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Good manners are learned from your family

Etiquette for Families

Family etiquetteMeet our resident family etiquette expert on StageofLife.com

Stage of Life is pleased to introduce etiquette expert, Jay Remer, to its team.  Below you will find tips, advice and articles from Jay on important etiquette topics specifically tailored to parents, children, in-laws, and families.

But wait...

Ask Jay a wedding etiquette question ...ask us a family etiquette question now.  If you have children and have an etiquette question, contact us and we'll post your question and Jay's reply here.

Read below for real-life etiquette advice submissions about family manners, and don't forget to check out all 10 of our etiquette advice pages for the other stages of life.

Etiquette Tips for Families

Annoyed that Brother Has No Responsibilities

What should I do about my brother's inability to help around the house when we all live together and he should be pulling his own weight? 

Dear Jay,
My husband and I together with our 3 kids are living back in my parents’ house until we are back on track in terms of our finances.  My 22 year old brother is living with us, too.  He and his boyfriend would usually eat 4-5 times a week in the house. I usually buy groceries. When my mom comes home once a month she buys some groceries as well. What annoys me is that I am taking care of a baby, a 3 year and a 6 year old already, and yet I am still the one who cleans up after everyone in the house.  

My husband works long hours and his schedule is different every week.  On days that he is home he helps me with the chores.  We are thankful that my parents are letting us stay, but I feel like we are the ones who clean the house, cook food for everybody, take the trash out, shovel the snow or mow the lawn.  

My brother is not expected to do any household chores because my mom said he would complain that he is studying, so if he helps around the house he would fail again. I don't see him studying though. Every night his boyfriend comes and eats at our house, then they play sims or watch t.v. until 11 pm or until the boyfriend needs to leave to go to work.  

My mom is siding with my brother saying he should be allowed to do whatever because he is finally happy as he let his true self out. My dad is annoyed too like me but doesn't want to argue with my mom. What should I do?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  You must all begin to start taking responsibility for yourselves. It was your choice to have three children; and it was your choices that got you into the financial pickle you’re in. In the meantime, you should not have to be responsible for feeding your brother and his partner. You need to have a chat with him about this. The responsibilities should be shared as far as cooking and cleaning goes. They are a bit outnumbered, 5 of you, 2 of them, so you would be expected to do your fair share. If something is bugging you, stewing about it will achieve nothing. You must let people know how their actions make you feel. Since your mother is seldom around, you need to sort this out yourselves. Remember that you are all guests in your parents’ home. Treat it with respect. Begin with having respect for yourself and teach your children the valuable lessons you were not taught as children. Also be grateful everyday that you are safe. You need to focus on getting your own place to live, and so does your brother. I hope this helps.
-Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Dad and Daughter Need to Work it out

What should I do about the uncomfortable situation between my husband and my oldest daughter? 

Dear Jay,
My dear sister and brother-in-law are hosting a "family" bridal shower for my niece and her fiance. My sister expects about 60 people, and I have offered to help her with some of the food. Our eldest daughter (over 30) is the matron of honor. She has been completely estranged from her father for about a year due to an incident that she believes endangered the life of her daughter (now 17 months). I was present at the incident along with four other of our children and don't agree with this perception. There has been bad blood between daughter and father through the years, but also periods of peace. She has now asked me if he will be attending the shower, and says that if he is going, she will likely not attend because: "I don't want to cause a scene. And we don't want our daughter anywhere near him." 

Currently, I believe both my husband and I will go. I have not shared any of this with my husband, because I frankly think my daughter is out of place to put me in the middle of this battle. Not only that, but if she can't show up to an event without causing an outburst I believe that she should stay home. Do I have an obligation to share with my daughter our plans of attending?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  A discussion is long overdue between your husband and his daughter, perhaps using a good mediator to assist. Your daughter never learned the skill of civil conversation. In all likelihood there is some level of joint responsibility for this rift and apologies from both sides will be necessary. A mother’s concern for the safety of her child cannot be overestimated, so if her perception is incorrect, someone needs to convince her otherwise. You are smart to stay out of this whole mess. It is up to your daughter to let her host know if she will or will not accept the invitation, not you. Frankly, your daughter needs to learn how to behave civily at important family functions. They will occur. If she must, she can find a sitter for her daughter. Since your daughter asked you the question, you should answer it. But you do not need to take any responsibility for her reaction to the news. She’s an adult. Hopefully she learned how to take responsibility for her feelings and actions as a child. If she didn’t, now is as good a time as any for her to start. I hope this helps.
-Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Pizza Money

Should I send pizza money and a thank you when my son sleeps over at his friend's house? 

Dear Jay,
My son sleeps over at his friend’s house often. I was going to send a thank you note with 20.00 for pizza.  Is this strange and unnecessary?

Jay's ANSWER...

A:  A simple phone call would be best. It’s a very nice gesture; perhaps, one day you will reciprocate. Until such time, give your son some money before he heads over to his friends house to cover such expenses. Remember that guests do not have to pay their own way. Maybe he could offer to buy the whole pizza from time to time to level things out. This could be a very teachable moment. I hope this helps.

Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Sister Takes Over Mom's Party's Guest List

How do I handle my sister who invited extra people to a party that I am throwing for my mother when I don't have extra money to pay for them? 

Dear Jay,
I am throwing a sit down catered (by me) outdoor party for my mom's 90th birthday, which she asked me to do for her. She gave me her guest list, and along with some other family members I knew she wanted to invite, I made up a final guest list of about 80 people, figuring 50 would come. I rented the venue, reserved all the tables and chairs etc., and prepared a menu, purchased glasses, plates, silverware etc., thinking that 50 would be my top number. I am suddenly getting RSVPs from people I do not know, and it turns out my eldest sister, who did not want to have the party herself, has invited 16 of her own friends to come. She may have invited more, she won't tell me. They do have some connection to my mom, as my sister's friends, but they were not on my mom's invite list. 

I don't want to upset my mom by having to put my sister in her place, and un-invite those people, but I see no other way. I can't afford to feed that many more people, or seat them, and frankly don't want to have to. I think it's terribly rude of my sister to do this to me, but in my family the one who is considered rude is the one who speaks up. What should I do? This is the first party my mom has ever asked for, and the first time she's ever wanted me to throw one for her. Usually it's my sister who does, although she has never invited me to one since we are estranged.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  You can thank your mother for having raised two daughters who have yet to learn to communicate effectively, or to even have a modicum of respect for one another. Be that as it may, an alternative to disinviting guests is to ask your sister to pay for their share of the party. If she is unwilling, disinvite them, or better yet, have her do it. The idea that you do not control the guest list of your own party is preposterous. Having respect for yourself is hardly being rude. It’s never too late to set things straight. I hope this helps.
-Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Overstaying Their Welcome?

Should I feel upset that my husband allowed his step-son and his family to stay a week longer than he was scheduled to stay without really consulting with me? 

Dear Jay,
My step-son, his wife and his twin girls have come to visit before they move to Germany for 3 yrs with the Army.  They stated they would be staying a week.  They announced 4 days into their visit that they will be staying an additional 5-7 days. My husband immediately said, “Sure, no problem.”  We are paying to kennel our very protective dog while they are here. I have cooked all of the meals and my husband has paid for all of their snacks, entertainment and souvenirs so far. I am not happy about this. What can I do? I miss my dog and I want my house back.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  My suggestion is that you be grateful for the opportunity before you. Providing this sort of hospitality and family bonding before this major life transition for your family is not something all of us will ever have, and most of us would cherish. If you miss your dog, go visit him and take him for a walk everyday. You’ll have your house back soon enough. Practice gratitude everyday. Life is short. I hope this helps.
-Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Husband Grieving For Ex-Father-in-Law

Is it wrong for me to be hurt by my husband wanting to spend time with his sons and ex-wife at his ex father-in-law's hospital bedside? 

Dear Jay,
Should I feel hurt that my husband is spending the day at the hospital with his two sons (32 and 30) and his ex-wife and her family as her father is not expected to live past today? My husband and I have been married for 12 years and his first marriage dissolved due to his ex-wife choosing to leave well before I ever met him.

I felt very hurt that my husband feels the need to spend time at the hospital instead of passing along his expression of sympathy through his sons. I have no issue with him attending his ex-father-in-laws' funeral as long as he does not attend as part of his extended family.

What is the appropriate etiquette? Am I wrong to feel hurt?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Your husband’s relationship with anyone, including his former father-in-law is a personal matter - one that you do not need to be involved with. Your feelings of hurt stem from an insecurity you may have been harboring for a very long time. Perhaps your husband wants to support his sons. Perhaps he has a strong bond with his former father-in-law. The story does not really matter. What matters is that people should be allowed to grieve in their own private way. Allow him to do that. This has nothing to do with you. I hope this helps.
-Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Sharing Vacation Expenses

Should my grandson be responsible to pay for the vacation he was invited on by his girlfriend's parents? 

Dear Jay,
My grandson's girlfriend invited him to go on a 12 day family vacation with her. He's 19 and in his 2nd year in college, and she's 22 with a BA from college. Her parents make her pay for everything at home and when they go out. When my grandson goes with them he has to pay for his way and hers. My grandson's parents pay for her when she goes out with them. 

He's not forward enough to ask what he's responsible for while traveling with them. So far, he was asked for $500 to cover his share of the rented condo, but there will be 4 days travel time to the destination,food, and entertainment expenses, and he and she will NOT be rooming together. 

How should situations like this be handled?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  I am not sure why you are involved in this process unless it is you from whom he asked for the $500. His parents are the ones to explain to him “how the world works”, just as (presumably) you taught one of them when they were children. The bottom line is that expenses should be shared equally for these sorts of activities. Financial matters need to be settled before any arrangements are made. They can be the cause of much misunderstanding. I hope this helps.
-Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

No Room For Guests

Am I wrong to not want my fiancé's daughter and her ex-husband staying at my house?

Dear Jay,
I allowed my fiance's daughter to spend a night in our home while she was visiting her son incarcerated close by. After the visit she commented to her dad on the telephone that she and her ex-husband (the boy’s father) would like to come visit him and she stated that she already told him he could stay at my house, too.  Then she said "Oh, maybe I should have checked with Renee first."  My fiance who has a hearing problem said, “Why yes, you can come."

My fiance knows I have a 4 bedroom home with only one bed in it, and I am not used to having guests. I think it was totally wrong for her not to ask permission first. It was one thing being comfortable enough to wear my house dress around the house before either of us got ready for the day, but with a man who I do not know in the house I will feel I have to be totally presentable when I step out of the bedroom in the morning. The only place he can sleep would be the living room couch and it is the open main room of my home. How do I now tell her she can not bring him?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  If you have a four bedroom house with only one bed, you have a one bedroom house. Tell Renee you have no way to accommodate her and her ex-husband. They will have to stay elsewhere. You might consider purchasing a futon or an air mattress and sleeping bag if buying more beds is out of the question. Being able to accommodate guests is a good thing! I hope this helps.
-Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Not Willing to Share Beds with Visiting Family

Am I wrong to not want my in-laws staying in our home since none of us really want to give up our beds and I don't want them on my couch? 

Dear Jay,
My mother-in-law called and asked if she, her niece (50s), her sister (70s) and sister’s husband can stay a few nights while in our area. We have a 4 bedroom house.  All of the beds are taken in our home by our family, and I do not allow anyone to sleep on my sofas as they are new. I myself do not and will not sleep on them and the rules are for everyone including myself. My two kids alternate a month here and a month with their dad, and my husband wants me to offer my kid’s rooms to his family that have not met my children. My children do not want strangers in their bed.  What should I do?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  If you have asked your children if they are willing to share there rooms, and they have said they feel uncomfortable doing that, your husband needs to respect their stand. On the other hand, it is your and your husband’s home, and you need to reach an agreement, regardless of how your children feel. You two make the rules. However, you say your children don’t want “strangers”, even family, in their beds. Seems a bit stiff to me, but to each his own. If you can’t accommodate the guests, they will have to stay elsewhere. Asking to put up four people for a few nights is a big request. Saying no is not unreasonable. But if you can find a way welcome them, that’s the best. Surely an 11 year old boy can be taught the value of The Golden Rule. Your 24 year old certainly should. He’s an adult living under his parent’s roof. He must make the occasional sacrifice. I hope this helps.
-Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

The More the Merrier?

Is it selfish of me to want my vacation time with just my sister-in-law and her kids without her inviting other guests to join us? 

Dear Jay,
We have a beach vacation home about 45 min from where we live. Every summer we stay for about a week and invite my sister-in-law and her family to join us. They also live in close proximity to us back home and we see each other regularly. We have children the same age, and it's fun to get the kids together for beach activities and family time. 

Over the years my sister-in-law has slowly started to invite other guests for the day. Sometimes these guests are adult friends or friends of her children to spend day at the beach, which sometimes results with her guests coming to our home part of the time. 

My children and I love this special family time with them but are hurt that she invites her own guests, especially children as now they will have to share their cousins. Some of the people she is inviting we don't even like so it puts a damper on that vacation day.

My husband isn’t bothered and thinks the more the merrier. He doesn't want to cause drama with his sister. I'm more of an introvert and find it exhausting. It's tougher to relax if I’m worrying about the condition of house and dealing with my kids and their hurt feelings. The worst part is seeing my kids feeling hurt. They wonder if they are not fun enough or not special since their aunt feels the need to invite others.

I tried to explain this to my sister-in-law but she doesn't see what the big deal is. Sometimes she will not tell us about the guests until last minute or we just happen to run into their friends. If she does ask me and I'm not enthusiastic she gets upset. She knows my husband won't say no. We have not invited others during their stay to focus on our family time.

Personally, if someone invited me to stay at their vacation home I would NEVER think of inviting others. I think it is just plain rude. My husband thinks the kids and I are being selfish and should just go with the flow. I’m trying to teach my kids that party/ vacation crashing is rude and insensitive. Am I being selfish?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  I don’t think selfishness is what you need to focus on here, because that isn’t what the problem is. The problem is that you don’t want your vacation time compromised, yet are unable to communicate successfully with your husband or his sister. I’m not sure why you would be hurt, and I am very surprised to hear you say your children’s feelings are hurt simply because guests arrive. That makes no sense to me at all. I think you’re using that as an excuse to bolster your own insecurities. The way to gain some control in this situation is to actually invite people over yourself (after consulting with your husband), and be welcoming. The fact of the matter is that you see your children all the time - at home or on vacation. I do understand your point about strangers just showing up unannounced. You and your husband will need to reach an agreement on house rules that everyone must follow. This conversation does not need to turn into an argument as long as both you and your husband are open to listening to one another, and not simply focused on having your own ways. It’s never too late to develop this very important skill. I hope this helps.
-Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Tricky Family Relationships Cause Drama

How do I handle my awkward feelings about my mother's relationship with my uncle? 

