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Good manners are learned from your family

Etiquette for Families

Family etiquette

Stage of Life is pleased to feature etiquette expert, Jay Remer.  Below you will find tips, advice and articles from Jay on important etiquette topics specifically tailored to parents, children, in-laws, and families.  If you have children and have an etiquette question, you may find the answer below.

And don't forget to check out all 10 of our etiquette advice pages for the other stages of life.

Etiquette Advice for Families


Birthday Cray Cray

Should I expect a card, call or text from my friends to wish my kids a happy birthday? 

Dear Jay,
I am a mother to two boys, one just turned 9 and the other will be turning 4 in September. I have always loved birthdays, especially my own. As a child it would thrill me to receive birthday cards in the mail from my grandparents and birthday wishes from family and friends. Now that I have kids of my own I want them to have special birthdays. 

Over the years my friends with and without kids have been wishy washy about wishing my kids a happy birthday in some way or the other. I do not expect presents or cards, but I do think it would be nice if they called or texted my child a happy birthday wish. These are not just casual friends, but life long friends who refer to themselves as Auntie so and so. 

Is it rude for them to not call or text happy birthday to my kids? I know people have lives, but I feel if someone is important in your life you make time for them to feel special, especially on their birthday. I do not know if they are rude or I am too sensitive and unrealistic in my expectations for wishing kids happy birthday. 

What do you think? Im trying to decided if i should tell them it hurts me or just ignore it and stop caring about birthdays since birthdays seem to not matter so much in my circle. 


Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Not everyone feels the same way about your children’s birthday as you do. The days of birthday cards in the mail are almost over. Don’t give up hope though! Perhaps if you send their children cards, they will reciprocate. People without children are unlikely to remember friends’ children’s birthdays, especially small children. So, they are not being rude; you are being somewhat over sensitive. But, don’t give up on birthday celebrations! I hope this helps.
-Jay 

Man Child Husband and Bully Mother In-Law

How do I address the fact that my mother in law throws things away without asking me while she visits even if my husband takes her side? 

Dear Jay,
My in-laws typically come to visit every 3-4 months since we moved from our home state.  Although my family tends to be more private and do not need to see each other frequently (we actually live in the same city), I respect that his is different. 

Since getting married 5 years ago, he has yet to plan a family vacation for just us. It always has to be with his entire family. My husband is very much the man child in that I do everything for him and our 3 children (including all preparations for his parents’ visit while he plays X-box), nothing is ever his fault; he will not take responsibility for anything, but more importantly I often feel I lack his support in most things. 

What is bothersome is that once they do arrive, in typical fashion, his Mother will commandeer my kitchen, which I still keep quiet about out of respect for him, them and my sanity. However the last 2 visits I have found something that bothers me, she throws things of mine out. I'm not talking about large things, I'm referring to small things like sponges, or sink strainers and although these items are indeed small, I find it incredibly disrespectful to come into anyone's home, and assume it's ok to throw anything away. 

On my Mother’s advice, I said nothing until they left. I then mentioned it to him asking him to address it. His automatic response of course was to take her side, and make up excuses. Needless to say, that upset me and hurt me even more. Am I overreacting? Is it appropriate to throw out items in someone else's home, even if they are family? Also, how should I handle this? Any help is greatly appreciated!!

Jay's ANSWER...
A: Your husband’s lack of responsibility shows that he never grew up. He really is not ready for a relationship, let alone a marriage and three children. But, here you are and what do you do? His mother is a bully and has him under her thumb. I would suggest that you need professional counseling in order for your relationship to endure. He needs to clearly understand that now that he is married to you, you and your children take precedence over his mother. This will not be easy, but without this, you are doomed. The next time his mother tosses anything of yours, call her on it and tell her that it’s your house and you will be calling the shots from here on out. If she doesn’t like it, don’t allow her back. 

Your home is your castle. You must lay down the law, for if you don’t, no one will understand that you have respect for your own house and how you manage things, including your children. Your husband needs to take on the full responsibility the head of a household should. You have a big problem here. I wish you the best of luck, but don’t fool yourself into thinking you can handle this one alone! I hope this helps.

-Jay 

Disrespectful Niece Bringing Extra Guests

How do I let my niece know that she can't bring extra guests that aren't even family to a family reunion that I am hosting? 

Dear Jay,
I am hosting a family reunion weekend at my beach house and just heard that my niece is planning to bring another unrelated family of 3 to the event. I am irritated because I would never dream of showing up as anyone's invited guest with others in tow, especially for a family reunion. It's not the first time she has invited others to my house. I feel that I am being taken advantage of.

Help.... What do I do?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  You are hosting the event and you control the guest list. No one ever explained this very basic etiquette rule to your niece. You now have the honors. Simply let her know that uninvited guests are not welcome and that in the future, if she wants to make additions to the guest list, she needs to ask, but not to necessarily think that asking will do the trick. In fact, she should not even ask in the first place. It’s inappropriate and rude. She sounds like a bully in the making. I hope this helps.

-Jay 

Airfare Wasn't Enough

Is it wrong that I didn't want to pay for EVERYTHING while my niece visited? 

Dear Jay,
I offered for my niece to come visit. I paid for the airline ticket. I at no time insinuated that I would take care of any other financial means once she was here. My sister called the night before and said she expected me to pay her way with all that she did while she was here. I explained I was not doing that. Her plane ticket was the gift, but she was expected to take care of everything else. My niece is 18 and has known since April that she would be coming in August.

My sister told me to use the travel insurance because my niece was not coming because she didn't have any money. I tried dealing with the insurance, but her not coming was not a valid excuse.

I am appalled that this gift came with those expectations. Is it not right that the guest visiting pays their own way?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Financial arrangements, especially within families need to be completely worked out in advance. Making assumptions is dangerous as you now know. Travel insurance should allow cancellation for any reason. If it doesn’t, you’re not in a strong position. Advising you not to make this mistake again is unlikely necessary. I hope this helps.

-Jay 

Sister-in-law Encroaching on Family Vacation

Is it wrong of my sister-in-law to take her vacation at the same time and place as mine? 

Dear Jay,
I planned a vacation with my sister's family, which I don't get to see them often because they live on the other side of the country, and was looking forward to my children getting to know their cousins and enjoying some family time with them. I now just found out that my sister-in-law just booked the same vacation spot during the same week that we will be there. 

I am frustrated because she knew I booked this vacation to spend some quality time with my side of the family, but now she will be with her family just two cabins down from us. I don't get to see my family much and I just wanted my kids to get to know my niece and nephew and spend some quality time with them. But now that my sister-in-law will be there, I feel obligated (and awkward if I don't) to spend time with them. I'm mad because now I can't have alone time with my family and she just happened to book the same week as we did, knowing we'd be there. 

Shouldn't she have asked us or at least told us that she was planning to book a vacation at the same spot, on the same week and at least asked if that would be okay. I feel she is pushing her way into our vacation and she should have asked if it was okay! Am I wrong?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  You are wrong. This is not a private retreat you’re going to. If it makes you mad, you need to look at that emotion. Just because you can’t have your own way, doesn’t mean anyone has done anything wrong. It means you have some control issues. Why not reconsider your position? Maybe this will all turn out much better than you ever expected. Maybe you can find another time for a private bonding experience if it means that much to you. Your feelings are certainly valid, but they are causing you stress. Any thoughts that are causing you stress should be questioned. I hope this helps.

-Jay 

Cousins Planning Service vs. Brothers

Would it be appropriate for cousins to plan a funeral if our cousin's brothers won't? 

Dear Jay,
My cousin passed away Last month. He suffered from schizophrenia and had not been heard from for several years. He died in a homeless camp. His mother, who is deceased spent many hours searching for him to no avail.

The authorities somehow contacted 1 of his 2 older brothers. They never told any of the other family that he had died. We found out a week later on a Facebook posting by a friend of one of his nieces.

His brothers are not planning a funeral service or memorial service.

Is it wrong for us cousins to plan a memorial service ourselves?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  It is totally fine for you to plan a memorial service. What a lovely idea. This is one of the tragedies of homelessness. I hope this helps.

-Jay 

Presents after Divorce

Do I need to get my brother-in-law a birthday present now that he is no longer married to my sister? 

Dear Jay,
My sister and former brother-in-law are divorced. He has custody of the kids and his birthday and my nephew's are only a day apart. What is the etiquette on a birthday present for him?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Your relationship with your former brother-in-law is between you and him. If you want to give him a gift, feel free. The choice is entirely yours. I hope this helps.

-Jay 

Father-in-law bugging Son-in-law

How do I address my father-in-law when it seems he doesn't understand how much is insistence on calling my son "his boy" irritates me? 

Dear Jay,
Over the past 6 years, I have been having conversations with both my wife and her father regarding what her father calls my son.  He feels it is perfectly acceptable to call my son "his boy" even though I have mentioned that it is disrespectful to me numerous times.  It is now at the point where he will call him "his boy" behind my back when he thinks I can not hear him.  My frustration has now turned to anger and I do not know how to handle this.  My wife says that she talks to him, but seems to allow it as long as I am not around.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Perhaps what you need to do is to speak with your father in law and explain to him why calling him “his boy” is disrespectful and annoying to you. There is more here than meets the eye. This seems like a rather trivial matter as you have explained it, and so for it to escalate into anger is a puzzlement. Whatever is behind your anger needs to be uncovered and understood. A session with a family therapist might be fruitful if the answer remains elusive. I hope this helps.

-Jay 

Cheap Labor

Is it unfair that my parents are paying our college student way less than they pay a professional lawn service? 

Dear Jay,
My mother and father pay a service to do their garden clean-up every Spring and their weekly mowing. They pay more than $200 for the clean-up service. This year they offered our student who is a college student the job of clean-up. After he worked in very cold weather because they wanted it done right away, they only offered him $25. Nothing has changed in their financial situation. I feel like I should tell them he was expecting to receive at least $200. We all know what they normally pay.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  This is a matter for your parents and the student to settle. This is actually should not be your concern. Financial matters should always be discussed and settled before the work is done. If you had said anything to the student about the amount of pay, you need to clear this up. However, the rate of pay is not for you to determine. Typically students and lawn services are not paid at the same rate for obvious reasons. I hope this helps.

-Jay 

Speak English, please

Is it rude for my husband and brother-in-law to speak in Spanish all the time together when in my home even if I don't understand them? 

Dear Jay,
My husband speaks Spanish and English. When one of his brothers comes over to our place, they exclude me and even if his wife comes we are excluded, too. I’m not sure if they realize it is rude to do that and it seems like they are hiding something. They do work together sometimes but still. If his wife is not there, I have left the room or if I am in my room and I hear him coming into the apartment I stay in my bedroom. I had heard, also, from my niece, his daughter, that he does not like me so then I should avoid him if I am able to. I want to confront this issue with him, but that would affect my niece’s trust since her dad did not tell me himself. Please help.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Speak to your husband about your concerns. It is rude for people to speak in a foreign tongue when with strangers for exactly the reason you state. As far as him not liking you, that may be untrue. There is certainly no reason for you to feel like a stranger in your own house, so clear this up with your husband. House rule - when you are present, please speak in English. Occasionally there will be thoughts or concepts that they may feel are expressed better in Spanish. So be flexible. Have you considered learning Spanish? It’s an easy language and a beautiful one, too. I hope this helps.

-Jay 

It's None of Your Business

How do I handle my mother-in-law being nosy and judgmental?about my side of the family? 

Dear Jay,
Why does my mother in law continuously wants to know what's happening on my side of the family's life? She's very judgmental, so I don't like telling her much. Would it be rude to tell her it's none of her business?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Your MIL may be lonely. That does not give her license to cross personal boundaries. I would use the phrase “I’m uncomfortable discussing this with you as it’s none of my business.” She should get the idea that if it’s none of your business, it’s certainly none of hers. I hope this helps.

-Jay 

Overly dramatic mother-in-law

Should I be expected to celebrate every major occasion with my mother-in-law and include a cake and presents with each? 

Dear Jay,
My mother in law expects me to celebrate her birthday, mother's day, grandparents day, and other major holidays with her. When I forgot her birthday in the past and called her with my husband (her son) 2 days later, she cried and made a big drama. We got some harsh criticism from her side of family. After that, we have to buy her gifts, cake, and buy lunch/dinner on her special events. Some of my friends just call their MIL and everything seems fine. I wonder if I just can phone call or send cards for those events. I prefer stress free. Please help.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Your MIL is way out of line. Put yourself in her shoes (complaining about such events), and imagine how you would feel about yourself. I would feel kind of stupid and petty. The fact that you got flack from other family members shows what a grip this woman has on the whole family. There is no need to buckle under this bullying tactic. A card and a phone call (on time) is sufficient. I hope this helps.

-Jay 

New Sister-in-Law Adds Too Many To Family Vacation

Should I tell my in-laws that I'm uncomfortable with my new sister-in-law inviting her sister to our long standing family vacation? 

Dear Jay,

My extended family (I'm the daughter in law) have vacationed together for several years now. We have a great time and have really found a nice balance of personalities. My husband has a few siblings and all were unmarried till now. My brother in laws new wife will be joining the fold this year as will their baby, adding to the dynamics of a group vacation and I'm excited to see it grow, and looking forward to bonding with her in a deeper level. She would like to invite her sister. 

I love the idea of mixing families for holidays and things but vacation is another story. In all honesty, I feel like it should remain this side of the family’s vacation. First adding three new people to a nice going routine could really change things in a good or bad way. Second I feel it sets a precedent. When all of the siblings marry, do their in laws join too? 

I have no personal issues with her sister though I don't know her well, I just think it's so odd that she would consider inviting her to a long established vacation. I would not invite my family, nor would I consider doing that, even though I've been going on this trip since its inception. 

Should I just let out go and hope for the best and hope that any other in laws that join the fold don't invite their family too or do I bring it up in the planning meeting?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  This is very simple. Someone is paying for this vacation. If it is your in-laws, they control the guest list. Any decisions go through them. If it is a group vacation where everyone pays their own way, then a meeting of everyone who’s paying needs to take place and any additions considered at that time. I understand your concerns, and I also think it will all work out. If you want to have a small getaway with a select few people at some other time of the year, that’s your prerogative. I hope this helps.

-Jay 

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 

Friend Not Invited

Is it rude for me to tell my friend that she isn't invited on a trip she invited herself to? 

Dear Jay,

In a casual conversation with a friend I mentioned that my husband and I were planning a trip to go see my daughter and son-in law for the first time since they moved across country. This friend has invited herself to go along on this trip. I think it's wrong that she even did this, but how do I tell her we would prefer to go alone or is that just as rude?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  It is not just as rude. Your friend is in the wrong here. You really owe her no explanation other than no, sorry, that won’t work for us. I hope this helps.

-Jay 

Daughter's Dog and Additional Guests Not Welcome

How can I get the message across to my daughter that I don't want her to bring her dogs or invite other friends and their dogs to stay at my home? 

Dear Jay,

My adult daughter in her mid thirties and her high-energy bulldog live two hours from us. When she visits she stay one or two nights for a weekend and brings her dog. We also have a 90 pound house dog.

In the past she has invited and brought a friend with her and also the friends dog. She just informed me she will be coming for Easter and once again bringing a friend and her dog to also stay. How do I handle this?  

When I say something she gets angry and doesn't see what the big deal is.  Her response was "I don't tell you not to bring your dog to my house". I tried to tell her I don't invite my friends and their dogs to her home.My husband doesn't like to "rock the boat" and doesn't like for me to either.

How do I handle this with her?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Not rocking the boat has resulted in a daughter who has no respect for you or your household. Somewhere along the line neither you nor your husband taught her that your home is your castle and that the house rules that you set are the ones everyone follows. You will need to explain this to her. She has every right to set her own house rules in her own house. This will be especially helpful to her when she begins raising a family of her own. Having said that, if the dogs all get along and there is no issue with any personalities, it is difficult to see why you would not welcome your daughter home with her friends with open arms. You have no idea how many people would cherish the opportunity to spend Easter, or any holiday, with their family. If this is simply a matter of control, set some house rules, but make them based on safety. For example, please be sure to clean up after your dog poops in the yard might be a rule. I hope this helps. 

-Jay 

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 

No Sisters-In-Law on Family Trip

How do we tell my sisters-in-law that we are planning a trip but do no want them to come along?

Dear Jay,
My mom and sisters want to start going on an annual vacation, but don't want to invite our two sister-in-laws. We think they are going to be upset, however because they speak their minds quite often. We think it would be better to tell them on the forefront instead of just having them find out some other way. Do you have any thoughts on how to go about telling them? Or a response to have if they do end up getting mad?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: There should be no rules about who vacations with whom within an extended family. I think family traditions are healthy, even new ones. Everything starts somewhere, sometime, right? Anyone who disagrees is certainly entitled to their opinion, but they should keep it to themselves. Therefore you owe them no explanation. Do seriously consider doing something fun with your in laws, too. Balance in a family helps make for smooth sailing. I hope this helps.
-Jay 

Both Grandparents Visiting at Once

Who do we permit to visit when both grandparents request to see their grandchild at the same time?

Dear Jay,
What is the proper etiquette in handling the situation when one grandparent on the mother's side is visiting and another grandparent on the father's side wants to see the grandchild at the same time? The grandparent on the mother's side lives in a different state and the grandparent on the father's side lives in the same town. It has happened several times.

How do you handle all the hurt feelings?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: There is no need for hurt feelings. Invite both grandparents over together. These are happy times, not times for arguing and oneupmanship. And remember that anything that you say or do in front of the baby is absorbed like a sponge. I hope this helps.
-Jay 

No Communication

When we go out to eat, who should my husband seat first? 

Dear Jay,
Is it ok for your spouse to have their parent come live with you without having a discussion?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: In a word, no. Learning to communicate is crucial to building a sustainable relationship. Spouses must develop this skill or risk a failed marriage. Be sure you make it clear that there are house rules, and everyone must honour, respect and follow them. And, no more unilateral decisions! I hope this helps.
-Jay 

Seating Mother and Wife in a Restaurant

When we go out to eat, who should my husband seat first? 

Dear Jay,
Is it proper etiquette, or perhaps simply respectful, for my husband to seat his mother before me when we are at a restaurant?  And in the same token, should I wait for him to then seat me(out of respect for him), or can I go on ahead and sit myself?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: Your husband is correct in seating his mother prior to seating you because a) she’s older, and b) she more of a ‘guest’ than you. You can either seat yourself or wait a few seconds for him to seat you, especially if he is likely to offer. I hope this helps. 
-Jay 

Intimidated by Husband's Family

Is it wrong of me to decline invitations from my husband's large family even if they intimidate me? 

Dear Jay,
My husband has a very large extended family comprised of many cousins (some who are closer to him than others). Occasionally I receive invitations to baby and wedding showers from then. I feel intimidated by these people and they certainly don't know me. Is it in bad taste to not go to the showers?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: It is not in bad taste to regret any invitation. However, hopefully you have a long life ahead of you with this family, and getting to know them gradually will be a benefit. I suggest you speak with your husband about these feelings of intimidation and perhaps he can introduce you to the “easiest” ones first. Getting to know people can be challenging. Take baby steps. I hope this helps.

-Jay 

Aunt's Creepy New Husband To Be

How do I tell my aunt that her new husband to be is not welcome in my home and I do not want my daughters around him ever? 

Dear Jay,
How do I tell my Aunt that I don't want my daughters in her wedding or around her soon to be husband? My aunt is mentally challenged and so is her soon to be husband. They are both using each other. She's using him to help pay her bills, and he's using her for a place to live. I don't care about this; they are adults. My problem is that he creeps me out by the way he stares at my young daughters (2 & 4). He's also dirty and smells terrible. He's never done anything to any one that I know of, but my gut feeling warning bells ring very loudly whenever he's around. 

He also takes any chance he gets to tell my children what to do. He will repeat things I say to my girls immediately after I say it to them. (Ex: I say "girls don't jump on the couch" and before they can even react he's running over to them yelling "STOP jumping on the couch!" In my own home.) This whole wedding thing is a circus. She wanted the bridesmaids and flower girls to wear pant suits and the groomsmen to wear dresses because her fiance likes to wear women's clothes. She can't decide on her colors and the wedding is only a couple months away. How do I tell her I'm not comfortable having my children in her wedding as it’s not being taken as a serious commitment, but as a fun dress up game? Also how do I tell her I don't want her soon to be husband around my children or at my house?



Jay's ANSWER...
A: This is very simple. If you feel intuitively that your children may be facing a safety risk, tell your aunt your daughters will not be in the wedding and exactly how you feel. Honesty is the best policy. Secondly, do not invite your aunt and her fiance to your house, ever. Have no feelings of guilt. Just keep your children away from them. This is potentially very serious. I hope this helps.

-Jay 

Grandparents Paying for Grandson's College

Is it wrong that my husband's parents only pay for their oldest grandson to go to college but don't pay for our other children? 

Dear Jay,
My husband's parents are paying for his son (my step-son) to go to college.  However, they are not paying for our children (mine and husband's children) to go to college. I told my husband, if they will not be helping out financially for all of our children, they should not help out only the oldest and we should not accept the money.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Your in-laws are free to do as they please with their money. You are in the wrong. Be grateful for their generosity. I hope this helps.
-Jay 

Mother-in-law Uses Toiletries When Visiting

Is it disgusting that my mother-in-law uses my toiletries when she visits, or should I just let her use them because she is family? 

Dear Jay,
Is it wrong to not want my husband's mother using my hairbrush, toothpaste and reordering my things when visiting? I think it's disgusting. He says were family.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  It is a matter of personal choice. If you do not want anyone sharing your toiletries, be firm. Your husband needs to be more respectful, so don’t back down. I hope this helps.
-Jay 

Need a Night Off From Mom

How do I tell my mother, who now lives with us, that we want to have friends over and we want her to stay in a hotel for the evening? 

Dear Jay,
My mother moved in with my husband and me a year ago. She really has no other place to go and doesn't have many friends or activities to keep her busy.  My husband and I would like to host a dinner party for some friends, but do not want my mother around. She sits around in a house coat and can be somewhat rude. I think she would eat dinner with us and probably go to bed early. Is it wrong to ask her to stay in a hotel for one night? My husband and I would certainly pay for the hotel. I don't want to upset her or make her feel unwelcome, but I also don't want to make our friends feel like they have to leave early or be quiet because they don't want to wake her. Any advice on how to approach my mother on this subject would be greatly appreciated.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  I hope there was some sort of understanding between you and your husband and your mother about how your mother would fit into your household. If your mother is essentially a guest in your house, then giving her a night or two in a nice hotel would be a real treat for her (and for you). If this scenario has never been discussed, let alone experienced, then it may be awkward. My hunch is that she’ll welcome a change of scenery, too. This act is out of respect for her privacy and for your own respect as well. If she protests, let her know that if she stays, she is more than welcome, but that she also is clear that she has no leg to stand on if things upset her. Give her a couple of days to digest this concept. Time can be magical. I hope this helps.
-Jay 

Addict Child Doesn't Show Up

What should I do about my daughter who has addiction issues and never shows up when she's invited to family functions? 

Dear Jay,
My 28 year old daughter has addiction issues. She is frequently invited to family functions. but doesn't arrive.  She then complains about family withdrawing from her. Why does she do this?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: Addicts live in a very different world, riddled with fear, among other things. I would suggest you speak with her therapist if you can. I would also suggest that you engage the services of a psychotherapist who specializes in addiction and look at this as a family problem. Whether she attends a party or not is hardly a priority, but it can be indicative of a more serious problem. I hope this helps.
-Jay 

Rude Sister-in-Law

Am I being too critical by wanting my sister-in-law to not make herself so at home when she comes to visit? 

Dear Jay,
I have concerns in regards to my sister in law. The first being that my husband and I purchased a home 3 years ago and we recently began furnishing it. When my sister in law comes over she sits with her feet (shoes on) on our new sofas and her children do the same. My husband has asked the kids to please put their feet down in hopes my sister in law will get the hint, but it doesn’t seem to help. It gets frustrating because we work hard and would like our furniture to last is a while.

Also, my sister in law tends to really make herself at home when she visits. She will take over the kitchen, feed herself and her family , use the washer and dryer , use all sorts of dishes and all without asking, and at times I am stuck cleaning up a mess a didn't make. Am I being too picky? Growing up I was taught you always ask before you do anything. Please help.

Jay's ANSWER...
A: This is a simple matter of communication and respect. Your SIL has no respect for your house or for you. Putting feet on furniture, especially with shoes on is rude and basic bad manners. I would simply tell them in no uncertain terms to keep their dirty feet off the furniture. Embarrass them if need be. As to her using your house as her own, your husband should explain to her that she’s a guest in your home when she and the kids come over and not to just feel free to help herself to anything without asking. If you do not show respect for yourselves, no one else will either. I hope this helps.

-Jay 

Bringing Wine

Do I need to bring a bottle of wine to every event that I am invited to attend? 

Dear Jay,
Whenever there is an informal family gathering/dinner/BBQ/whatever, is it obligatory that I bring a bottle of wine? Thank you.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  It is never obligatory to bring a bottle of wine, unless custom dictates that it’s a BYOB arrangement, which is actually growing in popularity. In that case, you’d be drinking the wine you bring. If you bring it as a hostess gift, it’s not for you to consume. I do think you ought to bring something to everything you go to. It does not, however, need to be a bottle of wine. I hope this helps.

-Jay 

Not Invited

Is it okay that my wife's uncle invited himself to come along on our family vacation? 

Dear Jay,
My wife's uncle invited himself on holiday with our family and my kids. My wife thinks it's fine to have anyone join on a family holiday. I think it's rude, disrespectful and audacious! What do you think?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  I agree with you! Family vacations should be planned ideally by everyone involved. And trust me, no one invites themselves anywhere, ever! They are either invited by the host or they aren’t. I hope this helps.


-Jay 

No Warm Greetings

Is it rude of my son-in-law not to greet me when I go to his house? 

Dear Jay,
My son-in-law never comes out of his man cave to greet me when I come over. I feel he should at least shout out a “HELLO.” My daughter defends him, saying I am not there to see him.

Which of us is correct?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  It sounds as though your daughter invited you over, in which case she is the host and he has no obligation. If you just popped over, he is definitely off the hook. Whatever he is doing does not matter. He did not extend an invitation and so he does not have to come out. However, it is discourteous not to welcome all people into your house upon their arrival. But with family, rules are more flexible. I am siding with your daughter this time. I hope this helps.


-Jay 

Divorced Dad Hurt Over Son's Absence at Thanksgiving

Is it wrong of me to want my youngest son to spend Thanksgiving with my girlfriend, her family and me? 

