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Brushing up on baby manners...

Baby Etiquette

Baby MannersMeet our resident baby 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 baby showers, birth announcements, and other special events around having a baby.

But wait...

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

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

Baby Etiquette Tips

Dad Doesn't Want a Baby in the House

How do I deal with my father not wanting me to bring an adopted baby home? 

Dear Jay,

I live with my father who is a control freak. He's been having issues paying bills, taxes, etc. and I have paid him money each week to help. Here's my dilemma: a friend of mine is dealing with an unwanted pregnancy and has offered the baby to me. I brought this up to my father out of respect and he said he didn't care what I chose to do. 

Well, now that I've signed guardianship papers and have paid money to the lawyer he says no baby is coming to his house. He went as far as lying to a priest to make himself look good. He said if this baby moves into his house it makes him responsible,  but it doesn't since I'm the primary caregiver.  This baby will be here in May whether he likes it or not. Do you have any suggestions as to how I can make this a smooth transition for all. It will only be a few months since I'm moving before the next school year starts in September.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  You will clearly need the matter cleared before the baby arrives. I suggest that you speak with the adoption agency or a social worker. One or the other should be involved for the safety of the child. Your lawyer knows this. Your father is not going to be a positive influence in this situations things stand. Consider moving earlier, even it means moving in with someone else, hopefully a maternal figure. You are doing a wonderful thing by adopting this child. Now get things started on the right foot. Your father is not your responsibility. This child is. Make sure everything you do keeps the child’s best interests ahead of everyone else’s - including yours. If this proves to be too much for you to handle, you may need to foster the child out temporarily, but this would not be the best choice. 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.

Pushy Mother-in-law Needs to Listen or Be Banished

How do I handle my overly pushy mother-in-law who forces her way into our lives and is making me dread my second child's birth?

Dear Jay,
My mother-in-law doesn't seem to respect what I say, for instance when my daughter was born I suggested that they wait until after we got back home and settled in a little bit to visit. They disregarded my request and came four days before my daughter was born and stayed a week after! Since then she wants to face time with us all the time and is very pushy about it. I think my husband feels like he is in the middle trying to please his mom, but also understands why I'm frustrated.

I'm due with our second child in July and I'm already dreading that time!! I know that they will come for the birth even if I ask them not to. I also just found out that my MIL is upset that I didn't let her in the birthing room at the hospital!  To me that is a very private time and we are not close so she should not be in there.

What should I do? I get frustrated because whatever I say doesn't matter, she still does whatever she wants, and I feel bad because my husband doesn't know what to do either!

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Your MIL is a tyrant, and most likely has been a bully all her life. She knows how to manipulate your husband, just as she has done his entire life. You must stand in your own space and lay down the law. You simply state how this birth will take place and who will or will not be around when. You have rights. If she insists on ignoring your boundaries and showing no respect at all for your family unit, she needs to be banished. This may be awkward and temporary, but she needs to be respectful of you and your family. She has no rights here - zero. 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.

Baby Shower for Military Wife

What do I call a book baby shower for my daughter who will be visiting us for the first time in 2 years with her 7 month old son?

Dear Jay,
My daughter is a military wife, she is coming home to visit after being gone for almost 2 years. She is bringing with her her 7 month old son. She was never given a baby shower nor did many people (especially family members) even send a card or gift. I am planning a get together at a nice little hall and will be providing snacks and drinks for an afternoon visit for all who come.  I am sending invitations and have asked them to bring a child's book and to write something in the cover, sign and date it for the baby. My daughter has started him a nice book library and I thought that would be something nice to add to it. My question is what do I call this event?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  How about Welcome Home or Welcome to (name of town) or Welcome to the Family or Family Celebration. What a lovely idea. Have a wonderful event! 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 Doesn't Want Husband's Best Friend to Stay

Am I being rude and selfish for not wanting my husband's best friend to stay at our home now that we are married and have a newborn? 

Dear Jay,
I’ve been married for almost 1 yr and half, and we live in our own house alone. My husband's best friend visits us and he chooses to stay in our house for a couple of days. I don't want to be rude, but I feel uncomfortable and I feel like it's improper to have a guest staying in our house since we’re already a married couple and we have a newborn baby in the house. 

I told my husband how I feel, and he made me feel like I was rude and selfish, because it's his best friend who just wanted to stay with us for a couple of days. My point to him is that I'm the wife and I do have feelings. I feel like if there's someone in the house I can't do all the things I normally do. I'm breastfeeding my baby also, so I'm so uncomfortable if there is another person in the house. How come my husband couldn't understand my feelings? 

I told him if it was reversed my friends would never think of staying in our house because they know it's so improper since I'm married already plus we have a newborn. 

Am I really being selfish and rude for not letting his friend sleep and stay in our house? I feel so depressed because of this.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  I side with you on this, to a point. You and your husband need to have a talk and agree on guests coming into your house, as well as a whole lot of things, no doubt. You must agree on house rules. Your husband’s best friend may be welcome in your husband’s mind, but it is your home, too. He should have asked you about this first, without question. It appears that you have each come from different backgrounds with different ways of doing things. This is fine, but you must both recognize that there will be challenges that will arise. Be kind to one another - always. Both of you will need to be flexible and respectful of one another. Both you and your husband are on the defensive, each needing to “be right”. You are both being inflexible and unwilling to listen to each other. This sort of communication is important for your relationship to weather what lies ahead of you in your future together. Relationships are not easy and require give and take and mutual respect. 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 Toxic Behavior

How do I handle my mother-in-law's toxic behavior and should I keep her from seeing her grandchild because of it? 

Dear Jay,
A few months ago my mother-in-law and I got into an argument that was long coming. This was after a year and a half of excessive stabs, passive aggressive behavior towards me, and practically destroying my marriage with her son. The day we argued, in a moment of anger, I asked her to leave my house. What she heard was "you are forbidden from seeing your granddaughter.” 

Neither my husband nor I ever said such words. For the past 3 months she's not once reached out to us asking to see her granddaughter; in fact, she's talked about in an untruthful way. She's mentioned to some family members that she's not allowed to see her granddaughter and that she's silently suffering. She has never made an attempt to reach out to us.

My husband and I have received very nasty emails from those family members she's talked to, telling us we are cruel and that I am evil. Now my instinct tells me to shelter my daughter from these people including my mother-in-law.

So here’s my question: Am I obligated to let my mother-in-law see her grand-baby after all of this mess? Or should I shelter my daughter? When going to my husband’s family events (they happen once in blue moon with my husband’s family) is it okay to not let my daughter interact with them? If so how can this be done with grace?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  It always amazes me how quickly we tend to take on the role of the victim. I have no idea what the cause of your initial disagreement is, but I will say that your home is your castle. Gossip by those people who were not present for her exiting your house is inappropriate and toxic. I suggest a couple of things. First of all, you need to have your husband speak to his mother and let her know that her actions are no longer welcome in your house. It is not a rare thing for mothers to have a strong resistance to accepting their son's wife into the family. And this follows on to how the grandchildren should be raised. It is very disrespectful of you and of her. This needs to stop. Your husband may have different leverage than you, if he is willing to challenge his mother. But you must not be victims to her entrenched ways.

No, you are not obligated to engage with her at any time with or without your daughter. However, if you allow this toxic behavior to continue, your daughter will bear the brunt of this and sadly will carry this behavior on into adulthood as acceptable. 

I also recommend that either you or your MIL speak directly with all the people who are espousing this inappropriate behavior. Be sure they understand the real facts. I know there will be awkward moments during this process, but you cannot bring up your daughter in a hostile family environment.

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.

Grandmother Wants to Help Without Being Questioned

How do I help with my grandchild without feeling like I am mistreated and corrected all the time? 