Dear Jay,
My father married my mother. My father's sister married my father's best friend. My father has died and my father's sister has died. My mother and my father's best friend are now in a relationship, making my cousin also my 'sister'. Even though we are both 50 and our respective parents both 75 and I know there is nothing 'illegal' about their relationship and that I should just get over it, but my mother spent her whole married life complaining about my father, then at the same time lusting after my uncle and at the same time saying that my aunt was ugly and skinny and manly and what did my uncle see in her. She also has nothing nice to say about my cousins or their children. The whole situation leaves me feeling so uncomfortable because my mother was so mean behind my aunt's back and my father's back. My uncle did initiate the whole thing as far as I can tell, but as my mother is very good at pretending, nobody knows what I know and cannot understand my feelings about their relationship.

Jay's ANSWER...
A: These assorted relationships over the years really are their business, not yours. What went on in the past is passed. I doubt seriously that if you haven’t learned how to have a civil conversation with your own mother by now, and to speak with her about your feelings, that it will not be likely to happen now, especially since it sounds like you harbor a lot of anger and resentment. Try to be happy for them; avoid judgment. Do your best to have compassion for them and for yourself. Know that you have no responsibility for their relationship, but that you bear full responsibility for your own feelings. By shifting your perspective, your discomfort should dissipate. I hope this helps.

-Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Mother-in-law's unexpected trip

Am I right to be bothered by my mother-in-law planning a trip to stay with us without even mentioning it? 

Dear Jay,
My mother-in-law lives out of the country. My wife informed me the other day that my mother-in-law just bought airline tickets to come stay with us for a month, without informing us beforehand of her plans. My wife is not bothered by this, but I find it an incredibly rude thing for my mother-in-law to do. I'm just seeking confirmation that I am not alone in this belief.

Jay's ANSWER...
A: You are absolutely correct. But what’s worse is that your mother-in-law has enough power over her daughter that you take second seat. You do not need to allow this to happen again. This is an intrusion and makes you feel uncomfortable. You must show some respect for yourself in order for others to do the same. I recommend that you and your wife have a meaningful discussion about this - civilly. Decisions about visitors need to be discussed by you both before invitations are extended. Welcome your mother-in-law and be grateful for her visit. You never know what surprising joy she may bring with her. Next time, just make sure such a visit is better planned. I hope this helps.

-Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Step-daughter in the Bedroom

Is it unreasonable for me to NOT want my house sitters to sleeping my bedroom when we have a nice guest room for them? 

Dear Jay,
My adult step-daughter and her husband house sit for us when we travel. We pay them to water plants and feed the dogs. They bring their dog also. We have a beautiful guest room for them, but they insist on using our master bedroom although I don't like them in my personal space. My husband thinks I am unreasonable. This is the house his children grew up in, but I have been here 10 years and find my personal wishes are ignored. Is it wrong to want to keep our bedroom out of bounds?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: Your request is very reasonable. What is more worrisome is the lack of respect shown by your husband for your feelings. Perhaps you are not communicating clearly? Sharing how you feel about these issues is important, because it is your feelings that are bothering you; yet they are valid and should be respected. House rules are something both partners must agree upon. I hope this helps.

-Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Brushing Aside my Wishes

Is it unreasonable for me to NOT want my house sitters to sleeping my bedroom when we have a nice guest room for them? 

Dear Jay,
My adult step-daughter and her husband house sit for us when we travel. We pay them to water plants and feed the dogs. They bring their dog also. We have a beautiful guest room for them, but they insist on using our master bedroom although I don't like them in my personal space. My husband thinks I am unreasonable. This is the house his children grew up in, but I have been here 10 years and find my personal wishes are ignored. Is it wrong to want to keep our bedroom out of bounds?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: Your request is very reasonable. What is more worrisome is the lack of respect shown by your husband for your feelings. Perhaps you are not communicating clearly? Sharing how you feel about these issues is important, because it is your feelings that are bothering you; yet they are valid and should be respected. House rules are something both partners must agree upon. I hope this helps.

-Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Son Mad at Mother For Not Sharing her House with Him

How do I explain to my son that I care about his situation even though I refuse to share my new home with him and his dog? 

Dear Jay,
I have a brand new home and it's paid for. I bought all new furniture and also have some 100 year old pieces that were my Grandmother's and passed down to my Mom. My 29 year old son has been married for the last 5 years, and is now getting a divorce. He just moved out of the house they were renting, and moved into a new apartment that was just built, and it's a pricey $1,034 a month. It's very small, a one bedroom, and he's stayed there 4 nights, and also has an 80 pound Rottweiler with him. 

My son has never lived by himself; he was with his wife 10 years, even though they were only married for 5. He has been having panic attacks because of being alone and his place being so small, even though he picked it out. He also said that his dog hates it. So now he wants to live in my new house with the dog and his dog will ruin my new house. I only stay there on the weekends because I had lived with a roommate at her house before mine was built, (I inherited a house, sold it, and bought a new house) and have 6 cats that I won't even let in my new house. I still stay at roommate’s house sometimes too. 

My son is now upset with me because I don't want him staying at my house with the dog, and he acts like I don't care about helping him, even though he signed a year lease on his new place. Don't I have the right to expect him to respect my new house? I've had dogs, and even my cats tear things up, so that's why they're not even at the new house. My son and I were extremely close and now all of a sudden it's like he feels like I'm this selfish person who cares more about her things than him. I told him he's not the problem, the dog is. Thank you.

Jay's ANSWER...
A: Your home is your castle. Your rules are the ones everyone follows. That is a basic common courtesy that you failed to successfully teach your son. So the problem is not with the dog; it’s with you. This would be a great chance for you to sit down with your son and teach him about respecting other people, including or perhaps especially his own mother. It’s never too late, but without this your adult son will go through life with a false sense of entitlement, with little gratitude, taking everything for granted. Your son needs to take responsibility for his choices. He needs to be prepared for life’s surprises. Help him emotionally, and even financially if appropriate, but don’t be trampled. You must show others that you respect yourself before they will respect you. Follow your intuition. It will not lead you astray. I hope this helps.

-Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Toxic Relationship Requires Answers

How do I delicately explain to my daughter that I don't like my sister-in-law even if I like that my kids and her kids play together? 

Dear Jay,
My sister-in-law and I haven’t talked for the past 10 years and we don't meet; however, my 6 year old daughter and 3 year old son love their cousins (my sister-in-law’s children). I believe that kids have nothing to do with family problems. We live next to each other, but I never allow my kids to visit them even though I always welcome their cousins to come and spend time with my kids at my house as I don't want my kids to interact with my sister-in-law.

My question is how do I explain this problem to my daughter without getting into details as today she asked me why don't me and my sister-in-law talk or meet?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Out of the mouths of babes…..! The toxic relationship you have with your sister in law is very evident to all of the children. You adults need to resolve your differences. Rarely are the schisms that appear in families unresolvable, but your need to be able to speak to one another with respect and civility. Seek help elsewhere if necessary. Your church pastor might be of some help. Family Services is available in most communities. If you don’t sort this out, your children will carry this behavior into their adult lives as appropriate and psychologically healthy. That would be a terrible situation. Answer your daughter’s question. I hope this helps.

-Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Wife Concerned about a Woman Texting her Husband

Am I out of line to be concerned that a young woman that I don't know continues to text my husband and invite him places without me? 

Dear Jay,
There is a younger woman that became friends with my husband. I tried to get to know her, but she continued to text him and invite him to things without inviting me, so we had a falling out. Since then I forgave her and have tried to become friends with her again. Recently, my husband receives a text, "Beer Pong Saturday Night." My husband told me about it and does not understand why I would get upset. He assumes the invitation was for both of us, but I disagree.  This girl has my phone number, the text did not include 'wife' or my name, and we have a young child. There was nothing stated about trying to find a sitter. Am I out of line? Does my husband have a right to be upset with me because of my reaction? What am I suppose to do? Please help.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Rather than jump to conclusions, calmly ask your husband to clarify who is invited. I also suggest that you have a frank discussion with your husband about how his relationship with this woman makes you feel. His reaction to hearing about your feelings will tell you a lot. I hope he begins to make an effort to make you feel special. I hope this helps.

-Jay

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Dollhouse Disaster

Whose to blame when it comes to wrecking an antique dollhouse that the children shouldn't have been playing with in the first place? 

Dear Jay,
My significant other has adult children that visit us with their children for a week every summer. The children are 2 1/2 and 5. I put them all upstairs with their parents. They have the upstairs all to themselves, but I do have things up there in the closets and in a general area that I can not easily move to keep out of the children's way. 

One of the things is a wooden dollhouse that my dad made for my daughter. I am keeping it for when she has children. I have turned the doll house to the wall so they cannot easily access the dolls and furniture. It is obvious that the doll house is a very nice piece, not something the parents should allow their children to wreak havoc on. The next morning I found pieces of broken doll furniture all over my living room. I went upstairs to find the dollhouse pulled away from the wall which an adult would have to have done and the rugs torn, legs broken off the furniture, the bathroom fixtures ripped off the walls, wall paper peeled off, dishes and kitchen utensils missing and thrown everywhere. 

I feel it is the parents responsibility to make sure their children do not play with something the parents know the children will destroy. Both children are able to understand the word no. I am extremely upset, so do I just let it go or say something to the parents?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Definitely say something to the parents! This is an outrage! It is best that your partner handle this, as it is his/her children who are at fault here. I hope this helps.

-Jay

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Gift for Step-Grand-Daughter

Do I send my step-grand-daughter a present even if I've recently gone through a divorce with her grandmother? 

Dear Jay,
My wife and I are going through a divorce. We have had our confrontations during our divorce but now we seem to be at a point where we are amicable. We have known each other for less than four years and her children were married adults when I first met them.. I am on very good terms with my step-son and family. My step-grandaughter will be celebrating her 10th birthday in two weeks. Although I do not expect to be invited to her birthday party, what would be proper etiquette to acknowledge her birthday? Regardless of what I do, I want to be sensitive to my wife's and step-grandaughter's feelings.  Thank you for your response.


Jay's ANSWER...
A: Your relationship with your ex-wife should not influence your relationship with your granddaughter, although this often does happen. My advice is that you send her a beautiful birthday card and some cash for her to buy herself a nice gift. Write a nice note on the card. I hope this helps.


-Jay

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Stuck with the Bill

Was it wrong of my brother to stick me with the bill? 

Dear Jay,
My mother was recently re-married, and I flew in from out of town to attend the wedding. The night before the wedding, my brother and I co-organized a small pre-wedding dinner for my mother, brother, myself, and my fiance at an expensive restaurant.

When the bill arrived, my brother and fiance proceeded to argue (in dramatic and funny fashion) over who would get the bill -- and when my fiance won, he turned and handed the bill to me!

To be fair, I'd previously told him I intended to pay for my mother's portion of the dinner, but said nothing about paying for my brother and his wife (who cancelled at the last minute, with no warning).

I paid the bill, but felt I was put in an awkward and unfair position. Am I being unreasonable, or did they commit a faux pas?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: Your brother is confused about what’s funny and what isn’t. I always advise that you do not spend someone else’s money without their permission. Your brother is in the wrong. It sounds to me like you will absorb the cost this time, but I would be sure to be more clear in the future. This is not a laughing matter. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Uncomfortable with Sudden Switch

How do I tell my brother how hurt I am that he has changed plans and wants me to stay at his in-law's house instead of his? 

Dear Jay,
My brother and sister-in-law recently invited me and my son up to my nephew's 1st birthday. We rsvp'd yes, along with my parents. We were invited to stay at the house. Four days before the party, my brother texts me and asks me, my son and my parents to stay with his in-laws (down the street), because he has friends coming in town who he has invited to stay at the house. I told him that I didn't feel comfortable staying there, but my parents already agreed because they didn't want to start any trouble. Now, my parents want me to stay there, too. Is it wrong to have my feelings hurt by this, and how can I tell my brother tactfully why this is wrong?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: Your query is a bit of a mystery to me. You state that you don’t feel comfortable staying with your brother’s in laws, but you don’t explain why. It puzzles me why your feelings would be hurt, and exactly what your brother did wrong. You are under no obligation to attend this party, and if it makes you that uncomfortable to stay in this house, simply send your regrets. If you want to share with me what is really bothering you, perhaps I can be of further assistance. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Mom Won't Leave When Asked

Was my husband right to call the cops after my mom wouldn't leave and their argument escalated? 

Dear Jay,
My mother was over a couple weeks ago helping me do some deep house cleaning. My husband and her got into an argument and he told her to leave. She said no, and I told her thank you for all her help, to please leave. My daughter even asked to, but my mother would not leave and continued her argument with my husband. He called the cops, and she left after she talked to cops. 

My husband says she disrespected him when he told her to leave and she didn’t leave and this is his house. He says she is not welcome here anymore because she disrespected him in his own house, and he doesn’t want anything to do with her. He isn’t asking me or our daughter to stop seeing her as she is my mother and our daughter’s grandmother.  

The argument was over stupid things and now my mother is hurt and saying I wasn’t sticking up for her. I was always taught if you are asked to leave somewhere whether it be a business or a private home, you leave, period.  What do you think?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: You and your husband are correct. Your mother has made a mistake, for which she should apologize. With time, and a sincere apology, your husband may be willing to forgive her and welcome her back. There are no guarantees, and he is under no obligation to change his mind. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Excluded From Family Functions

How do I approach my family about being excluded from family gatherings even though my disabled son and I moved here to be closer to them? 

Dear Jay,
I'm a middle aged woman with a sweet but disabled grown son who lives with me. He is fairly independent and very kind and well mannered. He played varsity football and had a traumatic brain injury years ago and has some residual effects, but most of the time only slightly noticeable. He has never caused a problem at any family gathering and has known all the family since he was born and through his childhood. 

When he came to live with me I was living in a big city alone and working there. I gave up everything, willingly to move to a state where most of my big family lives in order to be closer and because my son has about 8 cousins his age he looked forward to seeing occasionally. 

Being disabled is a lonely place to be, but since arriving here 2 years ago we have been excluded many times from big family holiday gatherings and parties or actually invited to come for a short visit the day before or day AFTER the holiday. This year we were NOT invited to the big 4th of July pool party going on today. It's been hurtful to be treated this way, but when informed that the '4th of July' was 'taken' as far as their 'availability' I politely said 'Oh that's OK, I already made plans and told them to have a nice party with all their friends and family.

