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Keeping grandparents happy

(23 Posts)
Bubblegoose Sat 01-Feb-14 14:50:38

We live in Asia and our parents live in the UK and Australia.

DH's parents adore their grandchildren (toddler and baby) to the point of obsession. Mine are a bit more stand-offish.

We are having real problems keeping everyone happy. Obviously we can't afford to visit each set of grandparents each year and this has caused tension. We try to be as fair as we can. We also want time to ourselves - during the last year and a bit every single break we had was dominated by either visiting family or having them visit us (a total of 14 weeks! Much more than we would've had had we been living close to both sets of family). Visits have an intense atmosphere with a sense of having to cram as much 'quality time' together as possible.

DH's parents sulk and strop about not being "allowed" to see their grandchildren. The times they are not "allowed" are when my parents are visiting/we are visiting them, or (rare) times when the four of us spend time together as a family. My parents have a sad, martyred air of resignation.

I don't have a problem saying 'no' to either set of parents, while DH is a bit of a people pleaser. Last week we had an argument because MIL (who was here for five weeks over Christmas) is trying to book time to see us next Christmas (yes I know it's January!) and I have said we are going to see my parents. MIL is upset and angry and trying to get us to change our minds and/or commit to seeing them Christmas 2015 (ffs!). DH trying to reach a compromise.

Just offloading, really. And looking for suggestions? We have explained many times about the reality of our situation. It hasn't sunk in.

Weta Sat 01-Feb-14 18:57:32

14 weeks of visitors! I'm exhausted just reading that smile

I think you should treat Xmas as a separate issue for a start, and work out what you as a family want to do - whether you want to alternate between the grandparents (at their place or yours) or do once with each and then once by yourselves or whatever, and then tell them clearly that this is how you want to do it.

That way at least your MIL will know what to expect and must surely be able to see that there is some fairness in it.

For the rest, I think I would work out how many of the 'breaks' you want to have without visitors or you visiting family, and again just state your position. And then divide up the rest of the time between the grandparents depending how often they want to visit you.

If you can't visit both each year, then maybe just alternate one set each year and leave it up to them to visit you the rest of the time (with limits so that you get time to yourselves as well).

I think if your MIL is a plan-in-advance kind of person then it might help for her to know what the plan is and to see that there is a system in place and then she can work around that. Or maybe that's wishful thinking!!

Good luck...

chloeb2002 Sat 01-Feb-14 22:42:24

I sympathise... My mum lives in France and visits us maybe once a year .. This is increasing to house sitting for up to 6 months in the local area.. With her hubby. That's fine she will have her own space. Mil hates me for dragging her boy to the other side of the world and won't visit.. And has laid the law down with family that they will also not visit. This situation would be ideal.. But obviously dh wants her to meet her grandchildren.(6 years , 3 years and 1 year) .. It doesn't go as far as arguements. But we don't have 20k for a trip to the uk. We don't have time either! So if she wants to come she can... On the vicious circle again!
In our " world" Xmas is family time.... Our family... Not the extended one. So no not negotiable. If someone joins us... My mum dh mum friends.. It's because we wants them too!
Do the in laws stay .... With you... For 14 weeks? That would kill me.. Unless you have a mansion! I guess your kids are pre school? Or can you reserve term times to yourself. Holidays are always more concentrated times so it would be less of an impact?

exexpat Sat 01-Feb-14 22:57:09

By the sound of it, nothing would keep your MiL happy short of moving in round the corner and spending every spare moment with her...

I can't offer any solutions, but you have my very heartfelt sympathy. When we were living in Asia, with both sets of parents in the UK, the longest either set ever came to stay was about two weeks, and that was more than enough - I can't imagine five whole weeks (shudders at the though...). And when we visited the UK we split our time between both families (which included all the other relatives scattered around the country, so not very long in any one location) and friends. Christmas was always spent somewhere we wanted to go, with no grandparents.

Now we're back in the same country, I obviously see them more often, but for shorter times - it wouldn't add up to anything like a solid five-week block.

If you were living in your MiL's country, would you be living in each other's pockets? Would your DH think it would be reasonable for you to have no free time together just as a family of four? It sounds like either he just doesn't want to stand up to his mother, or you have very different expectations of the involvement of grandparents in your lives, which means serious discussions.

As far as your MiL and Christmas plans are concerned, you either have to say there is no way you are making plans nearly two years in advance, or give in to the creation of a one-year-with-each-set rota, which would give her rights to 2015.