Dear Jay,
I have a 22 month old granddaughter. I visit my daughter and her husband every week. I stay overnight and then the following day I watch my granddaughter while my daughter works from home and her husband works out of the house. My daughter is four months pregnant and has a lot of stress in her life with working from home while taking care of her daughter and is also a writer. I enjoy watching my granddaughter while giving my daughter an uninterrupted work day. At times I feel uncomfortable when I'm being  corrected on what I say or questions I ask my daughter and her husband because of their reaction. When I told my daughter my feelings she got upset and said I don't have to come if I feel this way. I really like going and know I'm a big help to my daughter. I believe she just said this because she is so stressed. What should I do? I want to have good visits. How do I create a good relationship with them but not feel like I'm being mistreated and corrected?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  If your daughter is under so much stress that she is disrespectful to you, ask her how you can help. I am not privy to the sorts of questions you ask that are so annoying, but if you can figure that out, stop asking them. Maybe taking a week off every once in a while will help her to understand gratitude. It was her choice to have two children. Being snarky is not acceptable just because she has children and works. Have respect for yourself. If she barks, you are under no obligation to stick around. But if you allow this behavior to continue without doing something, it won’t change. Let her see how much fun it is without you around. Perhaps she’ll be less stressed and can actually manage things on her own, which is how it should be. 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.

Want to Decline Baby Shower Invite

Is it okay for me to say no to an invitation to my boyfriend's cousin's baby shower? 

Dear Jay,
Is is okay if I don't want to attend my boyfriend's cousin’s baby shower? All the ladies in his family are going to be there. My boyfriend asked me the same day of the baby shower if I wanted to go. No one mentioned to me before that there was a baby shower and that I was invited. He said that his aunt had bought specific tickets for a buffet for each one and she bought one for me, which makes it seem like I have to go because If I don't then that money of my ticket is wasted and it may look bad on my side not to go. But I don't know the ladies very well and I get nervous and don't know what do say, and I don't like to participate in games and stuff and I feel obliged to. I said no, but I feel bad because my boyfriend’s mom does not like me very much, and I don't want her to think that I don't try to get along with her family, but I am just not comfortable.

Jay's ANSWER...
A: I can appreciate how awkward this situation is and how unsettled this can make you feel. I recommend that your boyfriend have a chat with his mother and explain a couple of things. First of all, you never received a proper invitation in any form and feel like an intruder crashing a party to which you weren’t invited. Secondly, that you are very shy and don’t like such gatherings. If your relationship is going to last, this is a hurdle that is going to need to be cleared at some point. Your boyfriend is going to need to stand up for you in such situations. You do not need to apologize for your feelings. They are real; they are valid; and they need to be respected. 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

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.

Military Wife Feels Tired and Left Out

How do I deal with my husband allowing his cousins to come between us and basically use our home as their own? 

Dear Jay,
Hello. I'm married with a baby on the way. My husband and I are still pretty young, 21 and 23.

I'm not sure where to start, but I'm so tired. My husband has two cousins who are his best friends. We're both in the military,and one of his cousins is over anywhere from 4-6 days of the week. The other cousin comes here on weekends unless he has to work.

I tried telling my husband time and time again that I do not want people here all the time, especially because we won't have "us" or "me" time for much longer. We had a lengthy conversation about it, he sighed and said okay, but then the next 3 days his cousin came over.

We're also going home next week, and I told him that I do not want people in our home while we aren't home and we got in an argument about it. I told him everything would be unplugged and the air would be off, and all he had to say was, “they can just turn the air on and plug everything back in.” I do not appreciate this at all. When I try telling him how much it bothers me, he's very focused on his phone, or says, “oh my god woman!” and sighing with annoyance, and I feel like I'm completely dismissed. I don't know what to do. I feel so alone 95% of the time.

I've told him before I don't care if people come every once in awhile, but I don't want it to be as many times as it is. He went on vacation back in his hometown for a few days, and BEFORE he came back, his cousins walked in my house. I told them when my husband isn't here I don't feel super comfortable, so they left until he came home. It happened to be the 4th of July weekend, and he just wanted to go out with them, so I was sitting at home, pregnant, after he said we could see fireworks. I was really hurt, especially after he told me he didn't want me going with them.

Sometimes he's great. I try to surprise him with gifts, I cook and clean and do laundry. I know I can press issues sometimes and I'm sure I can be annoying and a nag, I know when I'm wrong, but I don't feel like I should feel like I'm wrong in this situation.

I feel dismissed, unappreciated, unloved, and uncared for. But sometimes I feel selfish and like I'm wrong for asking for too much.

What can I do in this situation?


Jay's ANSWER...
A:  The military is a tightly knit group of men and women. Bonding is important. However, your husband really needs to realize that you should be his number one priority. The fact that you are pregnant should make this observation pretty easy. My guess is that when you have a grievance, the conversation turns into an argument. This happens when both both parties have to be right. The way around this is for you to take full responsibility for your feelings, and allow your feelings to be the subject of the discussion. The story about why your feelings are hurt is not as important as the simple fact that they are hurt, and he needs to know that. Don’t blame him. As I said, your feelings are your responsibility - totally, 100%. You will find that by not blaming him, but rather asking for his help, that he will change his tune. If not, I strongly suggest couples’ counseling. You won’t be able to tame this tiger without some help, unless of course he realizes that you are number one, and that your feelings matter every bit as much as his. 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 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

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.

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

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.

Bad former friend not welcome

Because I stayed at her home after the birth of her son, am I obligated to allow an ex-friend stay at my home after the birth of my child? 

Dear Jay,
Ten years ago, I was contacted by one of my dear friends from school days with whom I had fallen out of touch and we quickly became friends again. I was godmother to her third child and stayed at her home for several weeks (I had traveled four thousand miles to be there) around the baptism date, as she needed help with her newborn.  Almost two years ago, she met another man and fell head over heels in love with him.  She divorced her husband. The worst part is that she very much changed as a person since being with him. Her sister has disowned her.  Her eldest two children have moved in with their fathers to get away from her, and she has texted me saying things so rude and unusual that I wonder if drugs are involved. As all of this occurred, I distanced myself from her more and more.  I had hoped her recent fling would pass and she would realize how horrible she has been.  She has said things to me that deserve explanation and apology!

My husband and I just started our family.  We live in a nice sized house in Florida with our newborn. My former friend loves visiting Disney and has started texting me about wanting to visit me this summer with her atrocious boyfriend to "meet the baby."  I know she only wants a free place to stay while she goes to Disney World with her boyfriend. I don't want her nor her boyfriend near my house! I am sure she expects me to accommodate her since I stayed with her years ago after she gave birth to my godson, but I don't need or want her here.  Does my guest status at her home years ago obligate me to reciprocate?  How do I respond to her presumptions about staying here?  The welcome mat was open years ago, but circumstances have changed and she is no longer welcome!  I don't want silence to suggest to her that she is fine to come destroy my peace. Thank you.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: You are under no obligation to reciprocate given the circumstances. Friends come into and go out of our lives as they (and we) follow our life path. If you do not like her current boyfriend, and you no longer want to have her in your circle of friends, I would simply explain to her that your house is not suitable for houseguests at the moment. When she wants to get together to meet your new child, just tell her you have a packed schedule. If you really cannot bear to have her around, you may want to let her know why; i.e., how her actions and words make you feel (in your own words). This may elicit an apology; it may not. But you are now clear and free of any implied obligation. 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.

Bad former friend not welcome

Because I stayed at her home after the birth of her son, am I obligated to allow an ex-friend stay at my home after the birth of my child? 