Sometimes we've been included (about once a year) with the family for either Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, but we were asked to come just before the meal, and basically hinted that they are all going bowling or to the movies or something else later on and it is time for us to leave.

There have been no fights or real issues that might cause this. Most gatherings are at my cousin's beautiful big home about 30 min. from us. There are about 30-50 family members invited to these frequent get togethers at any given time. Whenever we have been included I always bring appropriate food and gifts to share and happily join in if needed when it comes time to clean up afterwards.

I grew up playing with all these same cousins as we literally lived only blocks away from each other during our childhoods and never had any real issues then either. But my cousin has acted very much like the character named 'Hilly' in the movie 'The Help' and she's been pretty hurtful at times yet does things all with a big smile.

Last night and this morning I feel pretty stupid for being hurt and find myself wiping away tears while I'm in the kitchen alone doing the dishes especially when I think of my son and how hurtful and lonely he might feel.  He had been looking forward to the 'annual 4th of July family party' at his aunt and uncle’s with all his cousins his age and all the extended family. And July 4th is his absolute favorite holiday. 

My parents are elderly and live in another state. They are hurt for us to be treated like this by family especially since they all knew and suggested that we move here. My father, a wise and good man, suggested that I be 'honest' and let them know I feel hurt to be excluded, but believe me they already know and just seem not to care as if we are simply lesser family relations and they think they're already doing us a favor by having us for one holiday a year.

Do you have any suggestions? I am feeling like baking my 'cousin' a very 'special' chocolate pie and taking it over for her to share.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  I agree with your father. Communicating with close family members is difficult at times, but sharing your feelings is important. If you do not have an open and honest conversation, nothing is likely to change at all, ever. You are under no obligation to take responsibility for your son’s feelings; however, common courtesy is not an unreasonable expectation. Perhaps you might consider hosting a smaller family function yourself, even if it’s hotdogs on the BBQ, if that’s possible. Most importantly though is to clear up any misunderstandings and explain hurt feelings so family relations can be stronger. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Fighting Over Food

How do I handle a friend's child arguing with my daughter over food when I am helping them out in the first place? 

Dear Jay,
A longtime on again/off again friend recently saw her husband and father of her 3 youngest, arrested, convicted and in jail on child abuse related charges. Needless to say, they have been through a lot as he provided the only income.


She lost her house, and I have a smaller second home, in my backyard, that I have let people down on their luck live in. I'm charging $400, mainly to cover utilities for her, her teenage boy, her boy who is 9, her girl who is  11, and her 20 year old daughter who works full time, but does appear to contribute.


I like the company as my partner and I just separated. My friend only works a couple hours a day but odd times, so with her younger kids in my charge I've been cooking for ALL of them, and enjoying it. I have two children of my own and since all the kids are together all the time, I end up cooking for all of them. But little things are starting to get to me like them taking more than they need and making my kids feel bad for eating “their food.” This created tension between my kids and their kids. 


I thought I was helping them and now I feel like we can’t even share our food. I have very little and they have very little, but they made me and my children feel badly about the food situation.  What should I do?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  This is a very sad situation. Children should not be arguing about how much food they can or cannot eat. Both you and your friend need to discuss this privately and make sure that your children are all provided for without issue. They’ve been through enough with their criminal father. Strive for stability and abundance. Leave the children out of it. Stop squabbling over a bowl of cereal; tell her to get a proper job or find another place to live. You’ll get no sympathy from me when children are being subjected to such irresponsible behavior. Set some ground rules and stick to them. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Freeloading Brother Needs to Pay Fair Share

Is it appropriate for me to ask my brother for money that he owes me for living with me? 

Dear Jay,
My 42 year old brother and his 24 year old fiancé live with my husband and our children. They moved in mid-December 2014. In December he wanted to buy her an engagement ring, but his credit was not good enough. I ended up letting him charge the ring on my card. The agreement was that he would pay the monthly payment each month which is $185.00. My problem is that he only pays me $185 without offering to pay for anything else. They occupy our entire furnished basement and have their own bathroom, refrigerator, microwave, t.v., fan, heater, etc.  

I have asked for more money, but each month he comes up with an excuse. For instance, he claims that because his fiancé watched our two children from a Friday at 7pm until a Sunday at 10pm, his rent should be covered for the month.  

I added it up and their portion of electric, rent and water would be $75 per month in addition to the $185 for his credit card bill. In total he should pay around $260 or $1820 for mid-December through mid-July.  He has only paid me $1545 (if that). He supposedly tracks each item that he buys groceries, etc that my family uses.  Is it proper for me to ask for money from them, even in months when they may occasionally watch my children for an hour or two per week / month?  Just for reference - he has a full time job making greater than $45,000 and she just stays home all day - and does no housework either.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  It’s your house. You and your husband set the rules. If your brother earns a good living, why is he living with you without paying his fair share? This is not a negotiation. This is a take it or leave it situation. He agrees to your deal or he moves out. Of course it’s proper for you to be paid what you are owed. You are an enabler, not really helping him straighten out his life and support him and his family appropriately. I advise against that! I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Two Parties on the Same Day

Should my boyfriend attend his nephew's party or my daughter's? 

Dear Jay,
My daughter's birthday is the same day that my boyfriend's nephew's birthday is. I’ve been with this boyfriend for two years. This year they are to have birthday parties on the exact day around same time, in two different towns but close by. Which birthday party does my boyfriend attend if he cannot make it to both? I feel he should be with me, but I also don’t want his family mad at me. I also am tired of celebrating major life events alone, without him due to his busy life.

Jay's ANSWER...
A: This is a very simple problem that you two can solve by talking about it. There are no ‘shoulds’ in this case. You need to learn to plan time to see both families, but not necessarily on the same day. One year you might consider both going to one party, and the next year you go to another one, alternating. Remember that his family is not going to get mad at you for missing a party. If they do, you need to reconsider things. With some basic communication, you will find that most of life’s problems can be handled quickly and easily. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Mother-in-law Can't Face Reality of Unruly Grandchild

How do I deal with my mother-in-law's issues with me not wanting her to bring her other grandchild on our family vacation? 

Dear Jay,
For the last three years I have expressed concern to my husband regarding my mother-in-law and sister-in-law’s lack of disciplining their grandchild/child (who is now 5.5 years). His sister lives at home with her parents. Only a few times I have expressed my concerns regarding her behavior and that is when she is doing something to hurt herself or others. (For example, punching her grandmother because she didn't get her way or pushing my infant daughter out of her grandmother’s lap because she wanted attention.) 

Recently my husband and I went on a vacation. My husband wanted to invite his parents with us to stay at the beach for a week. I was excited for my child to get some bonding time with her grandparents. We asked his mother to only bring his father. We asked his mother to please not bring her other grandchild. She asked why and so we were honest with her and stated that we did not want to have to deal with disciplining her while we were on vacation. Now his sisters are upset because we didn't invite the innocent child and that we are rude. I am not sure what to do. I feel we had every right on who to invite on our holiday and that his mother shouldn't have started this drama. 

Jay's ANSWER...
A:I agree with you. The rule is that the host controls the guest list. Your mother-in-law has been allowed to get away with this behavior long enough so that it has now developed into a pattern/habit. You need not make any apologies for whom you invite and whom you do not invite. Your husband has been manipulated by the women in his life since childhood (most likely), and he’s comfortable going with the flow. You are not. He needs to remember that you are his wife, and therefore take priority over anyone else. He must support you. If this cannot happen, you need to explain to him how this lopsidedness makes you feel. If you want to take a firm stand, you could even go so far as to state that if the other grandchild has to come along, the trip is off. As host you must take charge of the situation. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Gift for Daughter's New Home

What's the best gift for my daughter and her new husband's new home? 

Dear Jay,
Our daughter is recently married and she and her husband just closed on their first home.  What should we bring to this new home for the first visit?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: The option is yours completely. There is no rule about what you should do. This is an exciting time for them. If you know of something they would really like but may not be in their budget, consider that as a gift. I think something they can use and/or really need makes the most sense. Avoid imposing your taste on this new house. So, for example don’t take the portrait of Uncle Jim over, thinking they’d love it, if they haven’t said so. You also could ask them what they’d like. Often times, asking such a simple question can yield fruitful results. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Fiancee Chooses Family's Feelings First

How do I make my fiancee understand that I don't want to be the chaperone for his nieces and nephews while their parents get down time during my vacation? 

Dear Jay,
I own a home that my fiancé and I live in. We both have grown children that are out on their own. My family is quite small and we meet for a holiday or two each year usually for a meal and a few hours visiting. My fiancé has a rather large family, and they get together pretty much every holiday for several days. 

I recently had an argument with my fiancé because he informed me four of his nieces and nephews (teens) would be staying with us while the parents (his brother and wife) stayed at the parents’ house on the other side of town. This happened last year and we did not hear from the parents until well after noon and if we or the kids called with a question they rarely answered.   

I informed my fiancé that the nieces and nephews were allowed to come over during the day with their parents but needed to spend the night at the same place as their parents. The parents will not stay here as the wife is allergic to our pets. My fiancé thinks I do not like his family and I have told him that is not the case. I told him that the holiday is also my time off from work and I would like to be able to relax without being a chaperone. 

On an additional note when we go and visit his brother, my fiancé and I are not allowed to stay in the same room as we are not married and it would be a "bad influence" on the kids but apparently its not a bad influence when the kids stay at our home and we sleep in our own room. I feel like the parents are using us/our home as boarding for their kids while they get some quiet time at our expense. Is there any other compromise that could be made beyond the one I gave my fiancé?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: Your fiancé needs to put you ahead of his family. You will be his wife. He needs to have a chat with his brother and explain that while they may be on vacation, the responsibility for their children is still in full swing. If this is your vacation time, too, perhaps your fiancé would like to cook half the meals, clean the house, etc. Another perspective might be for you to consider that you don’t realize how badly they need some down time, and you are actually providing an opportunity for them that is far greater than you ever thought. If that doesn’t feel right, return to plan A. You need to be a higher priority than his brother. He needs to understand this. Explaining how you feel is important. Learning to communicate your feelings is even more important. If you can’t sort this situation out, there will likely be plenty of other more serious ones that will cause even greater stress down the line. Learn to communicate without arguing. Have compassion for each other and for yourselves, too. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Partying Husband Upsets Wife on Vacations

How do I address my concern over my husband leaving me in a hotel room at night on vacations so he can go out and have fun? 

Dear Jay,
My husband thinks it is okay on a family vacation to leave me in the room at night with the kids while he goes out all night partying and drinking. He says since he spends the daytime with his family he shouldn't have to spend his nights with us also? How do I address his selfishness?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  I doubt anything you say will have much of an impact. You could try explaining how his behavior makes you feel, but if he is unwilling to change his ways you have a couple of choices. You can accept his behavior and embrace your role as mother. Or, you could get a babysitter and go out, too. I can completely understand why he would like to have some down time while he’s on vacation. He has likely earned it. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Sister Willingly Takes Offer for Money

How much money should I give my sister to stay with her at her place in NYC for three weeks even though she has never paid me to store her things? 

Dear Jay,
My sister and her fiancée have asked my son and I to visit them in New York. They were hoping we could visit for a week to a month.  I wasn't excited to go to the East Coast for vacation time, but after a stressful series of events at work, I was desperate to get as far away as possible!  We live in Hawaii and the air fare is pricey so we wanted to stay as long as possible since we probably wouldn't fly out there again anytime soon.  

My sister complained about finances, so I offered to help with some rent while we stayed with her. She surprisingly jumped on my offer. I was shocked she willingly took it, because she has used my home as her (and her fiancées) public storage when she moved to the Mainland 4 years ago. I willingly let them bring over 50 boxes into my house, and have never considered asking her to pay me for the storage. I don't live in a big space; it is probably 500 square feet for my son and me.  We are not wealthy either. I am a single parent who does not get child support payments. I don't mind giving my sister some money for letting us stay at her apartment, but how much can I give her without offending her?  I was thinking $400-$500. We will be there for 3 weeks. Thank you for your consideration.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Since you made the offer, you’ll have to live with the consequences. However, you need to establish the amount before you buy your plane tickets. Finances should not become a big issue, and they can very easily if there is any ambiguity. You may want to consider offering her a lesser amount, but be clear that you will pay for your fair share of the food. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Mother-in-law Invites Grandson on Family Trip

Is it out of line for my mother-in-law to invite my nephew on our annual family vacation when it isn't okay with me? 

Dear Jay,
Is it rude of my parents to invite themselves every year to my family vacation? (I'm 38 years old with 5 children. My husband and I bring our family to the ocean camping once a year). Now my parents are inviting my 10 year old nephew to come with them. My 5 children will now fight over him (for example who gets to sit next to him, who gets to play with him). Am I wrong to be upset that my parents don't get, or don't care, that inviting my children's cousin on MY family camping trip changes the dynamic of my family? My mother insists that she wants to see her 6 grandchildren play together, and my brother never goes anywhere, so this is my nephew’s only chance to go camping.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  You need to speak to your husband about this. Your mother-in-law is acting totally inappropriately. Perhaps she’d like to host a vacation getaway for her grandchildren if she needs to see them all together so badly. You and your husband should be able to plan your own vacation without her input. You are not responsible for your nephews, but if you’d like to include them, that is your prerogative, not the grandmother’s. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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No Drama for this Step Momma

How should I conduct myself at my step daughter's birthday celebration when it is clear her mother does not want me there? 

Dear Jay,
My husband is very close to his daughter although she lives mainly with her mother when not at college. She has her 21st birthday coming up. Her mother is holding a party for the daughter's friends and family at her house. My step daughter is a lovely, generous hearted girl and has insisted to her mother that her father and I be invited. This has caused friction between her and her mother although her mother has reluctantly agreed we can go. My husband and I have been married for several years and met only after his divorce from his first wife. Nonetheless, she dislikes me with a passion apparently.