Dear Jay,
I am a divorced father of 3 boys, 27, 25, and 19. I have been divorced for about 5 years and have been living with my girlfriend for 3 years. My oldest lives in California, so he misses a lot of family get togethers (but always calls,etc). My middle son went to Aruba with his mom, her friends, and his girlfriend during Thanksgiving (he got engaged there). So I expected to see my youngest son on Thanksgiving, since he was on break from school. I invited him to join me at my girlfriend's cousin's house for dinner. He refused, claiming that they weren't his family. I reasoned to him that I was his family and that should be enough. He insisted that he wasn't going because he would be uncomfortable. He knows my girl's family and they have always treated him well. It was really only 3 other people besides us. Now my girlfriend is insulted and I feel frustrated, ashamed, disappointed, etc. because my son wouldn't spend the holiday with me. 

I have always been close to my boys, but since the divorce I feel like my youngest son blames me. We have become more and more distant since. Because my girlfriend has become my extended family, shouldn't my son accept them also, or at the very least, be a little uncomfortable to spend time with his father on Thanksgiving? I have dealt with being uncomfortable many times to spend time with him around his mother's friends. I am not an absent father - I attend every event my sons are involved in: graduations, birthdays, sports, etc. I've hosted parties for them (and invited their mom), celebrated achievements with them, and call them to check on them. All I wanted was to have my son with me on Thanksgiving. What's the problem with that?

P.S. My girlfriend is very supportive in all of this and welcomes them into our home at all times.


Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Your youngest son is understandably upset, confused, angry, feeling abandoned, and any number of other emotions that bring rise to fear in his life. He is very likely not rejecting your invitation because he wants to inflict pain on you and your girlfriend. This really has nothing to do with you two, and you need to understand that. This is about a very frightened young man whose world has been torn apart by you and his mother. He needs compassion and love. He does not need to be handed a guilt trip and be blamed for anything. You will lose your relationship with him entirely if you continue to badger him and place unfair pressure on him to attend functions. Just because your other sons are not around for you, for whatever reason, that does not make it appropriate to make this young man responsible for your feelings. You need to sit down with him, both you and your girlfriend, and be as understanding and supportive as you can be. He is frightened and wounded. I hope this helps.
-Jay 

Son Wants Mom To Back Off

Is it okay for my son to tell me that I need to give my daughter-in-law her space with her family even though they all stay with me when the visit? 

Dear Jay,
My son and daughter-in-law live with me and her mother is visiting at my house from out of town. My son suggested that I let his wife and mother-in-law enjoy quality time alone and I not join them. Her mom and dad always stay at our house when they visit. I was offended at that suggestion.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Have a chat with your son to find out what the intention was behind his suggestion. Never give anyone the power to offend you. You are a very generous woman, and I fully understand your not liking to be told how to behave in your own house. But everyone likes their private moments. I hope this helps.

-Jay 

Imposing Step-son Needs to Learn Boundaries

How do I respond to my step-son's request that seems like more of a demand to stay with me? 

Dear Jay,
I am shocked that he had the audacity to propose this. My 45 year old stepson from another state with the resources to pay his own way called to say "I was thinking I would take my 6 week vacation and bring my roommate to stay with you. I know you have the room so we should be there the last two weeks of September and all of November.” How do I respond?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  I’d be shocked, too. I wonder where he learned this behavior? It should be very easy to reject his proposal in a kindly way, but in a way so that he doesn’t try it again. If he is 45, you likely are close to 70. If he doesn’t appreciate the imposition this poses, it’s time he learns. I hope this helps.

-Jay 

Extra Guests At Family's Holiday Dinner

Do I need to say to extra guests for our family's holiday dinner? 

Dear Jay,
Is it inappropriate for a family member to ask to bring a guy she’s been dating for three months and his kids, to family holiday dinner?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  It is not inappropriate, but the request does not have to be honored. It is always the host who decides on the guest list, not one of the guests. I hope this helps.

-Jay 

Decision to Visit Dying Sister

Do I spend the money and time to go visit my estranged dying sister? 

Dear Jay,
I have 2 sisters. There is no other family. One of them is being treated for stage 4 cancer in another country. Her treatments and emotions are roller coaster like. My other healthy sister just spent a week with our sick sister. She phoned me and told me that I have to go and see her right away. I said no. We have never been close. They are twins and I am 1 year younger. We have never connected in the way that I desired sisters should. I have always been closer to friends than my sisters.  

It will take 2 days each way to fly there and will be expensive. My sister only ever talks about herself. She has never shown any interest in me or my family. We've gone for years without speaking.

Should I take a week out of my life to go and see her because she might be dying?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Your relationship with your sister is yours and yours alone. It is totally your choice if you want to go or not. Your other sister is entitled to her opinion, but she cant make you go. Perhaps she was just giving you information. Follow your heart. Do what feels right to you. I hope this helps.

-Jay 

Uneasy About Girlfriend Traveling With Her Ex

How do I handle my girlfriend traveling with her ex for their son's team? 

Dear Jay,
My girlfriend has to go out of town with her son’s father for her son’s traveling team game. How do I handle this?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  You must trust that they will behave appropriately and support their son as parents must do. If you have uneasy feelings about this, you need to clear these up with your girlfriend. Open communication, especially about something like this, is very, very important. Your relationship hinges on open and honest communications. I hope this helps.

-Jay 

Giving up the Master Bedroom for Guests

Should I give up my bedroom with en-suite bathroom for my in-laws when they come to visit? 

Dear Jay,
I'm recently divorced and still on relatively good terms with my ex and in-laws. My in-laws are visiting from out of town and they want to stay with me for a couple of days while my kids are with me which is fine, but do I need to give them my master bedroom with the bathroom?   There is a guest bedroom upstairs and they would need to share the bathroom with my two kids.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  You do not need to give up your bedroom. Although this is considered gracious by some people, I am totally against it. Your hospitality is more than sufficient. I hope this helps.

-Jay 

Aunt's Unequal Treatment Hurts

Should I be offended that my aunt takes both of my sisters on cruises and trips and never takes me? 

Dear Jay,
I'm the oldest of 3 sisters, now in my early 30's. I have 2 sisters, one and 5 years younger.  My dad's only sister was always around growing up.  She always stressed that it was important for things to be even, meaning if one got something, the other 2 got a little something also. I realized as I got older, around the time of puberty she seemed to care less for me. I would write her notes and thank you's for any gifts (something the other 2 never did). The only difference is they are her "God children" and she is an over zealous born again Christian. 

About 10 years ago my Aunt started traveling - cruises, and trips across the country. She took my youngest sister on a cruise (all expenses paid) and then cross country. I was excited for them. Then my aunt took my other sister on an all expense paid cruise in Mexico. That one stung a little more. Maybe the book of photos she gave me from their trip was a little insulting. Then she took my youngest sister on a different cruise. 

My dad passed away a little under 2 years ago and she took my younger sister around the funeral home introducing her to everyone as her cruise buddy right in front of me. To make matters a little worse before my father passed we were at his house hanging out in the kitchen, sisters and aunt at the table while I helped with the dishes as she cheerfully announced, "I just loved going on cruises with you girls, my cruise buddies.”  In a moment of being completely uncomfortable I said "Oh thanks" with a little laugh and her face just dropped and she started telling me all the reasons she knew I wouldn't be able to go.  

When I told her I actually would have had no problem, she changed the subject. Her gifts to me got more and more generic and I'm at the point I know she doesn't care for me (it's a trend among women of our family, but when you’re the scapegoat it's who you are). I know we're not close anymore but it still hurts.  I'm beginning to believe it's supposed to.  The photos from yet another cruise with my sister were sent to me after I told them not to worry about souvenirs (last minute gifts purchased at the airport on the way home) or postcards to help spare myself the pain of having it rubbed in.  It hurts. I don't dwell on it anymore, but every time I think about it I feel so sad. She's a grown woman that can do what she pleases with whomever she pleases, but does it seem a little off to you?  She was the one that made such a big deal about things being even. I feel little connection to her or my sisters anymore.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  There appears to be a breakdown in communication here. I suggest you pick up the phone and have a chat with your aunt explaining how her actions make you feel. I would also suggest that your feelings and reactions to what people may do or say are your responsibility. In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “no one can insult you without your permission”. This means that if people hurt you, it is because you allow them to. In essence you give them the power to decide if you will be happy or not. It’s time to take that power back. To do this, I recommend that you reach out to your aunt and to your sisters and form stronger connections, perhaps restoring connections that have weakened over the years. As human beings, we cannot escape the realm of feelings. Your feelings are absolutely valid, but only you can change them. I hope this helps.

-Jay 

Cousin Excluded From Trips

How do I deal with my cousin inviting other family members but not inviting me on trips? 

Dear Jay,
How do I handle a cousin who didn't invite me on a trip but invited my mother, brother, sister and her husband. This is becoming a habit of hers, planning trips with me than later canceling or making up an excuse. But, she would go on the trips with other family members after she cancelled with me.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  I suggest that you have a conversation with your cousin privately and explain to her how her actions make you feel. Hopefully she can explain what is going on. She may not realize she is even doing this. Either way, if you want a clearer understanding, you need to communicate with her. I hope this helps.

-Jay 

Overbearing Mother-in-law Wants Her Way

How do I deal with my mother-in-law's childish behavior when it comes to our son? 

Dear Jay,
I have been married for ten years and never had a negative encounter with my mother-in-law until my son was born three years ago. Since that time, she and I have had multiple confrontations. The latest (and recurring) crisis is that she wants to buy our son a motorized miniature ATV that she would keep at her house for his visits. 

This request has come up before, and we kindly declined the offer saying that we don't approve of such extravagant toys for children. We prefer simplicity and nature. We suggested that she get him a bicycle and training wheels instead. Now she's furious. She told my husband (her son) that we are taking away her joy and that she does so much for us that we are being selfish by not letting her have the joy of buying big presents for him.  

I'm at a loss. Even as we suggested other gifts that would be appropriate and that he would love, she refused entirely. Now there is tension between us--in addition to the new knowledge that apparently all of the generous things she's done for us and given us are now being held over our heads as a point of guilt.

How can I find a resolution here?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Your mother in law is a bully. Your husband needs to explain to her that your children will be raised as you see fit, and that if she cannot accept this, her visits with your children will be limited. Placing her ability to be happy on your shoulders is completely inappropriate. There is clearly a void in her life, which is not your responsibility. This may also be her way of holding power over you. Do not allow this. If you do not put an end to this, things will only get worse. You, too, are well within your rights to lay down the law. By showing that you have respect for yourself, she should come to regain respect for you as well. This is akin to "your home is your castle". If she doesn’t like the rules, she is not welcome. This may sound harsh, but your family unit will be far stronger if you stick to your guns. Your husband and you must act as a unified force here. She will do everything she can to have things her way. How your son is raised is your responsibility, not hers. I hope this helps.

-Jay 

Married Woman Sits Next to my Husband

Am I being overly sensitive or is it wrong that a married woman sits next to my husband all the time when I am not around? 

Dear Jay,
For the past two years my husband and I have been going out to dinner with our children and another married couple and their children after school sports games. Since this school year I have been unable to go to my son’s games because my other daughter is playing another sport and I go with her instead. My husband continues having dinner with our friends after the soccer games. 

Lately they have been joined by another of the children's friend and his mom, and although she is married her husband doesn't go with her to the after game dinner. I have found out that she always sits with my husband! When I have the chance to go to one of the dinners then she sits with the other married women.  

My personal morals tell me that she should sit with the other married women. I know if I was alone, I would make a point to sit with the married women vs. the men.


Jay's ANSWER...
A:  There is no protocol for married women who are dining without their husbands and whom they may sit beside. In my opinion your moral compass may be overly sensitive. I think that by her sitting with the other ladies when you are present shows that she is respectful of you. Where you sit in any given situation is your choice. Many of us are raised with different cultural nuances. None are more correct than another. I see nothing out of line here. I hope this helps.

-Jay 

Mother-In-Law's Intrusions 

How do I get my mother-in-law to understand that sometimes we just need family time without her? 

Dear Jay,
Should I tell my mother-in-law that her unannounced visits when she was expressly told not to come or wasn't invited are rude?  Or am I being too sensitive?

She is a wonderful grandmother and I enjoy our time with her, but she can be sneaky and manipulative when she wants her way and you don't give it to her.

For example, when we had our now 4 month old daughter we asked that everyone please give us two weeks with no company so we could adjust to life with a newborn. I didn't want to have to worry about entertaining guests while dealing with breastfeeding problems and sleep deprivation. Yet she showed up unannounced and uninvited half way through the second week. And I couldn't just turn her away because she drove an hour and 45 minutes. She didn't like that we told her she had to stay away so rather than respect our wishes she pulled a childish stunt to get her way. She showed up just before our daughter's first check up hoping to tag along but we went without her and left her at the apartment. She ignored our wishes so I paid her in kind hoping she would get the message.

She always gets weepy and says she just misses us so much and she's missing out on the girls growing up, but this didn't start until the birth of our second daughter. Our first daughter is mine from my first marriage and though my mother-in-law always says she couldn't love her more if she were her own it feels like maybe that's not entirely true.  She has been foaming at the mouth since my third trimester: hounding us for pics and texting constantly.

She uses that missing us as an excuse for rude behavior (like crashing our family weekends by showing up at the restaurant where we plan to go unannounced and uninvited), but she was supposed to be visiting us and the girls the following two weekends so I don't buy it.  She just doesn’t like being excluded.  She takes our family time as a personal challenge to crash.  My husband and I are rather reclusive to begin with, but we host them and go see them constantly. It wears us out, but we do it because family is so important to us. I don't think wanting some alone time once every 3 months is too much to ask.

How can I tell her how I feel without hurting her or our relationship? I love her very much and she is so wonderful except for this very rude and selfish behavior she has been exhibiting lately. I can't understand it because we are so generous with our girls, our home and our time. It really hurts that she is doing this.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  My instincts tell me that your MIL is reaching out to make connections. Perhaps she is lonely, or perhaps she is simply being human. You and your husband need to come up with some house rules, especially around unannounced visits, etc. People will not respect you unless you show them you have respect for yourselves. Be firm but not emotional. Perhaps your husband could speak with his mother and uncover what these intrusions are all about. Being honest with someone should not jeopardize a friendship or a relationship if there is a true bond. What we often forget is that we must take responsibility for our own upset. Taking responsibility relieves others of blame and feelings of guilt and places you in a position of power to maintain calm. I hope this helps.

-Jay 

Partner's Nephew No Longer Welcome

How do I convince my partner that his sister and her son are taking advantage of us? 

Dear Jay,
My partner’s nephew came to live with us during his senior year of high school because he thought that he would get more exposure in basketball and secure a scholarship. After actually seeing him play, we realized that he was embellishing his ability and was not very good. From the beginning we told his mother that he could stay, only if she assumed ALL financial responsibility for him, as we already have one teenage son and could not financially support another at this time.  

Needless to say, his mother did not hold up her end of the bargain for the entire school year, and acted as if we were somehow wrong for asking her to support her OWN child. When the basketball season was over in February, we told him that he needed to get an after school job. School is out at 1:15 and we did not want him just sitting around our house doing nothing.  

Instead of finding a job, he found a group of friends that he hung out with daily until late in the night during the week, and sometimes 3 or 4 in the morning on the weekends. I told my partner that once school was out that he had to go back to his mom's house - which is out of state. He somehow manipulated that situation with his mom and my partner and ended up staying for the summer - not working - just hanging out with friends. I dealt with it knowing that the end was near. He was accepted into a college here in the city and we told his mother that he could absolutely not stay with us and that she must secure a room on campus for him. 

Thinking, that they would manipulate the situation again, she missed the deadline for campus housing and his room was not available when school started. When she saw that we wouldn't give in, she then comes here and takes him to a school two hours away and is able to get him in. I told both his mother and my partner that he is not welcome for school breaks, and/or the summer. Now, they are asking if he can stay for Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks because his mother lives on the other side of the country and can't afford plane tickets.  

How is this my problem?? His mother would NEVER do for us with our child what we are doing for her. He is not an asset to our household. His mother does not contribute financially. He does not help out by at least cleaning, taking out the trash, walking the dog, etc. Am I being too harsh for demanding that he go back home to his mother on school breaks?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  You and your partner need to have chat and come to some agreement as to terms under which his nephew can visit. Come up with house rules, including chores, if necessary. Your partner will then impart this information to his sister and he can deal with her. But remember that you and he must first agree on the terms and you must have one another’s back and don’t give in to her. Perhaps you will come to understand that this dynamic is a generational thing in his family. Being flexible and inclusive around holidays is important though. Have compassion and gratitude. No one knows how many more holidays we have to celebrate. Enjoy them while you can. I hope this helps.

-Jay 

Brother's In-Laws are Not My Family, Too

Is it wrong of me not to want to invite my brother's in-law's to our holiday gatherings? 

Dear Jay,
What is the etiquette around in-law families and the holidays? My brother considers his wife's family as his, as he rightly should. However, I do not consider them my family, though they've been married for 15 years. I declined an offer to go to my sister in-law's mother's house for Thanksgiving. He responded by asking if my sister in-law's mom, her husband, her sister, her husband and their baby could come to my house for Christmas Eve, as he'd like all of the family to be together for the holidays. At the same time, I was neither invited to my sister-in-law’s sister's wedding nor baby shower. That's totally fine with me, but my point is that we are not close. What is the etiquette around this please?  Thanks!

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  The etiquette is that the host controls the guest list. Anyone can host a party and invite whomever they want. It’s what hosts do; it’s not what guests do. He’s asked you an inappropriate question. An unemotional answer would be appropriate. Holding firm shows that you have respect for yourself. That said, I would consider stretching your flexibility during the holidays and be more inclusive than less so. Who knows, once you get to know your extended family, you may come to like them. I hope this helps. 
-Jay 

Truck Miscommunication Leads to Family Strife

How do we tell my brother that he has to pay for the car that he traded to my girlfriend if he wants it back? 

Dear Jay,
My girlfriend and I live in a home with my twin brother. Through some events about a year ago (before we all lived together), he traded her his truck for a four wheeler that I had purchased for her as a birthday gift. She just recently got a different car, and we were going to sell the truck on Craigslist. However, he is now without transportation and my girlfriend is willing to sell him the truck for 1/2 the asking price, so it would be a win win for everyone. 

Except he seems to be under the impression that he can just have the truck. My girlfriend is not in the position to just give it to him, and he makes more than enough money to buy it. She is having a hard time bringing up money for the vehicle as he continues to make statements that imply it is just his for the taking. I would really like to help her find a way to diplomatically address this with him rather than having to get in the middle of it. It would seem like being straightforward should be easy enough, but we have all had our problems with each other in the past, and I would like to avoid adding this one to the list. 

Why does it feel so awkward to want to ask for money when he was willing to shell out $600 to a neighbor down the street for a vehicle that doesn't even run? We will be avoiding mixing family and finances at least in this type of situation in the future.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Money issues are some of the biggest challenges we may face, especially with family. Many emotions become associated with money because money is a powerful force. As a result, we tend to overcomplicate matters surrounding any financial situation. Somewhere along the line your friend’s point of view and your girlfriend’s parted ways. The sooner clear communication is established, the sooner this will resolve. Deal with the facts as they are now; do not confuse things with lingering feelings from past encounters. Do not compare this with your neighbor’s deal. Just say that you want to clear up an apparent misunderstanding. You and your girlfriend should both be present to avoid any he said, she said arguments down the line. A witness is often essential to any important conversation. Stick to the facts at hand and avoid heightened emotions. I would insert an apology when possible. I would also recommend taking responsibility for the misunderstanding. Do not accuse him. Taking responsibility actually puts you in the driver’s seat. Accusing anyone has the tendency to shut down healthy conversations. I hope this helps.


-Jay 

Sister-in-Law Not Wanted on Mother Daughter Getaway

Is it okay if I don't want to invite my sister-in-law to come along with my sisters, my mom and me on a weekend mother daughter getaway? 

Dear Jay,
I am planning a quick mother daughter weekend with my two sisters and mom as a gift to my mom.  Is it rude for me not to invite my sister-in-law also?  I do not want her feelings to be hurt, but I also want a drama free trip (sometimes my sister-in-law can get on my mom's and sibling's nerves.)

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  This depends how closely knit your family is. There is never any obligation to invite anyone on a weekend getaway. This is about your mother, not a family jamboree. She should understand. I hope this helps.


-Jay 

Annual Girls Only Weekend Tradition Ends

How do I let my sister know that I am sad that she no longer wants our annual girls weekend to continue? 

Dear Jay,
My sister and niece used to come visit my daughter and me every summer at the beach. Two years ago my sister announced that she and her husband have decided that they will only travel as a family - which means our girls week will include my brother-in-law. My husband works a lot and rarely takes off. Last year they all came and while I was anxious about it all, it was fine. However, my husband was a bit jilted that he had to spend the weekend with my sister and family then leave Monday morning for work. And to be honest, my brother-in-law is nice, but it was girl/sister time and the time we spend together wasn't quite the same. This past summer, they didn't come because my brother-in-law had work commitments. It's almost like it's about them and their schedules with little regard to me and my family. Am I wrong to be annoyed?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  I think you are disappointed that your days of a girls’ weekend are over for good. I might well be annoyed too given your limited choices. There is no reason for you to bear the burden here unless you choose to. I would have a chat with your sister and explain how you understand her decision, but it makes you sad and hope she might consider carving one weekend a year for just you girls. Maybe she’ll agree. If not, count your blessings for these annual visits and make the most out of them, different though they may be. I hope this helps.


-Jay 

Son's Girlfriend Not Invited For Family Vacation

How do I let my son know that although he is living with his girlfriend, we don't want her to come on our annual family vacation? 

Dear Jay,
Our 21-year-old son, a junior in college, is in a live-in relationship with a girl. Every year we take a family vacation which only includes family. How are we to handle delivering the news to our son and his girlfriend that this is a family vacation only?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  If your son, and adult now, and his girlfriend have been living together for 6 months, in many places they are considered common law husband and wife, in which case you’d have a pretty weak argument. As children leave the nest, there will be lots of unexpected events. You may want to consider being somewhat more flexible and become more inclusive. Your only alternative is to sit down with your son and explain that the his girlfriend is not welcome. I hope this helps.


-Jay 

Rude Nephew Not Wanted at Thanksgiving

Should I honor my mother-in-law's request to invite my rude nephew to join us for Thanksgiving dinner? 

Dear Jay,
My husband and I invited my parents and my in-laws over for Thanksgiving dinner as they all get along extremely well and my husband’s two other siblings are not available to invite my in-laws over for valid reasons of their own.

My mother-in-law, whom I love dearly, has a tendency to feel responsible for all the lost souls in their family. She is in her early 80’s and is handling all the affairs of her almost 20 year younger, never wed sister. The sister is a hoarder with a shopping addiction who needed to be moved to an assisted living facility because of her failing health. There are a few more “repetitive-cases” in the family involving drug addiction etc. that she wants to help as well. Suffice to say, my mother-in-law is somewhere between Florence Nightingale and a hard core missionary.

My husband’s mid-20 year old nephew is not the most polite or likable person. Nor is his behavior or language always appropriate for that matter.My mother-in-law just called to ask if we could invite the nephew to Thanksgiving dinner since we are the only family that he has. His mother lives in Abu Dhabi with her husband, but his father who lives in the state with his girlfriend has apparently not offered to have him over for Thanksgiving dinner.

My husband who has also had less than stellar experiences with his nephew in many departments asked me why his nephews’ father hadn’t invited him. I told him that I thought that to be a valid question.

I am less than thrilled since I don’t believe in telling people whom they should and should not invite to their family gatherings if they are hosting the event. If it were her home, I’d have to grin and bear it and I have done so on many occasions.

To be honest, I was looking forward to having a Thanksgiving dinner with a more mature group than he could contribute to.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  My advice is to honor your mother-in-law’s request to invite the lonely nephew. Why his father doesn’t invite him over is not at question here. Occasions to be generous, compassionate, and grateful are to be embraced - always. I hope this helps.
-Jay 

Not Helping at Thanksgiving 

Should guests be expected to help with the food and do the dishes? 

Dear Jay,
I was invited to my girlfriend’s house for Thanksgiving dinner. I went and brought them a gift of 2 bottles of wine. I was asked more than once to help get the table ready and help in the kitchen. I helped bring out some food and went back to socializing. After the dinner, my girlfriend came over and told me her mom asked why I wasn't helping with the dishes. Is it rude not to help with dishes after I was invited over for dinner? I thought it was rude to invite someone over and expect them to help with dinner or dishes. In my house if someone is a guest they are supposed to enjoy themselves, not help out.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  If you were expected to help with all the tasks involved with dinner, your girlfriend should have known and told you. Somewhere along the line, communications broke down. On the other hand, offering to help at every turn of the screw is a very kind thing to do, and would garner you many kindness points. So, the expectation was inappropriate; but not offering to help, despite the generous gift of wine, may have come across as somewhat ungrateful. Either way, lesson learned. I hope this helps.
-Jay 

Worry Over Where Mom and Dad Will Sleep

Is it appropriate for my mom and dad to ask to sleep in the master bedroom when they come and visit? 

Dear Jay,
My parents are coming over to my home for a night. They always complain about the air mattress, but recently we bought another bed; however, the only other available space to put it is in the basement. My mother has said this is okay, but my fear is that when she arrives she and my father will complain about being put in the basement. My husband is out of town so I worry that they will request that they sleep in the master bedroom. Is it appropriate to tell them no? If they really can't go to the basement, my mom has two sisters in the area she could stay with that have their separate guest facilities.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Take your mother at her word. No need to invent stories about events that won’t be happening. It’s only for one night. Abandon your fears. I hope this helps.
-Jay 

Thanksgiving Invitation Chaos

Is my brother-in-law rude for pressuring us into answering his Thanksgiving invite? 

Dear Jay,
We were invited to Thanksgiving by my sister-in-law about 2 months ago and I have said twice we are coming. Her husband asked us this week if we are still coming because he has people that want to rent his house for that time. I said we don't know for sure because we don't know what the weather will be and would know closer to the time.

He said he can't have the people waiting if we don't know for sure. He would still keep it open if he knew for sure we are coming. I told him he is rude. He did not think so.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  You accepted the invitation twice. Why now would weather be a factor? If he wants to cancel or move the Thanksgiving event, that is his prerogative. Yes, it’s rude of him to be waffling on this, as well as pressuring you. But it’s equally puzzling that your answer is now weather dependent. Keeping this matter as simple as possible, remember that the host decides where and when the party will be and who will attend. The guest simply accepts or regrets. If there is a timing issue, the guest must regret. I hope this helps.
-Jay 

Sister Insists on Gifts for Daughter

How do I tell my sister nicely that because her daughter is now 19, I no longer want to buy her gifts? 