Dear Jay,
Ten years ago, I was contacted by one of my dear friends from school days with whom I had fallen out of touch and we quickly became friends again. I was godmother to her third child and stayed at her home for several weeks (I had traveled four thousand miles to be there) around the baptism date, as she needed help with her newborn.  Almost two years ago, she met another man and fell head over heels in love with him.  She divorced her husband. The worst part is that she very much changed as a person since being with him. Her sister has disowned her.  Her eldest two children have moved in with their fathers to get away from her, and she has texted me saying things so rude and unusual that I wonder if drugs are involved. As all of this occurred, I distanced myself from her more and more.  I had hoped her recent fling would pass and she would realize how horrible she has been.  She has said things to me that deserve explanation and apology!

My husband and I just started our family.  We live in a nice sized house in Florida with our newborn. My former friend loves visiting Disney and has started texting me about wanting to visit me this summer with her atrocious boyfriend to "meet the baby."  I know she only wants a free place to stay while she goes to Disney World with her boyfriend. I don't want her nor her boyfriend near my house! I am sure she expects me to accommodate her since I stayed with her years ago after she gave birth to my godson, but I don't need or want her here.  Does my guest status at her home years ago obligate me to reciprocate?  How do I respond to her presumptions about staying here?  The welcome mat was open years ago, but circumstances have changed and she is no longer welcome!  I don't want silence to suggest to her that she is fine to come destroy my peace. Thank you.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: You are under no obligation to reciprocate given the circumstances. Friends come into and go out of our lives as they (and we) follow our life path. If you do not like her current boyfriend, and you no longer want to have her in your circle of friends, I would simply explain to her that your house is not suitable for houseguests at the moment. When she wants to get together to meet your new child, just tell her you have a packed schedule. If you really cannot bear to have her around, you may want to let her know why; i.e., how her actions and words make you feel (in your own words). This may elicit an apology; it may not. But you are now clear and free of any implied obligation. 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 recognition for choosing the baby's name

Should I be upset that my brother-in-law has not acknowledged that they named their baby with the name I suggested for them? 

Dear Jay,
I would like some advice. My brother-in-law recently had a baby whom I suggested the name for. They ended up choosing that name. We had a very clear conversation prior to the birth about that name. My husband thinks they could have forgotten as they haven't given me any recognition in the role and are going about business as usual. I'm so happy for them, but I want to be thrilled. This one detail is very much in the way. Is it worth pursuing or should I, as my husband suggests, forget about it? Do you have any advice for me?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: I’m not exactly sure what sort of recognition you are looking for, but there is no rule of etiquette that even suggests you are entitled to any. I’m with your husband on this one. The fact that they chose the name should be enough. In time, the truth will come out. I hope this helps.
Jay

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Too soon for visitors!

What should I do when my sister-in-law and her husband are demanding to visit us and our new baby, and they are basically taking over my house? 

Dear Jay,
I have an 8 week old baby and my sister-in-law and her husband have invited themselves to stay for 5 nights. They refuse to sleep in the same room and our house is only 2 bedrooms. My husband has given his sister our room with a king size bed while we sleep in the baby’s room. The husband who is 23 years senior to his wife and is 73 is left sleeping on the couch. I’m not even ready for house guests, and I need to walk through the lounge at night to get to the kitchen and toilet!

Jay's ANSWER...

A: I see a couple of issues here. The first and foremost is why did you agree to allow them to stay with you in the first place? Your home is your castle, and you must establish boundaries and house rules in total agreement with your husband. The fact that you are willing to allow your house to be taken over when you have an infant shows that you have no respect for yourselves or for your new baby. Secondly, your husband needs to have a chat with his sister and explain what an intrusion this is, and how it makes you feel. I would rescind the “invitation” immediately. If you need to feign illness or exhaustion, so be it, but make the point very clear that invitations are issued by the host, not the guest. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Lopsided Grandparenting

How do I deal with my reclusive daughter-in-law who doesn't seem to want me to visit? 

Dear Jay,
My daughter-in-law is very reclusive. This summer during harvest, a very busy time of year for her husband (my son), she took their 4 kids to visit her parents several states away. This was no surprise to us since she had done that the year before as well, staying 2 months with her parents.

This summer, she stayed past when school started, and they informed us that she was homeschooling. We had concerns and worries when our son went to visit them in September, and they did not come back with him. Finally, he went there over Thanksgiving, and they did come home with him. Only 'home' was not the country home where their farm is.  Our son informed us that she  wanted to live closer to town, so they have rented a house about 45 miles from where their farm is and my son commutes.

Since they have moved to town, I have seen my two older grandchildren once when they came to our place with their dad for a Christmas party, and then we did see our son and his entire family on Christmas day. They did not come for Christmas dinner, but came later in the afternoon for about 4 or 5 hours.  Keep in mind that we hadn't seen any of these grandkids while they were at their other grandparents for 5 months.

They recently had a new baby.  Our son called us to tell us, and he said that we could come to the hospital the next day to visit. Of course we wanted to see the baby, so the day the baby was one week old, one of my daughters who still lives at home and I went to their house on our way to do errands in town.  

We found their house and knocked on the door.  Our son was still out in the country working.  The first thing my daughter-in-law said to us was, “I didn't know you were coming."  I told her that we wouldn't stay long, but that we just wanted to see the baby and her, and give them some newborn baby presents.  We also wanted to see the older kids, and give them some Valentines.  We stayed about 10 minutes.

Now our son has called to tell me that if I want to come visit, I should call first to see if that is OK with his wife.  I asked how I was to contact them since they often do not answer their cell phones.  He said to call him on his cell and he would get ahold of her to ask.

The last time I was invited to their home was over 3 years ago for a 30th birthday party for my son.  I was asked to bring food for that party which I gladly did. I don't want to cause stress to my son, but he doesn't seem to realize how lopsided the grandparenting is. I am discouraged. What should I do?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: Let me first make a few observations. One, grandparents have no rights as far as when they can or cannot see their grandchildren. Two, you should always call before going to call on someone, family or not. It’s rude not to do so. Three, your daughter-in-law feels more comfortable with her parents than with you. Four, allow your son and his wife to set up their household with their rules. Everyone, including you, must honor their privacy. 
My feeling is that if you back off a little and stop scorekeeping, life may well improve. If you don’t, it won’t. That I will guarantee. I hope this helps.

Jay

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In-laws visiting expectations

How should I deal with my in-laws never visiting us but always expecting us to bring our 5 month old son to visit them? 

Dear Jay,
My husband’s side of the family never comes to visit him or their 5 month grandson/nephew yet are very persistent about us visiting and taking my son over more often so that he can be more "familiar of them." When comments like that get thrown at me, I think, if you really cared you would make yourself familiar and visit him! We visit once a week. We live in Northridge, CA and they live in Camarillo, CA about a 40 min-1 hr drive. I occasionally invite them over, but obviously when they do come it's something totally out of their way yet they can drive to family gatherings/parties that are totally out of their way but not to our home. According to them it's easier for us to go. Obviously this drives me insane. 

I have mentioned it to my husband many times.He totally agrees with me and says he needs to have a talk with his mother and his sister. It hurts me so much because I know that if my parents, sister and brother lived at this distance away from me they would make time to come visit especially now that my 5 month old son is in the picture. They are absolutely crazy about him and it would be random spontaneous visits not so much planned and I would never need to beg them to come. How should this be handled?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: I understand your frustration. First of all, a rule of thumb I live by is to not take anything personally. That alone will relieve a lot of your anger. It’s their problem, not yours. If you don’t want to visit them, don’t. Secondly, your husband needs to have that talk sooner rather than later with his mother and sister. It’s wonderful to have such a supportive husband. He needs to explain what your visiting/traveling rules are. Do not allow his parents to bully you. Thirdly, have compassion for your in-laws, and for yourself. Humans are not built perfectly. We all have flaws and make mistakes - and that’s OK.  I hope this helps.