My plan is to go for an hour or so, be pleasant and low key, then to leave the revelers to it and return to collect my husband later. I feel there may be tensions and would like any advice on how to conduct myself. The mother's family will be there and I have no idea if they will simply ignore me or be outright hostile. I would like  to avoid any unnecessary unpleasantness for the sake of my step daughter who I love dearly.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Your husband should have a very clear idea about how the family will react to meeting you. If they are so small-minded that they cannot welcome you into their home, you are under no obligation to attend. You should not have to reduce your role to that of chauffeur. I think you should go and plan to have a good time with those people who are hospitable and avoid those who are not. Remember that this party is about your step daughter, not you, and not her mother. If there is any tension, deflect it to celebrating the birthday. Stand tall and take your proper place as a member of the extended family. This is actually more common than you may think. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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In-laws Not Making Time for us During Their Visit

Should I just let it go that my sister-in-law didn't plan to spend much time with us during their annual visit? 

Dear Jay,
My husband is the eldest of four siblings. The second oldest is his sister, who is the only one with kids and the only one who lives in another state. They make an annual trip to drive up and visit everyone, but she does a very bad job of communicating details, expressing interest, and making time for all of us to visit. In fact, she did not tell my husband or I that their other sister would be hosting a special sleepover for her oldest son (we would have loved to do this, too) and their other brother's tiny apartment is where she has chosen to spend two days with her family of four (instead of our very large two bedroom).

I keep asking my husband to speak with her and have an open dialogue, since I want to spent time with my nephews. But, he doesn't. She packed her days with trips to museums with every single family member in the nearby two states (so we barely got any face-to-face time). Do I just have to let this one go? Thanks!

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  How your in-laws spend their vacation time is up to them. Perhaps next year you could host a dinner party. Perhaps you might consider going to visit them occasionally if you enjoy spending time with your nephews. I hope this helps
-Jay

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Manipulating Mother-in-law

Should my husband act as moderator in a sit down discussion between me and his mother because we can't get along? 

Dear Jay,
My mother-in-law and I do not have a good relationship. The trouble began when I became engaged to her son 22 years ago. She is controlling, plays favorites with her grandchildren, manipulates, and is well-versed in emotional blackmail. She is critical of me, my personal appearance, how I parent my children, how I keep my home, and how I am as a wife to her son. 

Finally it got to a point that for my own sanity I have distanced myself from her, it is easier on me to not engage her in anything and to only deal with her when I absolutely have to. My husband will only tell me that I need to apologize and be nice to her and be the bigger person because she is who she is and he's tired of being put in the middle. He wants to have a sit down meeting where he is the moderator for the both of us to clear the air. I am not comfortable with this and would rather keep avoiding her. I don't feel as if I have done anything to her so why should I apologize?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  You have a serious situation here because your husband is placing his relationship with his mother above his relationship with you. His mother is a master manipulator. Your husband would not be a suitable moderator simply because he lacks the necessary skills. It is he and you who need to have the discussion. If you and his mother can’t sort things out between you, he needs to take a stand and you need to become his priority - you are the mother of his children, and you are his wife. His mother must take a back seat. You may want to consider family counseling. This dynamic may be best explained by a professional, who can then help you chart a path out of this dysfunctional situation. I would encourage this because you do not want your children being brought up to learn these insidious behaviors from their grandmother, unless of course you want them to lead their lives this way too. Step one - speak with your husband; step two - if step one fails, seek counseling. I hope this helps.

-Jay

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Husband Wants Too Much Gratitude for his Generosity

Is it right for me to be upset that my husband expects too much thanks in return for doing nice things? 

Dear Jay,
I'm very concerned about my husband and what he expects from others when he's done something nice. It takes away from any act of kindness when the person expects something in return from the recipients.

For example, my husband came out of his office about a month back saying “Why don't we go to Hawaii again?" He knows that's my favorite vacation spot. He then said, "I know you won't be happy unless I invite your daughter and new husband.”  Now that we are all excited my husband makes comments like we should be kissing his butt because he's paying for lodging and some activities. When I call him on it he says "I'm joking" and gets angry at me.

Jay's ANSWER...
A: Aren’t you lucky to have a such a successful, thoughtful, and generous husband! Although giving thanks is important, receiving it gracefully is also. Since your husband is predictable you have two choices. Accept his silliness for what it is - simply humor, nothing more; or if this behavior really offends you, explain more clearly to him how it makes you feel. Attacking him about this doesn’t work. Taking full responsibility for your feelings will. I hope this helps.

-Jay

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Who Pays the Bill for Holiday Houseguests?

When we host holiday gatherings and have guests stay with us, are we also responsible to pay for any outings? 

Dear Jay,
I love that our family comes to our home for most of the holidays. Some of them come from some distance so they usually stay a few days. I have no problem providing food when we are at our house through the stay, but when we go out for dinner or plan other activities such as movies or golf are we also responsible for paying everyone's bill for all of these things as well?  We really cannot afford this, so I typically don't suggest any of these outings, but the last few times everyone has mentioned we need to go out and "do" some things in the area. Is it unreasonable to give them suggestions of some things we might do, then tell them the cost of it ahead of time so they know they will be expected to pay for it should we choose to go? These are all adult family members and young adult children (28 and older) some with more financial means than others. Thanks for your help!

Jay's ANSWER...
A: You are certainly not under any obligation to pay for these outings. Let everyone know that these outings are dutch treat - i.e., everyone pays their own way. Finances can be bones of contention, so best to clear that up right away. I hope this helps.

-Jay

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Brother's Behavior Bothersome

How do I deal with my screw up brother living with me at my parents' home? 

Dear Jay,
My parents own two houses that they alternate living at and fixing up. One is my childhood home. Due to a really rough patch and having physical handicaps they have allowed me to move back in until I return to grad school in September. 

I have epilepsy, TBI, PTSD, migraines severe damage to my knee and nerve damage to my foot, so job options are limited, but I try and cook for my parents when they are at this house, ALWAYS keep the kitchen clean, do laundry, take the trash out, help with grading papers for them (they are both teachers) anything I can do to lighten their load. 

They also let my brother TEMPORARILY move back in two years ago. He is a real screwup. He just got a DUI. He jumps from menial job to menial job, never pays for anything, and expects me to do HIS dishes and laundry and stuff. Because of his DUI he wrecked his car and lost his license for several months. He has 3 kids by two wives. Despite the fact that he constantly bad talks me and tears me down at every possible turn, he volunteered me to drive him around all the time. On top of all that he denigrated me so bad to his ex wife (#2) that she will regularly deny him visits with their daughter if there was the slightest chance I would be with her. Now he has his kids for 6 weeks of the summer. My parents are at their lake house for the next week and so it's just my brother, his 3 kids, my dog and me at the house. He is "dating" a 19 year old and is having her come over the next week while he's at work to watch the kids, despite the fact that I, their aunt, a 32 year old who loves them and can take care of them will be here.

I tried to talk to my brother telling him I'm not comfortable with this child coming over to essentially babysit me. He went off on me cussing me out, telling me he was doing this so his wife had nothing to keep his daughter away from him for. I told him I understood that, but if that's the case then she needs to take the child somewhere else and babysit her there NOT at the house where I live. He replied, in not so nice terms,that he was going to do whatever he wanted to. He didn't care what I wanted or felt. What am I supposed to do?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: The house you and your brother are using belongs to your parents. You are guests. If you have an issue, it is your parents who need to be involved in the solution. Your brother’s comings and goings and ‘affairs’ are none of your concern actually, but if his behavior is an issue, and speaking directly with him hasn’t worked, let your parents deal with it. If there continues to be no resolution, my best advice is to steer clear. You have no obligation to clean up after anyone but yourself unless you’ve made some commitments to do otherwise. I hope this helps.

-Jay

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Making Plans for a Visit to Include Everyone

What's the proper way to notify everyone when we will be visiting our hometown? 

Dear Jay,
My husband and I moved to Florida from our home town in Massachusetts 4 years ago. Over the years we have let family and friends know when we are visiting. Some take advantage of the time and invite us to be with them and others feel we should be contacting them and making plans. My husband and I feel like we are imposing on people. What is the proper etiquette for visiting?


Jay's ANSWER...
A: There are many options open to you. May I suggest that you let those people know ahead of time who will be anxious to see you. Then consider hosting a tea or cocktail party, or a dinner if you wish and invite everyone you’d like to see. That way you can avoid the feelings of imposing, and you’ll be nicely set up for reciprocal invitations. I hope this helps.

-Jay

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Funeral Attendance Required?

Do my husband and I need to attend our sister-in-law's sister's funeral even if we didn't know the deceased? 

Dear Jay,
Would it be improper of me and my husband to NOT attend my sister-in-law's sister's funeral??  I know the family, not well, but I know them, but did NOT know this sister. I love my sister-in-law, but feel like I have already give her my condolences (For clarification, the deceased is the sister of my husband's brother's wife.)

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Funerals are not all about the deceased. They are, more importantly, about giving support to those in mourning. If you feel you have paid your respects, you are under no obligation to attend the funeral. Support by loved ones at a funeral is always welcome however. I hope this helps.

-Jay

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Toxic Step-Mom's Comments Scar New Mother

How do I handle my step mother-in-law's nasty comments? 

Dear Jay,
I overheard my mother-in-law asking my fiancee (now husband and father of my child) if he was pressured into proposing to me. That comment has stuck with me and I cannot overcome it. It makes me very self conscious and unsure of how to relate to her since she is keeping distance. When she came to visit us and meet our newborn her comment was, “Oh, why does she only look like her mom and not dad?” Should I pay attention to that or just  forget about it? I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, but I will not be a doormat either.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  What a hurtful thing for her to say! I would let your husband know that you overheard this remark, and let him know how it made you feel. He should then have a chat with his stepmom and explain that this sort of comment is not welcome in your house. Your feelings are every bit as valid as anyone else’s. Your feelings have been hurt. No one will know if you don’t bring it up. Open communication in families is important. Even as an infant, your newborn knows what’s going on. Turn off the toxic bullying stepmom, and turn on some healthy house rules. I hope this helps.

-Jay

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Sister-in-law Calls At All Hours

Is it wrong for my sister-in-law to call all the time at all hours when it's never an emergency? 

Dear Jay,
Is it normal for my adult sister-in-law to call my husband early hours of the day? She'll call him at six in the morning, sometimes before. We have a two year old daughter who sleeps with us and her calls wake all of us up! She calls to talk about nothing. It's never an emergency; she just calls to gossip about things that can wait.

Jay's ANSWER...
A: Ask your husband to tell his sister to stop calling at that hour. It’s just that simple. I hope this helps.

-Jay

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Excluded From Stepson's Graduation

Should I send out a graduation announcement for my family since I don't think my step-son's family will announce it to them? 

Dear Jay,
My stepson just graduated high school.  His dad and I have been apart for a year and are divorced. My stepson does not live with his dad or me, but he is still my son and I raised him all through school and we still have a mother-son relationship. His dad's relatives are having a party for him.  I feel sad because my daughter (his step-sister), myself and my family are excluded from this celebration. Mostly, I am sad for my stepson, because these are people that have been part of his life growing up. My question is would it be appropriate if I mailed out a small picture of him, announcing his graduation? I don't want to mention money, but is there a polite way to say if they want to mail him a card or how would I word that?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: You are speaking about sending out an announcement. It would be awkward if more than one announcement were mailed out, so you may want to check to see if any other such arrangement has been made. If it has, sending out another would be an unnecessary and confusing duplication of efforts. If none has been planned, then go for it! There are plenty of resources for wording a graduation announcement. Money is never mentioned on any announcement, or invitation for that matter. I hope this helps.

-Jay

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Bridal Shower Guest List

Is it okay if I don't want my mother to be invited to my daughter's bridal shower if I am hosting? 

Dear Jay,
My daughter is getting married soon and I am hosting one of her bridal showers. I have decided, in order to keep the peace and have the focus remain on her and not feel uncomfortable, not to invite my mother. We split the showers between families. The one I'm hosting is mostly for my father's side and my sister's in laws. My father recently remarried and my mom is still in love with him. Every birthday party and get together is now extremely uncomfortable, because my mother makes it uncomfortable. I don't know how to tell her and she's extremely offended and says she's going to come to the shower because it's proper etiquette. But what is proper etiquette with extended family and lots of ex wives and half siblings and step siblings?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: Showers are traditionally attended by women only. You cannot be responsible for controlling people’s behavior. In any event, if you are hosting a party, you control the guest list - period. Omitting certain people may cause trouble, for which you must be prepared. I advise, as uncomfortable as it may be, that honesty is the best policy. Your relationship with your mother is not something new. There are patterns entrenched in your lives that are unlikely to change much. Blended families can be challenging and complicated. As a general rule, be as inclusive as possible. In the end, this is a very generous gesture on your behalf to host such a shower. You should not be the sacrificial lamb. By removing yourself from the role of peacemaker, you will have a much less stressful and more enjoyable time. I hope this helps

-Jay

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Visiting Hours and Rules

Should I be offended with the way our children have so many visitation rules for our first grandchild? 

Dear Jay,
My husband and I are in our 50s, work 40+ hours a week Monday thru Saturday while still maintaining our home.  We have our first grandchild who is five months old.

The parents of our grandchild will call us and tell us we need to come out for a visit.  If we don't show up on their time schedule, they won't allow us to enter the house.  They tell us at the door that the child is sleeping and that we need to go back home.  Or, if we don't make it out there, then the parents shame us for not taking time to visit with our only grandchild.  I find this very disturbing.

I raised children myself and NEVER EVER turned down any opportunity the grandparents came to the house for a visit.  Granted, if my child was sleeping, I would ask that the grandparents not disturb the sleeping child, but they still got a chance to enter the house and view their grandchild and visit with parents.

Are there rules of etiquette on both sides (parents and working grandparents)?

Thank you for your response.

Jay's ANSWER...
A: There are two rules of etiquette that apply here, and it is not unusual for them to be ignored from time to time. One, your children’s home is their castle. Their house rules, no matter how inconvenient or different they may be, should be respected. On the other hand, being turned away at the door is rude. Hosts should always welcome guests and never make them feel unwelcome or embarrass them in any way. Bear in mind that bringing a new child into the fold is a stressful and emotional time. Compassion on all sides is important, not only for others but for yourselves. After all, you’re not the one raising this infant. I recommend that you take the high road, and be more understanding. The intention of your children is not to insult you or to even annoy you. A good rule of thumb for almost every situation in life is not to take things personally. I hope this helps.

 Jay

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Grandparents Day Dilemma

Even if I don't get along with my in-laws, should I invite them to Grandparents Day at my son's school? 