Dear Jay,
I come from a family of 3 girls and one boy. When our children were little, we together with our mother, decided that at age 18 we would stop buying the nieces and nephews birthday and Christmas gifts. This has worked well until now.  My one sister ( I'll call her Donna) has an only child that just turned 19 years old. I sent a card. (as did everyone else). My sister called to inform me that she was disappointed. She feels that we should give gifts until the kids are out of college. She stated that this is what she has chosen to do this with the other nieces/nephews and we should reciprocate.  None of us have lots of spare money. Our other sister (Clair) is about to have her third grandchild. We are pitching in to buy the niece a very nice gift.  Donna replied that "Clair had better remember how much we spent when our children have kids"

Lastly, Donna has been buying birthday and Christmas gifts for Clair's grandchildren. The problem is that she has stated that she will expect us to buy for her grandchildren. I do not want to start that. I am asking for advice on how to bring all of this up with my sister, Donna, without causing hurt feelings.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Gifts are not entitlements. No one should ever expect or demand a gift or even a gift exchange. “Donna” is a bully. Let her know she is free to make whatever choices she wishes, but you’ll be making your own as to who does and does not make the gift list. I hope this helps.
-Jay 

Torn Between Daughter's and Mother's Birthday Celebrations

Whose birthday should I put more energy into - my deserving teenage daughter or my mother who always gets her way? 

Dear Jay,
Is it ok for a grandmother's birthday to repeatedly take precedent over a grandchild's birthday?

My mother, a widow living in another state, has managed to orchestrate many birthday parties for herself, yet she has never baked a cake in her life or helped plan any other birthday parties for anyone but my late father. On her 80th, my sister and I planned an enormous bash for her at her suggestion. It was wonderful for all. And I wouldn't begrudge her if it didn't have a very bad effect on my own daughter. My daughter's birthday is four days later. We travel to my mother's state, gather all the relatives in one place for my mother's birthday and completely leave my daughter's birthday out of the equation. By the time my mother's birthday is over nobody has the energy or time to travel to celebrate my daughter's birthday. She is an only child without any relatives in the state where we live. We celebrated my mother's 84th at her home on a smaller scale. My daughter turned 18 and was in between friend groups, so we had a 3 person birthday for her. 

I resolved that it would be my daughter's turn next year, despite my mother's upcoming 85th. I thought to invite all the relatives to our state and home for our daughter's 19th. When I suggested this to my mother she announced that our state was not suitable for birthday parties. To complicate things further, my uncle has since proposed that we put on a joint birthday party for my mother and for himself at my mother's, as he will be 80 and my mother will be 85. At this point, although she will be an amazing 85, I just don't feel like putting energy into her birthday, yet again. I’m torn between being a dutiful daughter to an undeserving Mother and being a good mother to a deserving teenager.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  I understand your dilemma. Your mother has everyone very well trained, and frankly there’s not a whole lot you’re going to accomplish at this stage of the game by trying to buck her system. Only children also develop techniques of survival in their unique world, so you have some challenges. I think a joint birthday party for the three celebrants is a good idea. If your daughter has a couple of special friends who can’t make the trip, plan to take them out to her favorite restaurant at a later date. You have limited time left with your mother and uncle. They thrive on the connections celebrations such as these provide. I do not recommend denying this to them. I hope this helps.
-Jay 

Daughter's Birthday Conundrum 

Is it okay to exclude the in-laws when planning a party for my daughter? 

Dear Jay,
My daughter's birthday is coming up.  There was a problem with the amount of people coming and where to host it. My ex was going to host it until people could not car pool. At his development cars will be towed away if there are too many, so now he is not having it. 

My daughter will be 29 on the 14th of October and just had a new baby. She was upset that no one will host her party. Now she is hoping the in-laws will have it.

My question is I would want an intimate party with just the immediate family, not her in-laws. Is this wrong? Also, I feel insulted that she would want them to have it for her when I am her mom. I am unable to have it since my house is being renovated. I really don't wish to come to the in-laws to celebrate because I feel awkward. I feel she will let them know that her own family will not have a party for her.

Also, how can I have a party for her in the future without the in-laws. She is my daughter and sometimes it would be nice to have just our family. Where do you draw the line when your children get married?  I feel my son or daughter and their children is fine, but not my daughter-in-law and her sisters and brothers and their children.

Please help us with the proper etiquette.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  You have many stories swirling around in your ahead about myriad possible futures. None of them will likely transpire. However, from an etiquette perspective, as host, you control the guest list - no questions asked. Invite whom you wish. As an invited guest, you always have the choice to accept or regret any invitation - again, no questions asked. My advice is to lose the stories by following your heart. Be grateful for your daughter’s happiness. Why not give your son-in-law’s family a chance? Remember the Golden Rule. I hope this helps.
-Jay 

No Couch for Me, Please

Who should get the bedroom and who should get the couch when multiple guests are visiting from out of town? 

Dear Jay,
I'm 21 years old and married. My husband and I are in town on a year long planned vacation. We are staying at my parents’ house in my old room. My husband will be leaving to go home ahead of me in a few days and then my uncle will be flying into town for a family wedding. We have three bedrooms in my parents’ house - my parents’, my sister’s, and my old room. I really don't want to sleep on the floor of my sister’s room or the couch since my family stays up late and I'm the total opposite.

I'm assuming I'll get kicked out of my room since my uncle is coming. Is that fair? I know I'm younger, but I'm also a female, and we planned our stay at my parents’ long before my uncle did. Does gender or age matter? Who should get the couch?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  A year long planned vacation? Seriously? Not a bad gig at 21. You are still a guest in your parents’ house. They’ll let you know where you’ll be sleeping. Be grateful. I hope this helps.
-Jay 

Husband's Adult Son Needs Boundaries

How do I create expectations for my husband's adult son who seems to be taking advantage of us? 

Dear Jay,
My husband and I are newlyweds of 3 years. I have two adult daughters (26 and 21) who live with us because we are helping them get on their own feet. My husband has a 26 year old son who from time to time brings his 3 year old daughter and new girlfriend who also spends the night almost every night now. 

Please help me set ground rules for expectation on bringing boyfriends/girlfriends over. It is becoming a frustration on my end because he never tells me when he’s bringing a girlfriend over and my husband seems to be okay with it. His son is allowed to smoke HTC while staying with us because we were trying to help him get over his heroine addiction. It’s driving me crazy right now, though, and I can't sleep. I want what is fair for me and for him as well since my two daughters live with us too. Please help.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  You need to sit down with your husband and communicate to him what your concerns are, and how his indifference makes you feel. Together you need to draw up a set of house rules for everyone to follow. When things begin to get under your skin, it’s best to tackle them right away. You are very generous people; have some compassion for yourselves and establish some boundaries. This shows your children, by example, what respect is all about - respect for others and respect for self. I hope this helps.
-Jay 

Mom Doesn't Want Daughter Bringing Boyfriend Home for Christmas

Is it understandable that I don't want my daughter bringing her boyfriend home for Christmas? 

Dear Jay,
My 24 year daughter is coming home for Christmas. She wants to invite her boyfriend to my home. I am uncomfortable with that, but she insists. I am a single mum and feel very stressed about it.

Jay's ANSWER...
A: I can understand your apprehension, but if your daughter is an upstanding adult, I recommend that you trust her. I’m sure she wants you to be comfortable in your own house and will act respectfully at all times. On the other hand, your home is your castle and you are well within your rights to make the house rules. Your daughter ought to respect your rules and your feelings, but remember that she is your daughter. You raised her with your values. I hope you have a very Merry Christmas. And, I hope this helps.
-Jay 

Son Irritated Mom Won't Include His New Girlfriend

Am I right to be wary of my 22 year old son wanting to invite his very new girlfriend to visit the family? 

Dear Jay,
My son is 22. He is basically a great kid. He is working and going to college, but still lives at home. He has had several girlfriends in his past- all pretty short term (nothing over 6months). Now he has a new one again, that he says he's been dating for 3 months. He's mad at me because I told him he couldn't bring her to a family party. I have only met this person 1 time myself, and don't even know her last name or much about her. He says I am being mean because he's met her family. I think this is an inappropriate time to have her jump right in. This may end up being a nice relationship for him, but both my husband and I think he should take more time getting to know her before introducing her to the family, especially since he doesn't have a longevity pattern with girls.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  He may be receiving your message as one that basically says you don’t trust him. Your son is an adult now, and even though he lives with you, he has rights and privileges. Who he decides to have relationships of whatever shape or size is not your responsibility. Allow him to follow his path, as you I hope are following yours. I hope this helps.
-Jay 

Son Irritated Mom Won't Include His New Girlfriend

Am I right to be wary of my 22 year old son wanting to invite his very new girlfriend to visit the family? 

Dear Jay,
My son is 22. He is basically a great kid. He is working and going to college, but still lives at home. He has had several girlfriends in his past- all pretty short term (nothing over 6months). Now he has a new one again, that he says he's been dating for 3 months. He's mad at me because I told him he couldn't bring her to a family party. I have only met this person 1 time myself, and don't even know her last name or much about her. He says I am being mean because he's met her family. I think this is an inappropriate time to have her jump right in. This may end up being a nice relationship for him, but both my husband and I think he should take more time getting to know her before introducing her to the family, especially since he doesn't have a longevity pattern with girls.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  He may be receiving your message as one that basically says you don’t trust him. Your son is an adult now, and even though he lives with you, he has rights and privileges. Who he decides to have relationships of whatever shape or size is not your responsibility. Allow him to follow his path, as you I hope are following yours. I hope this helps.
-Jay 

Sister Wants to Help Pay For Emergency Travel Expenses

Do I accept my sister's offer to pay for my travel expenses when I flew to help her in a medical emergency? 

Dear Jay,
My sister had a medical emergency out of town. I flew out of town to assist her. I incurred airfare, a car rental, meals, a hotel and I lost time from my job. This accounts for a lot of money. She wants to pay me back. Is this something I should accept?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  If your sister offers to reimburse you, and in your opinion she can afford it, accept her offer graciously. If you feel this would be a hardship, politely decline. If she then insists, accept her generosity. Remember The Golden Rule. I hope this helps.

 -Jay 

Pushy Sister-In-Law's Party Expectations Too High

Is it too late for me to tell my sister-in-law that I don't want her friends staying at my home for my brother's party? 

Dear Jay,
My sister-in-law from out-of-state is having a surprise birthday party for my brother while they will be visiting here. At first, she asked me to host the party at my home. I suggested that we have it on a train instead, and she liked the idea. But now, she has my mother doing most of the leg work and housing all the guests.

My sister-in-law also asked me to put up two of their friends (who I met once maybe 10 years ago) plus their two kids overnight at my house. I suggested a hotel, but she said her friends are on a budget. I feel burned out and told her so, but it fell on deaf ears. So, I said yes with much hesitation.
Personally, I would rather just pay for their hotel room than have to host them at my house.

I love my brother, but find his wife to be clueless and always trying to get everyone else do the heavy lifting. I'm sure her friends are nice, but she is imposing on me. Is it too late to offer to put them up at a hotel? I'm tired of taking the high road and sucking it up and going through the motions with family members and all the high maintenance that they require.

Jay's ANSWER...
A: It is not too late to not only offer, but insist that her friends stay at a hotel. Taking the high road does not mean being a doormat. You must, above all, have respect for yourself. Your home is your castle and you must lay down the house rules. If your SIL is “clueless”, taking the high road would be raising her awareness to an acceptable level, not stooping to her disrespectful level. I hope this helps.
-Jay 

Wicked In-Laws Cause High Anxiety

How do I deal with my the rude and disrespectful behavior of my in-laws? 

Dear Jay,
My in-laws are overbearing and controlling. They live 1000 miles from my husband and me. My husband is a farmer / rancher with extremely long hours.  My career takes me 10.5 to 11 hours per day, I then take care of our shopping, large home, pool and yard. We live where my mother-in-law grew up and has 3 sisters still in our community.  

For many years we will receive a phone call announcing they are coming to visit because she wants to see her sisters. My sister-in-law does the same thing - inviting herself and family to come to our home and vacation. There have been many insults slung at me by each of them.  

One Saturday after I served lunch (no help from anyone) to my sister-in-law and her family, my husband ate then went back to work. My sister-in-law, her husband and kids got up from table, put on swimsuits and went out to swim.  As I was clearing the table my sister-in-law walked by on the way to the door, paused and said, “My husband said the only reason Tom married you is because he wanted someone that worked hard.” She laughed and was out the door.  I was appalled and angry!  

I did as I have done for many years and told myself to let it roll off, because my husband doesn't get to see his family all that often and I should  just let them enjoy themselves. I could write a book with all the outlandish crap that has been said to me by these people. I have felt horrible giving them free reign of our home while my husband and myself have been at work.  

Of course, nothing is ever clean enough, neat enough, or decorated quite good enough and this has been expressed to me. I finally got to my breaking point and told my husband I was done with putting up with this. His sister phoned on his birthday, and he told her she owed me an apology. Of course, she said she did not do anything I had told him and gave no apology. The same thing happened with his parents. Their response was, "Tom you know us and know we would not do this". Then they proceeded to point out my flaws in their opinion.  My father-in-law actually opened my bedroom door early one morning and walked in. I awoke to him standing over me asking me a question. I was mortified and couldn't even speak. He finally turned and left my bedroom. I demanded that my husband install a door knob that he could lock with a key when he left in the mornings.  

Again in the trying to get along with everyone, we just let it go.  After several other offenses from my father-in-law my husband brought up him letting himself into my bedroom and my father-in-law denied it. 

They were not allowed to stay in our home for a couple of years then my mother-in-law had a sister in the hospital so she phoned telling my husband she was coming. He said she could stay here,and then she said we needed to have a vehicle for her to drive while she was here (she flew in to the nearest large airport which is 3 hours away, so I had to go pick her up). My husband knows all this has pushed me beyond my limit, but he wants to spend time with them.  

I'm a wreck; even if they just phone it upsets me. I don't want to be around them, but my husband says he wants to see his parents, and they are getting old and will not be here that much longer. He says he wants me to go with him to a wedding that they will attend as well. I don't know that I can go and act like nothing happened when his father has called me a liar to everyone that would listen to him. My heart rate increases just thinking about it, and I cannot sleep. My husband has told me he will deal with anyone that is rude to me, but he will have to see it to deal with it. I think he is wanting everything to smooth over, but I really don't know how I can forget. How do I deal with these people that I do not think deserve the time of day from me?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: This is a very serious problem for you, and your husband does not appreciate how this actually makes you feel. He needs to be your number one ally, even above his family. If he cannot do this, you must lay down the law. Your home is your castle, and people who do not respect you and how you manage your home, or your life for that matter, are no longer welcome. Your husband will need to make this more clear to his parents, otherwise he will have to visit them alone. You must stand your ground and be sure to never lose respect for yourself. Otherwise people will continue to be disrespectful of you. Their behavior is unacceptable and needs to be banished from your life. I hope this helps.
-Jay

Husband Always Wants Wife By His Side

Is there a formula for how much time a person can spend with their family versus with their spouse? 

Dear Jay,
I've been married for 9 years. This is a second marriage for both of us (I was married for 4 years while he had been married for 23). My husband has very few friends, while I have still maintain friendships from grade school friends, college and past work colleagues. He is not particularly close to his siblings, 2 are out of state and 2 are local. One of his local sisters he no longer talks to. We do host a annual family reunion on his side that includes all his father's side. I have 8 siblings and my twin sister and I are the youngest.

Here's my problem, he says I spend way too much time with my family. How much time is too much? During the summer, I take Fridays off and travel down to the beach to my sister's cottage for the day. I generally come home around dinner time so it doesn't interfere with our plans. I have asked him to join me, but he really doesn't like to sit at the beach. He feels bored and restless. The few times we have gone down for the weekend, he's gone, but you can tell he's not happy so I go back to the cottage with him so he won't sulk. He also doesn't care for my brother-in-law. Recently, my brother was moving some items out of his house; he is going through a separation, and I offered to help. It turned into more than just a few things and I was gone longer than anticipated. My husband was mad at me because my brother doesn't really do anything for me, yet I drop everything for him. I do help out anyone that asks (within reason); this is my personality. But he hates it. He's always looks at it as “whats in it for him” and that's just not me.

So I guess I wanted to know if there was any formula I should use on spending time with family or friends and time with my husband. Don't get me wrong, my husband and I get along great, have a good marriage for the most part, but he always wants me right by his side. A perfect example is if he has a side job, he wants me to go with him, regardless of if I can help him or not. If I go, he's happy, if I don't, I've let him down.

Jay's ANSWER...
A: Even in the best of marriages, communication can be a challenge. You seem to be very sensitive to your husband’s needs, likes, etc. Perhaps he does not fully appreciate how his behavior makes you feel. I think that if you are willing to support him when he needs you, you are well within your rights to have your own personal time with your family. Why don’t you discuss this with him and come to an arrangement that includes a degree of independence for each of you, and without judgment. Respecting one another’s individual needs and preferences is important. Marriage does not always mean being attached at the hip. I hope this helps.

-Jay 

Gift Giving Guidelines for Grandparents

Am I right to ask my in-laws to back off on giving our kids so many gifts for Christmas? 

Dear Jay,
How do I nicely tell my in-laws that I don't want them to buy a bunch of gifts for my kids for Christmas? There are many reasons that I feel this way. One: we live in a small house and we honestly don't have room for tons of toys and things. Two: we travel to their houses (they are divorced) during the holidays and don't have room in our car to bring back all the things that they buy. Three: There tends to be so much stuff that my kids don't even care about a lot of it and it just gets thrown away or not used. Four: Because my husband’s parents are divorced it feels like they are trying to compete for my kids’ affections by seeing who can spend more on them. Five: my parents can't afford to buy a bunch of gifts for my kids (although I know they want to), and it seems unfair to them. Six: I don't want my kids to think that getting gifts is what Christmas is all about.

We've tried to talk to them about putting money aside in a college fund and that lasted one year. I don't want to take away their joy of giving, but I would really like to make some guidelines so that it's not so out of control this year. I would love to be able to say 1 toy, 1 book, 1 outfit and if you want to give more each child has a savings account set up for college. Help!

Jay's ANSWER...
A: You make excellent points. Communication is key here, as is gratitude and responsibility. You do not want to appear ungrateful. You mention "stuff your kids don’t even care about, etc.” Perhaps they do have too much and are not grateful for what they do have. Raising your children is your responsibility. You have every right to have boundaries and guidelines around Christmas gifts. I suggest that your husband speak with his parents and lay out the “new” guidelines. If they are unwilling to accept them, you do not have to accept the gifts. Contributing to a college fund, although a nice idea, is not very warm and fuzzy, and will likely be lost on your children. It will also take away from the joy of giving. So, I would suggest that your husband tell them exactly what you have outlined here. Be sure to be reading from the same page with your husband. He must buy into this arrangement wholeheartedly. I hope this helps.
-Jay 

Including More Guests For Beach House Vacation

Is it rude for us to ask if our children can bring their significant others on our vacation at a cousin's beach house? 

Dear Jay,
A cousin and his family invited my husband and I and our two 30 something year old children to spend the weekend at their magnificent beach house with them. Both of my kids have long term 3 and 5 year+ relationships, but are not yet engaged or married. It would be rude for my kids to say “see ya later” to their significant others for the weekend at the beach, but is it rude to ask if we can bring the girlfriend and boyfriend with us? Or would it be better to just get a hotel nearby for our kids and their significant others to stay?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: It would not be rude for your children to spend a weekend away from their significant others. It would be rude to ask if they could be included in the invitation. Perhaps an alternative suggestion that would work for you is to explain the situation to your host and let them know that you and your husband would love to stay with them, but you will put your children, etc up at a hotel. This gives the host the opportunity to extend the invitation to them with no obligation. I hope this helps.
-Jay 

Offended by No Gifts

Am I right to be offended that my in-laws did not send a gift or come visit when I was struggling with cancer? 

Dear Jay,
Hello. I was diagnosed with stage 1 ovarian cancer before Christmas. As it turns out, I was told that I was in remission before Dec.25. My mother-in-law and her husband sent me a get well card. They did not visit or send flowers (or even a plant). They live 2 and a half hours away. Should I be offended?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “You cannot be offended without your permission.” This means that your feelings are your responsibility fully. Blaming others for feeling offended is inappropriate. I am very happy to hear that your are in remission and that you remain that way. You can further relieve yourself of stress by dropping expectations about how others should behave. And, be grateful for the get well card. You have much to be grateful for. If you want some flowers, go to a flower shop and buy some. If you want them to come for a visit, invite them. I hope this helps.
-Jay 

Son Forced to Say "I Love You" 

How do I tell my sister-in-law to stop forcing my son to say "I love you" to everyone? 

Dear Jay,
How do I tell my sister-in-law to stop telling my 2 year old son to say “I love you” to other people? My husband doesn't like it either, but he doesn't want to say anything as we are both at a loss of what to say. The words “I love you” to us are precious words and not tossed around whenever and to whoever, but my sister-in-law keeps telling my son to say it.

Jay's ANSWER...
A: You must simply tell your SIL that you and your husband find this inappropriate, especially at such a young age. As you say, these words are not to be tossed around lightly. Your child is your responsibility, not your SIL’s. Be clear, but not bitter. I hope this helps.
-Jay 

Not Welcome Niece

How do I tell my niece that it's time for her to move out of my house without sounding rude to her? 

Dear Jay,
My husband's niece came to our place for holiday. She has stayed for 4 months and isn’t showing signs or plans of going. The annoying part is she enters my room without knocking whether I am in there alone or with my hubby. How do I tell her her time is up and that she should leave without sounding rude?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: You must speak with your husband and explain that his niece’s behavior is unacceptable. You and he must come to an agreement as to what your house rules are. You will need to let her know that she must find her own accommodations as quickly as possible. This is not rude. Your home is your castle. This is an issue that should have been dealt with before she even arrived, so now it will be awkward, but nonetheless, if you speak with kindness, all will be well. I hope this helps.
-Jay 

Uninvited In-laws

How do I handle the fact that my in-laws invited themselves to my home for the holidays and I was never asked? 

Dear Jay,
My parent in laws have invited themselves to stay for the holidays. I was never asked. This is the second year. I do not want them at the house my parents worked so hard to get us and they never lifted a finger to help.

Jay's ANSWER...
A: You must have a chat with your husband and explain that no one can invite themselves to your home; they must be invited. You must be clear that decisions of this nature must be agreed upon. Open communication is essential to a healthy relationship. I hope this helps.
-Jay 

Gatherings with the In-Laws = Awkward

How can I get my kids to understand that we don't enjoy celebrating special occasions with their in-laws? 

Dear Jay,
I find it very awkward when our kids expect us to celebrate theirs or their kids' birthdays with their in-laws. How can my husband and I help them understand this?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  I wonder why it’s awkward? They are part of the family now - maybe not your family, but your childrens’ family. How can you not understand this? I hope this helps.
-Jay 

Worried About Cousin's Dating Life

Is it okay for me to express how uncomfortable I am with my cousin and my brother-in- law potentially dating? 

Dear Jay,
Is it wrong to be upset that my brother-in-law wants to date my cousin?  He is 28 and she is 21; they live over 1000 miles apart. Knowing each of them very well - age differences aside - I do not think they are compatible and it will just be a "fling" which I am uncomfortable with.

Jay's ANSWER...
A: This is not a case of being right or wrong. It is a case of misplaced responsibility. I don’t see why your opinion is of any importance. This potential relationship is their affair, not yours. Do not give them the power to upset you. It’s your choice to detach from any desire to control. I hope this helps.
-Jay 

Rude Sister Won't Be Invited Overnight Again

Am I being fair to tell my fiancee that his rude sister, her children and grandchildren will not be welcome to spend the night in our home ever again? 

Dear Jay,
My fiancée and I just bought a new house, but it's only in his name. Recently, we invited his sister and her husband for a weekend visit, but her husband couldn't come due to his work schedule. So, she took it upon herself to come with her 2 grown daughters, teenage son, and 2 grandkids.  They stayed 2 nights. We provided dinner upon their arrival, and breakfast and dinner the next day. Not once did anyone of them offer to help clean up anything. They would leave the table and go straight to the t.v. They treated our home like a hotel. My fiancée's oldest niece even had an attitude toward me. I, the host, gave her a gift and she didn't even say thank you. 

Then, 2 weeks later, the same rude niece called and asked my fiancée if she, her mom, and 4 more relatives could stay at our home while they attended a family event. Per my request, he told her that I was having family visit that same weekend. Not to mention, they have other family members in our city, but they all want to mooch off us. As it stands, I don't want that crew to ever stay at our home again. Am I  being fair for feeling this way? I'm not refusing them as 'few-hour visitors' when they're in town, but never again as over night guests.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  If you don’t like having overnight guests at your house, then yes, you are being fair. If it’s because they are ungrateful guests, then you need to speak with your fiancee and ask him to speak to his sister and explain how such behavior makes you feel. Hopefully, he understands and shares the same feelings. I don’t think alienating family members without some explanation is a good idea. See if you can work things out. And remember that not everyone has the opportunity to spend time with family. Perhaps being grateful for this is something to consider as well. I hope this helps.
-Jay 

Sister's Present More of a Pain than Pleasure

Is it okay for me to turn down my sister's tickets to a concert anniversary present because she wants to control who we invite to go with us? 

Dear Jay,
As an 'anniversary present' (our anniversary was 2 months ago) my sister invited my husband and me to a concert with performers we really love. Initially she mistakenly sent (texted) the invitation to my older brother (whom I do not wish to associate with) later correcting this and explaining what she had done as a "freudian slip" (we look alike and don't like each other).

There are four seats in her garden box and we wanted to take someone we enjoy for this fun night but my sister has pressed us to first, ask my brother (not going to happen), then my oldest sister (a religious fanatic who is homophobic and gothically dogmatic) no thanks! I suggested people but first my sister said she wanted someone to ride with her from her area (we live in the city and she on the coast), I suggested a friend who lives near her, someone she has met at her house, a lovely woman - she steered again to someone in the family, a niece (the daughter of the dogmatic fundamentalist). 

I want to politely say "thanks but no thanks" and let her take my sister, brother and niece instead. Why do people give with strings attached. My sister say she wants to "make peace like St. Francis of Assisi" but we are fine, hold no grudges but chose not to associate with negative people. Are we (am I) wrong to insist this not be a political summit but an enjoyable evening? 

