Family visit guilt trip

(36 Posts)
Brandnewbrighttomorrow Mon 18-Jun-12 15:06:41

My SIL and family have lived overseas for the last 5 years, we have been to visit them at least once each year and have made seeing them our main holiday at Easter for the past two years - we stay for a week in the house next door to theirs. They come back once a year in the summer but for the second time they've chosen to come during our term time so our two eldest will still be in school (their schools break up sooner)

They will be here for a fortnight and have said they will come to us for one weekend. I know that they have other people to see but they are only here once a year and I just feel so sad that we won't see more of them, especially for the children - we have 5dc's between us, the eldest four are all the same sort of ages and just adore each other. I've asked if they could base themselves from ours for more of the time but they have booked very day out to see other people ahead of us even finding out they're coming. We don't get to reciprocate being hosts and I'm starting to feel that we can't impose on them by going out there for a week again next year - which means we'll see even less of them :-(

Anyone else in a similar situation? Any ways you've found around these difficulties would be so gratefully received...

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Weta Mon 18-Jun-12 16:07:24

Not similar exactly in that I'm the one overseas and I don't get on with my toxic SIL (whereas you sound lovely).

But I do relate to the problem of going home and having so many people to see in a short time. If you get on well with your SIL (which presumably you do), why not just talk to her about it and say that you enjoy coming over to see them but feel awkward that you don't reciprocate to the same level in terms of hospitality.

I imagine she won't be fussed about it at all and will just be pleased that you're willing to make the effort to go and see them. I think you just need to come to an agreement that it's ok not to follow the normal reciprocation rules - in a way you're reciprocating by travelling to see them, and it's probably much more relaxed for them than when they are rushing around trying to see everyone at home.

Brandnewbrighttomorrow Mon 18-Jun-12 22:31:30

Thanks weta, I posted in overseas deliberately because I wanted to know what it's like from the other side. I'm finding it very difficult to understand how they can be here but not want to spend more time with us - the children are upset that they're not going to see them at all the rest of the time they're here and I can't explain it to them because I don't understand it myself. They will only be 45 mins away at grandparents while they're here sad

The other reason I'm upset is because they didn't check the dates with us at all before they booked, we knew that they would be over at some point during the summer and had specifically said come out of term time because they came once before while our kids were at school and it didn't work well at all. The only reason we knew they were coming before I spoke to my sil today was because the grandparents had told us. Can't help but feel we're just some people they hope to catch up with while they're here, rather than the reason they're coming (as it is when we go to them)

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sommewhereelse Tue 19-Jun-12 05:39:20

I'm also abroad and lots of people come to stay with us whom we couldn't possibly visit when in the UK (for geographical reasons) unless we went without our family holiday. But we don't mind hosting, it's lovely when people make the effort to come abroad just to see us, or even use us as a stopover on their way to their holiday destination. I'm glad to see them, it never feels like an imposition. Besides you don't even stay in the same house as your SIL, so how could it be an imposition?

Are you sure they have 'chosen' to come during term time? Do they really have that much flexibility? DH and I find it really difficult to coincide getting a fortnight holiday together during the school holidays. Neither of us can take time off when our bosses do, we have to make sure that we pick weeks when the childminder/holiday club is closed as otherwise we are stuck for childcare the rest of the holiday.....

Also, if they are only 45 minutes away from you when they visit, can't you go there after school a couple of times during their stay? I would expect people who really wanted to spend time with me and my family to be prepared to drive 45 minutes to see us after we'd made the effort to come from another country. Can't you pop over a couple of times during their stay to see them after school?

madwomanintheattic Tue 19-Jun-12 05:51:17

Brand, the fact is, you are only one of the people they need to see when they visit, and they are the only people you go to see when you visit them. That's not them showing any lack of favouritism, just a fact of life. It isn't that they don't want to spend more time with you, it's just too many miles to cover and too little time.