Dear Jay,
Do I invite my in-laws to my child’s Grandparents’ Day? We don't get on, and she has never invited us to her home for any occasion since I had my 5 year old. She invites herself to our home every now and again. She speaks to my husband daily during his work hours, but never phones our home. There is a Grandparents’ Day celebration at my son's school, and I don't know whether to invite her. She has never made any effort, but suddenly she is invited to be part of something rather personal. On the other side, I don't want my son to be one of the few who would have no one to show his work to. What do I do?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: Remember that Grandparents Day is just that - a day for grandchildren and their grandparents to enjoy a day together. Your relationship with your in-laws should not enter the picture. Your son would likely be very upset (and justifiably so) and unable to comprehend the reason for the absence. Remove yourself from the equation and do the right thing - invite her. I hope this helps.

 Jay

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Overstaying Welcome?

Is it rude for me to stay with my boyfriend's family longer than 7 days even if I was invited for the whole summer? 

Dear Jay,
I'm going to stay with my boyfriend and his family on Nantucket this summer. They asked me to stay for the entire summer, but I ended up settling on a ten day visit. My parents have insisted that it is horribly rude to stay for more than seven days. However, I feel as though I'm past that level of informality because they genuinely view me as part of the family. What would you advise?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: Follow your instincts. Why your parents would chime in at this point  is not surprising, but they did not have the whole story. Assuming your are an adult, this whole matter is really not their responsibility. Depending on how far you want to take this, I would advise that you either drop the discussion, or if necessary, bring them up to speed. Rest assured, from my perspective you are not being rude in the slightest. Parents often have a difficult time with children leaving the nest, and making the shift from being responsible to no longer being responsible. Have compassion and keep your communication lines open. I hope this helps.

 Jay

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Son's Girlfriend Doesn't Help Out

How do I get my son's girlfriend to help out when they stay here? 

Dear Jay,
My son has been dating his girlfriend for over 8 years. They are living together but stay at our house often on the weekends. His girlfriend never asks if she can help clean up, or help me when I'm getting dinner ready.  When they were younger, I dismissed it, but now I think it is rude not to offer.

Jay's ANSWER...
A: I recommend that you have a private chat with your son. It is best for him to communicate this to his girlfriend. Alternatively, you could ask in a nice way, if she would mind giving you a hand. She may be reticent to ask because it is your house. I hope this helps.
  - Jay

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New Baby = No Time for Grandma

Was I wrong to tell my son that he has to find time for me during my visits to see his new baby? 

Dear Jay,
I had my first grandchild A few months ago. My son and daughter-in-law had not invited me over to their home, but have said to come over anytime.  So I have invited myself a few times and in conversation it seems like it's an inconvenience as to when he will be awake for me. I know life is hectic for them and I am trying to be sympathetic to that. When I get there he either has to be breastfeed or he has to take a nap. My daughter-in-law leaves the room, and my son goes about doing his chores. I am left sitting there. I have offered to help, but they say it's under control. They say they don't have time to visit but I can sit and wait until he wakes up. My ex, (son’s father) apparently has had the same feelings, which I just found out after I hurt my son’s feeling by saying he really needed to find time for me. Was I wrong in saying that to him?


Jay's ANSWER...
A: Bringing a new child into the family is incredibly stressful, especially the first one. Babies are on a schedule that is comprised of eating and sleeping more than anything else. It sounds like the new parents need some more time to let this new addition to their lives settle in. You would do best to follow their suggestions. Your son is under no obligation to make time for you. I would consider making an apology and having compassion, not only for the new family, but also for yourself. You’ll have plenty of wonderful times with your grandson, but he is the responsibility of his parents. In their home, it is their rules that must be followed. You are a guest in their house. I hope this helps.
  - Jay

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Privacy Please

Is it important to give a house guest their privacy or can a homeowner do whatever he or she wants? 

Dear Jay,
My husband just went to visit his 88 year old mother. She went into his room and took some papers off of his bed and went in the kitchen to read them. When he asked her why she had his papers and why she was reading them, she said, “Well, it's my house and I can do what I want!” I think there should be some privacy when you are staying at someone's home as a guest, isn't there?


Jay's ANSWER...
A: Yes, privacy is important. This issue is not your responsibility, and your husband and his mother are not exactly strangers. Their dynamics go back to the cradle. It may be possible that at 88, his mother may be suffering from mild dementia, especially if this behavior is new. In this case, compassion is required and close attention to her safety is far more important than looking at your husband’s documents. A chat with the family doctor may be in order. I hope this helps.
  - Jay

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Tired Hostess Needs a Break

How do I deal with my husband's work colleagues and my sister during visits when all that they seem to do is tire me out? 

Dear Jay,
My husband loves to invite his colleagues over to our house more often than I'd like; however, I do support him at his work and realize that creating camaraderie is important to his position. Most get-together's involve alcohol and most of the guests have children. It has become an issue for me not only because we have a pool, but also because the parents show up and behave like they no longer have children! They walk out of the pool and straight into the house, handle the food/appetizers with bare hands, use my knickknacks as toys and so on! On one occasion a toddler fell into the pool. Both parents were inside the house enjoying the party. Another guest had to jump in to get the child out.

We've had the discussion several times and my husband insists that if he tells them 'no children' no one will show up. I don't expect them to never bring the kids, but so far in 3 years I don't have a good time. I end up watching the kids, I do all the cooking/cleaning, and I haven't gotten to really talk to anyone without interruptions from kids, so I don't really know any of the spouses. I say let's have one occasion where it's just the adults. My husband disagrees. 

The other issue is that none of those colleagues ever reciprocate an invitation to their home. If we don't have something at our house, we don't socialize! I'm bitter now and refuse to do it any longer!  

On to my other issue....my sister has visited two years in a row with her grandchildren. I don't have young kids, my child is all grown up, so having kids in the house for me is a task. When she visits she puts lots of pressure on me to tend to all of their needs - from prepping the house for their visit, to cooking, to cleaning, to entertaining and more. 

I have some physical limitations and although I'm able, I do have a limit. However, her visit is not exclusive to visiting me. I'm in the middle of her and the rest of the family, so she stops here on her way for about 2 days, goes on to visit other family and on their way home stops here again for a week or so. She always says not to worry about doing anything out of my way for them, but I find myself in the kitchen from morning until night while everyone else is in the pool or watching t.v. Her yearly visit is coming up here soon and I don't want to tell her not to come, but how do I handle this without losing my relationship with her? Telling her I have other plans does not apply here or even saying that this year doesn't work for me. Even if I told her I will be out of town, she'll probably ask me for the house key! And that is where I'll lose MY etiquette! Please help!


Jay's ANSWER...
A: As to your first question, it appears that your husband is putting his relationship with his colleagues above his relationship with you. He may not realize that this is what is happening, so I suggest you discuss this with him, and perhaps he will look at things differently. I also suggest that you try the ‘no kids’ invitation; you are not alone in not wanting kids around all the time. When children are going to be around, hire a babysitter for them, even if you must pay. Trust me, this will get the attention of the other parents. They may suddenly become more responsible and more grateful.

As to your second question, your relationship with your sister is a long-established one. You need to sit down and explain things to her just as you have explained them to me. Again, she may not be aware of the toll her visits take on you. I hope this helps.
  - Jay

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Napping During Visits

Can I nap while my daughter visits and chats with my wife? 

Dear Jay,
When my wife invites our daughter over to our house for dinner and a visit, is it rude for me to take a short nap while she and her mother chat?


Jay's ANSWER...
A: Not rude at all. I hope this helps.
  - Jay

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Gifts for Unknown Grads

Do we send a gift because we were invited to a neighbor's son's graduation even if we hardly know him? 

Dear Jay,
Neighbors have invited us to their son's high school graduation party. We hardly know him, but we see the parents occasionally.  We cannot attend.  There is no rsvp on the invite. Shall we send a gift?


Jay's ANSWER...
A: The answer to that is usually based on the relationship you have with the graduate. From what you have said here, I think a card would be appropriate, but even that is optional. I hope this helps.
  - Jay

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Torn Between Family Events

How do we choose which family event we should attend? 

Dear Jay,
I am torn between two family events.  My husband’s God-daughter is getting married out of state on June 27 and my nephew is graduating the next day on the 28.  My nephew is not having a party afterwards.  We cannot find a way to be at both events due to travel time (even checked into flights).  Over the past 20 years we have only seen his God-daughter a handful of times.  I am feeling torn because it is his God-daughter and I feel like we should be there.  We have little contact with his family as it is because of the distance.  Yet this is my last nephew graduating and I feel the need to be there for my sister and her son.  What is the proper etiquette for this situation?  Thank you.


Jay's ANSWER...
A: I would suggest you support your husband in this case. I imagine your sister would understand the conflict, as would her son. Send a gift and a heartfelt handwritten card to your nephew. Phone your sister and explain the situation. This is not an unusual kind of conflict that everyone experiences at some point. Spending time with your husband’s family is important. I hope this helps.
  - Jay

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Aunt Wants to Throw Niece a Birthday Party

Do I have any right to throw a birthday party for my 2 year old niece since I have the means to do so? 

Dear Jay,
I am super close to my niece who will soon be turning two. My brother works a job that barely makes ends meet and my sister-in-law is a stay at home mom. I know if they had the means my niece would have the most amazing birthday party. I only have to take care of myself and have more than enough time and money to give her a great party. However do I have any right to offer to do so? And how do I bring it up without hurting feelings? Of course I want their input even though I'm footing the bill. How to do I go about bringing it up?


Jay's ANSWER...
A:  I would ask your brother if it would be OK to have a birthday party for your niece. Honor his reply. Keep in mind that 2 year olds have a very different view of the world, and a little bit goes a long way. Be sure this does not turn into some sort of statement from you that makes the parents feel inadequate in any way. I hope this helps.
  - Jay

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Sister-in-law Draining Finances

Should I say something to my sister-in-law about her expecting my husband to pay for everything when they go out? 

Dear Jay,
My sister-in-law recently stayed when my husband invited her to our place for the weekend to go to a comedy night. He asked me to go, but we have two small children and I don’t like my sister-in-law’s company. She is rude and practically ignores me. I noticed that my husband brought the tickets to the shows and all the drinks, cab and late night snack for both of them. The evening totaled $400 and I was taken aback by the fact my sister-in-law didn't even offer to buy a round, especially knowing we need to budget as we are one income.

She does this all the time. I feel she has this need for my husband to pay just because she is his little sister. She is single, has a great paying job, travels often, has no kids, but has all meals and drinks provided by us when she stays over which is frequently. I've told my husband how I feel and I’m at the point where I don't want her here. She wasn't even grateful for the comedy night. I’m not jealous; I feel she is doing it on purpose to annoy me or something. It's also becoming a big financial strain as I find we are dipping into equity now. Should I say something to her?


Jay's ANSWER...
A:  It is unadvisable to get between your husband and his sister. Their relationship is just that, and really is not your responsibility. However, if your finances don’t allow for this level of largesse on the part of your husband, you and he need to have this discussion and reach some resolution. Presuming that your sister-in-law is out to annoy you is likely more your reaction to the situation than to the truth. Since there is consistency in her behavior, plan accordingly. I hope this helps.
  - Jay

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Braless Female Family Members

Is it okay for my mom and grandma to go braless? 

Dear Jay,
Is is appropriate for my mother and my grandmother to go braless and let their nipples show through her tops?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  It is not appropriate for your mother, grandmother, or any other woman to parade around like that. I hope this helps.
  - Jay

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Uncomfortable Around Ex-Wife

How should my husband respond to his daughter's invite to stay at her home while his ex-wife is there with her new husband? 

Dear Jay,
My step-daughter invited us to our grandson's high school graduation and to stay over for a few days. This was a month ago. She now wants her mom to stay as well. My husband was left to raise 2 girls alone because his ex-wife left him for a 21 year old man (she was 30). She immediately had 2 other girls with the new guy. He was totally alone as she had convinced him to leave his home state. His youngest was only 5, and he had no other family around. He doesn't feel comfortable staying at his daughter’s house with his ex-wife and her husband. It doesn't bother me, but it does bother my husband. His daughter said that we can all be adults. He just really doesn't want to bbq and chat away with these people. Should he be an adult about this as his daughter said or does he have a right to avoid being around people he doesn't like?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: He has every right to decline the invitation. His daughter may well not understand the dynamics of this relationship, but she should be respectful of others’ feelings. I think the best would be to stay elsewhere and limit your social mingling to the graduation, and plan times to visit when his former wife is not around. I hope this helps.
  - Jay

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Hosting Hecklers

What do I do when my mother-in-law and husband don't appreciate the trouble I go to in order to be a great hostess for them? 

Dear Jay,
My husband thinks I go overboard and am pretentious because I put down a table cloth and napkins when his mother and sister visit. I make an effort when anyone visits because I like to entertain. I have noticed his mother or sister don’t thank me for the hospitality I show. My husband thinks I make them uncomfortable when I am just being myself and taking pride in my cooking and home. 

We have two small children and its important that they see me being hospitable and when people come to stay we make a special effort. I feel I have been told not to be myself and not put on the occasions I would like to my standards. The standards I have are healthy meals with quality ingredients, a clean home, and a nice table setting. My husband just wants the meal without the trimmings on all occasions. I believe this is how he was raised and he doesn't want us to have our own way of doing things. 

On the first Christmas lunch we hosted as a couple, his mother was uncomfortable with a sit down meal, so my mother-in-law and husband tried to bully me into having a smorgasbord style. I laughed at the time and we ate at the table which was beautiful. Since then I have had terrible rows with my husband about parties I host for my children and BBQs and dinners I host for friends. I make nice food and go to a lot of effort while he will do something like get very drunk,  or burn the bbq meat, or ruin my dessert at a dinner party just to sabotage what I have created.

I feel like all my joy from these events is taken away by my husband’s horrible behavior and comments, and I shouldn't host anything anymore and fade into the background and do the simple meals and entertaining that my husband and his mother want from me. I want to be a good host in my home, but I’m worn down. Any advice?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:This is typical of the kind of clash that can occur when people come from different lifestyles. What troubles me most here is your husband’s lack of support and boorish behavior. If he has no respect for you and reverts to his childhood ways, he needs a stern talking to. Your feelings are every bit as valid as his. Perhaps he’d like to start cooking the meals. As to your in laws being ungrateful, one thing you can say to them as they are leaving without saying thank you is, “Did you have fun?” That should jog them into a thank you. If it doesn’t, I would flat out tell them, “A thank you would be nice; this food didn’t cook itself.” My advice until things change for the better is to serve them what they like, or maybe even let them roast their own hot dogs. Save your real entertaining for people who appreciate it. I hope this helps.
 Jay

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Who Prompts Grandparents to Visit?