Jay

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Grandparent naming

Who gets to choose how a grandparent is addressed by the grandchild - the grandparent or the parents to be? 

Dear Jay,
When it comes to grandparent names what is the proper etiquette in who gets to choose the name for the grandparent?

I am a step-mother and have a preference of what I would like to be called as a "grandparent" but the parents-to-be (step-son and wife) feel that it is their choice of what I will get called.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: Common sense would dictate that the grandparent must at least agree to the name that will be used to address them. Surely some agreement can be arrived at without a big argument. If not, there will surely be bigger fish to fry down the road. As the senior, take the high road and try to be flexible. However, it is how you will be addressed, and you should have the final say. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Awkward baby situation with estranged boyfriend's parents

How do I include my baby's paternal grandparents who really want to be involved when I am not with the father anymore? 

Dear Jay,

I've just had a child and am no longer with her father. The child's paternal grandparents live far away and are extremely excited to have a new grandchild. They threw a big baby shower and plan to send the gifts along with pre-addressed thank you cards. While this is kind and thoughtful, I have only met his father a couple of times. His mother contacted me via Facebook after my daughter was born. What is the proper way to sign and send the cards? I've never met any of these people. In addition, my ex is rarely ever around and has provided no support, so signing them together seems like it implies we are together.

Any additional advice on dealing with his parents would be most welcome.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: Send the cards from the single Mom that you are. I will admit that this is awkward, and they clearly wish to be a part of their grandchild’s life. There is no reason to include the father’s name on any communication. I will also admit that I have never heard of pre-addressed thank you cards. I assume you don’t have the addresses of the people who gave you the gifts, but how bizarre that they would supply thank you cards. Do let me know if I have this wrong, but I hope this helps. Have a wonderful holiday.
 
My best,

Jay

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Visiting decisions for the holidays

How do we determine which family to visit without feeling guilty or making people feel bad? 

Dear Jay,

There's just too many houses too far apart to visit everyone in my family for the holidays. Now that we are expecting I can only imagine the pressure will be greater to see everyone. We want to, its just not feasible. We run several different businesses, two of which are seasonal so that in itself makes traveling far difficult because we have to make a living. How do you determine who/where/how to spend the holidays? We want to have traditions we want to see all the family we want baby to know grandma and nanny, but it's going to be hard. How do you make the right decision and then make everyone ok with it AND not feel guilty?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: This is a dilemma many people face. You must do what is best for you and your own family (not parents, grandparents, etc.). I doubt your intention is to hurt anyone’s feelings. This is important. People will, or should be sympathetic to your situation. I would divide holiday visits up on a yearly basis. One year you spend Thanksgiving with one group and Christmas with another, and revolve these visits to suit your schedule. The well being and safety of your family comes first - always! There is no reason to feel guilty about doing the right thing. I hope this helps.
 
My best,

Jay

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Mother in Law meddling with new baby plans

How do I tell my mother-in-law that I've reconsidered having her stay with us after the birth of our first baby? 

Dear Jay,

My husband and I are expecting our first child in March (11th) and my mother in law asked a few months ago if I was okay with her coming and staying after the baby is born. I was taken by surprise and in the excitement of being newly pregnant said yes. Fast forward five months and there is no way I want my mother in law staying overnight the first few nights as new parents. The thing is, she only lives an hour away. I don't see why she would need to literally stay with us anyway. I think I started getting uncomfortable with the idea when she asked what day she should begin her two week vacation. I wasn't sure how to answer, so I asked for clarification and she asked when would the baby be born. I am having the baby naturally and had no idea how to answer that since she knows the "due date". She had three children herself... surely she knows that these things are a little bit of an estimate. She said she really needs to know by the end of January, so she can request the time off. I thought this was a good time to ensure I had the first few weeks of the babies life to ourselves, so I suggested that she take the last week of March and the first week of April to ensure the baby has arrived. She replied that she really wanted to be there at the hospital and come home with us. I had no idea what to say! I’m horribly shy when it comes to confrontation, so I just let the conversation end there. 

How do I bring it up again nicely that I've changed my mind and would like a few nights (up to 2 weeks) with just my husband and the baby before I host a guest? I know the obvious answer is to just say it, but how do I bring it up and what are some things I can say to smooth it over?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: I strongly advise you to get your husband involved in this whole affair. You do not need this sort of stress, nor should you. This is a great time to set clear boundaries for your mother in law. She must respect your privacy despite her excitement about a new grandchild. If you don’t nip this one quickly, you are in for a lot of abuse from her. This is also a great opportunity for you and your husband to come to a clear understanding about this situation, but he should be the one to have this important discussion with his mother. I hope this helps.
 
My best,

Jay

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Couch surfing, imposing friend

How do we tell our friend nicely that he is no longer welcome to stay with us because we have a baby now? 

Dear Jay,

My husband and I recently bought a beautiful new home with four large bedrooms. We moved into the home last month with our 10 week old baby. It's our first baby and things have been very stressful getting organized in a new house with an unsettled newborn (plus, we're new at this parenting thing!).

My husband's friend, who lives interstate, contacted us to say that he would like to visit us and the baby. This caused an argument between my husband and me because I know that his friend is only coming to visit because he needs somewhere to stay while he comes to our city. His friend travels around and "couch surfs" at friends' houses wherever he goes. I suspect he has no interest in our baby and, judging by past behavior, is likely to come empty handed. As a new, sleep-deprived mum, I have no time to host someone, and I want my privacy while breastfeeding, changing the baby, etc. When his friend sees the size of our house and our unused rooms, he will assume that he can stay in our guest room. I want to leave these rooms unused, otherwise they will need to be cleaned (which I don't have time to do). His friend owns a camper van and he expects he will park it in our driveway and either sleep in it and use our shower and toilet, or he will hope to sleep in our guest room and use the guest en-suite. He will also expect to have dinner and breakfast which I will have to cook! 

When my husband and I lived in our previous small apartment, his friend visited and slept on our couch, used our shower /toilet and came empty handed. I didn't realize that's how his "visit" would be. I was not comfortable with him staying with us then, and I'm less comfortable about it now that we have a baby. The word "imposing" comes to mind. 

My husband isn't overly keen on his friend staying either, but we've got ourselves in this position because, once upon a time, it seemed to be acceptable by us. How do we tell his friend that he can't stay with us anymore now that we are a family?


Jay's ANSWER...

A: I think taking the bull by the horns is the best way to approach this. Today, so many people worry about hurting other people’s feelings when in fact they are at fault. Your husband just needs to explain that you have a newborn, and that as you are settling into a new house and a new lifestyle, your privacy is important. This is not an unrealistic request. If he says anything other than, “I understand”, he risks being scratched from your guest list permanently. As you begin your new family, setting up boundaries and honoring them is crucial. Stating your position is simply a matter of fact, not a mean spirited dismissal. You and your husband must act as a united couple and proudly uphold your principles. Others will learn from your actions. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

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Babysitting uninvited guest

Should I be angry that my sister wants to share her babysitting experience of my daughter with my mom? 

Dear Jay,

I am married, we have one small child 2.5 years old, and I have a half-sister (we have the same father but different mothers).  I have a good relationship with my mother who sees our child at least twice a week.  I also have a good relationship with my sister who sees our child about once every two months.  My sister and mother have a friendly relationship and occasionally my mother will invite my sister over to her house for social gatherings.