Bubblegoose Sun 02-Feb-14 00:39:35

Thanks for the replies - and the sympathy.

Yes the 14 weeks ( about 2/3 of that ILs) has almost broken us and has put a few dents in our marriage. Yes they did stay with us. No we don't have a mansion. The latest visit commenced when latest DC was less than two weeks old. I would've happily killed them if I thought I could've gotten away with it. They booked flights without telling us, before I found out I was pregnant, but still. I have made it VERY clear that that scenario will NEVER happen again.

It would be good to do a five-year visit plan or something and divvy up visits, but it's all complicated by the fact that we will be moving after the following Christmas. So it's hard to plan as we don't know what kind of place we'll be living in.

We had a talk today and DH has agreed to say 'no' more. It's the classic expat guilt of feeling bad that we're living so far away. But something's got to give!

Christmas was always spent somewhere we wanted to go, with no grandparents.

I think this is what we're going to have to do. One set of grandparents (guess which) places a LOT of importance on Christmas and the joy of seeing the opening of presents etc. It's become intense and joyless. And there are complaints that it's not cold and we don't have turkey and we don't have a real Christmas tree and ...

Thanks all. I feel better getting it off my chest. And hopefully we can come up with a solution now DH's agreed to step up.

Weta Mon 03-Feb-14 14:05:24

Well if the planning idea won't work and Christmas with guess-which-set of grandparents is joyless and full of complaints, then spending Christmas without grandparents definitely sounds like the best option!!

I live in Europe and my parents in NZ - even though we get on really well etc and they are not demanding, I still find it stressful trying to meet everyone's needs and figure out what will work best for everyone.

I definitely think you and DH need to work out what you actually want, and maybe what kind of visit with the ILs will work for you too, and then stick to it.

I do feel for you...

Bubblegoose Tue 04-Feb-14 01:39:44

Well we agreed to present a united front about Christmas (and offer alternative dates to meet up) and got a huge guilt trip - we don't care, we don't like them, we don't want them to see their grandchildren. Oh and wouldn't it be a shame if the DCs missed out on their inheritance ... because there's nothing like spending quality time together prompted by the threat of being written out of a will!

We've stopped answering emails now, everything we say is just adding fuel to the fire.

Shnickyshnackers Tue 04-Feb-14 01:51:16

You massively have my sympathies! We too have be threatened with being written out of an Uncles will!! Oh my goodness, I can laugh about it now!!

Some people are odd, and unfortunately you end up being related to some of them!!

Bubblegoose Tue 04-Feb-14 03:45:52

I find the will threat desperate and sad and I am trying (and failing) to feel sorry for them rather than angry at the blatant blackmail.

Shnicky I look forward to the day when I can laugh about this!

Schmedz Tue 04-Feb-14 18:58:27

Skype is great...regular contact without having to actually be in the same place. Also a family holiday that you can take somewhere all together that isn't your own home. Are they hands-on with babysitting? By being on holiday you could actually get out and enjoy some time together and the grandparents could have DGCs all to themselves for a while ��
Good luck. It's tough!

HeyMicky Tue 04-Feb-14 19:11:37

My very demanding DOs are in Oz, I'm in the UK. We did two things.

Firstly, we worked out how often we could afford to back to Oz (every three years) and explained the savings plan to them. We agreed that they would also come every three years so would see each other roughly every 18 months. Laying it out clearly really helped them, and they could see the costs and that we were trying to share them.

Secondly, when they come here we go on holiday together. This year we're going to Spain. That way we're not all trapped in our house, they get to travel and don't "waste" a trip to Europe and we have babysitters on tap when DH and I go out for dinner

Wibblypiglikesbananas Tue 04-Feb-14 20:56:21

Are you me?! Started a similar thread last week. DH's parents want to book in trips to us here in the US for the next year. We have a toddler and a new baby and don't know if we're coming or going. Also, they have been here four times in the last 18 months for 3 weeks at a time already. It does my head in!!!

Bubblegoose Wed 05-Feb-14 01:50:00

Wibbly OMG, there are two of us! It is so wearing isn't it? And so ridiculous planning so far in advance. I mean, I'm feeling anxious about Christmas and it's barely bloody February!

Shnickyshnackers Wed 05-Feb-14 05:32:32

For me the worst part is all the exhaustion (maybe mental exhaustion) it causes me. Like you just said, you are sort of dreading Xmas already and it's only just feb!