Am I responsible for reaching out to my in-laws about visiting their only grandchild or should they proactively schedule a visit? 

Dear Jay,
My husband and I had our first baby a little over 10 months ago.  She is the first grandchild on my husband’s side of the family. Both of my parents have passed away, so my in-laws are the only grandparents our daughter has.  Whenever we see my in-laws there is always some type of disagreement or argument. Six weeks ago we had a pretty big argument and things were said that were very hurtful to both my husband and I. We live in the same town as them, but they have not seen, talked to us, or asked about our daughter in over 6 weeks. What is the "normal" thing to happen? Do the grandparents make the effort to come see the grandkids or are we supposed to say come over and see your granddaughter? What is the proper etiquette for grandparents to see their grandchildren?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: This should be far more relaxed. There are no hard and fast rules about grandparents and grandchildren. A rule of thumb is that the younger generation calls upon the older generation, but this is not written in stone. Of far greater concern is that your in-laws are arguing with you. If I knew more about that, I might have some further comments. I hope this helps.
 Jay

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Angered Over Last Minute Grad Guest Cancellation

Do I have a right to be angry at my sister-in-law for canceling on my son's graduation at the last minute? 

Dear Jay,
My son is graduating from high school tomorrow. I found out about 2 hours ago that my sister-in-law is not coming. She knew about the graduation date in November. She is a nurse and scheduled herself to work the Friday before graduation. She was going to work and then travel (6 hour drive) with her husband (my son's godfather) and arrive late in the evening and stay at my mother-in-law's house. Today she decided that she was not going to come (so I returned her ticket.) Am I wrong to be mad about her not coming and canceling at the last minute? We have always made an effort to go to her child's high school and college graduation. (If not all of us could go due to school and finals, half of us went.)  We drove to both times (about 32 hours of driving total) and spent about $800 in hotel stays. I am not surprised that she is not coming, but really want to read her the riot act when (and if) she apologizes because I cannot say "That's OK, I understand." because that would be dishonest.

Jay's ANSWER...
A: Holding anger and not accepting apologies will never serve you well. You have no idea why she changed her mind. Consider taking the high road in this case and accept that she did in fact have a good reason. She is not obliged to share her reason with you. I am not a fan of last minute cancellations either, but sometimes they cannot be avoided. I suggest The Golden Rule. You may find yourself in a similar situation one day. If you decide to “read her the riot act” you jeopardize your relationship. You are justifiably proud of your son’s accomplishment. Focus on that, and not on a story whirling around in your head that may well not be the truth. I hope this helps.

 Jay

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Setting Boundaries for Family Visits

How can I tell my family that even though we are moving closer to them that they can't visit all the time? 

Dear Jay,
My husband and I live far from where our parents live; however, recently my husband has been offered a great job opportunity in the same state my parents live (4 hours distance) and my husband would really like to take the offer.  The problem is, my parents and sister will not hesitate to come and visit us.  I don't mind one visit every two months, but I know my family very well and I know they will make every effort to come and visit us every weekend if possible.  My husband is a very private person, he likes to spend time with me and our kids and these constant visits will not be good for the well being of our family life.  How can I relate this to my parents and sister in a nice way?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: Honesty is the best policy. I would suggest that you sit down with your mother and have a heart to heart with her. Explain to her just what you explained to me. Your privacy is a right. No one including family have a right to cross privacy boundaries. You will need to establish boundaries as non-negotiable facts and stand by them. Ask your mother to explain this arrangement to both her husband and your sister. This sign of respect for yourself will soon be reflected in their behavior. I hope this helps.

 Jay

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Kids Taking Over the Vacation Home

How do I stop my children and step-children from overrunning my vacation home? 

Dear Jay,
My husband and I have been married 18 years. He has 3 adult children, and I have two from previous marriages. We bought a vacation home 5 years ago, and my stepchildren have used it as a party house drinking beer until the wee hours and leaving beer cans all over the lawn and fire pit.

I have one stepson who has brought 3 strange women, AND their children to the cottage on different family vacations. This past weekend I had 2 strange men at the fire pit that my step daughter invited. 

Needless to say, my dream of a vacation home has fizzled away, and I sometimes dread vacation time. I have at LEAST 4 kids there every vacation, if I have invited them or not. And guess who has to wash all the towels, sheets, blankets, etc..?  Me.
  
Any advice??

Jay's ANSWER...
A: This home belongs to you and your husband. The time has come for some house rules to be established by you and your husband - in full agreement. The rules are shared with the rest of the family. You are very generous to share your vacation home with your family. Somewhere along the line none of your collection of children was taught gratitude - how did that happen? You are solely responsible for the situation in which you find yourselves. Start teaching gratitude by setting a good example. You and your husband will be showing more gratitude for your vacation home if you give it the respect it deserves. Others will follow your lead. You can make the change. I hope this helps.

 Jay

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Husband Never Offers Introductions

Am I wrong to expect that my husband will introduce me to people that I don't know when he is speaking with them and I am standing right beside him? 

Dear Jay,
Is it wrong for me to ask my husband to introduce me to people he knows? On the way to my husband’s son’s graduation I asked my husband if he would introduce me to his son’s side of the family because my husband never introduces me to anyone he knows even while I am standing right there with him. I have mentioned this to him several times and he says he never thinks of it. I take it as him being rude and disrespectful to me since I am standing right there and he never seems to even include me in the conversations by not introducing me. He got very upset with me when I asked him to introduce me to his son’s family and accused me of ruining his day at his son’s graduation. He even yelled at me and accused me of sabotaging the day.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  I am completely on your side on this one. Your husband has never been taught what good manners include. This is not his fault. It’s just a fact that you need to work with. My approach would be to sit him down and have a serious chat with him. Explain how his actions make you feel. He should offer you an apology. If not, go on to say that you will no longer accompany him to these functions if he is going to be so embarrassingly inconsiderate. I hope this helps.

 Jay

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Husband = Cheater and Liar

Do I go to my husband's family functions even though I realized that he has been telling them lies about me? 

Dear Jay,
Should I attend my husband’s family functions after finding out that my husband asked them to LIE to ME?  He had a cell phone and told his family not to tell me about it because I BUG HIM.  This is not TRUE in any sense.  We both canceled our cell phones to save money, but he reinstated his and I did not know this for four years.  He did not want me to know about the phone because he was having an affair.  

I am still with him out of economic reasons. I found out about the phone because he slipped up. I was able to see his cell phone records and saw that everyone knew he had a cell phone but me. I realized that his sisters called him on his cell phone and noted that numerous times when we were together, things were mentioned about us not having cell phones. I am so hurt, I do not want to  have to see his family ever again...I mean, they believed that crap from him that I BUG HIM. They do not know about his infidelity.  Sadly, he claims I'm the "bad guy" whilst he is the one who cheated on me and our children.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  This is a very sad state of affairs, no pun intended. Your husband is a schmuck. I would phone whomever in his family you are closest to and lay all the cards on the table. Then, get yourself a job and get a new life. He should be ashamed of himself. The courts will not leave you high and dry. I hope this helps.

 Jay

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Boyfriends Not Invited

Should we just invite my nieces' boyfriends to my daughter's party just to keep my sister happy? 

Dear Jay,
My daughter is having a very small 18th birthday party.  She is only inviting around 10 friends and her immediate family as she wants it to only be those she is closest to at her party.  My sister (her aunt)  is now up in arms and angry that her children were invited but their boyfriends are not.  she considers the boyfriends to be part of her family (her daughters are 19), but we don't really consider them as part of ours.  Do we have to invite the boys and keep my sister happy or can we stick to what my daughter originally wanted for her party?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  The party you are hosting is not your sister’s party. She is out of line in this case. The guest list is in the hands of the host - period. If your daughter has made her selections, that is how it will be. If your sister wants to throw a party, she gets the same consideration. Remember The Golden Rule. Stick to your guns and know that you do not owe your sister an explanation and you certainly do not need to invite her daughters’ boyfriends. I hope this helps.

 Jay

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Left out of sister's life

Should I attend my nephew's graduation party even though my sister seems to want nothing to do with me? 

Dear Jay,
I have a sister who lives close to me and I never hear from her. I have health issues and it would be nice to get a phone call to see how I am or how my husband and son are doing. I have been the one who has called the last couple of times to see how she and the family are doing and always telling her at the end of the conversation to stop by or keep me posted on something that we have spoken about going on in her life, but I never receive a response. The same goes for the holidays; we are NEVER invited to her home (when she gets together with my older sister it really really makes me sad). 

I just received an invite via Facebook for my nephew’s graduation party, and I honestly do not even know him. Since my dad passed away 10 years ago, we haven't seen each other at family functions at his home. 

My question is: do I attend this graduation party even though my last phone call to her was a year ago at Easter? I feel I mean nothing to them or her so why bother? I know I have been invited because she wouldn't leave me out, but my heart feels it is just for the gift and my husband says we are just party fillers. My heart says just send a card and gift and decline and send my nephew good wishes. I just don't feel like attending this function when I truly have been shown I don't matter!

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  I completely agree with you. Family dynamics are often challenging and sometimes seem to make no sense whatsoever. I would send an email regret - no explanation required. I think your idea of sending a card and a gift is very generous; frankly a card would suffice. I hope this helps.

 Jay

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Sister-in-law issues

How do I deal with my weird sister-in-law now that she is getting married and having a baby? 

Dear Jay,
My boyfriend (now husband) and I moved to North Carolina before we were married and lived with his parents and his sister, who is 5 years younger. She was never very respectful to me, although never over the top, just apathetic and dismissive. We eventually moved out, to an apartment nearby and she would never contact her brother. When my boyfriend and I decided to get married she missed several appointments for bridesmaids fittings, and never RSVPd for the engagement party or bridal shower, only to show up last minute. At the wedding, she did not congratulate me, only skulked nearby. 

She is a weird person, in fact, we never really knew if she was so apathetic and awkward because she was unsure of her sexuality or something else, but we have tried to be nice to her. My husband gave her some work to do freelance, as a favor, and she never completed it until the last minute, getting my husband in hot water with his boss. She has been in college for 7 years and has not graduated. Also, when I gave birth she said she would come to the hospital, but never did.  She has still not met her niece and she is about to turn two this week. She lives 20 minutes away from us, but she has never reached out to my husband during this time, until recently, when his parents were in town. She asked to meet up with him, and met him with her fiancee (shocker) and told him she was pregnant. I know I am expected to go to the wedding and be civil to her, but I do not really feel comfortable, as she does not reciprocate. She never seemed interested in her niece, so I really lost interest in her. 

My husband's parents give her a "pass" on everything, so she does not feel like she has to be responsible. I do not want her seeing my child, as I am afraid she will let her down as well, saying she will visit but never arrive. My stance seems to be causing a rift in the family but what she does seems intentional and hard to forgive. I just don't know what to do!


Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Your best move is to be forgiving and to allow her to live her life as she sees fit. She may be quite different than you, but she has the same rights. As to her hurting your daughter’s feelings, your daughter is 2. She will not have her feelings hurt. It’s your feelings you’re concerned about. By allowing her some space, your feelings will settle. Just because she is family does not mean you need to have contact. Be grateful that you aren’t facing the same challenges and be helpful instead of hurtful. I hope this helps.

 Jay

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Niece's Graduation

Is it okay if I don't attend my niece's graduation even if it would mean a lot to her? 

Dear Jay,
Is it rude to not attend the high school graduation ceremony for my my niece, whose mother (my sister) recently passed away?  They live 375 miles away and the graduation is on a week night. I understand it is a very emotional time for my niece and I want to be supportive, but is a difficult trip to make at this time.


Jay's ANSWER...
A:  A heartfelt handwritten note will mean a great deal to your niece. Attendance is an option, but certainly not an obligation. There will no doubt be plenty of friends there to support her for this great occasion. I hope this helps.

 Jay

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Visit protocol

Do I need to visit my sister when I'm in town? 

Dear Jay,
Is it rude to spend a few nights in a town, staying in a hotel, even though my sister lives in that town and not informing her we are in town?


Jay's ANSWER...
A: Absolutely fine. It is not necessary for family to know your every move. I hope this helps.

 Jay

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Graduation Celebration Bill

Is it in poor taste to not pay for everyone coming to the dinner to celebrate my sons' graduations? 

Dear Jay,
My sons are graduating high school next month and we are hosting a party the day after.

My question is that right after the graduation ceremony we would like our family to go eat together at a restaurant, and I need to know if its in poor taste to not pay for everyone.

Jay's ANSWER...
A: It’s not in poor taste unless you forget to mention that this will be a dutch treat meal, and give everyone the choice to accept or regret. If you want to host the party yourselves, you’d obviously have to pay the whole bill. I hope this helps.

 Jay

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Cook Out Hook Up

Is it okay for me to pursue a relationship with my daughter's boyfriend's grand uncle? 

Dear Jay,
I went to a cook out of my daughter's boyfriend’s family. I was approached by his Grand Uncle. We hit it off, but my daughter says if you marry him, that would be weird because he’s already family. Is it wrong???

Jay's ANSWER...
A: There is nothing wrong at all. Any relationship would only be by marriage, not by blood. Follow your heart. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Wedding and Shower Date Disaster

Do I have a right to be angry that my nephew's bridal shower is on the same day as my son's wedding even if they knew the wedding date well in advance? 

Dear Jay,
My son is the first one to be engaged and set a wedding date of my siblings.  My nephew became engaged shortly there after. He contacted my mom to confirm the wedding date so the weddings were not on the same date; however, the maid of honor is hosting a bridal shower on my son's wedding day.  Invitations were sent out 4 weeks before her invitations were mailed.  Now my sister and her family will be attending the bridal shower and not my son's wedding.  I was disappointed that my nephew or his future bride allowed the maid of honor to schedule the shower on this date. The maid of honor sent an invitation to the grandmother but not to me, knowing my son's wedding was on this day. I sent my nephew a message letting him know I was disappointed that the shower was on my son's wedding day. Is that inappropriate of me?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: Not at all! I would be fuming. The shower should be rescheduled. If not, trust me - the guests will know what the right thing to do is. There is nothing to do at this point except to be gracious if they come to their senses and change the date for the shower. Have compassion for them and for yourself. We all do stupid things. I hope this helps.
 Jay

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Wedding trip hijacking mother-in-law

Are we under any obligation to visit with or stay with our family while in my husband's hometown for a wedding? 