My wife and I made arrangements with my sister for her to come over to our house and babysit our child so we could have a date night.  A few days before our date night, my sister sent me a text message saying she’s really looking forward to coming over and she also invited my mother to join her, hope that’s ok.  I replied I would’ve preferred that it just be her (and her husband) to spend quality time with our child, but since she already asked my Mom, no biggie.  She then said she didn’t think it would be an issue and could un-invite my mom if I wanted.  I replied that it wouldn’t be right to un-invite my mom now, but next time I’d really appreciate being asked first before inviting others.  I was surprised that my sister invited my Mother over without asking me first.  I was also hurt that my sister wanted to share her 2.5 hours of watching our child with my mother and turn it into a social visit with my Mom.  My sister only sees our child once about every 2 months.

I thought proper social etiquette is when someone is coming over to another person’s home and they want to invite an additional person, they ask the homeowner first to see if it’s ok.  My question is, was it proper etiquette of my sister to ask my mother over to my house without asking me first?


Jay's ANSWER...

A: Technically, you are correct. However, my impression from your question is that you are making this into something far greater than it deserves. I’m sure your child is adorable, as children are. She is 2 1/2 though and your implication that quality time will be lost by adding your mother to the mix seems to me to be a bit shortsighted. I think it is completely appropriate for her to turn this babysitting gig into a chance for her and your mother to have a visit. Perhaps the interaction with two women is better than one, especially family! If this is still causing you stress, I recommend you be clearer when you make the request initially, outlining whatever house rules you wish. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

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Eating in front of guests

Was it wrong for me to invite my husband's guest to eat with us? 

Dear Jay,

One Friday evening, my husband asked if his friend could come over for a visit. I was and always am open for visitors, however, his friend came over much earlier than expected. I hadn't even prepared dinner by the time he had knocked on the door. I tried to quickly prepare a meal that could accommodate the extra guest, all while attending to our 18-month-old son. I asked my husband, who was sitting on the couch playing with his phone, to help me watch our son. At that point my son had thrown yogurt on the floor, which made him upset. My husband's guest did mention that he wasn't hungry,but when I served dinner he devoured the meal and even went in for seconds. 

My husband said that I should not have been cooking for our guest instead of watching our son if our guest had said that he wasn't hungry. I feel that it would have been rude if we all ate in front of our guest even if he wasn't hungry. Is this rude or am I in the wrong?


Jay's ANSWER...

A: Since you “are always open for visitors”, you are going to find yourself in these situations from time to time. The simple solution to avoiding this awkwardness in the future is to be clear with your husband about the nature of his friends' visits. If they are going to interfere with your dinner plans, either suggest the friend stay for dinner, or change the time of the visit. As to your husband suggesting how you allot your time and how you manage your young son is a matter for further discussion. 

However, to your point, you are not wrong for feeling awkward about eating in front of a guest without offering them something to eat. Your husband needs to learn this fundamental etiquette guideline. Some of us grow up without the benefit of such an understanding. Be sure your son doesn’t fall into the same disrespectful rut. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

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Etiquette's Purpose

Do we really need etiquette in our modern world? 

Dear Jay,

I am very curious to know, as you answer so many of these questions, do you believe that social etiquette is necessary? I personally do not. I believe it is a part of a stupid never ending game in which people lie, cheat, and loot. As an example I have seen that many people do not appreciate directness, preferring what, I don't know. I believe that if you wish to communicate it should be directly, without paying attention to how the person may feel.


Jay's ANSWER...

A: I do believe that social etiquette is necessary. What I hear in your question is a great deal of anger. I do believe in being direct, but not rude. Learning to communicate in a respectful way has helped me to form deeper and more meaningful relationships with my friends, family, and business associates. Developing such skills can require professional help. I hope you can find a way to release your anger. Perhaps then you may begin to shift your perspective.

 My best,

Jay

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Meddling Mother-in-Law

How do I tell my mother-in-law that her parenting "advice" and judgements bother me? 

Dear Jay,

My in-laws and I had a wonderful relationship until a few years ago, when my mother-in-law nestled herself in my husband's and my communication regarding having children.  It has been tense ever since and then once we had our son, it's been increasingly difficult for me to have a genuine/natural-feeling relationship with her.

Based on many of her comments, it is my perception that she believes I am an inadequate parent.  She passive-agressively questions or outright disagrees with nearly everything I do with our son, so I'm finding it difficult to remain confident in my parenting and I am constantly anticipating my next interaction with her.  I have been trying to be very mindful of my own reactions to her comments, since I am steaming inside, but avoiding addressing it is not an effective long-term strategy or solution.  I think the tension is sometimes palpable for us both.

I'm not sure if there is a new mind-set or behavior for me to embrace, or if I should have a conversation with her directly. Do you have any tips on this?  My husband has been very kind to me and we even joke at home that we should probably just 'call social services'. (Luckily he has a good sense of humor!) :)  I hesitate to talk with him as often about it as it strikes me, because I don't want to put him in an awkward position in any of these relationships.

Thanks in advance for any assistance you can provide!


Jay's ANSWER...

A: Although this is not really an etiquette question, it does very definitely revolve around civility. I'm glad your husband is on your side, because you need to have a conversation with your mother-in-law, and he needs to know about it. Set a date and time and let her know you need to have a heart to heart discussion with her. Invite her to your house. You will need to explain how her behavior is making you feel. Let her know you appreciate her concern, but you need to set some ground rules, especially in your own house. I doubt and certainly hope she is unaware of the impact she has on you. Hopefully learning this will give her some food for thought. Remember that the house rules in your house are not negotiable. Be sure your husband is 100% on your side. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

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Uncomfortable Guest

How much information is required from the host when they invite guests to an event?  

Dear Jay,

What is proper etiquette when inviting someone over to your house? Do you have to tell them if it's a party, dinner, drinks. If you are inviting others, etc.?

An acquaintance invited my spouse and I to their home recently. "We'd like you to come over to our place and meet our new baby."  They didn't tell us if kids were invited; we assumed not as to keep it simple for the new baby and mom.We were expecting it to be casual as per the tone in the email. We brought flowers for them and a gift for the baby. When we get there we were surprised to see 10 other couples, including their family. There was dinner and cake for a family member's birthday even. We didn't know any of the people there except for the couple that invited us.  We felt so uneasy.

Is this proper etiquette? I thought it was distasteful. I feel rude, but next time I will be asking if it's just the four of us getting together because I felt very uneasy at their last event.

Thank you,
Moe


Jay's ANSWER...

A: Some people just don't like surprises. You are one of those people. So am I!

But what better way is there to meet new people than at a party celebrating new life? If you are uneasy in the company of strangers, then yes - do ask the next time. I would hope that you will work to overcome this shyness though as this is at the real crux of the matter.

From an etiquette point of view, the invitation was appropriate. Kids were not invited and therefore would not have been expected. You also acted appropriately with beautiful flowers and a gift. Sounds like the making for a very different experience to me. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

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Utterly Frustrated

How do I gracefully get my in-laws out of my house and into their own?

Dear Jay,

I have a question for Jay. My husband purchased a house in late 2011 with the foresight that his parents were in financial straits and would probably have to move in with us. In late April my MIL and grand-MIL, who is in the probable end stages of Alzheimers,  moved in and then after our "spiritual" ceremony for our wedding my FIL moved in also. There was no time limit set on their stay however it was understood that this would not be a permanent home for them. 

My husband and I are newlyweds with a 10 month old daughter now and I want my house back to just my family. My MIL stays home and takes care of her mother and our daughter. Since I work full time she does a lot of the house work also, which I did not ask her to do. My FIL does the yard work to help around the house. In the year and a half that they have lived here my MIL has not found work in her field, and I have given her suggestions on broadening her search. 