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  I agree with you 100%. Your relationships are not any of your sister’s business. I would have done exactly what you did! I hope this helps.
-Jay 

Don't Call Me "In-Law"

How do I tell my daughter's father's family that I don't want them to call me their "in-law"? 

Dear Jay,
I am not married to my daughter's dad. Our daughter is 10. Her dad and I have had a relationship for over 24 years. We are very close friends. We do family vacations, spend all holidays together with his family and my family.  We do not live together. My mom calls him her son-in-law, and my siblings call him brother-in-law, and my nieces call him their uncle. I do not like this, but he doesn't mind so I live with this (at least to me) annoyance.    His new sister-in-law has began to call me her sister-in-law. I do not like it. I am not her sister-in-law. It is great she thinks of me this way, but I am her niece's mom or a family friend. How do I let her know this without sounding rude? To me, a privilege of being married or marrying into a family is the title of in-law.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  You are in fact common-law spouses, so the title is not out of the question. If you don’t like it, simply say I’d prefer to be called “blank”. I hope this helps.
-Jay 

Hot Head Son Won't Understand Boundaries

How do I communicate with my adult son about my aversion to his crashing at my house every weekend? 

Dear Jay,
How do I tell my 25 year old son that he can't bring his girlfriend and baby to my house every weekend and crash here. He doesn't have his own place yet but stays with his father during the week and comes with people in tow every weekend. I feel this is disrespectful and he is taking advantage. I would sit down and talk to him but that won't do any good because he's a hot head. What should I do and how should I approach this issue?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Disrespectful hotheads are a big problem, not only for you, but for his girlfriend and especially for the child! He needs some counseling. Is there a chance that you can speak with his father? If not, you’ll need to lay down some rules. Explain how this behavior makes you feel - i.e. disrespected, used, etc., and that this can’t continue. Explain also that you need your privacy. He’s an adult. If he throws a fit, call the police. I hope this helps.
-Jay 

Adult Son Not Welcome Unexpectedly

Is it okay for me to not want my new husband's adult son to come over unexpectedly about once a month to spend the night? 

Dear Jay,
My husband and I married last year and he has a 23 year old son who rents a room in a nearby city. His son stays over one night about once a month, without notice. My husband wants to keep a spare bed available for his son so he can stay over night anytime. I feel like I don't want to clean up, cook and feed him on this regular and unscheduled basis. Any advice?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Without knowing why you don’t want to do this, it’s difficult to give you advice. Perhaps some ground rules set up between you and your husband would help. For example, maybe the son could give you a couple of days notice. Another perspective would be to be grateful for the opportunity to spend time with this young man. One never knows how much time one has, does one? I hope this helps.
-Jay 

Soap Allergy

How do I let my mother-in-law know that the soap she uses is causing me to have an allergic reaction in a tactful way? 

Dear Jay,
My elderly Mother-In-Law moved in with my husband and I several months ago. She has been using a particular brand of soap bar the majority of her 80+ years of life. I am extremely allergic to perfumes and colognes and apparently I am having a strong, adverse reaction to this soap she uses daily. I have tried to politely tell her about my sensitivity to perfumes, colognes and even that my husband had to change his deodorant brand when we started dating 34 years ago. I am finding it more unbearable (coughing, sore throat and headaches) to inhale this soap smell when she is with me or has been in a room I need to be in. She is a person that has her feelings hurt easily so I have not pushed telling her specifically about this issue.  How do I tactfully let her know I can't take it anymore, especially now that we close the house up on these hot summer days?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  This has become a safety issue, not just a preference. Easily hurt feelings or not, if this soap could send you to the hospital, it needs to go. Do not hesitate to bring this to her attention. Perhaps your husband could take on this task. It’s good to remember that we alone are responsible for our feelings - no exceptions. You are well within your rights to deal with this head-on, but in a kindly way. Also remember, your home is your castle. You do have the upper hand here. I hope this helps.
-Jay 

Family Allowed to Destry Grandparents' Home

Is it okay for guests to leave huge messes around and refuse to clean up after themselves? 

Dear Jay,
My brother, his wife and two children visit a couple times a year for 2-3 weeks. They stay with my parents when they are in town so they can enjoy their company. However, it ends up being more stressful for my parents than enjoyable. My parents provide everything during their stay, but my brother and his wife never clean up after themselves or their children. I am talking about everything from leaving a food covered highchair/floor behind once they are done eating to toys strung across the house all the time. My parents have a nice home and enjoy keeping it at least picked up when the grandkids are over.

It was awful last Christmas (which is also my mom's birthday). My brother's children broke one of my dad's decorations that he brought back with him from Germany when he served in the Army. They also were permitted to deconstruct the tree.

When my parents confronted them about picking up after themselves and watching their children closer they were told "We are guests in your home. Guests don't clean." and "Maybe you shouldn't have so many decorations out for the boys to get into."

So who is right? Should my parents accept that they are guests not children with chores or should my brother and his family help out and watch their children more closely?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Your brother’s family are way off base. Of course they should help, and be responsible. I wonder who taught him this unacceptable behavior? It’s time for it to stop, but that directive should really come from your parents. I hope this helps.
-Jay 

Sister's Visits Unwelcome

How do I tell my sister that I don't want her to visit as often because she is overly critical? 

Dear Jay,
I have a sister who has visited us from out of state 5 times this year and is hinting about a possible sixth time. I love my sister, but she has this judgmental attitude that she passes on everything from TV shows to how clean my car is. The house is thrown into complete disarray with every visit with everyone feeling like they are constantly walking on eggs. I still want her to visit but not every two months. How can I tell her not to come without hurting her feelings?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Rather than worry about the frequency of her visits, you may want to consider having a chat with her about her superior attitude. In the end, if that doesn’t change, no visit will be a welcome one. Simply explain to her that her judgmental attitude makes all of you feel like you are walking on eggshells, just like you have described to me. Let her know that her dismissiveness and lack of humility are no longer welcome in your house. She is a bit of a bully, from the sounds of things. Bullies bully because they can. Someone just needs to let her know how she affects the people around her. Often when people are made aware of these things, they change their behavior instantly. I hope this helps.
-Jay 

Husband's Family Doesn't Understand Boundaries

Am I really an ogre or is my husband's family totally disrespecting my requests? 

Dear Jay,
I work from home and have a dedicated office with a great deal of phone time involved. My adult stepson lives with us right now to get back on his feet.  He is generally quiet and tries not to make noise in the home. He's not an issue, but our home is very small as it was an empty nest purchase and we only have 2 bedrooms. On most weekends, he has his 2 year old here, too.

The issue is with my husband's other family members, mainly stepdaughter.  She is 18, with a baby, and her boyfriend. She frequently wants to come visit and "get away" as they live with her Bio Mom. She has a history as a wild child, and has even stolen things like makeup from me while visiting. When she wants to come down, she texts my husband and "invites" herself the same day she wants to come down. She always plays the "I miss you Daddy" game, but she manipulates and everyone knows this - sometimes she visits to ask for money. This event happens about once a month. We also visit - she's 2 hrs away - but we take day trips.

I have asked for more advanced notice multiple times; her visits create a big crowd in a very small home (1300 sq ft, stepson, and 3 cats). Sometimes I have plans, and sometimes I don't have enough food (they want us to take them out and drop $100 on dinner anyway. My husband always caves and says at least I don't have to cook).

My husband has requested that she wait to arrive until after I get off work, but she shows up several hours before my work ends, and it is a disruption.  She really tries to be quiet, but will come in and start mouthing silent questions when I'm on the phone, doors opening and closing, you get the picture. My husband's Mom also arrived an entire day early (planned trip) in the middle of a workday without calling first and stayed for 4 days. It was supposed to be 2 nights. This seems to be a trend with the people that do not have jobs in our family!

I  get upset when receiving texts in the middle of the day from my husband about this, and I have begun responding the same grump and "inflexible" way.  It always seems that I am at fault for having problems with this behavior and feeling like my time is not respected. I know that I have become rigid, and I'm actually getting worse and worse. My husband says that I put him in the middle of all this.

It's frustrating to get anyone to understand that I NEED people to plan ahead if they are planning with my time, money, and home. I also do not want people to show up at my home in the middle of a workday. I told my husband that maybe they need to go to his office and hang out until he gets off work?  No matter what any plans I make are ruined because even if they don't show, he will come home and not talk to me the rest of the night. We've been married 10 years.

Am I wrong?  Is there a better way I can handle this without becoming an Ogre each time we are asked and I get the dreaded text?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: This is a classic case of the person being bullied (you) being turned into the bully (in their eyes, and in fact). You and your husband need to have an honest discussion about how these intrusions make you feel - disrespected, used, etc. He needs to make you his number one priority. If he is unwilling to do that, then you may have a much bigger issue on your hands. A solution is for you to design a set of house rules together and to enforce them. Your home is your castle. If you do not treat it and yourselves with respect, no one else will either. If you don’t speak up for yourself, you are demonstrating that you have no respect for yourself. Others pick up on that. Take a stand. It’s your house, too! I hope this helps.
-Jay 

Inhospitable Hosts

Is it okay for my step mother-in-law to much so many demands when the family comes to visit? 

Dear Jay,
My in-laws (father-in-law and step-mother-in-law) moved to their cottage in retirement. They live 3 hours from our main city. They are often unpleasant company when we visit as individual families (tense, irritable, bickering, micromanaging and being rude to family guests). Many of the adult children have young children and a baby. For a major holiday, they invited most of the family to visit the cottage for a holiday weekend. In addition to driving 3 hours, the step-mother-in-law asked the adult children with young children to help with the meal preparation, pay for/bring food. Though they have 3 guest rooms and can easily accommodate the small family group via beds or additional air mattresses, they stated that some family can stay at the cottage and others can pay and stay at a local bed and breakfast/hotel. Is it rude for them to expect guests with young children to drive a long distance, bring/prepare and pay for food and pay for lodging? It seems quite stressful, inconsiderate and inhospitable. What do you think?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  It sounds like she’s very predictable. She is acting as host, but not fulfilling the duties associated with hosting. She’s in essence a bully. So yes, it is stressful and inconsiderate. And as long as she is allowed to get away with this, she will. That’s what bullies do. So you have a couple of choices. Regret the invitation or resign yourself to her quirkiness. If you regret the invitation, she may get the message, but not necessarily. I doubt changing the spots on this leopard is possible. I hope this helps.
-Jay 

Son-in-Law Driving her Nuts

Should I suggest to my daughter that she visits me without her husband because he drives me crazy? 

Dear Jay,
My son-in-law has been a constant irritant since the day I met him. When my daughter brought him over to meet me, I had just finished dressing but was still in my bedroom. She came into my room- which is natural and fine- but trailing in behind her was my son-in-law (then new boyfriend)! I politely told him to have a seat in the living room, but was immediately turned off by his lack of manners. I blamed her for not giving him the obviously needed instructions to just sit down and him for not knowing any better.

Seven years later, it's just been more of the same. When they come over with my grandsons- he walks the diaper bag all the way into my bedroom. When he wants lotion for his eczema, he walks through my bedroom, into my bathroom and goes through my vanity drawers! He'll ask, but rather than wait for me to get it, he helps himself and I just run into him coming out of my room. He's always opening up and looking trough my cabinets too. I ask, “What are you looking for." He smiles and says, "Nothing. Just looking. When I'm coming in with my groceries he'll get them out of the car, but insists on putting them away, even if my 17yr old son brings them in! I've asked him to just leave them, but he ignores me and does it anyway. I then have to go behind him and put my things where I want them or go crazy trying to find where he put something. My daughter says he just wants to be helpful, but I tell her, if I ask him not to, I expect him to respect my wishes. I also don't like every one that visits me to have their hands in my fridge. Weird huh?
I've told my daughter that I'm her mom not his and that he takes a lot of liberties with me that even she does not; that he has no boundaries and I have no privacy from him. It made her very sad. My family does not behave this way and it's really driving me crazy.

My mom tells me to not say anything for fear that they will stop coming to see me. My daughter and I are very close and I truly don't think she would keep my grandsons from me because I'd rather she come alone. But you never know. I find that I'm stressed every time I know they are coming because he makes me angry and nuts and I'm advised not to say anything in my own home. What happened to, 'my house- my rules’?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  You ask the key question yourself - what happened? For example, when you ask him what he’s looking for, and he tells you he’s just looking, that would be an obvious time to tell him that your bedroom is off limits. It’s your bedroom - your rules! Ditto, everything else you’ve mentioned. It’s up to you to make the rules and to stand by them. Your guests are not psychics - not even your daughter. You must let people know in a clearer voice what is expected of them and what is not. This will clearly demonstrate that you have respect for yourself and your house. They will then have respect for you, but not until then. I hope this helps.
-Jay 

She Won't Take No For an Answer 

How do we handle a relative who wants to rent our vacation home even though we have already told her no? 

Dear Jay,
A relative of mine keeps asking if she can rent our family vacation house. She would like to use it along with her other cousin and her family. We have decided that if we let her stay she will want it at other times of the year and we don't want that issue. We just want the place available for our immediate family to go when we want to. If we wanted a timeshare we would have bought one! We have been telling her that it's not available, but she keeps insisting on going no matter the obstacles we put out. How do we deal with her lack of understanding?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  It sounds to me like you must speak in a clearer voice. This is a very simple and easy matter. You do not rent or loan out your vacation home, period. There is no discussion - not now, not in the future. No “yes buts”. No means no. I hope this helps.
-Jay 

Grandparents Never Invited to Grandkids' Birthday Parties

Should grandparents be invited to attend their grandchildren's birthday parties? 

Dear Jay,
I wanted to know if it is acceptable to never have been invited to a grand daughter or grandsons’ birthday party?  I am asking on behalf of my folks who have a daughter who has never ONCE invited them to her daughter’s birthday party (she is turning 13) or her sons’ birthday parties (they are turning 10 and 8). Is this what people do? I do not have children, but it would have been nice to have gone to at least one party.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:My grandparents were never invited to any of my birthday parties. It is absolutely acceptable. Others include all of their relatives - that’s also acceptable. Whatever the host of the party wants is what they may have. Each to his own, as the saying goes. Questioning a guest list is not something I encourage. I hope this helps.
-Jay 

Worried about Female Friends Texting Husband

Should I worry about my husband receiving a text from my beautiful friend? 

Dear Jay,
I realize it is not the 1950s anymore, but I am not sure of the proper etiquette for couple friends. I don't have male friends and my husband doesn't have female friends. That being said we have some couple friends that don't mind the spouses spending one on one time with the spouse of the opposite sex (with the babies close in age in tow, of course). My female friend gave her husband my contact information so that we could go to the park with the kids while she was working. Since then she texted my husband (nothing inappropriate) because I had to borrow her phone not because he gave her his phone number. Is it odd that I feel uncomfortable with all this? I have to admit that I do feel insecure because my friend is so beautiful, but nobody has given me a reason to be insecure. Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

Jay's ANSWER...
A: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. It is not odd that you have such a feeling, but have compassion for yourself. Allow yourself to have the feeling, but let it pass. If you have no reason to doubt your husband’s fidelity, then don’t
-Jay 

Sharing Dad's Home Proves to be Upsetting

Am I wrong to be upset about my dad bringing his young girlfriend and her child to his home all the time when my husband and I live there? 

Dear Jay,
My father in law moved in with us just a few months after we were married and stayed for a year and 1/2. He bought a house and we moved in with him just recently to save money for a house. He has started bringing his young girlfriend and child to our house every day or every other day. Our house only has room for the people in it. Because of all this I'm upset and wanted to move out. Do I have a right to be upset? I know it's his house, but after having to share my home this long and having to share it with more people I'm overwhelmed and think it's king of rude.

Jay's ANSWER...
A: You refer to the house you all live in as our house. It’s his house, not your house, too. He has every right to do whatever he wishes in his house; just like you will be able to do when you buy your house.  Isn’t it time you had your own place? Maybe this is a message that the time has come to move out. I hope this helps.
-Jay 

Mom's Visit Demands Driving Daughter Crazy

Am I wrong to be so annoyed with my mother's attitude towards visiting me and her grandchildren? 

Dear Jay,
When my mother, who is now 66 years old, wants to visit me, it usually is a very stressful process. When my husband and I moved 20 kms away, she always insisted that my husband or I pick her up her house. But when my brother, who lives in the same area as her and doesn't have a car either, is invited, my mother and brother insist we pick him up at his house as well. My husband and I asked if they would be able to meet us at a location that was half-way between our homes. They balked and complained, saying they couldn’t understand the whole commotion. So, feeling they were ungrateful, we refused to pick them up at all. We explained that owning a car cost money and just because my brother chose not to buy a car (my mom doesn't know how to drive), that that was his choice just as it was ours to buy a car. Also, we have two young children to take care of as well. So, now my brother rents a car, but you can feel that there is tension.

My mom never a visits us unless she can get a lift. It does take an hour and a half to get to our house by bus, so I told my mom that I would love her to visit, but I will meet her at the half-way point. She refuses. So, she never comes over.

My mom recently asked if she and my brother could come over for a visit. I said that would be wonderful. We set the date and I asked that they come over around 1pm because one of our two daughters had a soccer game (a year-end soccer BBQ) and that we would be eating there. In other words, I wouldn't be making a lunch or supper this time (which normally I do). My mom insisted on having a supper. So, reluctantly I agreed. I then asked her what she felt like having for supper. She said hamburgers. I asked her if she could bring something for supper and then she got upset. She couldn't understand why she always had to bring something. She said her mom never brought food to our house growing up. But my grandmother stayed at our house for 3 days a week and cooked all the meals.

I always feel like my mom looks at coming over to our house as if she is a guest and not my mom. My mother-in-law never comes over empty handed. And, although my mom now helps out with preparation a bit, and she always enjoys playing with the girls, I always feel that the visit was to benefit her and is not for the well-being of everyone else. She has never invited us to her apartment, but I do understand that her place is small for all of us. But we can fit around her table and then go out for a walk or to the park across the street from her.

Am I wrong in asking her to bus it half-way? Am I wrong in asking her to bring food? Shouldn't mothers do more for their kids? I feel like the roles are reversed.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  There are no shoulds. Perhaps being grateful that you even have a mother would be a good place to begin. She is bonding with your daughters - that’s a wonderful experience that is priceless. Be grateful that you can help out. If transportation is an issue, take the high road and be happy about picking her up. Be glad that you have a washing machine that she can use. Perhaps by showing this side of yourself, she will loosen up and be more grateful herself. In any event, she won’t be around forever and you don’t want to be kicking yourself down the road wishing you had been kinder and less self-centered. I hope this helps.
-Jay 

Diapering the Dog For Safety

Is it okay for us to demand that my mother-in-law's dog wear diapers to prevent it from soiling the floor and creating sanitation issues and safety hazards while she lives with us? 

Dear Jay,
My husband's mother is 94 and recently broke her arm and hip. She is willing to stay with us until she is fully healed, but wants her small dog to come too. The small dog is partially paralyzed and tends to urinate and have bowel movement's when excited. The dog is excited very often and is not neutered. We would like to put a diaper on the dog since we have 3 other dogs and worry about both sanitation and safety. For example, what if the dog soils on the floor and his mother slips and falls again? (This is how she broke her hip and arm in the first place) His mother does not like the idea of a diaper and thinks it's ok and can just be cleaned up. How do we tell her the dog is either wearing a diaper or not welcome?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Explain to her that for everyone’s safety and health, the dog needs to wear a diaper. Frankly the dog will adjust to this quite easily and will be more comfortable possibly, too. It’s your house, and you have every right to make the house rules. This seems like a small concession for her to make to be able to live at home with family rather than to stay in a hospital or other healthcare facility. I hope this helps.
-Jay 

Sister Doesn't Like the House Rules

Are we being unreasonable by telling my sister if she lives with us that she can't have overnight guests in our home? 

Dear Jay,
My fiance and I have bought our first home together and will be moving in a month. My younger sister who is a college student would like to rent a room from us. We found this to be advantageous as it will help cover some of the cost of the mortgage plus we have a very good relationship. My fiance and I decided that we would not like there to be overnight guests. Upon informing my sister of this she became very upset with me and is now reconsidering moving in. Are we being unreasonable by disallowing overnight guests?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Your home is your castle. If your sister is not comfortable with your house rules, she needs to find another place to live. Your house, your rules. I hope this helps.
-Jay 

Brother and Sister-in-law Need to Pull Their Weight 

How should I tell my brother and sister-in-law that when they stay with us they need to help with meals especially when we are preparing parties? 

Dear Jay,
My brother and sister in-law live six hours away from the rest of our family and typically, when we have a birthday party or any other large family get together they ask to stay with my husband and I. Usually, I try to ask them in advance if they will be staying with us because I like to prepare ahead of time as we are busy with three young kids, but they always give us a "maybe" until about the week before. (This time they told us they were going to take time off work and come early even though we will still be working and have other engagements!) They have a family of five, so I feel like on top of planning a large family party at our house, it's hard to plan meals for them for their extended weekend as well last minute. How appropriate is it for me to ask them they need to help plan meals since we are busy hosting a party and don't have time to plan meals for 10? Is it okay for me to ask them to contribute to the food costs since they stay with us so frequently?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: Yes, yes, yes. You should have this discussion with your brother before they arrive. Just explain that you cannot afford to carry these expenses, nor do you have the time to deal with meal preparations and that you would really appreciate the help. They will more than likely be delighted to help you out. I hope this helps.
-Jay 

Adult Son Not a Good Guest

How do I let my adult son and his wife know that when they come to dinner at our home they should bring something or offer to help? 

Dear Jay,
My adult son and his wife frequently come to dinner at our house (they are recently remarried). They don't come without being invited, but when they do come, they never bring a bottle of wine or ask if they can bring anything. They show up, enjoy our food, wine, beer, etc. and then leave. She never helps to clean up. They recently bought a fixer upper house for their first house and they are on a very strict budget.

My husband argues with me every time after they leave. He says they should bring wine or offer to bring something. I don't want to alienate my children and I don't know how to tactfully talk to them about this.

What do I do?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: Somewhere along the line they were taught, as were most children, that when you go to eat at your parent’s house, it’s somehow different than going to anyone else’s house. You need to explain the concept of a hostess gift and the fact that lending a helping hand is a good thing. I assume your son is from a different marriage, otherwise his father could explain this to him also. 

You could also subtly ask if his wife could give you a hand in the kitchen for a few minutes. You might also be able to show them by example, by taking a bottle of wine to their house when you’re invited and offer to help clean up. But more times than not, parents like helping out their children, and this can last until their dying days. So from another perspective perhaps your husband needs to adjust his thinking and be grateful for the precious time you have to spend with your family. A bottle of wine is symbolic, as is helping to clean up - symbolic of gratitude. We all slip up from time to time in showing gratitude. A gentle suggestion is all that may be needed. I hope this helps.
-Jay

Home Is No Longer Her Castle

How do I tell my sister-in-law that although her mother lives with us, I don't want her to come over all the time? 

Dear Jay,
My in-laws moved into our house. Unfortunately, my father-in-law passed away shortly after. Prior to and after his passing my sister-in-law and her children seem to be over every weekend. In addition, two of them always want to eat everything in sight and even though I occasionally say no, there have been times that she let them. Sometimes they come over actually expecting to be fed, without bringing anything to contribute. This, in my opinion, is rude and unacceptable behavior. In addition, while I know her mother still lives with us, I would still like to have some weekends where we can just enjoy our house without ANYONE else coming over. It's getting very stressful and I'm trying to be polite, but I'm reaching the end of my rope. I want to be able to enjoy my time off without having a house full of people all of the time.  What do I do?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  You need to lay down some house rules. Your home is your castle and at the moment you are not in charge. You are actually demonstrating that you have no respect for your own house, so why should anyone else? People like structure in their lives. This is a time for you to provide that as far as your house is concerned. When everyone knows the rules, life is much smoother. I hope this helps.
-Jay 

Elderly Mom Can't Take Care of Sickly Daughter

How does my mom properly tell my sister that she can't take care of her because she is too old? 

Dear Jay,
My mother is 82 years old and my sister is 65 years old. My sister is very sickly but insists on visiting Mom for months at a time. My mother uses a walker and has to wait on my sister which wears her out. My sister is also incontinent and wets on furniture and leaves the high rise toilet seat crapped over and even leaves turds on the floor. Mom can't clean up after the bathroom episodes and calls me to clean up the crappy bathroom. My sister lives with her daughter who want's a break from disabled mom. My sister has been coming for vacation months for years. She is stealing valuable things from the house and mom knows it. Mom is sharp and knows what is missing. The question is how do you as a mother tell your child that they can not stay so long because you can’t take care of yourself let alone them?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  These sorts of discussions are awkward, but must occur if any chance of a more stress-free relationship is to be maintained. At a certain point, an assistant will be required. If family members can’t manage the situation, someone will need to be hired. It sounds like a family meeting is in order. All stakeholders need to come to an agreement so that the bases are all covered at all times. This kind of unsanitary behavior presents safety risks to all involved. Perhaps some assistance is available through the department of health and family services. There is no need for anyone to be in this situation alone. I hope this helps.
-Jay 

Annoyed that Brother Has No Responsibilities

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dad and Daughter Need to Work it out

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

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

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

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

Pizza Money

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

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

Jay's ANSWER...

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

Jay 

Sister Takes Over Mom's Party's Guest List

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

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

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

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

Overstaying Their Welcome?

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

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

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


Husband Grieving For Ex-Father-in-Law

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

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

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

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

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

Sharing Vacation Expenses

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

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

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

How should situations like this be handled?

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

No Room For Guests

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

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

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

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

Not Willing to Share Beds with Visiting Family

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

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

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

The More the Merrier?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tricky Family Relationships Cause Drama

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

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

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

-Jay

Mother-in-law's unexpected trip

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

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

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

-Jay 

Step-daughter in the Bedroom

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

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

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

-Jay 

Brushing Aside my Wishes

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

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

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

-Jay 

Son Mad at Mother For Not Sharing her House with Him

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

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

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

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

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

-Jay 

Toxic Relationship Requires Answers 

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

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

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

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

-Jay 

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 

Dollhouse Disaster

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

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

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

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

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

-Jay 

Gift for Step-Grand-Daughter 

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

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


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


-Jay 

Stuck with the Bill

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

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

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

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

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

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

Uncomfortable with Sudden Switch

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

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

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

Mom Won't Leave When Asked 

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

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

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

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

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

Excluded From Family Functions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fighting Over Food

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

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


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


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


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

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

Freeloading Brother Needs to Pay Fair Share

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

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

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

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

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

Two Parties on the Same Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gift for Daughter's New Home

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

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

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

Fiancee Chooses Family's Feelings First

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

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

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

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

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

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

Partying Husband Upsets Wife on Vacations

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

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

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

Sister Willingly Takes Offer for Money

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

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

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

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

Mother-in-law Invites Grandson on Family Trip

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

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

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

No Drama for this Step Momma

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

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

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

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

In-laws Not Making Time for us During Their Visit

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

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

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

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

Manipulating Mother-in-law

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

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

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

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

-Jay 

Husband Wants Too Much Gratitude for his Generosity

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

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

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

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

-Jay 

Who Pays the Bill for Holiday Houseguests?