If we go back to the uk, we spend the entire time schlepping around trying to fit in as many friends and relatives as possible (most of whom can't afford the trip to see us). Those that do come to see us, are coming to see us... Because no one else they know lives here. grin so if you want our undivided attention, you have to come to us.

It isn't meant to make you feel unloved, it's just a fact of life.

We have to time visits carefully, just as you do - presumably you choose to travel at Easter so that your dc's don't miss too much school. Well, so do we. School holidays don't match up with uk hols, so that's just plain unfortunate. I can't take my kids out of school in term time, which unfortunately means your kids are in school. But, you know, that could be something of a blessing - if your kids were on hols, then they would feel even more beholden to spend more time with you, and let more people down who don't travel to see them at all....

It is such a juggle, and is so mixed up with guilt for leaving, and guilt for not being able to stay longer, and guilt for everything really...

It is hard. But hey, at least they are visiting.

Try not to take it so personally!

SittingBull Tue 19-Jun-12 06:04:16

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

LeMousquetaireAnonyme Tue 19-Jun-12 06:05:36

mad's post is bang on! That is the reality.

Plus this year the prices to go to the UK are ridiculous (at least from where we are) because of the olympics. The only option for us would be to go now or very beginning of july or wait until after september.

It is quite difficult to go back to your country, it is definitely not a holiday! And your SIL is also entitled to have some holiday (or should be). Beck home everybody is expecting you to see them, and everybody is more or less putting pressure and guilt trips on you. I would guess the GP would be shock if your SIL chose to go to yours instead of them. They are probably the main reason for the trip, the main pressure for your SIL, and the less understanding party of all.

So ease of her, it is not against you or anything, it is just life.

PS you are not oblige to go see them if you want to do something else either!


PeriPathetic Tue 19-Jun-12 06:14:49

I'm afraind this may sound really bitchy - apologies in advance if it does, but it's early and you've touched a nerve.

You sound a bit selfish tbh; "I'm finding it very difficult to understand how they can be here but not want to spend more time with us" They are only coming for 2 weeks, perhaps there are other things they want to do?

Also, school holidays are different all over the world. Ours start in the next couple of weeks and yes, we will be going to the UK when, shock horror, other kids amongst our friends will still be at school. It's just the way it is.

Another factor: when you live overseas, people come and visit often, which is lovely, BUT it can mean that us overseas dwellers cannot take a proper holiday because we are always using our chidrens school holidays to host visitors. eg Summer holidays are the UK trip - which in my view is not a holiday, it's a duty tour of visiting friends and family (just my opinion and I know I'm a miserable cow about it!), Easter is taken up with one set of family and Xmas is used up with my mother's visit.

Oops, sorry, rant over blush but what I'm trying to point out is that perhaps it's not all about you and that your SIL has other people she needs to see.

aliciaflorrick Tue 19-Jun-12 06:28:24

I live overseas and to be honest I don't like coming back to the UK for a holiday, because it's not really a holiday, you spend the whole time driving to visit people, people get arsey because you haven't got time to visit them or you've only got a weekend it's a flipping nightmare and I too will probably visit the UK in UK term time but out of my own term time because it's cheaper and when you're family of four that makes a huge difference.

And when people come to visit you it's difficult too, because you end up providing bed, board and entertainment for two weeks. I have to take time off work to entertain them which then cuts down on my own holiday time with my family.

I think you need to cut your SIL some slack.

Outnumbered4to1 Tue 19-Jun-12 06:29:38

Just echoing the pp's as someone on the other side. Trips home are so stressful my DH never wants to do them. He would be quite happy if we never went back again sad

The op shows a complete lack of insight into what it's like to visit, knowing that whatever you do someone will feel let down. The whole visit is a massive compromise where you start off knowing that someone or some people that you love are going to feel hurt and let down. The guilt is awful.

Merlion Tue 19-Jun-12 06:35:16

I think it was a very good idea to post here as most of the others living overseas have pretty much explained what for most expats our visits back to the UK are like. It's not really a holiday and this year we aren't going back in the summer because of the cost as someone else has mentioned due to the Olympics.

