frustrations. Lily's daughter let her mother know all the things that were bothering her about the visit and the relationship between Lily and the other grandchildren. For her part, Lily let her daughter know how under-appreciated she felt. That ticked her daughter off even more. She told her mother that the visit was of great inconvenience to her husband. He had to use up vacation time from his job in order to bring Lily's granddaughter here for a visit with Lily. Now he wouldn't be able to take time off during the Christmas holidays for a family vacation.
What do you do when your grown child not only doesn't thank you for taking care of her and her family--at some cost to you (Lily was unable to keep up with many of her out-of-the-home responsibilities and activities) --but adds a guilt trip?
Sometimes it's hard to tell whether the outburst is about the visit or a rehashing of sibling rivalry ["You favor my sister's children over mine!"], the dislocation of being away from home [favorite foods or toys are unavailable] or the airing of real grievances. Longer visits present more time, opportunity and memory jolts to bring up unpleasant or unresolved family disputes.
Lily chose to put out the fire. She apologized to her son-in-law for the inconvenience and thanked him for the trade-off he had to make. By the time he left for a two week visit with his parents on the West Coast--taking his two children with him (Lily, it seems, was not the only one to blame for loss of vacation over grandchild visitation), Lily found her relationship with her daughter had greatly improved. The last two weeks of the visit fell into a pleasant rhythm. With the son-in-law and grandchildren away, Lily was able to get back to most of her activities while her daughter commuted to work. That didn't mean Lily wasn't relieved and happy to see her daughter's family board the plane back to Jakarta.
The good news? Lily says friends no longer complain to her about their exhaustion after a three-day family visit. She survived a six week stint.