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

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

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

-Jay 

Brother's Behavior Bothersome

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Jay 

Making Plans for a Visit to Include Everyone

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

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


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

-Jay 

Funeral Attendance Required?

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

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

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

-Jay 

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 

Sister-in-law Calls At All Hours

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

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

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

-Jay 

Excluded From Stepson's Graduation

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

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

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

-Jay 

Bridal Shower Guest List

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

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

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

-Jay 

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 

Grandparents Day Dilemma

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

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

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

 Jay 

Overstaying Welcome?

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

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

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

 Jay 

Son's Girlfriend Doesn't Help Out

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

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

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

New Baby = No Time for Grandma

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

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


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

Privacy Please

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

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


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

Tired Hostess Needs a Break

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Napping During Visits

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

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


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

Gifts for Unknown Grads

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

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


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

Torn Between Family Events

How do we choose which family event we should attend? 

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


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

Aunt Wants to Throw Niece a Birthday Party

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

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


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

Sister-in-law Draining Finances

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

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

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


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

Braless Female Family Members

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

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

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

Uncomfortable Around Ex-Wife

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

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

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

Hosting Hecklers 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who Prompts Grandparents to Visit?

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

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

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

Angered Over Last Minute Grad Guest Cancellation

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

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

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

 Jay 

Setting Boundaries for Family Visits

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

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

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

 Jay 

Kids Taking Over the Vacation Home

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

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

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

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

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

 Jay 

Husband Never Offers Introductions

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

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

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

 Jay 

Husband = Cheater and Liar

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

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

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

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

 Jay 

Boyfriends Not Invited

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

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

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

 Jay 

Left out of sister's life

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

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

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

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

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

 Jay 

Sister-in-law issues

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

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

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

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


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

 Jay 

Niece's Graduation

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

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


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

 Jay 

Visit protocol

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

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


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

 Jay 

Graduation Celebration Bill

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

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

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

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

 Jay 

Cook Out Hook Up

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

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

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

Jay 

Wedding and Shower Date Disaster

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

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

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

Wedding trip hijacking mother-in-law

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

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

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

Dealing With People Who Invite Themselves

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

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

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

 Jay 

Funeral or Graduation?

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

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

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

 Jay 

Wife Won't Budge on Having House Guests

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Jay 

Graduation Meal Payment

Who pays for the meal after the graduation? 

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

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

 Jay 

My Husband's Yucky Friends

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

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

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

 Jay 

Sister-in-law overstepping her sibling bonds

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Jay 

Meddling Mother-In-Law Wants Explanations

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

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

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

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

Mother's Day Invite Dilemma

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

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

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

Jay 

Brother bothered by lack of uncle participation

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

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

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

Jay 

Graduation dinner dilemma

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

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

Jay's ANSWER...

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

Ex-boyfriend is now the brother-in-law

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

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

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

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

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

Jay's ANSWER...

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

Thank you for car loaning

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

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

Jay's ANSWER...

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

Easter Hostess Skills

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

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

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

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

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

Jay's ANSWER...

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

Boyfriend on Family Trip . . . Uh oh

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

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

Jay's ANSWER...

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

Twin Excluded From Birthday Party

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

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

Jay's ANSWER...

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

Deep Cleaning Needed

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

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

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

Jay's ANSWER...

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

Footing the Graduation Celebration Bill

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

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

Jay's ANSWER...

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

Mother of the Bride Wants to Be Involved More

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

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

Jay's ANSWER...

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

Too Much for the Hostess

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

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

Jay's ANSWER...

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

Niece's Party Dilemma

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

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

Jay's ANSWER...

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

Jay 

Private Room Necessity

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

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

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

Jay's ANSWER...

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

Jay 

Booted Over Supposed Argument

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

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

Thank you and awaiting your reply in anticipation.

Jay's ANSWER...

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

Jay 

Violent Attack Over Beer

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

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

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

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

Jay's ANSWER...

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

Jay 

Unexpected Visits a No No

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

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

Jay's ANSWER...

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

Jay 

Unequal Vacation Payment

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

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


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

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

What would you suggest?

Jay's ANSWER...

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

Jay 

Car Wars

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

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

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

Jay's ANSWER...

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

Jay 

No Thank You Notes = No Gifts

Is it time for me to stop sending my adult nephews birthday gifts especially since they never express gratitude? 

Dear Jay,
I have 3 adult nephews in their 20's. I'm starting to not feel the joy of giving them birthday gifts. When I do send gifts, they can't be bothered to send a thank you or acknowledge them. I was raised and still practice immediately sending hand written thank you notes to someone who has taken time to send me gifts and get frustrated when they can't even text me thank you. I would take a text even! My middle nephew turned 25, and I recently expressed to my mother my frustration and said I wasn't going to get him anything. She was horrified that I would even think this.

At what point can we stop giving our adult nieces and nephews gifts? I'm willing to do a card, but feel I shouldn't have to keep spending money when my husband or I don't even get at thank you. I would rather spend the money on my little young nephews and see the joy they get from opening their gifts and playing with what we get them.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: I agree with you. I don’t understand what your mother’s point is. Of course you should be acknowledged! I would give them each a lovely box of note cards as your final effort. If this doesn’t get through to them, strike them from your list. Remember the Golden Rule and Common Sense. I hope this helps.

Jay 

Unreasonable Requests 

Am I being unreasonable with putting restrictions on how many people stay at our home and limiting the duration of the visit? 

Dear Jay,
My partner’s daughter is graduating from high school in a few months and family from out of town will be visiting. My partner would like to host all of them at our home. There will be at least 7 people coming and we have one spare room. I suggested we could host 3 comfortably (his mother, daughter and grandchild), but perhaps the other 4 (brother, sister-in-law and their two 19yr olds) could get a hotel room which we would pay for.  There is a chance they want to stay for over a week, and I explained I just simply would not be able to have that many people in our house for that period of time. For 2-3 days sure, I could suck it up, but any longer and I just don't think I could do it. He feels I'm being extremely unreasonable and is barely speaking to me. We have a small house to begin with and two other children at home. Am I being unreasonable?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: Your partner needs to smarten up. He is the one who is being unreasonable, not to mention disrespectful. It’s your house, too. Decisions of this nature need to be agreed upon. This is a relatively easy discussion to have. I would sort this out by letting your partner know how his actions make you feel. If he doesn’t seem to care, you have bigger problems on the horizon. I hope this helps. 

Jay 

50/50 fairness for visiting families

Even if we don't enjoy visiting my husband's family, he insists that we still need to be fair and visit each side of the family equally.  Should I agree with him? 

Dear Jay,
My husband and I don't get along with his family, but my husband says we still need to split holidays 50/50 between my family and his to be fair. My in-laws live far away and expect us to rent a car or take a cab when we fly to come visit them. I find this rude as we barely see them, I'd expect them to want to spend time with us and it is very expensive.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: The issue here revolves around the comment on fairness. To whom are you being fair? Certainly not yourselves. I think you need to reset your priorities. If neither of you want to spend time with his parents, you are under no obligation to do so. Who knows, maybe they’d rather see less of you two also. This is not an issue about time and money. It is an issue about respect. You are not showing yourselves the respect you should. As a result, no one else will either. My advice is to remove the mantel of being a victim and start calling your own shots. Being resentful of people you do not like is a waste of energy; spending time with them is a waste of time. Not all families get along, nor do they have to. I hope this helps.

Jay 

Too much time and energy for the niece, not enough for me

How do I talk to my husband about what I think is an inappropriate relationship that he has with his niece? 

Dear Jay,
My 46 year old husband goes to his 30 year old niece to discuss the problems in our marriage rather than communicate with me. He also does things for her (such as yard work, welds Christmas tree stands, etc.) and asks her not to tell me because I will get upset that he doesn't take the time to do things for me. I saw texts and calls between them at all hours of the night on his phone. I find something to be wrong with this. Your opinion?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: I agree with you; something is terribly wrong. I suggest you discuss this with your husband, not your niece. This may be an uncomfortable discussion, but any relationship that is expected to last must have the component of honesty. State facts, but let your husband know how discovering these facts makes you feel. Do not be accusatory, but rather take the responsibility for your feelings completely, all the while asking for his understanding. He does need to provide an explanation, and will likely be more willing if this discussion is not confrontational. Professional counseling may well be in order. I hope this helps.

Jay 

Not until they are married

How do I tell my daughter that I love her, but don't want to do a couple's vacation with her and her boyfriend? 

Dear Jay,
We have one daughter who is our pride and joy.  She’s a wonderful child, student, and athlete. She recently graduated college and moved back home because she got a job in our area.  We are thrilled to have her back home.  She's dated but never seriously until recently and I think this may actually be "The One". He's eight years older, very settled, and we like him just fine. She goes and stays with him on weekends, and they have been on a number of vacations and trips over the past year. She recently suggested we all go on a vacation together. I'm not a prude; however, I am not comfortable with this idea since they are not married.  I am okay with the two of them going places and doing things, but I just don't feel comfortable doing the couple's thing with me and my husband since they are not married. Is this wrong? She knows my opinion about things, but I respect her decisions as well. I'm not sure how I should  explain this to her?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: Having an open and honest discussion with your daughter is important, and it should not be fraught with fear of rejection. I always advise that honesty is the best policy. But, be open to listening to your daughter’s point of view. She may be able to make you see things from her perspective. No one is wrong or right in this situation, but people’s feelings are all valid. I hope this helps.

Jay 


Guests and Bathroom Use at Parties

Is it okay for guests to use whichever bathroom they choose to use or should they stick to the powder room in the main area? 

Dear Jay,

When hosting your family Christmas party at your house, is it appropriate for your family guests just to assume they can use your personal master bath or daughter's jack and jill bath instead of the lovely powder room provided in the main entertaining area? Also, if you find your niece in one of those rooms without asking is it OK to ask her to use powder room next time?


Jay's ANSWER...

A: In general, guests should not just help themselves without permission. That said, as host, you need to be welcoming and gracious and let your guests know what bathroom or powder room to use (or not use). Depending on the size of the family, providing more than one lavatory is helpful. If there are rooms in your house that are off limits, post a small sign or close and/or lock the door. Your rules are in play in your house; but you'll need to let your guests know what the rules are. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay 

No Gift, No Gratitude

Should my step-daughter show her gratitude more by at least purchasing a small gift? 

Dear Jay,

Should my daughter who is 23 and we support once in while buy a small gift or token of appreciation for her father?

I have a 23 year old step daughter that my husband and I are putting through college, paying for her apartment, clothing, and some spending money. She brings her boyfriend home for the holidays and we treat him like family. My husband has fixed his car, driven him back and forth to the airport when needed. We enjoy having him and he is very respectful. My stepdaughter, has not purchased a small Christmas gift for her dad for a number of years. I have often reminded her. This Christmas I had it. She bought a 99 cent card and not even a Starbucks $5 gift card. She did have enough money to spend $700 on her boyfriend. We are also taking them out on New Year's Eve and purchased a new dress for my daughter and rented a tux for her boyfriend.

I pulled my step daughter aside and reminded her of all the nice things that her dad has done over the years and he gladly does it, but it would be nice if you could give him a small token of appreciation. He did feel bad at Christmas with not a small gift. She got upset with me for telling her what adults do when someone does something nice and goes out of their way.

Was I wrong to do this? I have always instilled manners in both step daughters. My oldest is great, this one I don't know what to do with.


Jay's ANSWER...

A: This is a complicated question as several dynamics are at play simultaneously. First of all, you are basically correct and your pathway of thought is aligned with mine. However, communications within a blended family can be tricky. Comparing the value of what one party brings to the table, whether it be day-to-day life or a Christmas gift exchange, is inappropriate and can be more of an irritant than anything. Nor is any form of scorekeeping helpful. How people choose to spend their money is a very personal matter. Everyone in the picture is now an adult. Although I don't think you were necessarily wrong to have your chat with your stepdaughter, it is her dad who really needs to speak with her. After all, it is his feelings that are at the centre of all of this. Men however often balk at sharing their feelings, especially with their daughters. My advice is to simply have as much compassion for your stepdaughter as possible. She will very likely change over time. We are all following our own path, and encouragement along the way often trumps criticism. I hope this helps..

 My best,

Jay 

Extra Invites

Is it okay for my husband to invite other couples to events that we are not hosting? 

Dear Jay,

Whenever my husband and I are invited to an event (family or otherwise), he finds it necessary to ask another couple to attend.  I think that this is an imposition on our hosts and that this should not be done as it can be uncomfortable for the hosts to say no.  We can invite who we choose to our own functions and should give that courtesy to our family and friends also. Am I being unreasonable?


Jay's ANSWER...

A: I agree with you. The host has sole control of the guest list. Your husband’s behavior is disturbing in that it is a habit, and not a one-off. Have you asked him why he insists on doing this? Is it always the same “other couple”? I can only say that I find it bizarre. Perhaps I am missing something, but at the moment, your line of reasoning is 100% spot on. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay 

Dad Mad About Special Food 

Is it okay for my brother to bring organic food and drink for his children when he visits my parents? 

Dear Jay,

My Father, Mother and I were having dinner and this came up. My father feels that when my brother comes for a holiday that he should not bring his foods and put them on the table for his children. His children drink organic products. My brother knows that my Mom and Dad do not have this and do not purchase it before he comes with his children. My father gets extremely mad. I told my father that the correct thing for him to do would be to have this at his home for them beforehand. Can you please advise.
Thank you!


Jay's ANSWER...

A: In brief, you are correct. In an ideal world, your father and mother should have on hand whatever organic drinks/foods are required by your brother and his budding family. However, your brother does need to let them know about these. If this is a problem, then your brother is well within his rights to bring whatever foods are necessary. It’s akin to someone who has food allergies. If the host knows ahead of time that there is an issue, he or she can make provisions, or advise the guest to bring their own special foods. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay 

My Daughters Don't Socialize

How do I make my adult daughters understand they are being rude by their lack of response and interest in social gatherings? 

Dear Jay,

My adult daughters will not attend or socialize with any of their extended family (cousins, grandparents, etc.) or attend social functions like anniversary celebrations, wedding or baby showers, etc..  This is extremely embarrassing when I'm asked why they won't attend the event or why they won't acknowledge a graduation or special event.

Their behavior and actions appear that they feel they are too good to have anything to do with their cousins, aunts, or other relatives.  I realize there are many relatives that are annoying, but what about the social responsibility to at least respond to an invitation or send a card!!

I was raised and taught that out of respect, even if you didn't like that relative, you at least acknowledged the social invitation as a form of common courtesy.

Please advise.


Jay's ANSWER...

A: With all due respect, children learn from their parents, for the most part. Somewhere along the line as they were growing up, they missed the lesson on decorum. Now that they are adults, they can do as they please. If someone asks you why they do or do not do this or that, your best line of defense is to refer the questioner directly to the culprit! I agree that their behavior is inappropriate and embarrassing, but as they say, “the train has left the station”. Trying to parent them now may work, but it will very likely require a good bit of diplomacy. Perhaps if you take some of the responsibility when and if you decide to discuss this matter with them, it might be easier. “I forgot to teach you that you must send an RSVP, a thank you note, etc., but I think you should know that this is the polite thing to do. I’ve had some disturbing feedback from both friends and relatives. Even if you wish to regret all invitations, you really might want to consider letting the host know. They will have gone to a lot of effort and really do want to know who is and who is not attending the event.”
Who knows, this may work. As well, it may plant the seed of how they might want to raise their own children.
I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay 

Switched Sleeping Arrangements

Do I need to explain why our guests will be using the fold out couch vs. the room they usually stay in when they come from out of town? 

Dear Jay,

My husband's sister and her husband and children are coming to town for the holidays. In the past we have given up our bedroom for them and slept on the fold-out in the basement living area. This year I am not keen to give up my room, and would rather stay in my room and offer them the fold-out. Since we have given them the bedroom In the past will it seem rude not to do the same this time?


Jay's ANSWER...

A: It's not rude, but it may raise an eyebrow. Although you technically owe them no explanation, you will want to be sure their accommodations are as comfortable as possible. If they ask, just explain that the guest room is now in the basement. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay 

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 

Broken Barstool

Should I ask my brother to pay for a barstool his son broke? 

Dear Jay,

I hosted my large family of 15 guests for Thanksgiving including 3 nights accommodations in my new home.  My nephew was kidding around and accidentally fell and crashed one of my new barstools onto the floor in our kitchen.  Right after everyone departed my home and I was cleaning up, I noticed that the seat he was sitting on was severely damaged.  Do I bring this issue to my brother's attention and assume he pay for a replacement or do I keep quiet and deal with it at our own expense?


Jay's ANSWER...

A: In an ideal world, the guest would offer to pay for the damage. Since this did not occur (perhaps this young man is a minor and doesn't know any better yet?), a word with his father would not hurt. If he is not forthcoming with an offer to replace the stool, just drop it. It's not worth starting an argument about. However, a discussion where you might say how you would behave were the shoe on the other foot, could be productive. You will have to decide the course of action based on your relationship with your brother. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay 

Family fireworks and missed invitations

How do I mend the fireworks in my family over not accepting my invitation and also not being invited to their functions? 

Dear Jay,

I have two brothers and two sisters and few years ago I invited my family at least a couple of weeks in advance to come to my home for the 4th of July. A week or so later when I called my mother she informed me my sister planned to have a 4th of July event. I had no idea she had planned the event, and when I talked to her she wanted to invite me to her home for the holiday. Honestly, I was a little irritated, but I didn't want to be rude, and I accepted her invitation. Toward the end of the night after the fireworks were done and before most of my family left for the night, I indicated that I would enjoy have the family at my home for  the 4th next year.

 As July 4th approached I began inviting and confirming. My wife and I purchased patriotic dishes, glasses, paper plates, etc, ingredients to do the hot dog bar, and of course hundreds of dollars worth of good quality fireworks. At the last minute people began to cancel because my brother had just moved into a new house and wanted to have the 4th there. Nobody in my family kept their commitment to us. My wife was extremely upset, and so was I and I rejected his invitation to his home for the  4th and have rejected invitations to any other events of his. I've been to other family events since then, but none at my home except for having my parents for Thanksgiving Day last year.

This year my wife and I also invited my parents for Thanksgiving dinner, but my wife was scheduled to work Thanksgiving Day since she works in retail. I immediately called my parents and told them she had to work and to possibly make other plans. Now I'm stuck on Thanksgiving Day with only my daughter and me. I have two brothers and two sisters that know that  my daughter and I have no one but the two of us to spend Thanksgiving with nor do I have any money to perform a mini Thanksgiving for my daughter and myself.  No one has invited us to their homes.

What I need to know is was it rude for me to indicate that I wanted to invite everyone for the 4th after the fireworks at my sister's July 4th event, and would it be rude to reiterate to my brother and my other sister my daughter and I have no dinner plans for Thanksgiving

Or are they being rude by not inviting us?


Jay's ANSWER...

A: You sound all but defeated, my man. You must only deal with the truth here. It was definitely not rude of you to have invited people to your July 4th celebration. As far as wanting to spend time with family over the holiday, why not invite them to your place. They will probably suggest you come to their house - with any luck. Not having any money is an issue. I'd return the fireworks for some cash. You also need to mend family fences. Have a nice big family pot luck sometime soon. The more time you can spend together as a family without holding grudges, the happier everyone will be. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay 

Home Ground Rules

How do I deal with my disapproval of the sleeping arrangements in my home? 

Dear Jay,

Am I wrong for not letting my granddaughter and her boyfriend sleep together in my home? I lost my husband of 23 years 3 months ago, and my son was already living here with us when my husband passed. Then my son's daughter moved in as well. She has a job, so I've been taking her back and forth to work. Tonight I picked her up! She got sideways with me and threw a fit because I won't allow her and her boyfriend to sleep together in my home. My son also has a girlfriend and she tries to spend the night all the time. She doesn't speak to me, and I don't speak to her.  I wanted your advice to figure out what to do.


Jay's ANSWER...

A: You have a couple of choices. The first is to lay down some ground rules in your house. If anyone has a problem with the rules, they move out. Another choice would be to allow them to sleep together. These are connecting adults; you want to welcome guests into your home with any rules clearly understood (next time hopefully before they move in!). Frankly, I don't think you need the stress. What you do need is the contact with these people. You can remove the stress by bending the rules as necessary. They are after all your rules to bend. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay 

Out of control controlling aunt

How do I get my aunt to respect my guest list decisions and stop inviting people to my home for functions? 

Dear Jay,

I have a close aunt who is somewhat controlling.  For the last three years she extended an invitation (without asking me first )to my cousin's (her son) girlfriend's family (mom, dad and brother, who I've met once )to Thanksgiving dinner that I host (Although thankfully, they have never taken her up on the offer).  

I explained to her last year that due to limited room at my house and the expense of all the food and the fact that they aren't really my family, that it bothered me that she did that.  I thought it was settled and that she understood that I didn't want her to invite people to my holiday functions. 

This year I invited our pastor and his family to our Thanksgiving get together. When she found out that I invited someone other than family she called me to let me know in a round about way that she thought it was unfair of me to invite a non family member and not invite the girlfriend's family. I was so angry that she brought it up again that I didn't really respond at all.  

How do I stop her from trying to control my guest list for holiday get togethers? She has an answer for everything. She even said that these people would be my family once my cousin marries her. But really they will be her in-laws not mine. I don't want to hurt her feelings but I'm very angry.


Jay's ANSWER...

A: You identified the problem perfectly in your question. The guest list is the sole property of the host - period! If your aunt would like to host a party, she may invite whomever she wishes. When it's your party, you pick the guests. Plain and simple and no exceptions. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay 

Out of control controlling aunt

How do I get my aunt to respect my guest list decisions and stop inviting people to my home for functions? 

Dear Jay,

I have a close aunt who is somewhat controlling.  For the last three years she extended an invitation (without asking me first )to my cousin's (her son) girlfriend's family (mom, dad and brother, who I've met once )to Thanksgiving dinner that I host (Although thankfully, they have never taken her up on the offer).  

I explained to her last year that due to limited room at my house and the expense of all the food and the fact that they aren't really my family, that it bothered me that she did that.  I thought it was settled and that she understood that I didn't want her to invite people to my holiday functions. 

This year I invited our pastor and his family to our Thanksgiving get together. When she found out that I invited someone other than family she called me to let me know in a round about way that she thought it was unfair of me to invite a non family member and not invite the girlfriend's family. I was so angry that she brought it up again that I didn't really respond at all.  

How do I stop her from trying to control my guest list for holiday get togethers? She has an answer for everything. She even said that these people would be my family once my cousin marries her. But really they will be her in-laws not mine. I don't want to hurt her feelings but I'm very angry.


Jay's ANSWER...

A: You identified the problem perfectly in your question. The guest list is the sole property of the host - period! If your aunt would like to host a party, she may invite whomever she wishes. When it's your party, you pick the guests. Plain and simple and no exceptions. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay 

He doesn't own the place

Why is my niece's boyfriend so rude in my home? 

Dear Jay,

My niece and her  45 year old boyfriend came to my house for Thanksgiving, and he walked into my room and sat on MY bed to watch the football game without being invited or having any respect for the privacy of my room! The second time I saw him, he opened the fridge to get beers without asking. He moved around my place like he owned it. Needless to say, this was his first and last time at my home!!!!


Jay's ANSWER...

A:You are well within your rights to establish house rules - your house rules. Step two is to let your guests know what these rules are! It sounds like this man has no respect for other people's property. Let's hope he is more respectful of your niece. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay 

Sister-In-Law Trouble

How do I keep my distance from my sister-in-law who only makes me feel awful about myself? 

Dear Jay,

I have a sister-in-law that moved to another state about 13 years ago. Her brother and I have a wonderful marriage until she comes into the picture.  I admit she makes me feel awful about myself and insecure.  This is more my problem than anything she has continued to do.

We have not seen her in 10 years or so, because she was an alcoholic and had some mental issues.  She is now divorced and has money to come visit this Christmas.  I can suffer through the visit at their mom's house, but I know she is going to want to come spend a day at our house with me and our girls (who hardly even know her).  My husband will be at work and honestly I feel like a terrible person, but I don't want to know her again or have her be a part of our lives.  My husband doesn't care about hurting her feeling, but I do.  I don't want her to know my true feelings, I just want to avoid her.  Is this terribly wrong?  If it is please tell me.


Jay's ANSWER...

A: Your situation falls well outside of simple etiquette; however, here is my advice to you. Be honest and upfront with your husband and with your sister-in-law. Simply explain that you are going through a time in your life when your privacy is a priority and that being around other people is too stressful at the moment. Most people understand this and will respect your wish.

Having said that, you would do well to seek the help of a trained mental health care worker - you don't need a psychiatrist, a social worker should be just fine. Working through life's problems cannot always be done alone. Why you allow another person the power to govern when you will and will not be happy is a mystery you need to solve. It won't go away.

 My best,

Jay 

Shut the Door

How do I keep my family out of my messy spare bedroom? 

Dear Jay,

I'm having a Thanksgiving Day dinner party very soon and I have most of my family coming over. I live in a two bedroom apartment; I use one room as storage and the other as my room. I plan on keeping the doors to the bedrooms shut since I don't want anyone in there, but my family members have a tendency to still open the door and look in. How can I politely tell them (or even put up a sign on the doors) to stay out of the rooms? I don't want to upset anybody, but it is my apartment and the storage room is a bit messy. It would be embarrassing for someone to go in there. Help, please?


Jay's ANSWER...

A: I always advise people who live in small apartments and enjoy entertaining to keep the apartment in 'show shape' all the time. Since that seems to be a different pattern than yours, a sign saying "Keep Out" or "Danger Zone" might work. Your better option might be to simply let guests know that if the door is closed, please do not open it. Guests need to be respectful of your private space. Another option might be to just lock the doors. Remember that the state of one's abode reflects the state of one's inner self. Please consider tidying things up - you'll feel much, much better. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay 

Rude Brothers-In-Law

How do I make my rude brothers-in-law respect my house rules? 