Dear Jay,
My husband is the best man in a wedding in his hometown this summer.  We have 5 children and live on the other side of the country so this is actually our first visit out east.  We have arranged to stay in a condo for all but a few days despite his mom’s insistence to stay with her.  I know her feelings are hurt, but my husband simply can't stand the thought of even a couple days at her house.  Now she is trying to "force" interaction between my husband and his brother (who also lives in the area)). The brothers don't really get along, but she's acting as though my husband needs to reach out. My question is whose responsibility is it to initiate a get together?  Is it rude for neither brother to try?  Is it ok not to contact them when we are there or are WE being rude? Thank you.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  No one is under any obligation to contact anyone. Your mother-in-law has no business involving herself in this affair. You are grown ups for goodness sake. This behavior has been going for years, no doubt. You are not being rude. From your brother-in-law’s perspective, he may even view your keeping to yourselves as considerate! I hope this helps.
 Jay

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Dealing With People Who Invite Themselves

How can I tell my sister that I don't want her to come to my Mother's Day outing? 

Dear Jay,
My sister asked me what I was doing for Mother's Day this year and I told her my daughter was taking me to a local restaurant.  She knew the restaurant well and said, "They have good food so maybe we will go with you."  I don't mind, but by the time she gets her whole family and their mates and grandchildren the group is so large that we have waited for hours in the past to seat the whole family. This is unacceptable to me considering our past experiences. What do you do when people invite themselves? The event is ruined for me because the group is so large you can't sit and talk to everyone. There are only four people in my immediate family. I don't want to hurt my sister’s feelings, but it's just not setting well with me.

Jay's ANSWER...
A: I am so sorry I missed this timely question, but here is my answer anyway. You knew the moment your sister suggested she join you that you did not want that. You can’t say “Now I don’t mind” in one breath, and “event is ruined for me” and “not setting well” in another. There is nothing wrong with wanting to enjoy Mother’s Day with your core family. Suggest another time in the near future when a larger family get together might work better. If in fact you really don’t get to spend much time together - just the 4 of you - then you have a very strong case when it comes to Common Sense. Have confidence that your sister knows right from wrong and will fully understand. I hope this helps.



 Jay

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Funeral or Graduation?

How do I decide whether to attend my wife's grandfather's funeral or to go to my nephew's graduation? 

Dear Jay,
My second wife’s grandfather just passed and the funeral is the same day as my nephew’s high school graduation. I’m the one who would make sure all his cousins and my four children attend. What do I do? My wife wants me to go with her.

Jay's ANSWER...
A: You should go to the funeral with your wife. You will need either take your children to the funeral or find someone else to take them to the graduation. I hope this helps.



 Jay

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Wife Won't Budge on Having House Guests

Is it wrong for relatives to want to stay with us even if they aren't predominately coming to visit with us? 

Dear Jay,
My wife doesn't want to allow family or friends to stay the night at our home because she feels our home is being treated like a hotel even though we haven't had anyone stay overnight at our house for years, and very seldom before that. 

Recently, my niece asked if she and her friend could spend the night.  My niece and her friend (female) are planning a trip to Santa Cruz (about an hour away from us), and she called asking if they can spend one night at our house. This is the first time she has ever asked to stay at our house.  My wife does not want them to stay because she feels they are treating our home like a hotel since their primary reason for staying with us is not to visit with us but to go to the beach. Also, if we say yes this time she'll do it all the time.

Two years ago I had an aunt, two of my only first cousins on my mom’s side, and one cousin’s husband come into town from Europe. We aren’t close relatives, but I wanted to invite them to stay at our house as we have plenty of room/couches. My wife got upset and threatened to leave during their stay again claiming they weren’t here to visit us but just using us as a hotel.  I ended up getting them a hotel room for the 2 nights, but I felt so bad.

Is it impolite or out of the ordinary for family/friends to ask if they can spend the night when they are in the area for other functions?  Or primarily to visit other family members that don't have room in their home? What about when a trip is not just solely to visit the host?

Another issue my wife has is not enough time is being given to ask it they can stay.  In the case of my niece, she asked 10 days in advance, and my aunt asked about 2 weeks before their proposed visit. What is the appropriate amount of notice that should be given?

Also, in the case of my Aunt the initial request actually came through my Mom not directly from my Aunt.  Is this so inappropriate or out of the ordinary?

Obviously the real issue is my wife doesn't want overnight guests period though she doesn't admit that this is the issue. Isn't that what any house guest is ultimately doing - getting a free place to stay?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: A bit of Common Sense and a look at The Golden Rule may help here. I understand your position and completely agree with you. Family visits, no matter how long or short, are good. Your wife should be grateful that she is in a position be able to offer such hospitality. There is nothing unusual or impolite with anything anyone has done so far. Try to convince your wife that taking the high road will pay dividends in the long run. Perhaps she is familiar with the idea of paying it forward. If she won’t budge, encourage her to go on a field trip, as she threatened to do. I hope this helps.



 Jay

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Graduation Meal Payment

Who pays for the meal after the graduation? 

Dear Jay,
I am going to my grandson's high school graduation. Who should pay for a dinner the next day?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: Whoever is throwing the party generally pays for it. If your son or daughter is the host, and you wish to contribute, mention it to him or her privately. If you are not planning to contribute, you need do nothing, unless of course this is your dinner party. Then you get to pay. I hope this helps.

 Jay

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My Husband's Yucky Friends

How do I tell my husband I don't want his unlikeable friends in our home? 

Dear Jay,
My husband had some friends over at our home that I don't approve of. They came while I was at work, and just my husband and my daughter were at home. I don't like these people, so I don't know how to deal with them without arguing with my husband.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Your husband has a right to invite his friends over to your house when he wishes. If you think there is a safety issue for your daughter, you need to discuss this with your husband, as uncomfortable as this may be. Your daughter’s safety cannot be compromised. Perhaps she has a friend or relative she could go stay with while you’re at work. Call Family Services if you need to. However, if there is no safety issue, I think you have a weak case. I hope this helps.

 Jay

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Sister-in-law overstepping her sibling bonds

What should I do about my sister-in-law's invasion of my bedroom and house? 

Dear Jay,
I am in my second year of marriage. My husband is the last born and the only boy. In our first year of marriage his eldest sister (42 years old - unmarried) was at our house every day of the weekend. She would arrive at 7am in the morning while we were sleeping and leave after midnight (every weekend), and my husband would say nothing.

She moved to another country for work, but came back to work for a project for a week. Her company paid for her hotel during this time, but she opted to stay with us the whole time. In this 1 week she let me do all the cooking and chores and never helped.

The most confusing part is that while we had set up the spare bedroom for her, she one night chose to sleep in our bed with us (me and my husband). I found this very uncomfortable as it didn't seem right. My husband still did not see anything wrong with it. Since he did not say anything I chose to not say anything either, but I am still not happy about it.

On other occasions my husband and I would be in bed watching a movie on a laptop and she would jump into bed and join us, or while we are in bed she’d come into our room and use our dressing mirror and other stuff. Is this normal? Shouldn't she respect our matrimonial bed/home?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  This is unusual, but not unheard of. If it has reached its tolerance for you, speak with your husband. His sister has some serious issues. He will need to deliver the news to her that your privacy needs to be respected. It’s best that way. I hope this helps.

 Jay

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Meddling Mother-In-Law Wants Explanations

How do I respond to my daughter-in-law excluding my daughter from my granddaughter's birthday party? 

Dear Jay,
My daughter and daughter-in-law don't exactly get along.  I've tried to tell them that when we have family functions we can all be civil and adult.  My daughter-in-law is having a 3rd birthday party for my grand baby and chose to leave my daughter and her husband and child out.  My daughter really loves the little niece, but my daughter-in-law doesn't want them there.  They did invite us and many other family and friends. 

How do I handle this?  Do my husband and I still go, but ask them why she wasn't invited?  Or do we go and not mention this at all?  It hurts me too because I feel that is very rude and selfish. When they are all together there has never been an outburst or altercation, so I can't see why this would be any different?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  As with any party, celebration, or event of any kind, the host has full control of the guest list. What is rude is asking for an explanation as to why someone was not invited, so my advice is to go with your second option. Furthermore the relationship your daughter has with her sister-in-law is not your responsibility, is it? As difficult as it may be, meddle less, enjoy them on their own terms more. I hope this helps.
Jay

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Mother's Day Invite Dilemma

Am I obligated to go to an annual Mother's Day event even if my husband won't be there? 

Dear Jay,
Every year on Mother's Day we go out to breakfast with my husband's mother and the rest of his family.  This year, however, my husband will be out of town over Mother's Day.  Am I still obligated to go to breakfast with his family?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: No, you are never obligated to accept any invitation. If you don’t want to go out, give your regrets. It’s perfectly fine. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Brother bothered by lack of uncle participation

How do I tell my brother that I am not really interested in coming to his kid's elementary school activities? 

Dear Jay,
I invited my brother and his young son to our daughter’s college graduation.  In turn, he invited us to his son’s elementary school chorus concert. He's complained in the past that we don't attend his son’s activities or do things with his son which is not true. I really don't want to go to an elementary chorus concert. Our kids had a lot of these type events and we never invited family, thinking it was a parent event not an extended family event. It's a 30 minute ride one way. If he doesn't attend our daughter’s graduation I won't be offended, but I'm afraid if we don't attend his son’s concert he will be.

Jay's ANSWER...
A: You are under no obligation to attend this concert. You and your brother should be able to have a brief discussion about this. It’s a very small matter. If he is going to get worked up about it, that’s really his problem to deal with. You can apologize for not going, but I think honesty is the best policy. You did nothing to apologize for, really. Tell it to him just like you told me. Your life experience is totally valid. Graduations and school choral events are quite different! I hope this helps.

Jay

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Graduation dinner dilemma

Who should pay for my son's family when we take him out for his graduation dinner? 

Dear Jay,
My husband and I would like to take my son and his family out to lunch after his graduation, my husband only feels we should pay for my son, but I think we should pay for our daughter-in-law and grandkids, too. Who's right?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: You are right. If your husband wants to only pay for your son, don’t invite his family. Your husband might do well to be grateful that he has the opportunity to share in the celebration of this important milestone. I hope this helps.
 

Jay

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Ex-boyfriend is now the brother-in-law

Is it okay if I contact my ex-boyfriend (who is now my brother-in-law) about being my business partner? 

Dear Jay,
Is it okay to contact my ex-boyfriend who has been my brother-in-law for 6 years? I just don’t know if it is ok to communicate with him and just treat each other as siblings in law because of our past.

I don't want to refuse my in-law's invitation anymore for Christmas, Fiesta or New Year’s just to keep away from my ex-boyfriend. I am very close with my husband’s parents, aunties, uncles and his siblings. We enjoy each other's company, and they treated me like their own sister, daughter and niece.

In 2013, my ex-boyfriend and I became friends and had regular communication through Facebook since he is working in Japan as an OFW. We decided to become business partners, with my husband's consent of course. Just a few weeks ago, he sent me a nice message on my birthday. I never expected it, and  I was so happy and thanked him, but he never texted me again. My brother-in-law (ex-boyfriend) is getting married this year and wants my youngest daughter to be part of the entourage.

I have so many plans for our parents and his younger brothers and sister. I want him to be my business partner because he has the potential and the skills and the bigger share of our profits will be for my in-laws. I cannot do it on my own because my husband and I also have another business for our kids’ future. What do you think I should do? 

Jay's ANSWER...

A: There is no reason for you not to be friends with an ex-boyfriend. You can be business partners, too. Work at resolving misunderstandings as soon as they occur. My advice is to do what’s best for you and your family. If having a business relationship with your ex is what’s best, do it. I hope this helps.
 

Jay

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Thank you for car loaning

How do we express our thanks to my mother-in-law for allowing our son to use her spare car? 

Dear Jay,
Should I be expected to thank, in person or through the use of a thank you note, my ex-mother-in-law for allowing my son, her grandson, to borrow her car (which is a spare car), until his mother, her daughter, and I are able to buy one for him ourselves?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: Spare or not, what a kind and generous offer. Of course you should thank her! Why wouldn’t you? And so should your son! Hand written thank you notes do not go out of style when families break apart. Teach your children the right thing to do. Gratitude can not be overstated. By the way, you should pay for the insurance and maintenance on the car. I hope this helps.
 

Jay

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Easter Hostess Skills

What do I do about my sister-in-law's ineptitude about hosting Easter at her house? 

Dear Jay,
My brother and his wife usually host Easter for our family and his wife's family. Three years ago on Easter his father in law passed away suddenly. Since then, Easter is becoming a point of contention between myself and my sister-in-law. 

This Easter (three years later), my sister-in-law planned and scheduled the egg hunt according to her own families' availability. She texted me the time of the egg hunt the day before; 10:30 a.m., which did not work for us because my husband had to work in the morning. Then after questioning her about why it was so early, I learned that she had planned this around her own family but did not ask anyone in my family what worked for them. 

In addition to that, she doesn't exactly host all of Easter; she has the egg hunt at her house and the rest of us (mostly my side of the family) bring the food, ham included, because no one in her family will or can cook (this is another point of contention; in my family if you host it, you do the major cooking). This year, she asked my grandmother to make the main meal; my grandmother is only partially retired and had to work on Easter (and on my side of the family has been relieved of hosting holiday dinners). I feel like if her family wants to celebrate Easter among themselves then they should be honest about it with my family. The way things happened this year made myself and others feel like second class guests who were only invited to provide the food for THEIR Easter. 

I did text her back and expressed my feelings as delicately as I could, but they were not met well. In fact, my sister-in-law's mother got on Facebook and posted a vague, passive-aggressive status that was directed towards me (which I ignored), and she has made other posts on my Facebook since then. I don't know if I am right, just how the whole situation made me feel and I'd really appreciate another view point.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: Your sister-in-law invited you to an Easter egg hunt, which was to be followed by a meal. Your only obligation is to either accept the invitation or regret it. You do not need to concern yourself with how the party was planned or how the food is being organized. It’s none of your business because it isn’t your party. Perhaps next year, when you host the party, you will do things differently, which is your prerogative. Obviously your style of communication wasn’t as delicate as you had planned. You owe them an apology for butting in where you didn’t belong. Apologies go hand in hand with forgiveness. You would do well to look at the principle of Responsibility. Take responsibility for what is yours; leave the rest to the others. I hope this helps.
 

Jay

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Boyfriend on Family Trip . . . Uh oh

What's the etiquette for rooming with my boyfriend on a family trip? 