I have made suggestions on how they could save, even suggesting they pay a modest rent per person per month with the understanding that we would save the money for them of $50 per person. They currently live off my FIL's retirement money from the Navy which is not enough to live on well. Instead I see her not making progress towards finding employment and not making strides to save up to get a place of their own.  I hear excuses all the time from her. Her mother has in home care, paid for by Medicaid that I had to badger her into applying for so that my MIL could get some help with grandma for a few hours a day. She hovers over the nursing aids all the time instead of using the time constructively to find a job. And she refuses although quite passively to find a facility for grandma that would be able to take care of all her needs since she is regressing more and more. My FIL is disabled due to an accident so he refuses to look for work, I have suggested jobs that I thought might interest him, but he's in the bottom of a beer can most days. 

My mind would be put to some ease if I saw her or him get even a low-mid range wage part time job so that they could save up. I am at my wits end. I do not know what to do. I have been toying with the idea of giving them an ultimatum, which I know in a way is uncouth. I have made arrangements for my daughter to start day care by the end of the month so that it will free up more time for my MIL and FIL to seek employ. How do I tell them that I want them out of my house and reclaim my home so that when I come home I can relax instead of being a on-edge-b**** that I feel I am turning into??

~Alecia


Jay's ANSWER...

My advice to you is to take first things first. Your in-laws have their own paths to follow and so have you. You need to discus this situation with your husband and form a united front. He needs to explain your concern as a couple to his parents and explain that you can no longer accommodate them on a full time basis. I would suggest giving them a couple of weeks  or a month to find a rental unit or make other arrangements. You are not responsible for them, but they are family. Enabling them into not taking responsibility for their lives is not appropriate. Suggesting how they might solve their problem is kind, but not if you don't detach. Just stick to the facts and keep your emotions out of it.

Your house is your castle. You are well within your rights to lay down the house rules. If they are not welcome, you must explain how this current arrangement makes you feel and that it is no longer going to work. Be sure you and your husband agree on this before you present this to them. There may be some fallout, primarily because you allowed this to go on too long. I know this may sound severe, but this problem is not going to simply solve itself. Lack of communication is often the root of the problem. I would hope that your in-laws do not want to be a burden to you. 

I hope this helps,

Kind regards,
Jay
 

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Marriage Demands

Is it okay for my wife to demand I stay home?

Dear Jay,

My wife and I had a birthday party for our four year old daughter. Following the party, the wife demanded I stay home while she, along with her girlfriend, took our daughter shopping. Is this type of demand okay?


Jay's ANSWER...

I would suggest that the word 'demand' has little or no use in a healthy marriage. And, why does the father need to stay home? Are there more children to look after? There is no reason why the women cannot go shopping as a small celebration to mark an event, although 4 year olds don't qualify as shoppers, nor is shopping an activity of choice of most young childrenit's more of an excuse for the women to get out of the house. My advice is to let her go shopping, but do not look at staying home as a demand! I hope this helps.

Kindest regards,

Jay

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Guest Bedroom Issues with the Grandparents

Do my husband's parents have the right to claim our bedroom bed when visiting instead of staying in the guest bed?

Dear Stage of Life,

My husband and I purchased our first home together - a townhouse. Currently we have a toddler and infant and the townhouse has three bedrooms.  The toddler currently has his own room and the infant currently sleep in our bedroom.  That leaves one of the other bedrooms free.

My husband and I would like to provide a bed in the room for visiting guests.  The room cannot fit a bed larger than a full size mattress, but it can accommodate a trundle bed (if the trundle is only pulled out for the night, we can arrange furniture). We found a very nice daybed with a trundle in our budget.  Our only concern is my husband's dad and step mom will not sleep on the trundle and requests our bedroom and bed, which is a king size.  I co-sleep with my infant and require a larger bed to do so safely. Eventually that room will be set up for my infant to move into, so we can fit a crib and a twin sized bed (daybed) in it.

We are debating what to do.  I thought there was no obligation of the host family to give up their bed to visiting family? Is our best bed to go with a trundle bed to sleep two? Or go with a full size bed? How far out of our way should we accommodate family?

--Rachel



Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Rachel,

Your house is your home and castle.  It deserves the respect that honor accords including yours and your guests'.

Your in-laws are overstepping their bounds and obviously have been for some time. You allowed this and it is now a pattern.  Now, suddenly you basically have no guest rooms and you're feeling guilty. As this picture comes into focus you and your husband will need to decide how to handle this new reality. Once you agree, sit down with his parents or pick up the phone and let them know how excited you are about being able to redecorate the kids' new rooms. You can remark about how quickly they grow up. That will plant the obvious seed which will sprout the next time a visit is imminent. It will be easier than you think.

I hope this is of some help.

Kindest regards,


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.

Gifts Cards and Baby Gifts

How do I tell someone (I don't know extremely well) that the baby gift they want me to buy is too expensive?

Dear Stage of Life,

I was wondering if you can tell me the right way to handle this situation...

A woman I'm pretty friendly with for years had a baby boy (she's my closest friend's neighbor and she's often there when I am.  We have a good relationship, but we don't really talk on the phone or go out together individually).

Anyway...she had her 4th boy a few weeks ago and I didn't yet get her a gift. (I got to know her before she had her 3rd boy and then I chipped in with a few of her neighbors together.)  I was talking to her and mentioned that,  "I know I still owe you a gift for your baby- I didn't forget but I know that you don't need more stretchies or toys etc." and she said, "You're totally right - I have too much." 

Then she goes on to say... "but... if you really want to get me something there is one thing I want which I'm not going to buy myself..." 

So I told her, "Great - I'm glad you're honest - may as well get something you need!"  And I asked her to email me the link of the item she saw online.  She did with a message saying, "I don't know how much you want to spend please be honest and tell me if it's too much."

It's $55. 

I'm not that close to her and I really was not planning to spend more than $25.  The store's website offers gift certificates - is it rude for me to give her a $25 gift certificate to that store?   Do I need to excuse myself?

--Becca


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Becca,

You are thinking correctly. A gift certificate from the store is exactly the way to go. You seem to be on a wonderfully honest communication wave length with this woman, so keep it that way.  No apology or explanation necessary.  She'll understand instinctively.

I hope this is of some help.

Kindest regards,


Jay

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Lots of Leftovers

Is it rude to cancel your anticipated visit 2-3 hours before the family dinner...repeatedly?

Dear Stage of Life,

Our family has a weekly extended family dinner where the grandparents, parents, grandchildren and now great-grandchildren attend with full family and often a friend or two. 

People have many things to do, church events, dinner with the other side of the family, etc., so there is no expectation that everyone will make it every week.  All we have ever asked is that you contact the hostess by the day before if you have some other event to attend and give a call if you are bringing a friend so the amount of food matches the number of people. 

The problem is one family of six in the grandchild generation continues to cancel 2-3 hours before we are suppose to sit down to the meal - well after meat and frozen vegetables are thawed and preparation has started for many dishes. 

On a practical level, this creates a lot of left overs that are often thrown away and sometimes even makes the meal prep harder than it needed to be that particular week.  On a personal level, I feel this is very rude, inconsiderate, and generally disrespectful behavior to have this repeatedly occur.


What are your thoughts?

--Lots of Leftovers...again


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Lots of Leftovers,

Sunday family dinners are a wonderful tradition. As families grow, these gatherings can become unmanageable, and I take my hat off to you for maintaining this healthy family custom!  The host absolutely should be informed of anyone not attending. Not providing such basic courtesy is rude and unacceptable.

I do not encourage editing the guest list of these culprits, but a senior member of the family needs to have a clear and private chat with the offender(s), explaining why this disrespect cannot continue.

Frankly, this behaviour was either learned or at the very least enabled within the family, so let the responsibility fall where it may. Perhaps it's time for the offenders to host a few of these dinners. Trial by fire sometimes works like a charm!