Dear Jay,

I want to know if I'm wrong or not!! I have two brothers-in-law and whenever they come to visit they think that they can do whatever they want like going in our fridge and cabinets and eating or drinking anything without even asking if it's ok or not. They say that since they are family that they don't have to ask. They don't even clean up after themselves. I have told them that it's not right that they do that and that they need to ask first before anything. Am I wrong? If I ever went over to a family member's house I would never do any of that. I would first ask if it was ok, and I sure enough would clean up after myself! I have told them over and over that it's not right what they are doing, but they say that since they are family they can get away with doing whatever they want!! Please help me!


Jay's ANSWER...

A: From my perspective, your mother-in-law gets the blame for her ill-mannered sons - including your own husband. Where is he in all of this? One's house is one's castle. You are well within your rights to have house rules. If your brothers-in-law disrespect them, then they should be banished - at least from the kitchen. You and your husband must discuss this matter as it is upsetting to you. You must be united in your stance. If this is a non-starter, then consider filling half the fridge with the munchies they like and just throw in the towel. This second alternative is not recommended however, as next thing you know, they'll be moving in and you'll be doing their laundry! Stand your ground!

 My best,

Jay 

Slapped in the Face

How do I handle not being invited to my step-granddaughter's Thanksgiving celebration?  

Dear Jay,

My step-granddaughter is starting her own tradition for Thanksgiving which is great, but she has left my husband, me, and our other two sons out of the tradition for some reason. I have had her and her boyfriend, mom, brothers, and my son who is her step-father for Thanksgiving and Christmas for years now, and now that she's having Thanksgiving we are not included. I know she can have whoever she wants, but isn't that disrespectful? Her mother and my son accepted my invitation, but now my son's wife told my son they are going to his step-daughter's, and I found out by chance this was happening. My son is not really happy about it, but what choice does he have? Should I be upset about the whole situation? I feel like I've been slapped in the face.


Jay's ANSWER...

A: I wouldn't be too upset about this situation. You might consider taking the high road and allow this young family to establish their own traditions. Score cards are not of benefit to anyone when it comes to real hospitality. Perhaps she has great memories of the Thanksgiving dinners you hosted and wouldn't expect you to stop having family Thanksgivings just because she was starting her own. Perhaps she didn't want to extend an invitation where she was anticipating a regret. Maybe she doesn't have room. Whatever her reason, allow her to have it without justification. Maybe you'll be on next year's list!

 My best,

Jay 


Low on Hosting Funds

How do I tell a guest that our family is going through a financial crisis and we can't afford to host them like we usually do?  

Dear Jay,

My family is going through a financial crisis at the moment. Unfortunately, not knowing this, my relative came to my place with her family to spend the one month school holiday as they used to do every year. I couldn't say no to them. How do I handle the situation as a host?


Jay's ANSWER...

A: You must be honest with your guest. She must contribute to household expenses because you cannot do so. Humility comes in many forms. Being honest is the only way to handle this, but keep your emotions under control. You are responsible for this dilemma. Take responsibility for any inconvenience, and explain how this makes you feel. But you have to come clean. Your honesty and humility will pay off. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay 

Confirming Plans

Who should confirm the plans - the host or the person invited? 

Dear Jay,

When planning an informal dinner party with close friends or family, who confirms the plans? Let's say the invitation is made by the hosts two weeks out, and then you don't hear from them? I really don't want to call and ask if we're still invited, and definitely won't just show up…


Jay's ANSWER...

A: It is the job of the host to confirm plans. Not everyone knows that, however. Therefore, I would suggest you phone and ask to confirm the time of the dinner party. "I'm just calling to make sure I wrote down the right time for dinner. I have 6:30 written down. Is that right?" I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay 

New Traditions

Do I base my Thanksgiving guest list on old or new traditions?

Dear Jay,

Is it proper for someone starting a family tradition for Thanksgiving dinner of their own to only invite some of their family who they have had a Thanksgiving tradition dinner with until they married and want their own, or should they invite everyone in their family they shared dinner with for years?


Jay's ANSWER...

A: When you are starting a tradition by celebrating a holiday such as Thanksgiving at your own home, you have 100% control of the guest list. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. If they do, edit them from the list! Respecting other people is important. Bullying tactics cannot be allowed. I am guessing there is someone who has caused you to take the time to ask this question. I hope my answer helps you.

 My best,

Jay 

Candy Miscommunication

Should I be mad at my neighbor for making candy promises he can't deliver?

Dear Jay,

We recently became foster parents of 3 year old twin boys and we currently have 2 boys of our own.  This past Halloween, our neighbor and friend, who usually does not do the candy thing, invited the boys over on several occasions for trick or treating, and promised them lots of candy.  Halloween came, and we never heard from him, so we went on our way, but the kids kept asking, when are we going to "J's" house.  That night I sent him a text stating that he really shouldn't promise this to the kids if he can't deliver as they were very disappointed (they have become close with him and his brother).  

He fired back saying I was attacking him, he was up early, had to work late, so on and so on, and that he beeped when he drove past our house so we knew he was heading home.  I feel that if he knew he was working late, he should have given us a heads up so we could try to explain to very intuitive little boys that we would see "J" another time to get their candy.  

Was I wrong in letting him know that he dropped the ball?  As it was he who kept inviting them, I feel it was his responsibility to let us know that he was going to be late.


Jay's ANSWER...

A: Disappointments are a part of life. One is never too young to learn about this. Your friend obviously had no intention of totally snubbing your children or causing them any disappointment. In fact, his action indicates quite the opposite. Life hands all of us unexpected circumstances, some of which may even be more important than doling out Halloween candy. In my opinion, you were overly harsh in your reaction. 

First of all, if you ever want to deliver a message of derision, texting is inappropriate. Face-to-face is the best, perhaps the telephone, but texting is very dismissive. I can understand why he shot back defensively. He didn't drop the ball at all. Frankly, I think you owe him an apology. Also, and far more important, is to explain calmly how circumstances change in people's lives and intention is extremely important to consider before lashing out or criticizing. I hope this helps. Thank you for taking the time to contact StageofLife and me.

 My best,

Jay 

A Little Extra Cash

Is it okay to ask parents to give their kids more spending money at my daughter's birthday?

Dear Jay,

I am doing a birthday party for my daughters 14 year birthday. There will be 8 guests. We will be riding a giant ferris wheel in Seattle at $13/per girl,then going for ice cream and visiting a candy store with $5 spending money for each girl.  Would it be appropriate for me to ask each girl to bring money to catch a bite for dinner after? 


Jay's ANSWER...

A: That is a discussion you would need to have the each girl's parent(s). It is perfectly reasonable given that you are shelling out $18 per girl yourself. If you get pushback, abandon the dinner idea. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay 

Catering to the Whole Family

What should I do about my friend inviting her whole family to my events?

Dear Jay,

My husband and I recently renovated our house, we never entertained much before, but now we want friends and family to come over and celebrate the season. Being a big event we decided to have it catered. Our problem is that one of the friends we love very much usually tends to ask if we can invite all her kids (all adult),too. We are only planning on inviting one of her kids, whom we are close to. The rest of the kids have spouses and partners too, and the invitations would end up being extended to them. We do know the rest of her kids, but we aren't so close to them; it's not like we were invited to their weddings. 

We've known them for so many years, and we don't know how to deal with this. It's a catered party and would end up being more expensive. What's the right thing to do? We love our friend a lot, but don't know how to handle this. It's not the first time we've ended up inviting all the kids because she's asked.


Jay's ANSWER...

A: Your friend is completely out of line. Without going into a long discussion with her, I advise simply stating the facts. You say, "No, I am sorry but that is not possible. The guest list is limited due to the catering requirements." You might also speak with her about how this imposition makes you feel. Being pressured into something is a bad bullying tactic and shows no respect for you or your family. Frankly, I'd edit her from my guest list if she doesn't back down! She may be totally unaware of her actions. Becoming aware of them may well change her tune!
I hope this helps

 My best,

Jay 

I Hate When My Mother-in-law Visits

How do I deal with the demands of my unwelcome Mother-in-law during Thanksgiving? 

Dear Jay,

My mother-in-law is coming to visit during Thanksgiving.  As much as I wish she would stay at a hotel or rent her own vehicle, she won't.  I have asked my husband to advise her to rent a car, but he feels that since she is family flying in from Costa Rica, that she should use one of our cars.  I work from home and my kids are very busy. However, during Thanksgiving, I don't have any obligations.  My son has a truck, but doesn't have his driver's license yet.  So we have decided to solve this by allowing my mother-in-law to use my husband's vehicle, while my husband uses my son's truck. However, in the near future, there will likely only be one car sitting in the driveway during the day and that is my car. I don't like to loan out my car!  Am I wrong for not wanting to share??

I also don't know what to do about her visit. She's coming for 6 days. I don't feel like I should have to wait on her hand and foot; however, my husband will be working. How do I encourage her to leave my house and get out and explore? (Her husband will be with her)  

I just feel like every time she visits, she expects so much from me. She is nice for awhile, then she turns on me when my husband isn't around and makes rude comments or observations.  I understand that my nice things I do for a guest are not appreciated. She made that clear when we visited that she didn't really want us there. She had no food, we had to make our own beds, had absolutely nothing planned, and we had to cook for ourselves the entire time. 

My husband will not stand up to her and say anything about her rude comments, because he thinks I'm being sensitive. But yet, I have to entertain and cater to someone who is disrespectful? How many days should I plan excursions without her and how many with her? I also hate spending all the time and money on meals for her. HELP!


Jay's ANSWER...

A: The answer to your first question is no. You are not wrong for not wanting to share your car. Blame it on insurance and uninsured drivers if you need an excuse. The second part of the question is a bit more complicated. Basically you and your husband must be a united front. If you need to discuss this until you can reach that point, then so be it. It sounds to me like you really don't like these folks. If that's the case, your husband needs to take time off work and deal with them, or perhaps even your son. Family dynamics can be complicated and difficult. You are well within your rights to want your home respected and your house rules followed. If you must take the lead because your husband is unwilling or unable to confront his parents, then lay the rules out clearly and without emotion. Rules are rules. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay 

My Mom Stays Too Long

How do I tell my mother that we want to spend Christmas without her? 

Dear Jay,

My mother lives out of state, and every Christmas she invites herself over for a week at Christmas time (Going on 8 years in a row now). My sister and I are both married and have our own families, and we would like one Christmas without her here. She is just 2 states away and visits multiple times a year. She basically doesn't wait for an invitation and just books a flight. We had to tell her multiple times that a week visit is too long. She never rents a car or gets a hotel, so she stays at our houses and we drive her around. Her visits are now down to 5 days. She admitted to me on a few occasions that this hurts her feelings that she can only stay 5 days. It frustrates me that she doesn't respect our own lives and boundaries and that we need to keep having these awkward conversations, after which I feel really guilty about. Help!!


Jay's ANSWER...

A: Christmas is a time for families to connect and celebrate many blessings. It is a time when people must put the feelings of others ahead of their own. If your mother's feelings are hurt by not being included, my advice is to include her. If she has specific annoying habits that somehow are worthy of excluding her from this holiday time of year, you need to let your own feelings be known. If she knew perhaps what made the visits seem too long, she might understand your position more clearly. I suggest that you and your sister make crystal clear what the ground rules are for your respective houses. These conversations need not be awkward. They should be compassionate. All parties must first listen to the others with an ear to understanding. Release the need to take a defensive stance. Once everyone is reading from the same page, you may even want to restore her visits to a full week! I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay 

Meddling, Freeloading In-Laws

How do I set limits with my freeloading in-laws? 

Dear Jay,

My in-laws plan to leave the states to another country next year for 2 or 3 years.They are going with my sister-in-law and her family for her husband's work. Before they go they must get their citizenship. My in-laws, earlier this year, left us their house to live in with our 3 kids.
They could no longer afford it after my father-in-law retired. They moved to my sister-in-law's house in Virginia.

The problem is they keep coming back to our home for months at a time. My 15 year old son is forced to sleep on the couch for months at a time to accommodate them. They leave for a couple weeks and come back and stay for a couple months or half a year or so. They do not contribute to the bills and won't even buy a gallon of milk for their grandkids without making us seem like bad parents for running out. They go through my stuff, and after I cook dinner after working all day they help themselves first (not the kids) .They do nothing all day and say they are so tired. So, I get stuck doing all the cleaning, cooking, food buying and paying all bills.

They think because the house is under their name (even though they don't pay a red cent) they can come back and stay whenever they want. I have no say. My mother-in-law gets mad and tells all the family that we kick them out. GUILT TRIP after GUILT TRIP!

What can I do to get her out and only visit twice a year for a week or two like normal people?


Jay's ANSWER...

A: You haven't mentioned your husband. Some ground rules need to be established and they need to be successfully communicated to your in-laws by him and you as a united team. Change the name on the title to the house. Don't run out of milk. Start setting a better example for your son. You need to honour your boundaries and that of your immediate family. If you don't, I'm afraid there is little likely to change. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay 

No Loving Welcome

Should my spouse greet me when I return from out of town?    

Dear Jay- 
How should you address your spouse?
I travel occasionally for work. These trips often consist of a two night stay away from home. Should my spouse quit what they are doing (if possible) or get off the couch to come and welcome me home? Or should I seek my spouse out?  It is obvious that I have returned because my little girls often scream and run to greet me.


Jay's ANSWER...

A: I side with you on this one. I was always taught to get up and greet anyone (no one is excluded from the 'everyone' category) with a smile and either a handshake or a kiss - certainly a welcome greeting of some sort. Sloths that cannot get off their tushes to get up are lazy and disrespectful. The sad part is this is likely how they feel about themselves, so compassion is needed. Sit with them and explain how coming home to an 'absent' spouse makes you feel. Perhaps lonely or unappreciated? The worst part of this scenario is it sends a terrible message to the children. Time to straighten this one out. But you will get further if you take some of the responsibility. I hope this helps.

My best,
Jay

Our Need for Privacy

Is it rude to want our out of town guests to stay in a hotel even when we have the room? 

Dear Jay,

Our youngest daughter lives out of state with her fiancé and is coming home with him for the Christmas holidays. He wants to see his parents as well who live in another city within driving distance so we thought it was easier for everyone involved to invite his family (soon to be our daughter's in-laws) to make a trek here for the following weekend.

They accepted our encouragement to visit and I mentioned it will be a good time to go over wedding venue and visit the spot for the rehearsal dinner while they are here.

We have NO intention of asking them to stay at our home and they know we have a full house at this point anyway. Their subtle reply was a positive YES, we would love to come, but "we are assuming we need to get a hotel room so any suggestions ?"

Ok, so they got it, but even when our house is not full in the future is it rude for us not to extend our home for houseguests? We are fairly private and although technically they will be "relatives" once our children marry, they are relatively strangers and have very different life styles. I want to be kind, but set an expectation that is not hurtful to them.

What's your take on it please?


Jay's ANSWER...

A: Under no circumstances are you obliged to offer accommodations to people, family or otherwise, who visit from out of town. I think you may be more sensitive to this than guests might be. Relax and enjoy their company on your terms in your home. Your privacy needs to be respected in much the same way as you would respect the privacy of others. The Golden Rule works very nicely here! I hope this helps.

My best,

Jay 

Whose room is it?

Should I make my daughter give up her bedroom? 

Dear Jay,

Q: I moved out of state a little over a year ago. I now live with my boyfriend who has four adult children and two minors.  I have a 19 year old and a 15 year old who both live with us. There are 4 bedrooms in this home (actually 3 bedrooms and an office that I gave up to ensure my oldest had her own bedroom in my home). So now there is one bedroom for each of my kids and one bedroom for his daughter who lives here part time. Right now my daughter is about 5 hours away at college and comes home on average once a month and all holiday breaks. One of my boyfriend's children (I believe she is 22) is coming from another country for what has now turned into a 5 month stay. My boyfriend insists she does not bunk with her biological sister, rather she move into my daughter's bedroom.

This is a hard pill to swallow for both me and my daughter since we both feel her bedroom is not a guest room, but reluctantly we both agreed. I decided there was no reason for his daughter to bunk with the 6 year old when my daughter isn't home. As long as my daughter is not "home" his daughter can bunk in her room. 
Now, my boyfriend is insisting that it is wrong to have his visiting daughter move out of my daughter's bedroom when my daughter comes home from college on the weekends or holiday breaks. I am floored, and not sure what to think about this and what he would expect me to say to my child. 

Am I supposed to tell her she can come home but must sleep on the sofa because we gave away her bedroom especially since all of her personal items will remain in her bedroom? I am very confused.


Jay's ANSWER...

A: This is a hugely complex family dynamics series of issues, none of which I am really qualified to address. However from an etiquette perspective, the boyfriend calls the shots. It's his house. Guidelines and policies are understood, hopefully prior to moving in. From a common sense point of view, this is a 5 month period of time. I would see how a bit more flexibility might help things out. If everyone is involved in this silly game of musical bedrooms, perhaps you might consider taking a room with your daughter. Boyfriends have known to acquiesce under certain conditions. I hope this helps.

Kindest regards,

Jay 

Freeloading Brother Mess

What should I do about the nightmare freeloading situation in my home? 

Q: My question is about my adult sibling and his girlfriend. They asked if they could move in my basement, and told me that they would pay $500 per month. I recently had some renters that moved out and have the space, but we also told our children they can use it as a playroom.  Not wanting my brother and his girlfriend to be homeless (she's 25 and he's 29), I said yes. I'm having trouble setting the boundaries with them in the house and with my children. 

My youngest child and his friend went in their room and messed it all up. It was totally on accident, but I was coming back in from running an errand and my brother totally blasted me when I was with my friend /client (I do hair and I was getting ready to color my client's hair because I work out of my house) and it was embarrassing! I don't like confrontations. 

My brother also gave me no time to make a decision. He called me on the 28th of September and said that he had to be out of his apartment by the 30th, so I had no time to really think and set up house rules before they moved in. They said they were going to move in on the weekend and then they didn't and then they said Monday and they didn't actually move in until Wednesday, October 3.

I don't know how to handle telling them I really don't want them drinking beer and alcohol around my children. They also smoke and smoke other things like that help you relax. I have a patio outside and they like to go out there and smoke, but they won't even bother to buy themselves an ashtray and they just put their cigarette butts in my fire pit. I know it's a fire pit, but I don't want it littered with cigarette butts! 

How do I handle these situations and be polite, but still help my brother and still have my dignity? I mean my immediate family should be most important, right? I have three children (a boy 16, a daughter 14, and a younger son 8) And my husband who I want to keep my husband...


Jay's ANSWER...

A: What a nightmare! I'm sorry to tell you that much of the responsibility lies with you. You and your husband must agree on a set of house rules and stand ready to enforce them. Sit down with everyone and go over them carefully and answer any questions and make any minor adjustments you wish. These rules would apply to guests as well as family members. Be very mindful when making these rules, because anyone who has a problem with your rules may choose to live elsewhere. But it is your house and your rules are to be respected. I hope this helps.

My best,
Jay

Declining a Friend's Dirty Apartment

How do I tell my good friends I'd rather stay in a hotel than their dirty apartment?

Q: Dear Jay,
I'm going to visit friends who have a 2-year old child.  My long-time  university friend has never been the most prolific of cleaners and her flat is often untidy and chaotic, which I don't mind enormously.  When we were younger, we would stay in each others flats all the time (I've lived in a few tourist towns) and we'd crash out on sofa beds and air beds but now that I'm getting older I just don't want the hassle of the untidiness, the quite strange husband and of course, a noisy baby.

The guest room in their relatively new flat has always been full of boxes or detritus and so is not set up for visitors (and besides, the cat was using the carpet as a new kitty litter box opportunity), which means staying in the dining room/kitchen on a futon which is probably as old as I am! 

Last time I stayed it was miserable: no heating. I'm clearly cold blooded in comparison, lumpy futon and terrible bathroom.  I know that they're going to be a bit hurt if I say that I'm going to stay in a hotel but I don't think I can manage 2 or 3 days with them.  I still live in a tourist town and I'm always amazed that friends want to stay in my living room on my, admittedly comfortable, sofa bed...but I do appreciate when friends tell me that they'll be staying in a hotel nearby, which is what I plan to do. Advice, please!


Jay's ANSWER...

A: Honesty is the best policy, but you need not offer any lengthy explanation. Simply state that you have come to appreciate the privacy of hotels and prefer to stay in one and leave it at that! I have found that it is often dangerous to second guess what others may think or how they may feel. They may be relieved in a way, but you will enjoy your stay better. If they question you, stand your ground and insist. Offer to take them out to dinner. They need to come to the realization that guests don't always like staying with friends, but often prefer a hotel. I rarely stay with friends, and prefer a hotel because I have a morning routine which involved meditation and yoga and a busy household isn't a good fit. I hope this helps.

Kindest regards,

Jay 

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

Family Issues

How to get my parents to treat my husband with respect?

Dear Jay,

I'm in an unpleasant situation. My parents have appeared to like my husband to whom I've been married to for five years; just recently, though, we ran into a problem when I asked my spouse to go pick up our son from my parents house. I was in the hospital in observation due to a risk pregnancy and my parents who were supposed to bring our son didn't, so my husband went to get him. They do not call to see how we are but expect me to always call them. They do not drive to our house to see their grandchildren but instead call asking if we are on the way to their house. My mom is now ignoring my husband completely. She doesn't say "hi" to him and won't even come near our kids when they are beside him. This upsets me very much. We have been avoiding them because it's becoming uncomfortable to be stuck in the middle. What should we do about this? I believe they are being ugly about the entire thing. 

Thank you Jay.


Jay's ANSWER...

The first thing you must do is to stop thinking you are stuck in the middle. You and your husband are a united team! But this does not have to be adversarial with your parents. You must sit down with your mother and explain how her behaviour makes you feel. She may be of the old school where children do take the initiative to place the phone call, call for a visit, etc. Allow her that. Just explain to her in a non-confrontational way that if she cannot be polite in front of her own grandchildren and recognize their father as an integral part of the family, your visits will be greatly reduced. You do not want to raise children who will mimic rude behaviour - so don't. I hope this helps.

Kindest regards,

Jay 

The Guest List

Is a stepmother still family?

Dear Jay,

My first grandson is getting married. Very excited! But yesterday my daughter, mother of the Groom, informed me that her stepmother was going to be in town visiting her friends. My daughter informed me just yesterday that she had invited her to the wedding. My daughter said, "after all, she is family." Well, my heart just sank. I will suck it up and be civil for all of the family. My question is this: is she a member of the family?  I divorced my daughter's Dad when in our late 40s. Our children were grown. Subsequently, he married the woman he had been having an affair with. Now is the stepmother still a family member since the children's Dad has passed away?

--Mrs. Hertenstein


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Mrs. Hertenstein,

This situation is awkward and I understand your shock. Being the lady that you are, you are quite right in taking the high road by 'sucking it up', as you so eloquently put it! The focus is on the marriage of your grandson and his fiancee, and has nothing to do with the guest list. If a mother/child relationship has developed between your daughter and your husband's second wife, she may as well be considered "family". You need not engage with her at all, and you are well within your rights not to! Civility is the order of the day. I'm sure she may be just as happy not to engage with you as you are. Keep your eye on the ball and as they say, "This too shall pass."

I hope this helps.

Kindest regards,

Jay

Vacation Costs

Should the host mention costs to the guest?

Dear Jay,

Our family goes on vacation every year and my parents have always paid for the house we rent.  In recent years, I have had the financial ability to be able to pay for a portion of the rental, but my parents have always told me no.  During the vacation, however, we are always reminded about the price they have paid for the rental.  Should the hosts be able to mention this to the guests or should this subject not be mentioned?  How should guests handle these awkward situations when brought up?

--Chris


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Chris,

Money is always a tricky topic and should not be discussed unless absolutely necessary. Your father is just being a bully and should not be encouraged. Since he is your father and since this irritates you I would say something like this - if it feels comfortable. "Dad, that is so generous. We always appreciate this kindness. If you would like me to contribute I am more than happy to; otherwise it makes me feel uncomfortable when you mention it." Generally people don't intend to make others feel awkward, so maybe this will register - maybe not right away, but eventually! I know this may sound direct, but it is the truth and you are taking full responsibility for your feelings. If he mentions this to other guests, draw him aside, as you might in any awkward situation with anyone, and explain that talking about money (or whatever the tricky topic might be) is embarrassing and makes everyone feel uneasy and uncomfortable.

I hope this helps,

Jay 

Do You Mind?

Should I be informed of my step-daughter's guests?

Dear Jay,

My 30+ step-daughter visits are very welcome, even when she arrives with little notice. What is upsetting to me, however, is that she often brings one or two friends, or invites people from far off to stay here while she is visiting without so much as a "Do you mind?"

Usually I would be fine with the request, but in addition to be asked in the first place, sometimes I would like to be able to say, "Yes, I do mind this time."

My husband says I lack spontaneity and that what his daughter is doing is fine. I think it lacks basic manners and politeness.

--Joan


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Joan,

Fathers can often be so protective of their children - to the point of being inappropriate. It is however important for you and your husband to work as a team and not disagree about how your household will run. A discussion involving your feelings is what is needed - men shy away from such discussion, but too bad. House rules need to be clear, and there is no clarity at the moment. Amazingly, his daughter will likely appreciate knowing how you want her visits to be structured. In fact, this sort of boundary setting may be a very teachable moment. This has nothing to do with spontaneity. It has much more to do with common sense and common courtesy. If the shoe were on the other foot, your husband might see things differently, as might his daughter. No cause for a big uproar. Just state how these impromptu visits by "intruders" makes you feel. Give this some thought before you leap ahead, but know that you are well within your rights to have your fair say. Hopefully your husband has the necessary respect to understand your feelings. You are in the right.

Kindest regards,

Jay 

Late Night Guests

Is it wrong if I don't offer my guests to stay the night?

Dear Jay,

Is it wrong if I don't offer my guests to stay the night?

I have a two bedroom townhouse and when I invite my friends over for dinner or appetizers and cocktails etc. they always stay really late and want to then stay the night. I should mention my friends only live 25 minutes away. Is it wrong that, after being a hostess the entire night, I just want to retire to my bedroom and rest.  I'm very catering to my guests and they sit back and enjoy being catered to.

I would like to also add that it's very rare that they invite me to their homes. Oh, also is it wrong if I'm inviting friends over that they don't bring something with them, even if I've said not to bring anything? Just curious. I was always taught to take a gift if I'm invited for dinner, etc..