We're Down Under and all family is back in the UK. My PIL have been talking about coming out now for 5 long years. It's so utterly utterly draining as you mutually agree on when is a good time of year for everyone etc and then start to try and think about logistics (like do we need to buy a new bed?) and then quietly I'm saying to DH 'do you really think the'll come?'. Anyway 5 years later and they have finally said they will never be able to come out (health reasons, that I'm dubious about). On the other hand my parents have been badgering me to arrange for their next visit, the last one was so god-awful that I am just burying my head in the sand.

I guess I'm just totally sympathetic to your situation. It drives me mad.

Shnickyshnackers Wed 05-Feb-14 05:34:02

Also - with the will, I totally understand, it is sad and desperate, and insulting too!!

Bubblegoose Wed 05-Feb-14 15:56:45

Yes definitely insulting! I'm not renting my kids out by the hour, thanks.

That's a shame your ILs haven't been to see you. I don't know about your finances but for us it's far more of a strain getting the four of us over to Europe/Australia than it is getting the grandparents to come to us. For most people a big trip like that is a once in a lifetime. Both sets of parents seem to have forgotten that, however.

Wibblypiglikesbananas Wed 05-Feb-14 20:14:48

It is utterly draining. And takes the pleasure out of what should be a nice family event... MIL was very disappointed we wouldn't Skype Xmas gifts being opened - can you imagine anything worse?! And the costs to go home - minimum £2000 on flights, plus car hire, plus accommodation as my parents downsized and PILs live in the absolute back of beyond. And then they wonder why we'd rather stay in London when we head over... Maybe because that's where we used to live? And if we can make it across the Atlantic, surely they can make it to the capital? Grrrr.

NK5BM3 Wed 05-Feb-14 20:23:36

Interesting... We live in the se of uk. My parents live in Asia. IL live in the nw of the uk. We just spent Xmas oop north. 5 days or so. We spent last summer in Asia. My dad said they'd want to come over in May/summer but he's not committed to anything. Frankly it would be great to have them here for summer as summer is generally quite pleasant here (if it bloody stops raining!) and the kids will be on school hol. We can go off to Europe somewhere or something like that. Just rent a bigger apartment or holiday house I think?!

Going to Asia is nice but v hectic as we visit a million relatives and friends and people get the hump when we fail to visit them....

Applefallingfromthetree2 Thu 06-Feb-14 15:59:29

As always when I read these threads I cannot see why posters cannot imagine what it might be like to be parents/PIL in this situation. The time will come for all of us and I for one hope my DC would never discuss me in an open forum in this way.

Of course it's important to have time without extended family but I would have thought moving to the other side of the world made that more than possible. As for visits surely being respectfully open and honest is the only way forward

Shnickyshnackers Thu 06-Feb-14 21:59:09

@applefallingfromthetree2 I think we're all allowed to blow off a bit off steam aren't we? Do you go and 'tell everyone off' on every thread on MN? because if you do you'd be very busy.

Bubblegoose Fri 07-Feb-14 03:18:26

Apple I would like to think that when I am in that situation (which is likely) I will endeavour communicate with my DCs sensibly, without emotional blackmail and threats.

Yes we get time away from the ILs but that's everyday life, I'm talking about holidays. We don't get a chance to relax on our own, and holidays with parents can be stressful.

I know my MIL is discussing how evil DH and I are at the moment with various friends and relatives so I don't have any qualms about discussing my situation anonymously on an 'open forum'.

Bubblegoose Fri 07-Feb-14 03:21:46

As for visits surely being respectfully open and honest is the only way forward

And yes, you would think it's that simple!

GertBySea Fri 07-Feb-14 07:10:46

I really feel for you having the different sets of parents on opposit sides of the world. I find this juggling act hard enough with ours at opposite ends of the UK (we are in Oz).

Our parents tend to fight over who comes in January rather than Xmas. I make them take it in turns.

We did have a quite successful fortnight's holiday in a villa in Europe once where both sets came for a week each. They all also wanted to go off and explore a bit too, so we had some just family time. Obviously the ILs didn't go home at the end of their week and moved into an apartment nearby and still expected to be visited every day but that's another story.

We have a bigger place now but before we did, everyone used to stay in an appartment down the road with a view of the beach which used to be really good as we all had done space. We used to negotiate a good rate because of using it so much.

I do feel for you. They sound really difficult. I humour mine more than I would like so that DH's expat guilt is alleviated somewhat. I don't really suffer from it too badly (callous, moi?!)

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