If you are worried about the kids not seeing one another could you arrange for them to come to you? I only ask as I am looking forward (probably a little selfishly) to a time when mine are a little older and can be left more easily with my parents/brother etc so that I can also maybe catch up with some friends who I haven't seen much of since moving overseas. Up till now they have been too little to do this for any length of time.

Brandnewbrighttomorrow Tue 19-Jun-12 10:46:56

Thanks for your comments. I think you're right I'm not seeing it from their point of view, reading your posts has helped me see what it must be like from their perspective. We didn't see them when they came last year as my dad died so this year feels particularly important. My son asked me yesterday if they'd ever been to our house sad he was too little to remember the only time they've been here.

SIL's family see the gp's loads as they own the house next door to theirs and gp's split their time between there and back here. DH is going speak to his sister to offer to pay for flights for them to come back during the summer holidays to come and stay here. That way while they're just here for the fortnight they can focus on seeing everyone else and spend some time with us here later in the year. I really hope they'll come, I just miss them.

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Portofino Tue 19-Jun-12 10:55:07

I 2nd what alicia says above. It can be exhausting doing a trip back to UK - and someone ALWAYS gets upset. Even if you pay for their flights so they can come and stay with you (a lovely thought) - please bear in mind that they still might be pressured by other friends and familiy to go visiting....and you could end up feeling even more resentful.

I would suggest BOTH families going somewhere else - rent a big villa somewhere in the school holidays and have a relaxing time!

We are off to France for 3 weeks in July. I know that family members feel disappointed we don't use more of our holiday to go back to UK, but we both work FT - I need a rest and nice weather and the chance to spend quality time with MY family. I think the guilt comes with the relocation package wink

Maamekin Tue 19-Jun-12 11:10:40

Just to echo what everyone else has been saying - our summer trips back to the UK have to be planned like a military operation. We have so many people to see - we tend to come for a fortnight and spend a week with each set of grandparents, in different parts of the country, and then take day trips from there to visit other friends and family. This year we have arranged to see: both sets of grandparents, great grandparents, BIL and family, SIL, my 2 brothers, my uncle, DH's uncle, DD1's godparents, DD2's godparents, 5 sets of friends, some of DD1's old friends from toddler group... More people that we have days visiting the country!

I end up emailing people saying things like "Ok we are free on this or this date, or I could meet you for lunch while you are at work on this date, but then I'll have to run off because we are meeting up with x in the afternoon." It is really not particularly relaxing - of course it is lovely to see people, and we really want to see them all, but they need to understand that in this 2 weeks we need to fit in seeing everyone. It's really hard keeping everyone happy.

And it's true that the times we can visit don't always fit in with everyone - my mum and my sister can't get any extra time of work when we are visiting this year, so we'll just have one weekend day with them sad But that was the only time we could come. I console myself with the thought that they'll both probably take a bit of holiday later in the year and fly out to visit us, so we'll see them then.

MuffinTumMum Tue 19-Jun-12 12:07:30

I would echo what others have said. Visits to the uk whilst fun are exhausting and you never please all the people. Like another poster said, my husband doesn't class it as a holiday. It's rarely relaxing. Whilst your offer to pay for flights is very loving please bear in mind too that they may want to spend time away from work having their own family holiday in the region where they live. It's one of the reasons my husband doesn't come back to the uk with me and the kids. When he takes 2 weeks off work he wants to spend it on a proper holiday. Having an explore and a total relax. Just a thought.
Don't take it personally. It's the nature of the beast!! wink

Brandnewbrighttomorrow Tue 19-Jun-12 12:37:43

Sorry outnumbered for my 'complete lack of insight' - having never lived outside the uk I don't know what it's like - which is precisely why I posted here.

Good suggestion somewhere else I'll ask my sil if we can sort out a couple of days to go down after school.

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madwomanintheattic Tue 19-Jun-12 14:34:09


If my sister (or another friend or relative) wanted to pay for flights for my family, so that I would stay with them, and not go and see anyone else, I would be appalled.