Look forward to your response.

--Kathy


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Kathy,

Your home is your castle. You have every right to call all the shots. The answer to your question about guests spending the night is absolutely not! You are not obliged to offer lodging unless you fear there is some danger in them getting home safely. In that case, call a cab for them. As host, you control alcohol consumption too! As to bringing unwanted food, they shouldn't do that. If they do, don't serve it - they'll soon learn. A hostess gift is almost always appropriate, but that is not meant to be supplemental to the meal. Guests must learn to trust that hosts are properly prepared for their guests. Bringing a side dish, etc, is rude because it assumes the host is not properly prepared.

I hope this helps.

Kindest regards,

Jay 

Last Minute Cancellations

Who is to blame on a last minute cancellation?

Dear Jay,

Two months ago we decided to take a week long vacation and spend time with my brother for his birthday.  I realized this would take us right by my best friend's house, exactly half way.  I asked my friend if we could spend the night on two nights, one on the way up and one on the way back.  We both were excited and she even told me of her plans to cook us dinner on the first night.

Tonight at 10pm, I am informed by text that she cannot accommodate us.  We are leaving in two days and now need to make hotel arrangements, including for our pet.

Am I wrong in assuming she should at least offer to put us up for a night in a modest hotel room?  I'm in shock and don't know what I can do, other than revise our trip budget and book hotel rooms for both nights.  It's a shame and disappointment since this is our summer vacation and we won't be traveling again until the holidays.

--Sheridan


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Sheridan,

I am afraid the responsibility for this situation rests squarely in your lap. Your assumption is wrong. Your friend's life has obviously taken a turn that required her to change her plans and her ability to host you. That's just life. Perhaps she needs some compassion. Your travel plans are in no way your friend's responsibility. You will need to revisit your travel budget. And resist laying any guilt trips anywhere. I hope this helps.

Kindest regards,

Jay

Getting to Know Us

Honest is the Best Policy

Dear Jay,

My siblings (4) and I have an aunt that comes to visit from another state for six to eight weeks, two times a year. The first time is June-July and November-January. These dates have changed through the years because of vacation plans (mom, sister, aunt and me went on a couple of two week trips, etc.). She started coming to visit after my grandmother passed away (ten years ago). She is planning on moving here within the next couple of years (she says). She started visiting to "get to know us". She stays two weeks or longer in three homes.  Most of us work and she stays at the house all day watching television, playing games by herself, etc. She does entertain herself. When we come home, there she sits. We have to make dinner arrangements then go to bed and start all over again the next day! One sister lives with me, one sister is married and another recently became a widow. Another sister out of state is married, but my aunt has only visited with them one time and they said they weren't "keeping her". Three of us agree that "she has gotten to know us!" We fret over each visit, and she has made the comment that she's on "vacation" when she visits and that when grandma was alive (aunt has never been married and lived with her mom), they provided meals for visitors. A couple of times, she has taken us out to dinner and last year helped buy groceries at my house. She doesn't ask to visit (she leaves it up to us where and when she makes her visits to each home) and another sister has said that she doesn't have to be entertained. We feel like she does!  Aunt demands that we provide transportation to church, she doesn't ask! She never calls us between visits. We call her when we have a question about a game rule or concern for her during a storm, etc. We don't want to hurt her feelings and just want to know how to remedy this situation. A few days at each home would be nice!


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Mrs. Honeras,

Honesty is the best policy. Unfortunately you and your siblings have been first class enablers in this family dynamic, which has now grown out of control, as such situations are want to do. I recommend that you have a siblings-only family meeting - in personal preferably, but the phone could work too. Come up with a plan that you can all agree to. One of you meets with the aunt - again face-to-face is ideal, and simply explain how you all feel. She is not psychic and probably does not want to be the colossal inconvenience she has become. This discussion should not be confrontational or stressful. State the facts and leave the emotions alone. This situation is not going to fix itself or go away, so it is time for you to take the bull by the horns and make that plan come to light! I hope this helps.

Kindest regards,

Jay

Head of the Household

Who is the head of the family?

Dear Jay,

My mom just recently came to live with us, and I gave her my seat at the head of the table.  My mom and husband got into a little spat and spilled a little emotion over it.  They made up, but my husband has not forgotten it. My husband feels that my mom is taking our authority over the kids. I agree she sees us as her children and does feel she is the head of the family. My husband said he wants me to sit at the head because I am his wife. I have been giving that seat away when an older guest comes, so I've started this problem. I think my mom is feeling some power sitting in that seat, and it is causing her to feel at a higher rank because of it. Is she the head of the family because of her age and status? How can I get the seat back without hard feelings? I think no matter how I take it back she may be hurt, and I don't want to hurt her.  But my husband is clearly upset, too.  I really don't know how to handle this.

--Mrs. Honeras


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Mrs. Honeras,

Thanks for asking this question, which fortunately is solvable. Yes, you made the mistake of giving up your seat, as you are the head of household. Your mother should rightly sit to the right hand of your husband. Because she is your mother, it is your responsibility to sort out boundaries with her. You have every right to state house rules, but being fully in step with your husband is critical. Plan these sorts of decisions and arrangements with him before hand - not after you make another mistake! I hope this helps.

Kindest regards,

Jay

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

Family Matters

How can I get through to my sisters?

Dear Jay,

Lately, I've been in a tricky situation with my family and my husband. My family is trying to make plans to celebrate my dad's birthday in my house without even consulting me. I live in a two bedroom apartment with my husband and our six year old son. My husband thinks that they should have talk to me about it and respect the fact that I have a family. I don't want to turn my back on my family, but I also understand my husband's point of view. I told them how I feel, and now they are mad at me and talking to me like I am still their little sister. I am a grown-up woman and want people to respect the fact that I have a family. I feel very sad to be in the center of this drama. I love my husband and he doesn't have any problem that my parents come to visit for a month but not more, and my sisters think that they are my parents and I should have them as long as they want.

--Jessica


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Jessica,

I see a rather simple solution for this dilemma. You and your husband sit down together with your sisters and let them know how you feel and how being ignored makes you feel. Explain that your house is your castle and that you will be part of any decision making going forward. Your husband must stand by you on this. You must stop this cycle of bullying your sisters are engaged in! I hope this helps,

Kindest regards,

Jay

Just Droppin' By...Again

Can we tell our guests to get a hotel?

Dear Jay,

My husband and I live in a tourist destination, and family members and friends frequently ask to visit us (we usually have visitors at least two weekends per month). Our siblings (we have five of them) are extremely needy and are usually not the greatest house guests.  They each come multiple times throughout the year, stay in our guest room, don't rent a car (we only have one), and always want to go out to eat.  Not only do these visits require our time (entertaining and cleaning before and after their arrival), but they also affect our wallets.  Frequently, these visits extend into the work week as well.  We don't want to hurt their feelings, but we would much rather they get a hotel and their own car so our normal routines are not constantly uprooted.  What is the best way to handle the situation when we get a call saying "We're coming to visit you in July!"?

--Sauna


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Sauna,

Please forgive the tardiness of this response. You are stuck in somewhat of a habit herea rut, if you will. This will more than likely continue and even worsen until such time as you lay down the lawexplain your house rules! One's house is one's castle, and as master of one's own castle, one is well within one's right to be crystal clear about house rules so that no one embarrasses the others through no fault of their own. 

It's best to handle delivering this information face-to-face and as a couple if appropriate. If spoken over the phone or written in a letter, do not be defensive or feel the need to give an explanation for the rules. 

There appears to be a combined lack of gratitude and a resultant feeling of entitlement; as well there is no respect for your boundarieseither time or space! This information can and should be delivered calmly and clearly. You cannot control their feelings - if their feelings are hurt, they need to take responsibility and grow up - age having nothing to do with it.

Learning to say no in a friendly way is possible. Speak from your heart and trust your inner voice. I hope this helps.

Kindest regards,

Jay

Just Droppin' By

Is it rude to drop by unannounced?

Dear Jay,

Is it rude for someone to just drop by unannounced if you've only met them once or twice, and they are not a close relative?

--Ms. Johnson


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Ms. Johnson,

Frankly, I think it's rude for anyone, close relative or the traveling salesman, to drop by unannounced. I wouldn't have daren't do so with my own mother!

I hope this helps.

Kindest regards,

Jay

Uninvited Guests

How can I exclude certain family members from an invitation?

Dear Jay,

I am having a Celebration of Life for my late husband.  This function is being held in my home.  My home isn't that large and would accommodate about 20 guests.  Some life long friends will be invited and his three remaining siblings and their spouses.  How do I deal with uninvited nieces and nephews that haven't been in our lives for 10-15 years? I don't know if this will happen, but I would like to be prepared if it does.

The invitation will will not include the family members, and the family members are all adults.

--Mavis


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Mavis,

The best advice I can give you is to welcome anyone who comes to this wonderful occasion. Perhaps there is outdoor space you could use for the overflow? One can never control uninvited guests and in general taking the high road is always the line of best defense. 

Don't stress about this; just focus on the purpose of the Celebration. Hopefully people will understand that invitations apply only to those invited. If they call and ask, explain about the space limitations and that you would appreciate their cooperation. 

I hope this helps.

Kindest regards,

Jay

Please, No Foul Language.

Can we tell our adult daughter not to use foul language?

Dear Jay,

We were visiting at our adult married daughter's home, and, while there, she was using foul and language that is offensive to us.  Is it wrong to request that she not do this in our presence at her home?

--James


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear James,

Sadly your daughter learned this behavior somewhere along the line and was allowed to get away with it. Now you are suffering the consequences. However, if it makes you feel uncomfortable, you are well within your rights to politely explain to her just how it makes you feel and that you hope she doesn't make other guests feel the same way. If she doesn't get the hint, simply leave. There is no point to getting into a heated argument - no one will win. Let's hope she doesn't raise her children that way.

Kindest regards,

Jay

Who Gets the King Bed?

Should a married couple get the king bed on vacation?

Dear Jay,

My son and I are going to Fiji for a holiday. I am a single parent and we have a two bedroom apartment booked and paid for. The apartment has a king bed in one room and two single beds in the other.  

Today, my sister told me she and her husband are going to come with us. Do I have to give them the king bed, even though I have paid for the accommodation? My son and I can share the king bed and still be more comfortable than in a single bed each.

--Nicole


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Nicole,

Thanks for asking this excellent question! Technically, no - if you are paying the bill, the choice is yours. However, logic would dictate that a married couple would be offered the king bed. They may well prefer to have the twin accommodation or better yet, they may ask which you prefer. In any event, the hotel may be able to make a change for you, such as joining the two twin beds together for you and your son, thus creating exactly the same sleeping space as a king. 

Try to always take the high road when dealing with such situations. Since your sister and her husband are your guests - presumably you had some choice in this matter - then putting them first is the correct thing for a host to do, but not to the detriment of your own needs. I hope this is more of a help than a hindrance.

Kindest regards,

Jay

Help Yourself to the Wine?

Can house guests help themselves to the wine without asking?

Dear Jay,

I had a close friend come stay at my house with her family, and her husband opened a bottle of red wine after my husband and I went to bed and drank more than half. 

My girlfriend and I had already shared one of the bottles that evening. When I mentioned it the next day, she got defensive.  

Isn't it super poor etiquette to open someone else's wine without them offering?  We have stayed at their house many times and they have been very generous, but we have never helped ourselves to any wine or anything else with out asking or having prior knowledge that is was alright.

Should we be less sensitive about this?

--Sarah


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Sarah,

You are absolutely correct.  Perhaps she thought the wine was 'fair game', but she was overstepping her bounds as a good house guest. Sadly, there is nothing you can do about it at this point. I imagine that given her defensive reaction, this scenario will unlikely be repeated. She got the message. 

It's time to take the high road and move on. After all, it was just a bottle of wine. Respecting boundaries is difficult for some people, clearly. Know that you are in the right.

I hope this helps.

Kindest regards,

Jay

Disrespectful Visitors

What is the polite way to tell adult married children they are rude and disrespectful?

Dear Jay,

We have an adult daughter and her husband who request overnight visits with either parents or a grandfather.  Yet the there is no social visit.  These children merely want a free bed and no interaction. They make separate plans or stay locked up in a guest room all hours.

And do not thank their hosts.  Ever.

What is the polite way to tell adult married children they are rude and disrespectful to their parents and grandparents?

--Edgar


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Edgar,

Good manners are learned at home.  Somewhere along the line some of these seem to have slipped through the cracks. My advice at this stage of the game is to have a chat with your daughter and explain your feelings.  Lay down a few rules of respect, as you thought they had been already understood. 

You are fully within your rights to have house rules.  Lack of gratitude is another basic principle gone missing. It's never too late to teach these important life skills either to your children or to theirs as they come along. 

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.


Live-In Grandma Has Question

I'm a live-in grandmother with a question...

Dear Stage of Life,

I have been living with my daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter for 2 years and we just moved to a new house. I have a bedroom in the lower level of the house and the two upper levels are their bedrooms and the family area (living, dining, kitchen).

Frequently after dinner I will go downstairs to watch TV and give them family time. Recently, I have heard them visiting with the new neighbors who have come by to visit. I have refrained from going upstairs (even to get something to snack on or drink) because I'm not sure if it would be considered intruding.

Should I stay out of the out or continue my normal routine when the family has house guests?

--Karen


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Karen,

If you have been living with your family for two years, the house is considered your home too, even if you don't contribute financially, which I imagine you do in some fashion.  If you feel uneasy, simply broach the subject with your daughter. This lack of communication is not healthy, so nip it in the bud.

I hope this is of some help.

Kindest regards,

Jay 

Greeting Protocol

Who speaks a greeting first - the host or the guest?

Dear Stage of Life,

My husband gets annoyed when my teenage daughters' guests come into the house without saying hello.  He thinks it is their responsibility to speak first.  I think just the opposite.  If they are coming into our house they are the guests and we are responsible for speaking first.  

Which is it,  can you clear this up?

--Debra


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Debra,

You are correct.  Regardless of the age of the guest, the host should be the first to speak by actually welcoming the guest into his house.  The host should also be the first to rise and extend his hand.

I hope this is of some help.

Kindest regards,

Jay 

Who Gets the Guest Bed?

What is the proper etiquette for deciding which family member gets to stay in our spare room (when multiple members from both sides are visiting at the same time)?

Dear Stage of Life,

My husband and I are having a first birthday party for our son and our entire family must travel for this event.  We have decided to rotate which family members stay at our house in our one spare room.  My mother said that this decision is incorrect and rude, that she should stay here each time since she is the "mother of the bride" and "helps more".

What is the proper etiquette for which family members stay?

--Stephanie


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Rachel,

Thanks for asking this great question. My advice is to offer the room first (always) to the senior member of the invited group. If it is your mother, then she should have first dibs on the room. If there is someone else of equal or greater seniority, they should be asked on a rotating basis, as you suggest, or in the event of greater seniority, always asked first. 

Your mother is right on this one; however, it is your house, you are an adult, and the final decision rests with you.  At some point it might be necessary to establish that in your house, your rules apply.

I hope this is of some help.

Kindest regards,

Jay 

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 

International Wedding Crasher

Is it rude to ask the bride if we can bring an extra family to the wedding?

Dear Stage of Life,

My cousin's wedding is this Saturday, and it is a 125 people wedding.  My husband's cousin is coming to visit us from another country this weekend too.  

What would be the "correct" thing to do...ask my cousin to let us bring my husband's cousin as an added guest to his wedding, or ask my husband's cousin to look for something to do while we are at the wedding?

Please advise.  Thanks!

--Bebe


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Bebe,

I would strongly advise against asking to bring your husband's cousin as an added guest to the wedding. It would not be the 'correct' thing to do at all. I'm sure your husband's cousin will understand.

I hope this is of some help.

Kindest regards,

Jay 

Wedding Invite List Etiquette

Is it okay for a bride and groom to selectively invite some family members to a wedding but not others?

Dear Stage of Life,

My nephew is getting married.  None of the first cousins on my brothers side (my nephew's father) are invited. The youngest is 14yrs old.  However, ALL of the cousins on my nephew's mothers side are invited.  

My sister and I are refusing to attend the wedding when it is blatant that our children aren't invited, but my nephew's cousins on his mother's side are ALL invited. 

What are your thoughts? 

Thank You.

--Colleen


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Colleen,

From the point of view of traditional wedding etiquette, the guest list is in the control of whoever is hosting the wedding. There must be limits to the number of guests invited for many obvious reasons. It is not their obligation to explain how the guest list is assembled. 

However, your feelings are valid and since this is a close family concern, some open communication needs to be established here. You need to speak with your brother about your hurt feelings and see if perhaps there has been some sort of mistake. No matter what the answer or explanation, you always have the choice to accept or regret any invitation - again, with no explanation required.
 
Now, from the point of view of a social commentator (another hat I wear), here is another perspective... 

Families are complicated. 

Without knowing more (which I am not asking to do), I suspect there is a back story here within which lies the framework for the real answer to this dilemma. If there is some unresolved issue(s), this occasion is hardly the appropriate venue for it to be exposed. It is important for the health of extended family relations for your feelings to be voiced - without being in a state of anger. 

Regretting an invitation to an important family function, such as this wedding, is a big statement on your part. You and your sister need to understand that there will likely be consequences. Fighting fire with fire is never a good idea. Remember, too, that your actions (all of them) are examples from which your children will learn to navigate the world and pass along to their children. 

I would advise taking the high road here (as I always do) and accept the invitation; go to the wedding - with a gift; and redirect your anger into compassion. That of course is easier said than done, and impossible when angry. Air your feelings with your brother. Find out what exactly is going on and respond only after you have that information.

I hope this is of some help.

Kindest regards,

Jay 

Dog Visitors When Family Comes to Stay

Am I responsible for a guest's pets if my guests are staying overnight?

Dear Stage of Life,

My husband and I are in the process of purchasing and moving into our first house! I recently reached out to my cousin to see if he wanted to "spend some time together" since we will be living only an hour and a half away from him. He interpreted this as coming over to our new house and spending the night. 

This is fine with me, except he also followed up saying that it's going to be easier for him to stay overnight if he brings his two dogs with him. 

My husband and I do not have pets, and honestly I am uncomfortable with the thought of two unfamiliar dogs in our brand new home and new furniture. I'm concerned about pet hair left all over the house, the animals jumping on or tearing furniture, and any other "surprises" they may leave for us. 

Am I responsible for a guest's pets if my guests are staying overnight?

--Rachel


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Rachel,

You must have had a temporary lapse of your senses. Why did you not clear this up at the time?  That said, it is not too late to pick up the phone and explain that you and your husband feel uncomfortable with him bringing his two dogs into your brand new house. This is not an unreasonable feeling to have, by the way! If he brings the dogs, perhaps they have traveling sleeping crates he can house them in; barring that perhaps they can sleep in his car; or even better - leave them at home with a dog/house sitter. 

Your house is your castle. Your house rules must be respected by everyone - including you! 

I hope this is of some help.

Kindest regards,

Jay 

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 

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

Double Booked for a Birthday?

What NOT to do when you've been invited to two birthday parties on the same day...

Dear StageofLife.com,


I have been planning my teenage daughter's birthday party for weeks.  Although she is only inviting three guests, the party involves appointments for facials, going to a movie, and a dinner reservation. 

However, one of her guests called a week before the party and requested that we change the date of the party as she has received an invitation to another event.  Evidently the hosts of the other event refused to change the date of their party. 

As you might expect, I also refused to change the date of my daughter's party stating that there were reservations, other guests to consider, and my family's schedule.  I said if needed, she was welcome to attend only part of my daughter's party if this would work better for her.

Does this seem like rude behavior from the invitee? Or should I have been more accommodating since our party involves a small number of girls?

-Party-Planning Mom



Jay's ANSWER...



Dear Party-Planning Mom,

Planning a party with spa appointments and other fun activities does involve being organized well in advance. The guest who called to ask you to reschedule your party is way out of line and exhibits the height of rudeness. You were very kind.  I would strike her from future guest lists in a hurry! 

If one receives a "better" invitation once they have accepted a previous invitation, they must regret the second invitation, without question. 

I hope this clarifies this matter for you. Where have good manners gone?

Kind regards, 
Jay

Rude younger sister or inconsiderate older brother?

Protocol for entering a room - it's your responsibility to announce your arrival...

Dear StageofLife.com,


Almost two years ago my husband and I were visiting with his younger brother and his wife at their home.  We had been visiting almost a half-hour when their younger sister comes in, walks right past my husband (oldest brother) and begins speaking with her other brother and his wife about some computer/internet problems she is having. 

We sat there another 10 minutes and she still did not acknowledge her oldest brother.  We finally said our goodbyes and left.

When we went to visit again, we now found out we have become the outcasts for not speaking to her.  This scenario has continued and we didn't even say anything to the rest of the family about her lack of consideration for her older brother.  It is not our aim to make her look bad, we just felt it was totally bad manners to treat her brother that way.

My question is were we lacking in manners or was it his sister lack of manners?

-The Outcasts



Jay's ANSWER...



Dear Outcast,

Technically speaking, the younger sister is at fault for not announcing her entrance in some way, such as saying hello to everyone assembled.  She has no social graces, nor does the rest of the family for not recognizing this sister's inappropriate behavior and suggesting she apologize.  If it isn't your aim to make her look bad, I suggest you have an honest, private, non-confrontational chat.  This is hardly a skirmish worth risking family relationships over.

Kind regards, Jay. 

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. 

How Do I Handle a Sticky Situation with My Father-in-Law?

Etiquette involving your guest room and in-laws

Dear StageofLife.com,


I generally have a great relationship with my husband's family, but I am caught in a bit of a sticky situation. My father-in-law is turning 50 this year and is having a big party for all the family and friends.

My husband's aunt just told my father-in-law that she is going to be here and my husband has volunteered our guest room. We recently got over guests (our friend...a single mom and her two kids) who had just trashed it, and we have not yet gotten the chance to do the repairs necessary to make it hospitable.

It's not that I have a problem with my father-in-law's sister or the fact that this will encourage us to fix up the room again... it's that my father-in-law thought he'd solved the lack of space problem with offering OUR guestroom.  Plus, when I told my husband about this - thinking maybe he'd given the go ahead - he knew nothing of it.

I am unsure of the proper thing to do. I am helping my mother-in-law with the party since it will be huge and involved, but have been apparently been scripted for chauffeur for the aunt as well. I don't want to cause trouble for anyone since it seems like my father-in-law already settled it before he called an hour ago to tell me about it.  By the way - my mother-in-law would be mad at him if she knew about how this went down but what good would that do to tattle on him?   I'm not, of course, happy that this happened.

Any advice??

Robin



Jay's ANSWER...



Dear Robin,

Your husband needs to have a chat with his father privately.  This sort of disrespect needs to be nipped in the bud. Under no circumstances can he just use your house as his own in this fashion. Perhaps another accommodation can be found for his sister. 

Alternatively, you may just have to pull things together as best as possible with a clear message to your father-in-law that he cannot do this ever again without asking first.  I doubt he meant to be disrespectful, but he was and may even be startled to hear this. 

Like we all learned in kindergarten, if you want to borrow something, you ask first. Let's hope your husband can sort this out. I hope this helps put things into perspective for you. 

Kind regards, Jay. 

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


Is texting a married man at 3am appropriate?

Etiquette involving married couples

Dear StageofLife.com,


I feel like these days, not many people are aware of the etiquette involving a married couple.  What I mean is that not many people seem to know the way they should act around married people. 

To me, it's intuitive that a single woman should not be calling a married man at 3am in the morning or texting him constantly throughout the day.  She shouldn't be in contact with him constantly or at odd hours.  The same goes for a single man and a married woman. 

Some, however, seem to think that this is perfectly okay.  Am I seriously overreacting, or have the rules changed in this respect?

A marriage is a sacred thing that it should be respected by everybody.  I seem to be alone in believing this.  Can you explain to us any guidelines that people should follow around married individuals?

Anonymous




Jay's ANSWER...


The question posed about appropriate communications between single and married people is one which many people are afraid to ask, but is quite a common problem.

Essentially, if one is going to express unusual sentiments or emotions to another person, they need to be sure this is okay with the other person prior to acting.  Phone calls at 3am are inappropriate unless an emergency arises.  Respecting the privacy of married couples is important and has not changed.

This is a two-way street, however and the responsibility falls on both parties' shoulders. Common sense comes in handy when considering these kinds of situations. Under usual circumstances, erring on the side of caution is always advisable. Put yourself in the other person's shoes and the answer may be clearer.

I hope this helps! Jay


Parents Rules Rule

Children Return Home and Take Over

Dear Jay,

Is it proper for adult children when they come to visit us in our home, to turn the radio on and listen to music of there choosing with out asking if it were okay ? I don't think it is but my wife has no problem with it and we get into argument's over whether it is okay or not.

Please advise,

Lon


Dear Lon,

I agree with you in this case. People who are guests in your house, and I consider visiting adult children to be in that category, should respect your space and ask to turn on your radio, TV, etc. Old habits are tough to break, but somewhere along the line no one taught your children otherwise. They must learn to be discerning as well as respectful. 

I hope this helps. Jay

Compassion in Three Great Men

Compassion

Our Etiquette Man, Jay, had the chance to hear three wonderful men speak about "Crash, Learn, and Conquer". Former Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador Danny Williams; former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani; and the one and only Donald Trump each spoke at a conference two weeks ago. Here he shares some observations with you...

I had the distinct pleasure of attending the Spark NB event last week where Donald Trump headlined an all star line up of speakers including former New York City Mayor Rudi Giuliani and the former Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, Danny Williams. The theme of the day was Crash, Learn and Conquer and was delivered to an audience of seasoned business people, young entrepreneurs and students. I attended because I wanted to hear how these men incorporate civility and compassion into their working lives. Strangely enough I was not surprised that those two words were not uttered a single time throughout the presentation. I found this fascinating, however, because to me without civility and compassion, business cannot truly succeed.

Mr. Williams was the first to speak and he explained how he pulled his province up by the bootstraps and with his tenacity and scrappiness persuaded the federal government to treat his constituency fairly. He has been a hugely successful businessman and attorney as well. Despite the reputation he garnered over his years at bat for the province, he showed a side of compassion and understanding of the really basic needs of his fellow Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans and a genuine caring for people. 