Dear Jay,
My boyfriend is coming on a trip with my family. Is it ok to ask my family that my boyfriend stay with us (sharing a room with me and my brother) or should we pay for our own room? We're in our mid to late twenties and have been dating for 3 years. My parents don't 100% approve of my boyfriend, but I am hoping for a fun trip where we can all get along. Suggestions?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: There are a a lot of obvious questions that come to mind such as why are you going on this trip if there’s such tension? I have to assume you’ve already asked and satisfactorily answered this and similar ones. That being the case, from a strict etiquette point of view, if your parents are hosting, i.e., paying for this trip, then you and your brother share a room, and your b/f has his own room. Or, your b/f and your brother share a room and you have the single. If you had been living together for three years, the answer would be different. I hope this helps.
 

Jay

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Twin Excluded From Birthday Party

How do I handle my brother making singular family plans for our joint / twin 70th birthday celebration? 

Dear Jay,
I am a twin, and my brother and I will be 70 soon. My mother who is 95 just told me my brother has organized a party, so she said she would provide a cake for us. He then said the party was only for him and his family and my mum. My mom doesn’t know what to do because she wants to see both of us on our birthday.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: I suggest that you phone your brother. He may be confused. If this is the case, be gentle and compassionate, and take note. If he’s not confused, and there’s no criminal reason for you to be excluded, he needs a reminder to mind his manners. Your mother is 95. He should be as grateful as you and your mother are to have such longevity. I hope this helps.
 

Jay

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Deep Cleaning Needed

When we stay with my parents, is it rude to provide a cleaning service while we are there if the house is a wreck? 

Dear Jay,
I live very far away with my husband and 2 small children so we don't get to visit grandparents more than once every 2 years or so. When we visit, we generally try to stay at least 2 weeks but this time, I arranged for a 5-week visit after confirming with my dad and step-mom that the longer visit would be ok.  They both work full time and can't take off much time during our visit, but we will maximize time together during evenings and weekends.

My conundrum is because they are so busy with work, basic housecleaning is neglected. The toilets have rings in the basins and there is dog hair everywhere. They have two large dogs who are inside dogs and allowed to be on furniture. While my kids have not been diagnosed with any specific allergies, they have both developed runny noses within the first few days of being here and I can't help but think it is associated with all the pet dander.  I'd really like to pay for a weekly cleaning service while we are staying here, but am pretty sure they will be offended when/if I bring it up. I'm not sure how to proceed. I realize I could just roll up my sleeves and do some cleaning myself, but I'd rather outsource it and spend the time playing with my kids instead. Help please? Is it totally rude to offer to clean or pay for cleaning for the home you are visiting?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: I understand your dilemma. One principle I promote to all house guests is to leave the place in better state (if possible) than when you arrived. So doing a little bit here and there yourself would certainly show gratitude. If you sense that she can’t afford a cleaning service, you might suggest giving her five  cleanings in thanks for the five weeks you’ve been houseguests. Otherwise this may well turn into a Golden Opportunity to teach the kids how much fun housekeeping can be! I hope this helps.
 

Jay

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Footing the Graduation Celebration Bill

Are we responsible for paying the bill for our daughter's graduation dinner? 

Dear Jay,
My daughter is having an immediate family dinner celebration for her college graduation.  Along with her parents and sisters, we will have her aunt, two cousins and one of the cousins husbands in attendance.  My daughter wants to have the dinner celebration at nice sit down restaurant where we live.  Should my husband and I pay for everyone's dinner in attendance or should they be responsible to cover their own?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: If you and your husband are hosting this dinner, you will be responsible for the bill. If you want this to be Dutch Treat in some fashion, you must clear this with the others before moving forward. In such case, you would not be the host, as it would be a jointly sponsored party. Whichever choice you make, have a wonderful celebration for a very special occasion! I hope this helps.
 

Jay

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Mother of the Bride Wants to Be Involved More

How do I get my daughter to understand that I should have a bigger role in her wedding planning? 

Dear Jay,
My daughter was recently engaged. Her father and I have been divorced for over 15 years and we are both remarried. She has been living on her own for several years. I assumed that the mother of the bride had a huge role in the wedding and thought that she understood that as well. She is wanting to include the step mother in a great deal of the planning. She is even considering having the ceremony at one of the step mother's family’s homes, after we had discussed having the ceremony at our home. She feels she has to do what her father wants or he won't pay for the wedding. These actions by her hurt my feelings and I've told her this. She gets upset and voices to me that she wants me to put my feelings aside for "just one day", but she doesn't voice those same feelings to her dad or step mom. I just feel that her wedding is a bonding experience between the two of us and some of the planning should be just between us and not include the step mom. How can I get her to understand this?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: I do not think it advisable to “get her to understand this”, nor do I think she would have the slightest interest. She has her idea of what her dream wedding process is, and you have yours. She’s the bride, so she gets to make that decision by herself. In my opinion, she is well within her rights, and her common sense, to carry on as she sees fit. I understand where your pain is coming from, but as she requested, “just one day”. Your first mistake appears on line one above - “I assumed that the mother of the bride had a huge role…….” That was an invalid assumption, and things continue down hill. My best advice is for you to step back and allow your daughter to make her own choices about her most important day. I hope this helps.
 

Jay

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Too Much for the Hostess

How do I say "no more" without sounding horrible when it comes to hosting a shower and hosting family at my home? 

Dear Jay,
I am hosting a shower for my nephew’s bride to be. Relatives are coming in from out of town, including the parents of my nephew (they are my deceased husband’s sibling). They are staying with us, as are my nephew and his bride to be. They called today to ask if the bride’s parents could also stay here that weekend. I was a bit taken aback. I have never met them and will be very busy hosting the shower. I was unsure how to respond. I did mention there's a hotel in town and they may feel more comfortable staying there. I'm a bit perturbed by being put on the spot like this, as I feel I'm already extending my house to several people AND hosting a bridal shower. Am I being unreasonable?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: No, you are not being unreasonable. Be firm but understanding of their dilemma - albeit self-induced. You do not need to give one word of an explanation if you don’t want to. When the house is full, the house is full. And that’s your call; and that’s that! I hope this helps.
Jay

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Niece's Party Dilemma

Should I still attend my niece's birthday party even if my son will be with his dad that day? 

Dear Jay,
My 7 year old son will not be at my 5 years old niece's birthday party. Should I still go without him when my brother knows my son can't be there because he will be with his dad (I am divorced)? For 4 years, I have not had my so with me on this particular day of the week. The entire family knows this well.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: You should still go. Perhaps you plan ahead and make some sort of special arrangement for this day next year. Seems like a rather small request to me. Take a nice gift and enjoy the party! I hope this helps.

Jay

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Private Room Necessity

Is it selfish of me to ask for the private room if we are paying for the trip? 

Dear Jay,
My husband booked a hotel for a week long vacation. We paid for the room and were going to go alone, but we thought my mother-in-law might have fun too and invited her. My father-in-law who generally prefers not to travel, then decided he wanted to come too. The hotel is a suite with one private bedroom and a living room with a sofa bed. I am currently experiencing some medical issues and privacy is something I really prefer to have. It makes it much more possible for me to go on the trip and allows me to go to bed earlier when I get tired while everyone else can stay up and talk. Without the room, I'd have to seriously reconsider my going, which would be very disappointing since I really want to go and I had to miss out on the last trip like this.

In the past, when we've been in these situations, we've given them the private room just because they are older than us. Is it rude if we take the private room? What determines room assignments, age or who paid? I don't think they'd be upset, but I also don't want them to think I'm being selfish.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: You are far from being selfish! To begin with, room assignments, with no extenuating circumstances, goes by who pays and then by order of precedence (oldest, most respected, etc.). In your case however, your health is an extenuating circumstance. That trumps the rest; plus you’re the one who’s paying. You are entitled to the room. Remember to follow The Golden Rule. It goes both ways :). I hope this helps.

Jay

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Booted Over Supposed Argument

How do we react to getting kicked out of my son's house? 

Dear Jay,
We stayed at our son’s place. His wife thought my husband and I were arguing on the back verandah. She told us to leave because she didn't want her house contaminated in case she had children. How do we treat this situation now after what happened?

Thank you and awaiting your reply in anticipation.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: This sounds bizarre, almost cultish. I suggest you have a chat with your son. He will want to get to the bottom of this, one would hope. Explain what happened and how it made you feel. Don’t be accusatory or defensive. You are due an apology, and if you can find it in your hearts to forgive and have compassion for this woman, do so. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Violent Attack Over Beer

What should I do to try and keep the peace after a violent fight in my family? 

Dear Jay,
About a year ago my 5 month old, husband, and I went to my sister's house for my brother-in-law's birthday party. My husband brought a couple beers with him and as soon as we arrived my husband asked my brother-in-law if it was alright that he drink in his home. My brother-in-law said, “Yes, of course!"

About 30-45 minutes go by and my brother-in-law's dad decided to get in my husband's face about him drinking, in front of just my dad and a family friend, and proceeded to yell and scream and call him names. My husband came inside and told me to put our daughter in her car seat so we could leave. My husband went outside to get the car ready to go and while I was putting my daughter in her car seat my brother-in-law's father decided to start yelling at me, too. Names were called on both sides, and my husband came back inside and a fight almost broke out but was stopped by my dad and oldest nephew. My brother-in-law also had an older brother that was there. He decided to get a huge pipe from the bed of his truck and threaten my husband with it. I got my husband and daughter in the car and drove away. Next thing I know, the brother tried running us off the road with his truck, that he had his pregnant wife and 2 other children in with him. 

I was so shaken I just parked the car and let them drive away. Now it has been over a year and my niece and nephews birthday parties are coming up. My sister has invited all of us to the same party for each child. What would be the best way to handle the situation without hurting the children's or my sister's feeling and without having to put my child and husband in that situation again?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: This is not an issue about hurting anyone’s feelings. This is a safety issue. Obviously there is a good reason why there is no drinking at your in-laws, and the first mistake was crossing that boundary. Even though the host said it was okay to drink, the question should never have been asked. When one goes to a non-drinking household, that rule must be respected. The father-in-law is no treat either. He had no business spouting off, but there are people like that in the world. My advice is to avoid them and detach from them. In the future, your husband should refrain from drinking at your sister’s house. Her husband needs to speak with his family and explain that in his house, he rules, without needing any help from either his father or brother - both of whom are thugs. Children should never be exposed to such displays of fighting and swearing. It is your job as mother to protect your daughter. Removing her from the situation was the right thing to do. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Unexpected Visits a No No

How can I get my mom to understand that I don't want her to drop by unexpectedly? 

Dear Jay,
We smoke - my mother does not, so out of consideration I ask my mother to call before she visits -- she does not! I am 58 years old and she is 78 years old -- I have requested this for numerous years!!  My sons ask her also to call before she visits-- she does not!! Then she doesn't understand why it upsets us! please help me!!

Jay's ANSWER...

A: Smoking has very little to do with this. I would imagine you don’t want people just popping in anyway. Make it a house rule, and suggest to your sons that they do the same. What this in fact does is show that you have respect for your privacy and for your house. Explain this concept to your mother. None of us are too old to learn to behave. Let her know she may well be turned away at the door if she doesn’t give you a heads up. Let’s hope this works. I hope this helps.

Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Unequal Vacation Payment

Is it wrong for my friend to think her 18 year old daughter should vacation for free? 

Dear Jay,
We are making plans to vacation in Florida next August 2016. There will be 5 people traveling together, and we plan on renting a house for our stay where we will each have our own rooms.


My question is, should my friend’s daughter, who will be turning 18 around that time, be able to stay for free? My friend seems to think that her daughter should stay for free at the house and that the rest of us, including herself, should make up the difference.

I don't think it's our responsibility to pay for her daughter’s stay and that either her daughter or herself should be responsible. I also do not want to be unfair about it either.

What would you suggest?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: The solution is to divide the whole bill by 5. One couple pays for 2 people, the other couple pays for 3. This would include food, rent, gas, etc. Everyone is an adult. The responsibility for the daughter is her parents’. I hope this helps.

Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Car Wars

How do I get my daughter to understand that although I want to help her out, that my car is mine, not hers? 

Dear Jay,
I have a 37 year old daughter and 3 grandchildren who live close by. my daughter, now divorced, no job, has child support coming in and her car has been out of service for 6 months. I started letting her borrow my car for normal errands. It seems to be getting out of control. She even had her own key made! She feels I should let her use it for personal use.

I don't mind her using my car when I am working, but evenings I like my car to be available for me. She wants to take my car the night and weekends, and she wants me to babysit. This leaves me with no car all night until the next day. Or lately, I have evening functions and she wants to use my car the same night. She wants me to find another way! She does put gas in it, but lately she has it more than I do. Am I wrong? My husband works all different shifts so his car is not always available. How do I put a stop to this? I feel like I am enabling her to rely too much in many areas she should be doing on her own.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: I think you have a very clear read on the situation. I would highly recommend that you seek family counseling - just you and your daughter. I think a counselor can explain in such a way that your daughter can feel as though she is part of the solution and not just a problem. In the meantime you need to lay out some ground rules. These are non-negotiable. The car needs to be a part of this. You and your husband make up the rules. Your daughter (and both of you) follow them. If you do not show your daughter that you have respect for your “castle” and your car, she might think she shouldn’t either. It is hard for a mother to detach, which is why I am suggesting professional assistance. I hope this helps.

Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

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Meet Stage of Life's Etiquette Coach

Meet Jay Remer - etiquette expert on StageofLife.comOur Etiquette Expert

Why Jay?  It's simple...Jay knows etiquette. 

For years Jay has planned and managed royal, corporate, political and social events and parties, some of them for up to 500 people.  As a graduate of the Protocol School of Washington, he offers workshops on business, social and dining etiquette, as well as international protocol for a variety of audiences.  From teenage students to corporate clients, Jay teaches everything from the basics of a handshake to the subtleties of developing a business relationship during a networking dinner.  His course on self-esteem in youth, in particular, has been encouraged by Dr. Piet Forni, founder of the Civility institute at Johns Hopkins University.  Originally from Delaware, Jay now lives in St. Andrews, New Brunswick, Canada  where he has written a weekly etiquette column in the National Post and is a current columnist in New Brunswick’s Telegraph Journal.  He is a Social Etiquette and Good Manners expert on allexperts.com and has answered over 1,000 questions from people around the world...and he's now ready to answer your questions here on Stage of Life. 

Just let us know your question, your stage of life, and we'll post your question and Jay's official etiquette response on this page.

Ask Jay a Question

You can read more about Jay on his website, EtiquetteGuy.com

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