It's not the money, it's the time. The time penalty (I should be sharing this time out amongst if I am in the uk, and have brought the family back there).

It isn't the money.

And it wouldn't stop the guilt of being in the same country and feeling even more that you are letting people down in favour of the one who stumped up the cash.

It would feel like prostitution.

The third country idea for a holiday is the only way to get round that.

I can't even envisage having to discuss someone offering to pay for my family to fly to the uk and stay with them. It would be like putting my family up for sale to the highest bidder, and thumbing my nose at all of the folk in the uk who can neither afford to visit us, nor pay for us to visit them. The guilt would be even worse than it usually is when I visit the uk.

For me personally, that is a terrible idea.

sommewhereelse Tue 19-Jun-12 14:41:59

I think Brandnew deserves some credit for taking on board the comments on this thread.

Agree that it would be better to all go on holiday somewhere where you can all relax.

madwomanintheattic Tue 19-Jun-12 14:45:46

She absolutely does, but paying for them to visit her alone suggests she hasn't quite grasped the time/ guilt aspects, not just that it's expensive this year because of the Olympics...

feesh Tue 19-Jun-12 15:41:57

I really wouldn't offer to pay for their flights to come back again, it's kind of emotional blackmaily. The nice thing about expat life is getting to explore other parts of the world, not places you could visit once you're back living in the UK again.

Outnumbered4to1 Tue 19-Jun-12 19:26:06

Sorry for my post, it was a bit harsh. I suppose I see it as a fairly obvious dilemma but perhaps it isn't so.

thanksamillion Tue 19-Jun-12 20:10:30

Brandnew well done for having the insight to post on here and for taking on board the responses. I can only echo what other people have said, we're coming back to the UK for 3 months this summer and already family members are disappointed that they haven't got a longer slot. We're also emailing friends with one or two possible dates for lunch and trying to fit in two or three people in one day. You get the picture.

Would a shared holiday in a third country be an option? It definitely sounds like a good solution.

CloversMama Tue 19-Jun-12 20:18:25

Just to echo what everyone else has said to be honest - visits back to the UK are hugely stressful and not at all relaxing. We are back in the UK (from the Middle East) for two weeks later this summer and I have already had to print out a schedule for me, DH and DD showing exactly where we have to be and on what day as we already getting 'booked up.' Last time we were back in the UK, we spent the whole week driving all over to meet up with friends and family and having conversations along the lines on 'right, we're having lunch with your parents at 1pm, if we can then zoom over to x and have coffee with so-and-so, then we can be back for dinner with my brother and his wife by 7.' We left the UK feeling exhausted and unfortunately a few people were still upset that they hadn't seen us/had only seen us fleetingly.

My mum is also quite upset with me as we have actually booked to spend 3 days in the Lake District (just me, DD and DH) as she feels that this is time that we could be spending with her. To be honest, our time off from work is quite precious and people do tend to forget that it is meant to be a 'holiday' afterall, and some down time is needed.

Brandnewbrighttomorrow Tue 19-Jun-12 21:37:46

Wrt to the expat comment, they aren't coming back. They moved away permanently, so this is how it's always going to be. We have a small family (she's my only SIL, my brother died a few years ago) and these are my children's only cousins. I guess I do feel more strongly about it this year because we missed seeing them last year ( my dad died) I just want the chance to spend time together as a family and be the host - we never get to share any part of our life here with them.

There's five of us and we need to hire a car if we fly to them. Bil works in the uk for much of the year now, he's back and forth regularly (he'll be working while they're over this time) but sil and kids only come for these two weeks. When we go to them we drive as it's too expensive to fly, especially with car seats, pram etc. They can't afford a holiday at a third location, which is why we thought about offering the flights so they could come again. I don't want to offend them by offering now.

I suppose I just have to accept this is how much we get of them.

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Brandnewbrighttomorrow Tue 19-Jun-12 21:41:58

Btw, they're in Europe, not on the other side of the world.

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