Mr. Giuliani spoke of his time as mayor of New York City during the events surrounding the tragic day of September 11, 2001. In addition to his words of wisdom for entrepreneurs of having a goal, being optimistic, being a problem solver, having courage tempered with fear, the importance of practice, anticipation, and teamwork, his most important pearl, in my opinion, was to love people. He emphasized how friends are our best safety net and that we need to help people whenever we can. Without his enormous compassion and sense of civility towards all people, he would not have had what it took to manage one of worst moments in human history, as we know it.

Mr. Trump spoke of his colossal ups and downs both in business and in his personal life. I lived in New York for many years, so “The Donald’s” track record was old news to me. I remember when he was struggling with what seemed like an insurmountable amount of debt, when his real estate empire was collapsing around him, and when almost any other person would have given up. And I remember watching him climb back building strength upon strength to regain his prominence as a great entrepreneur. He deservedly has the reputation of being a bully in the boardroom and he espoused the position of getting even, having ironclad agreements, and never giving up. His philosophy of loving what you do, staying focused, and making your own luck is one which has been enormously helpful to his career. Although he has great bravado and an arrogance that a scant few would dare to get away with, I came away feeling that here is a man who flourished because of the team of people he maintains around him. My guess is that behind closed doors was a man who demanded respect and who equally showed respect to everyone in his life. He would not have been able to form a good team without compassion for himself and for others and certainly not without sincere civility.

One only need look at his children to see what a great father he has been and continues to be. That is where the evidence really lies. Despite never mentioning the importance of compassion and civility in his life, it is tucked away inside, hiding sometimes behind a tough protective exterior.

I hope the audience appreciated the kindness and common sense values that these men have. We all love to hear the incredible stories of crashing and recovering. Many of us can clearly relate as we have such stories in our own lives. We love to hear about the renegade side of people who go against the tide and handle pressures we hope to never be faced with. Some of us can handle life on a roller coaster and can face serious challenges with great strength and a sense of purpose. Others of us need a more secure, even sedate, life where intense pressures are avoided.

In the end, whichever path we choose or find ourselves on unexpectedly, we can be happier and move more gracefully through the day if we practice compassion and show civility to everyone whom we meet. It is the lubrication that oils the wheels of life and which gives is the strength to put the feelings of other people ahead of our own. In business and in our private lives, we may at times be scrappy, be focused on emergencies, or even be in a position of being arrogant. If tempered with compassion and respect for those around us, those who truly love us will surround us.

--Jay

Civility Begins at Home

Bullying

Life for many of us is not always a bed of roses. In this column, "Civility Begins at Home", Jay takes a glimpse at this unpleasant subject and what we might do to change things...

We are, after all, human beings. It is our very nature, especially in western society, to get ahead either at school, in our jobs, or in our efforts to get reelected as government officials. 

None of us are immune to overstepping our bounds from time to time in this desire to achieve our goals. Unfortunately, in striving for our goals, too often these efforts turn into acts of bullying. Sometimes we purposefully act in ways which can be very hurtful and cruel to those around us. Other times we behave this way quite unaware and are clueless as to how our actions affect those people with whom we interact. 

What better time than the present is there to stop and assess our actions, our motives, and our goals? I have observed, as have many others, that civility at school, in the work place, in social and activity clubs and in the legislature has fallen to a very low point. If we want to build any kind of a sustainable and healthy future for our children and grandchildren, now is the time to begin anew to lead by example so that those who hold us in high regard have good reason to do so.

Where we need to begin this sort of renovation is at home. Bullying begins at home. This is learned because one or both parents, caregivers, and siblings teach this behavior initially.  There is no point to laying blame elsewhere. If there are constant tears at home from a child; if there is a constant or even occasional outburst which instills fear in a household; if there is confusion and lethargy surrounding a household, it is time to take a look at what is going on. We need to become more aware of and take responsibility for our actions. We must make a bigger effort to think about how we affect other people's feelings and self-esteem. 

Bullying  comes in many forms – physical, emotional, verbal, and mental. Unfortunately, the effects of this abuse can last a lifetime. We all deserve respect. Whether the newborn freshly home from the hospital, the elder statesman who is the patriarch of the family, or the grandmother whose firm guidance has solved many a family argument, we all deserve to be treated with kindness, compassion and respect. This is best accomplished if practiced everyday. I think it is so important that I suggest scheduling some family time if necessary, where all family members can get together to discuss what is going on in their lives. How else will we find out if someone is being bullied and is afraid. None of us are skilled enough psychics to guess how our loved ones are feeling, what their troubles may be, and how we may help them to feel better about themselves.

Bullying is akin to negative reinforcement. The only thing worse is abandonment. Coming home to an empty house, for example, is a very unhealthy way for any of us to end our day of work or schooling. Even something as simple as a short note indicating that there is food in the fridge or what time dinner will be gives some assurance that a much needed connection will be made soon. We cannot thrive or even exist in isolation. We mustn't do this to our loved ones.

Bullying is the behavior of weak individuals. This weakness needs to be addressed. It is the responsibility of parents to see to it that their children are raised to know the difference between behavior which is acceptable and that which is not. This is a simple process really because everything that our parents do, we as children assume is alright. It does not take a lot of experience to recognize actions which are wrong. Abuse of any kind is uncalled for. Physical abuse is in fact against the law, a fact of which many people are unaware. Physical abuse must be reported to authorities at once and can be done anonymously if needs be.

When we return to our schools and offices this autumn, let's try to make it our own personal policy to behave civilly with one another. This kind of natural behavior cannot be successfully legislated, nor should it be. A healthy society should be able to nurture this behavior very comfortably. Discussing this at home brings it to the forefront of our minds and helps make it easier to happen. If the home is a secure place to live physically, mentally and emotionally, our schools and places of work will be too.

--Jay

Coming Back to the Nest

Guidelines to Visiting Parents


Dear Jay,

What is a polite way to limit the number of days an adult child visits home?

Respectfully yours, Karen

 


Jay's ANSWER:

Dear Karen,

Adult children returning to the nest is one thing. Those simply coming for a visit is another. You must remember that your home is your castle and you alone set the guidelines and make the rules. If there is an issue about this in your mind, you must state clearly exactly what the guidelines are. Being honest with your message does not require being disrespectful or rude. Keeping facts and feelings separate is a challenge we all face from time to time. Speak in a kindly tone and take full responsibility for your position. It is, after all, your position. Don't lay blame on your child. He or she learned their behavior from you most likely. So, if you've enabled this turn of events, it's now time to explain that now things must change and these are the new rules. I advise not letting this become a big issue. Nipping it in the bud before he or she arrives will help.

Kind regards,  Jay


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

Driving Miss Teen Daisy

Driving Etiquette 101 for Teenagers

As temperatures rise and people’s pockets are lightened more rapidly than ever due to the current economic disaster, so unfortunately people’s own tempers can flare on the road.  As a refresher, following the basic rules of driving that we all learned at a younger age will go a long way to ensure safety for all.

Let People In:  You've heard the term "one good turn deserves another." That's also true when driving. Proper driving etiquette can be contagious. If you let someone in to the traffic flow, they'll probably do the same for someone else down the road. Most people often let people in, if they're signaling, but they expect at least a thank-you wave, and are frustrated when they don't get one. A polite acknowledgement is often forgotten when a driver is in a hurry. For a real twist on this, practice random acts of kindness sometimes too. For example, when on a toll highway, pull up to the attendant and pay your toll and tell them you’d like to pay the toll for the next car as well. You will always get a smile and often times that chain of kindness continues. 

Don't Be Aggressive:  Allowing more time to reach your destination will make you a safer and more courteous driver. Aggressive driving is dangerous and it puts others in danger as well. People get nervous when a car cuts too close in front of them, especially without signaling and especially when there’s an infant in the car. When you can see both headlights of the car you passed in the centre rear-view mirror, it’s safe to pull back into the right lane and remember to use your turn signal. I find that even when there’s no one else on the road, if I am going to turn onto another road, I use my turn signal automatically. It’s a very good habit to have deeply ingrained in your driving patterns. Trying to cut corners to get through traffic faster doesn't save you any time - it just gets you to the next red light a little sooner, all the while endangering those around you.

Slow Down:  Driving within the speed limit seems like a thing of the past. Teenagers can be a group guiltiest of this, simply due to their inexperience of the consquences.  Some (not all) zoom down their town streets with little regard that a toddler or stray animal might bolt into the path of their car.  I remember watching this one day as a girl ran over a cat. The cat was badly wounded and would eventually die. The girl was devastated. She was truly upset and remorseful and in need of some serious consolation. What a terrible way to have to learn why speed limits are there for a reason. 

Be Sober:  Driving while under the influence of drugs and alcohol is another serious danger of which we all aware. This is not isolated to a single demographic group. Sadly it covers everyone who has a license, even those below the legal drinking age. More times than not, one loses one’s sense of speed when driving under the influence, which is one reason they’re so easy to nab. Parents really need to teach their children that the dangers of this practice can have serious consequences, such as a criminal record, loss of driver’s license and loss of respect from others and from oneself, not to mention serious injury. There was a party here recently following the senior prom. People from many local high schools came to a central private location where several sets of parents had agreed to be responsible chaperones. All of the keys were collected so there would be no chance of driving under the influence. Those students who thought they’d beat the system by parking on the road to make a fast getaway were greeted with deflated tires (that were inflated the next morning). There were about 200 youth there and there were no troublesome incidents. Those youth are now empowered to teach their own children, when they have them, how to act responsibly. 

Drive Defensively:  Driving defensively is always the best policy. In order to do that, your full attention must be on the road. Be totally aware of all the cars near you as well as the road conditions. You can’t do this while adjusting the radio, chatting on cell phones (which is illegal in many areas for just that reason) or rummaging for a CD. I know this first hand. I was driving on a ski trip one day with two passengers. I was fumbling for a CD and hit a patch of black ice which was concealed from vision under the snow. The car (a Land Cruiser) went into a spin and crashed off the road into a rock formation and flipped. Through a miracle there were no injuries despite the fact that the vehicle was totaled. Imagine what that outcome could have been.

Civility and good manners will never do us any harm, on or off the road. Driving is a privilege and one which we take for granted far too often. Be ever mindful of those around you. It may just save a life.


It's a Respect Thing

Rising to welcome others 

Jay,

The other day my mother was hospitalized overnight.  I went to visit her and sat by her bed.  The room was small as hospital rooms usually are.  During the course of my visit the doctor and a priest stopped in on separate occasions.  The doctor was a women between 35-40 years old and the priest was elderly. 

 When each entered the room, my mother introduced me to them.  I shook both of their hands without rising from my chair.My mother thinks I should have stood up but I don't agree with her.  I'm 35 years old.

Any thoughts?

-Anonymous





Jay's ANSWER...


Dear Anonymous,

Thanks for asking this good question. I would have to side with your mother on this one. Standing is a sign of respect, something both of these people deserve, as frankly does anyone else. Age and gender really have nothing to do with rising when someone enters your "space". It makes people feel welcome and respected.

I hope this helps, Jay


Planet Etiquette

Recycling, Trash, and General Caring For Our Planet Etiquette

How is our etiquette concerning the planet on which we live?

I try to be mindful of taking care of our delicate planet on a daily basis. I am serious about recycling as is my partner.  All of the wine and beer bottles, cans, newspapers, cardboard, plastic bags and vegetable scrapings are all recycled.  We use to recycle over 2000 pounds of vegetable scrapings every year when operating the Windsor House. Our garden has good soil as a result, although a ton doesn’t really make as much difference as it sounds. However, every ton of waste not put into the landfill is to the good of the planet.

It amazes me how reckless people are today about the garbage they produce. Coffee cups are strewn along the highway. There are some people who I see regularly picking up discarded pop cans from the roadside as supplemental income, there are so many. The highways in the US and Canada capture so much litter that there are now laws in place to combat offenders. We should know better. 

And to those of us who smoke, it is hard to believe how cavalier we have become of making the streets our own personal ashtray. Nothing could be more disrespectful to our visitors and fellow citizens. The town of St. Andrews actually employs someone to pick up cigarette butts as a summer job. How pathetic is that?  This reflects so badly on our beautiful town and on the self esteem of our residents who feel it is their right to use the streets as a trash bin. And the sad fact is that no one can point a finger at any one group. I have witnessed this behavior from young and old and all socio-economic classes. It is arrogance at its very worst. 

Before I come across as too self righteous, I admit to contributing to this total disregard for the fragility of our planet. I waste water like there is no tomorrow. I don’t turn off lights as I might when not in use. I don’t follow through on certain excellent suggestions from the Department of Energy on ways to use less electricity and conserve natural resources. I drive too much, although I must admit to ‘using’ other gas guzzlers to pick up and drop off my mail.

So, what do we do?  What do I do?

Here we are living in one of the most ‘happening’ places on the planet as far as energy goes and we treat it with little respect. We take it for granted. We don’t want to see our streets littered with cigarette butts, yet we constantly flick them away. We’re not doing that consciously because we know someone needs employment to pick them up. We do it unconsciously. It’s like spitting or swearing or wearing clothes that don’t fit, or bullying or beating our children or spouses. It has become a way of life and it must stop. It soils our surroundings in such a negative way.

I can remember a time when there were no leash laws and there were no ‘pooper scooper’ laws. Walking down the streets of Paris or New York was a bit of a mine field. Suddenly people decided to end this horrible and lazy disrespectful behavior. Today, even in our small seaside tourist town, there are leash laws and special dispensers of plastic bags. For the most part, everyone with a dog is careful to follow these regulations. That is considered real progress. And fortunately no one is inconvenienced.

It’s time to take the next step.

We have made a major step forward by banning herbicides and pesticides in our small town. And a local company is testing organic fertilizer. The province provides home energy analyses for practically nothing, with incentives to improve energy efficiency. There are recycle centers which are constantly improving. There are many chances for us to all make a smaller footprint on the planet. What is keeping us from taking advantage of them? 

In my opinion, these values must be taught at home and reinforced in the school system. Given the high cost of ‘deposit’ fees, this should be pretty easy when it comes to bottles and cans. Newspapers are trickier because you actually have to stack them up and take them to the recycle bin, and you get no cash in return. What a pity! Do it anyway. I find that every trip I take to the recycle bins gives me a sense of doing the right thing and it feels good. But maybe that’s just me. So many people feel the same way.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we all did?


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


Reader Question - Napkin Etiquette

Teaching Etiquette Early

Dear Jay,

I get very annoyed if my dinner guests (who are often in-laws) do not use their napkins.  Is this just a lack of good manners on their part and poor upbringing?  I have another question brought on by a situation where a waitress picked up my napkin and placed it on my lap before taking my order.  Was this the "proper" thing for her to do?  Actually, it was a rather high class eating place and I assumed this must be done at such a place, as I could not imagine it happening at our local Pizza Hut.  Perhaps you can set me right as to the do's and don’ts of napkin etiquette. I hope you don’t find my questions too trivial.

With thanks, Elizabeth


Jay's ANSWER:

Dear Elizabeth,

Thanks for asking these good questions. There are no trivial questions when it comes to proper etiquette. Your in-laws are exhibiting poor manners most likely as a result of an upbringing where manners were not important enough to be instilled in them at an early age.  As you noticed by your frustration, not teaching children how to behave properly early on does them a huge disservice as they reach adulthood.

As far as the placing of the napkin on your lap by the waitress goes, in some high end restaurants this is the custom. My advice to you is of course always to follow the lead of your host or hostess. What should happen as soon as everyone is seated is that the host or hostess should unfold and place their napkin on their lap. The guests should in turn follow. If there is no host to follow, once everyone (even if it's only two) is seated, the napkin should be unfolded and put on your lap. If this is not done, an attentive waiter will likely do it for you. This is not to be construed as being rude or condescending, but rather as a silent service gesture to indicate that the rituals of the meal are underway. It is a way of communicating to the guest that the staff is now ready to serve you. I hope this answers your question.

Regards, Jay

Expanded Comments on Teaching Etiquette Early...

I really liked answering these questions because they point to the importance of teaching proper etiquette and good social manners at an early age. There is nothing complicated or sophisticated about napkin etiquette. Nor are any of the myriad of other topics which revolve around good manners terribly complex or tricky. However, they must be learned behaviors. No one is born with good manners or bad manners. What we are born with is the ability to adjust to our social environment by following the lead of our parents, and in many cases our school teachers, especially in the case of boarding schools. 

But what if our parents don’t know?

Sadly, often times we are left to learn through the school of hard knocks. Why didn’t we get the job; why didn’t we get the promotion we were so expecting? Important interviews are often conducted during a luncheon or dinner. This is not because the interviewer is worried that you may be hungry. As stated in a previous column, it is because they are checking you out. If you don’t know such a simple skill as eating a meal properly, they are wondering what other simple skills you are lacking. Poor manners are what are known as ‘the silent killer’. No one will actually tell you why you didn’t get the job or the promotion. This happens all the time. What’s even more evident is the fact that you feel very uncomfortable in situations involving meals, corporate social gatherings to meet clients, mingle and discuss business. A person without the confidence of good etiquette will inevitably be at a disadvantage.

Take the time in your life to learn good manners and realize what a difference this makes in all social gatherings.

It is never too late to learn all the basic social graces and corporate etiquette you need to know in order to feel comfortable and confident in any situation. There are consultants, such as myself, who teach short seminars. There are many books in the library which deal with this subject. We have, today, as a society hit the bottom as far as good manners go, either in social or business circles. If we hope to succeed in the global society, we must make a concerted effort to improve on these skills. And it is at home that this must begin. 

Take the time to have family meals where the table is properly set. Learn to have civil discussions around the dinner table. As was pointed out recently during the debates, it is okay to disagree, but is not okay to be disagreeable. Make good manners a priority at home. The schools around here are doing brilliantly at teaching many important core values. Parents must lead the charge in teaching and instilling the soft skills which will make the youth of today the leaders of tomorrow.

So during this upcoming holiday season, take the time to make sure that these family get-togethers are not only joyous, but that they are imbued with civility. You will find that the joy becomes even greater.

There are so many details to look after in the planning of a wedding, that the protocol and etiquette surrounding these grand affairs can be complex. A wedding is one of the most important events in one’s life. It can also be and usually is one of the most stressful events in one’s life even if it is well organized.


Reader Question: Neighborly Neighbors

Etiqutte for Dealing With Unannounced Visits by Neighbors

I have recently been approached by two different families concerning a real problem with neighbors.  In searching my library of etiquette books, I found no reference to this and so am addressing it here.  The matter at hand is unannounced visits by neighbors. 

In the ‘old days’ one did not call on anyone without phoning first to see if it would be convenient. Today, this consideration has seemingly flown out the window. 

We visited close friends a couple of weeks ago. This was a planned visit and we were to stay for several days. Our hostess was not at home when we arrived and we went to let ourselves in only to find a padlock on the gate. I said, “I bet it’s because of the neighbors. I bet they were finally forced to take this step. As the old saying goes, ‘drastic times call for drastic measures’.”

We knew there was a history with the neighbors' children just showing up unannounced and uninvited to play or to be entertained; and not only the children, but the parents as well. It turns out that my hunch was correct. The behavior finally drove our friends to having to actually lock their back gate. The neighbor’s six-year-old son was also too clingy with our friends’ two-year-old son. It made our friends increasingly uncomfortable, yet they were at a loss of what to do to remedy the situation.

As awkward and uncomfortable as it may be, there really is no alternative than to confront the neighbors head on. This does not have to be combative or unfriendly, but I do feel that the facts need to be clearly laid out as well as the feelings that are generated as a direct result. Inappropriate physical contact needs to be delicately yet swiftly handled as well, as this may require some professional help. Sadly, these behaviors can go unnoticed by seemingly caring intelligent parents.

On this same topic, I received a question from a reader with a very similar problem...

Dear Jay,

I have some very nice neighbors, with some fairly 'pushy' children.  We have a privacy fence; however, on one side of us, our neighbor's 9 year old son will peek over or through the fence to ask my boys (who are only aged 2 & 4) to ask me to invite him over.  Recently, after I said no, he told them to ask me again.  His mother is very sweet and often offers to watch them for me and will talk in the front yard with my children if we happen to see each other in passing.  I want to keep a nice relationship, but I feel odd allowing her son to come over when he is so much older than my kids.  Several other children in the neighborhood (who are also much older and whom we barely know) have peeked in through our gate/fence to ask to come over and play as well.  (We have a swing set structure).  I keep saying no, but they keep asking, and I am starting to dread going in my own backyard when I know the neighborhood kids are out.  Am I wrong to keep saying no?  If not, how do I handle this so they don't keep asking?

Sorry for the long explanation and question!  

Thanks for your help,

Tricia


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Tricia,

Thanks for asking this sensitive question. This is an all too common problem.

As I see it, you have two choices.

1)  You need to speak with their mothers and let them know that this behavior is bothering you and is in fact worrisome. The kids are acting inappropriately and should be corrected. If you're in a mood to want them over for a play session, let them know you'll invite them. Aside from not having control of your own back yard right now, you also have some liability issues should anyone get hurt.

2) Another alternative is to speak with the kids themselves and let them know that when you have time to watch them you'll invite them over. So, no, you are not wrong for saying no, but following the 'no' with a short explanation may make it sink in better.

I hope this helps,

Jay

 


 

Expanded Thoughts on Unwanted Neighbors...

Looking back on that answer, I would like to add that there is a privacy issue here too. People need to respect one another’s privacy. When I grew up this was instilled in me as a very young boy. Although we enjoyed visiting friends and family, we would never do so without phoning first. It is inconsiderate. It shows utter disregard for another person’s time. When we ran the Inn, my time was not my own. I treasured my private time. I learned how important it is to me. I still feel that way and I think deep down inside, we all do.


Teens Testing Boundaries

Teaching Thanks

Jay,

I am a mom of three teenagers who seem to have no respect for handwritten thank you notes after receiving a gift. " I already told them thank you when I opened it." "I don't want to seem redundant." "They know I am thankful."

I find these answers rude and inconsiderate of the amount of thought, love and caring that went into thinking of them (on a birthday, Christmas or graduation) and I don't understand how they can think that this is acceptable. I used to not allow them to play with any of their toys until thank you notes were written. Now with the eye rolling and "I wouldn't want someone to keep thanking me over ad over." I am beside myself. 

Please help. Is a verbal "thanks" enough?

-Laura



Jay's ANSWER...


Dear Laura,

Thanks for asking this good question. Kids, especially teenagers, are always testing boundaries and questioning authority. Parents must be clear and firm with their directions, and often times setting a good example is the way children learn. They have obviously not received a thank you note themselves in order to experience the joy a thank you note can generate. By not writing a thank you note, they are demonstrating a lack of gratitude and a lack of respect. These are not good qualities to be exhibiting and there need to be consequences.

I would think a non-threatening chat might help. If kids understand why these rules or guidelines are in place, explained in a non-dictatorial way, they tend to "get it". Of greater concern to me is the disrespect they are showing you with their flippant answers. Somewhere along the line they were allowed to get away with this. Basically you have enabled them to become this way. You and your husband need to be united in your approach in dealing with this issue. If they don't learn the principle of cause and effect now, they will have to learn it later in life. 

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.


Reader Question - Phone Etiquette

How to Answer the Phone

Dear Jay,

I have two questions. Firstly: how should one answer the telephone at one's home, and how should employees be instructed to answer a business phone? Secondly, shouldn't one announce who is making the phone call? I find it disconcerting when I have no idea to whom I'm speaking.

Yours truly, 
V.R.


Jay's ANSWER

Dear V.R.,

Answering the telephone at home and at work does have different protocols and manners associated with them.

At home, one should answer the telephone with an enthusiastic ‘hello’. The tone of one’s voice says a lot about your frame of mind. Even if you’re not in a good mood, and you decide to answer the phone, inject warmth into your voice. It makes others feel good. If you can’t manage to do this, which some people just can’t, then let the answering machine take the call. 

If the call is for someone else, refrain from shouting out the person’s name if they are in another room or on another floor. It’s rude and upsetting to others who can hear you. For that matter, if you need to speak with someone who is visually out of sight and likely out of earshot of a normal voice, get up and go to that person. If someone does that to me, I don’t answer. Call me old fashioned, but it was not tolerated in my household when I was growing up.

Teach children how to have good telephone manners as well. You must understand these good manners yourself. It’s kind of like men wearing hats (or baseball caps or toques) indoors. How are children supposed to learn that that’s just wrong if you don’t teach them by example?  Answering telephones can be a serious matter. Wearing a hat inside the house is just disrespectful and bad manners. Strangers can call and unsuspecting children can give out way too much information. I remember calling a friend’s house once, looking for either him or his wife. The house sitter answered the phone and told me that they would be away for a week. I had not identified myself, and had I been a thief, with the information she gave me, I would have been able to stage a robbery. Moreover, if small children are at home, a kidnapping could have taken place. I know this may sound alarmist to some folks, but this stuff happens and it is extremely important to teach your children at an early age exactly what to say. 

Apologize if you dial a wrong number; don’t eat or drink while speaking on the phone as those unattractive sounds are magnified; and turn down the radio or TV when answering a call for the same reason. Keep a note pad and pencil by each phone and write down messages which will be clear and have all of the pertinent information. Make every effort to return any calls within 24 hours. And if you do not want to answer the telephone, for whatever reason, don't!

At the office, the protocol is somewhat different. Still, a cheery voice gives a good impression of your company. You never know when the call coming in is from a first time caller. It helps to actually smile when you answer the phone. Unless you have your own home business, an enthusiastic ‘hello’ is not sufficient. It is much better to answer with “Windsor House, Jay speaking”, or “Good afternoon, the Windsor House”. Recorded greetings which direct you somewhere else are totally annoying. We all really want to get a live person on the wire. Telephone companies, banks and credit card companies are notorious for this.

If you are an executive assistant, be sure to always use an honorific (Mr., Dr. or Ms.) before the person’s name. For example, say, “Dr. Smith’s office, Ms. Jones speaking.” This gives the proper dignity due the person being phoned. When calling, and you get the secretary of the person you are looking for, feel free to leave a complicated massage if the secretary is capable. Some corporations have highly skilled executive secretaries that can make heaven and earth move. Establishing working relationships with these individuals on the phone can be incredibly helpful in conducting future business. 

In answer to your second question, yes it is necessary to identify yourself when you place a call. It is frustrating to be carrying on a conversation with someone only to later realize you have the wrong person on the other end of the phone. Being mindful of another’s time is also a courtesy to extend. Ask if this is a good time to speak with the other person.

In any event, be sure to be civil on the phone. Never raise your voice or lose your temper. This is a sure fire way to lose a client or a contact. I find a pleasant phone call can make my day. One that goes on and on can have the opposite effect. Showing respect for one another is the name of the game.


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 we post his content here on Stage of Life.  

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

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