I hope this helps.  Kindest regards,


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.

To call or not call?

Should you walk into a friend's or family member's home without first announcing your visit?

Dear StageofLife.com,

I was brought up to always call family or friends if I wished to visit, to see if it would be convenient for them.  I have, in fact, taught this practice to my own children.

However, I seem to be in the minority here and my friends think I am super strange.  Many times I have been at the home of a friend or neighbor (either having coffee or watching a movie), only to have their family or friends just walk into the house unannounced.  Often I find this extremely uncomfortable and cannot wait to leave.  I find it super rude.  My friends do not.

The mother of my son-in-law walks into their house any time as well.  My daughter hates it.  Locking the door doesn't work with her either, because she has a key, and uses it.  The key was given to her to use in case of emergency.

To me, my home is my haven, where I can kick back and relax with no worries about anyone walking in.  Am I wrong??

--Jan


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Jan,

You and I were brought up identically.  You are absolutely 100% correct, no question about it.  Now...how each of us chooses to run our households is personal obviously, but I can assure you that if someone were to arrive at my doorstep unannounced, they would likely not do it a second time. It is the height of rudeness.

Stick by your guns!

Kind regards,
Jay

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Daugther-in-law verses Mother-in-law

Daughter-in-law is uncomfortable with actions of Mother-in-Law

Dear StageofLife.com,

I am writing on behalf of my sister who is a grandmum.  She does not enjoy an easy relationship with her daughter-in-law but very much respects parental boundaries and very much understands the demands on parents.

She is distraught following a recent visit when she was told that soothing her grandaughter's back which was sore with eczema and sorting a little curl on her forehead was inappropriate behavior. My sister did not how to deal with this or indeed how to respond as she was so shocked by the comment and therefore did not question why this was deemed inappropriate by the parents.

She said she was physically sick following the incident at what she understood to be the suggestion. As I was not present I am trying to support her through this while offering some practical advice. Views very welcome.

Any advice??

-A Concerned Sister


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Concerned,

Clearly an avenue of communication needs to be opened between your sister and her daughter-in-law.  Using shock as an excuse for not discussing awkward situations is obviously ineffective.  The only position you should take is to encourage your sister and her daughter-in-law to have a chat about this incident.  Technically the mother of the child is responsible for her own child.  There is more than meets the eye here.  I would take a step back and let them work this out, encouraging open yet private communication.

Kind regards, Jay.

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Do visitors get to pick where they sleep in my home?

Etiquette involving grown children visits

Dear StageofLife.com,

When grown children with grandchildren come to visit, do I, the hostess (Mom/Grandma), get to choose which bedrooms the visitors will use?

JG



Jay's ANSWER...

In answer to your query about choosing bedrooms for guests, YES, unquestionably you choose.

It's your house for heaven's sake! 

Remember that all of your actions are being watched by your younger generation visitors. Like it or not, you are always leading by example. Make sure the example is a good one. Your home is your castle, and your rules are the final word.

I hope this helps!

--Jay

Contact UsIf 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.

Lack of Awareness

Look Around You and Be Polite

This may sound like an exercise akin to patting your head and rubbing your tummy, but I am quite serious about this seemingly simple concept. A reader recently sent me this note illustrating the lack of awareness and kindness towards others. Perhaps we can all learn from this reader’s questions.

“I really enjoy your column. Thanks for the great suggestions for the New Year, which I intend to use. One thing that maybe you could consider writing about is the following: It really bothers me that many people today seem to just live in their own world and have little consideration for others who are around them. Often I have walked into a building right after someone who does not appear to know that I am there and drops the door on me.

“Another beef that I have is people shopping in grocery store aisles, often with a number of family members, who run into someone that they know and proceed to block the aisle as they carry on a conversation.

“I think the one that bothers me the most is when you get behind someone at the local drugstore or convenience store who insists on making their purchase, get their air mile points, pay all their utilities, and both check all their lotto tickets and buy new ones while others are waiting behind them! There just seems to be a general inconsideration for others demonstrated here. I used to buy my gas at a convenience store in the Fredericton area where the owner had a policy that customers could not do prolonged lotto ticket transactions if others were waiting. More than once I have just put my purchases down and walked out!

“I know that I sound like the complainer here but it really does bother me! Happy New Year and looking forward to reading you in 2012.”

The scenarios outlined above are ones to which we can all relate. No one likes having a door surprisingly slammed in his or her face. But it does happen frequently! People just do not look behind them to see if someone is coming and politely hold the door open for that next person. What we need to practice is  being polite by taking just seconds to be aware of those around us. I find that when I experience these annoying situations, a bit of self-reflection often reveals a need to slow down and be more aware of what I am doing.

In grocery stores or any store with narrow aisles and shopping carts, it is helpful to look around and try not to inconvenience others. I am not suggesting that a good ‘gossip’ isn’t appropriate quietly in the store, but most customers are not there for social purposes. They need to get in and get out. The lesson here is to consider putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. The Golden Rule comes in handy frequently. This is another call to slow down and be aware of those around you, even putting them and their feelings before yours upon occasion.
 
The multi-tasker at the super market or at the bank or even at the ticket counter can really be annoying. We have become accustomed to one-stop shopping and find accomplishing a number of chores at one place very satisfying. However, if there is a line of people behind you watching you wind through your list of lottery tickets or other time-consuming tasks, I recommend coming back at a time when the lines may be shorter. This is akin to going through a busy grocery line with a full cart of purchases without helping to bag them. We all know how annoying it is when it happens to us. This is a two-way street. It is inconsiderate and disrespectful.

Let the New Year allow you to start off with a clean slate in one important way. Slow down and pay more attention to exactly what is going on around us. As we interact with other people, whether they are fellow shoppers, clerks, or friends and family, becoming more aware of how our actions affect other people will make for a more civil society. And don’t forget to smile often. We never know how our smile can brighten someone else’s day. It happens often!

--Jay
Reader Question: Party Invitations

Event Invitation Question

Jay/StageofLife.com,

An event is being held in a private home. Who is listed first on the invitation, the homeowners or the host of the event (wine tasting)?

Thanks,

Marc


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Marc,

Thanks for asking this good question. The host is listed on the invitation. The homeowners are providing the venue. It would read something like this. Mr. John Doe cordially invites _________to a wine tasting on (date), at the home of (or residence of) ____________. RSVP_______________.

Invitations carry information, pure and simple. If the homeowners are also acting as hosts, then we have a different situation than the one which I address here. Feel free to clarify if necessary. Thanks, Jay


Etiquette Question - Ask StageofLife.comIf 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.

--StageofLife.com

Reader Question: Holiday Etiquette

Travel Etiquette for the Holidays

Jay,

This will be my first holiday season in my own apartment with my boyfriend of 2 1/2 years. As excited as I am to decorate, bake and enjoy the holidays as an adult, I am a little concerned about how to handle some of the holiday activites.

We are going to see our entire family (his & mine) on Thanksgiving. Is it wrong of us to want to spend Christmas Day in our own home this year instead of hiking from house 1, house 2, etc.? My family has a bit of an old mentality, and expects us to be there since we are 1) not married yet and 2) are not hosting the holidays ourselves.

Should we suck it up and travel all day during Christmas, or enjoy a couple's Christmas in the place we worked so hard to obtain?

Thanks,

Laurel


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Laurel,

Thanks for asking this really good question. I have found myself in this position both as a single person with a significant other and as a married person.

My experience tells me that parents usually do want their children to make the trek, sometimes even if they are burdened with kids, but I can totally identify with your position of wanting to spend Christmas in your home with your beloved.

My advice is to be as compassionate to yourselves and to your families as possible. This means being accommodating when possible, yet protecting your private time as well and without feelings of guilt. I think family traditions become traditions because most of the time they work well. If you step and back and look at the big picture, you in fact may be the most flexible; in which case you would be appropriately expected to bend more. 

This in no way diminishes your desire to spend a quiet private Christmas in your own home. The symbolism which surrounds that is very strong and important. It is also resilient. My advice is to follow your instincts and "suck it up".  Be grateful that you have two families to visit on such an important holiday.

I hope this helps, Jay

Don't Ignore an RSVP Request

RSVP Etiquette

I have noticed that the RSVP on invitations in certain instances is ignored. Most invitations ask that the recipient RSVP. This is a simple but very important request. The translation of RSVP, the French expression ‘Respondez s'il vous plais’, is simply ‘please respond’ or ‘please reply’.  The RSVP is the means for the host to gather essential information to complete the party or function arrangements. The RSVP clearly indicates how many people will or will not attend the event. It lets the host/hostess proceed with ordering food and beverages, creating a seating plan, hiring the correct number of wait staff and other obvious considerations in planning a successful occasion.

I have noticed that most people do in fact reply to private party invitations. Once you decide to accept an invitation, it really is important to show up, especially if a sit down meal is being prepared and served. Last minutes cancellations with a very legitimate excuse are acceptable. But ‘no-shows’ are inappropriate and extremely rude. Likewise, last minute replies are thoroughly disrespectful. If you are so late in replying that the host/hostess phones you to see if you are planning to attend a function, you ought to realize your gaff immediately, and apologize for your faux pas and any inconvenience which may have resulted. Apply the adage of walking in someone else's shoes and imagine yourself in the position of hosting a party without a clue to the number of people who will be attending.

For public or institutional affairs it is equally important to reply to invitations. These events require a lot of planning and a head count is crucial. Many times, people think RSVP means ‘regrets only’. It does not. If I am invited to an opening at a museum and there is an RSVP, I call immediately to let them know one way or the other. And, I might add, that no one is exempt from replying. Many times public figures are invited to special events as a sign of respect and courtesy. They must reply to such invitations for exactly the same reasons everyone else must.

At these large public gatherings, if you have not replied to the invitation, do not just show up thinking your host will be thrilled to see you. I have been to many such events where there is a list of who has replied. If you’re not on that list, you may well not be admitted. You are less likely to be turned away at the door for a non-profit group. Because these organizations cannot afford to offend anyone, protocol is broken or stretched. But keep in mind that you are still a guest and ought to return the courtesy of the invitation and hospitality that has been extended to you. Be prepared for a solicitation for a donation or request for volunteer help with various projects. These are some of the ways non-profits remain in existence doing good for the community.

There are various schedules one follows when mailing invitations depending on the kind of event or party. However, one should reply within 48 hours of receiving any invitation if possible. Unless otherwise stated on the invitation, replies should be in writing. In today’s fast paced society, most invitations have telephone numbers or emails for quick reply. Some contain a reply card to indicate the number of people attending and perhaps a card for choosing an entrée. Whatever the method of reply, do it promptly. Always put yourself in the position of the host or hostess.

Invitations are very clearly addressed. If the invitation is addressed to Mr. John Doe and Guest, then he is invited to bring along a guest – any guest of his choice. I heard recently of a wedding invitation where a gentleman was invited to bring a guest. The bride found out who the guest was and announced that the guest in question wouldn't be welcome. The bride did not want to be upstaged by the extraordinary beauty of the lady who was to accompany the invited guest.  Once you have sent an invitation there is no taking it back-that just does not happen in polite society. Once a person RSVPs, the host/hostess accepts whatever decision the guest has made without further stipulation or regulation.  How ludicrous! What a peculiar and cruel way for a bride to behave. That was a first for me.

If the invitation is addressed to Mr. and Mrs. John Doe and Family, that refers to immediate family, i.e. children. If the invitation does not state “and family”, do not ask if you may bring the children or others. Your asking this of a host/hostess puts him/her in an awkward position and makes you look foolish. However, in the case of an informal party, such as a pool party, as it’s a family kind of affair, it is acceptable to call and explain that you have house guests and ask if they might be included. More often than not extra guests are welcome.

RSVPs are one of the most essential parts of an invitation. Please respect them and respond as quickly as possible. This is one way that you as the guest can contribute to the success of the party and help ensure less stress for the host or hostess. This small gesture is always a winner.

Say Thank-You, Often

Thank-You Card Etiquette for all Stages of Life

The very first thank-you notes I wrote were for Christmas presents. My mother, sister and I would sit down the day after Christmas with our boxes of note cards and lists of gifts and who had given them to us. Everyone who had given us a gift received a hand written thank-you note.

This at first seemed like a daunting task for an eight year old, but as the years rolled by it became a routine which we looked forward to. Learning to compose a note that had some personality was the challenge. Penmanship was also important. Cards with mistakes had to be discarded and begun anew. In this day and age where actual hand writing has unfortunately taken a back seat to the computer, penmanship is atrocious. Teachers take note! Even students in high school can barely write their names in a legible way. Nonetheless, I have received numerous heartfelt notes from students which meant a great deal to me. And because they were so personal, I know the gratitude that the students felt was sincere.

There are many times when writing a note of thanks is important. There also is a certain feeling of warmth that one gets from writing them. You should send a thank-you note when you are given a gift, sent flowers, asked to lunch or dinner, invited for a weekend, asked to a concert or performance of some kind or when someone does something nice or helpful in a business or social situation such as an introduction or letter of reference. I write far too few thank-you notes. However, I do make a point of phoning whenever I am invited to dinner. People appreciate knowing that the effort that went into cooking dinner and the camaraderie of the time spent together with friends was genuinely enjoyed.

There is an excellent book which was recently published by a colleague of mine entitled 101 Ways to Say Thank You. In it Kelly Browne gives excellent examples of what to actually say in such notes. It has great tips on buying stationary, superlative words to use in a note and many helpful suggestions.

Imagine the delight in receiving a thank-you note. I find that it strengthens friendships and relationships, especially in business situations which are just budding. Whenever someone extends themselves to celebrate a happy occasion, lend a helping hand, make an introduction for you or acknowledge a difficult time you may be experiencing, take the time to write a note. It takes only a few minutes. In some cases notes with “Thank-you” can be purchased at a stationary store or at local gift shops. Some of the highest quality stationary is sold by Crane & Company in the US. They have an excellent website and have a wide variety of cards and stationary which can be personally engraved if required. You can buy note cards at the Dollar Store as well, so there’s not a lot of expense required to accomplish this mission.

In business situations, thank-you notes can be sent via email. It is a matter of discretion however and a hand written or typed note may serve your purposes better. Whatever you decide, be sure that the note is sincere and includes a reference to the purpose of your meeting. If you are sending a note to an interviewer from whom you want a job, be sure not to send a gift. In most companies as well as in government, there are policies against accepting gifts.

In the case of weddings and the tremendous joy and love and support you receive from friends and family, thank-you notes are essential and absolutely must be hand written. And there is no reason why the bride needs to be the sole writer. The groom should share in that responsibility. Be sure that as you open your presents at showers that someone records the gift and the sender. For wedding presents which arrive in the post, one trick which comes in handy is to cut off the return address from the package and attach it to the gift or gift card. Again be sure you have a list and as each thank-you note is written, check it off the list.

The most important thing to remember is to say thank-you often. There are so many more occasions to verbally express your gratitude to another person than there will be reasons for a hand written note. Use the phone if you want to. Speak directly to the person to whom you are grateful. I know of no one who says thank-you too often. Say it with a smile on your face and make direct eye contact. This will go a long way to show the respect you have for others and for yourself.

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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