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How can I find seeing my parents less stressful?

(58 Posts)
RainbowBriteRules Sun 05-Nov-17 14:34:52

Just at the end of another weekend visit with my parents where I am breathing a sigh of relief that they have gone home. They live a few hours away so when they visit or we visit them it is for at least a night. Feel so sad about this as I spend the whole time on edge and waiting for them to leave.

I’m married with two DCs. DCs are 6 and 4 so we are getting in to the ‘easy’ time of things although 4 year old is still a handful. DH and my parents have a strained relationship - all polite to each other but do not truly get on.

Parents stress and fret about everything. I am also a bit like this and try so hard to stop stressing but when they are here it is so stressful! They seem to go out of their way to find stressful situations - e.g. they like to take the kids into the city centre shopping for toys, go out to restaurants rather than eat at home. Then we are all stressed as I am on edge waiting for the DC to play up (particularly DD2), the city centre is busy, trying to stop DH getting annoyed about their constant fretting, trying to stop someone wandering off.

At home they leave a trail of chaos and destruction and constantly tell me to sit down while making more mess that needs cleaning up. My dad needs regular cups of tea and food.

Don’t even know if anyone understands this rambling?

Of course the reality is as soon as they have left I feel like a complete bitch who is making the time they do spend with us so stressful. They are lovely and really do mean well. Can I stop stressing somehow?

For context, I get on fairly well with my in laws and find their visits helpful and relaxing rather than stressful. I’m well aware this is not life or death stuff which makes me feel even worse. I deal with life or death in my job and find it less stressful than a weekend with my parents!

gybegirl Sun 05-Nov-17 14:46:22

A couple of practical ideas spring to mind.

Make a big lasagne the week before and freeze it. Get your 6 and 4 year old to help (I'm talking 30 seconds of stirring here btw). Then tell your parents you are staying in for a meal that the kids have helped make for them, if you get the kids excited about it, the grandparents should follow.

If they like jigsaws/puzzles open a big one on a spare table (if you have one) and have it out the whole visit, so they have something to do whilst you chat that doesn't involve them making more mess.

Go for a walk with everyone in the afternoon. There must be something nearby you. Or go do something like feeding the ducks. Whatever you do its an outside activity not a shopping one. Then home for a nice family meal.

If you struggle in the evening get them to teach the kids snakes and ladders or snap or table game. Or gave a family movie.

Direct all of the activity essentially.

Tub of biscuits by the kettle and ask you dad to make everyone a cuppa. They're not useless and generally like to feel helpful (imo).

RainbowBriteRules Sun 05-Nov-17 14:55:01

Thank you! Yes, getting DC to plan a meal is a great idea actually. They could even make menus smile.

I have suggested my dad makes tea but he just wanders around like a lost soul hmm.

Lots of ideas I can use. My mum loves city centre shopping so not sure I can steer her away from town. As we all know though, shopping with DC is a different ball game, but my parents just don’t seem to see this.

gybegirl Sun 05-Nov-17 15:03:19

Why don't you suggest 'something you've seen on pinterest' whereby they get the kids a couple of little treats before they come which are then hidden in the garden for a mini treasure hunt. They then go to a 'middle of nowhere' cafe or ice cream shop for a treat too which would mean they've had their 'go to a shop and spend money' fix

gybegirl Sun 05-Nov-17 15:05:06

The words "the kids are so looking forward to doing X with you" can produce magic winkgrin

RainbowBriteRules Sun 05-Nov-17 15:14:31

That’s exactly the sort of thing we do with the in-laws. Low key and sometimes even enjoyable grin. I have suggested this kind of thing many a time to my parents. My dad would be fine with this I think but my mum likes the big shops (but why on earth would you choose to do this with children, although I guess it’s her weekend too). I’m at a loss in that respect.

gybegirl Sun 05-Nov-17 15:22:48

Tricky. The only thing I think you can do is frame it from your kids enjoyment of view.

I wpuld expect my DH to come on a weekend shopping trip my my parents though. Could he not take your dad to the pub to watch the rugby instead (if that'd be your dad's thing). Or you DH go without him for that matter ☺

gybegirl Sun 05-Nov-17 15:23:20

Would NOT expect

HouseworkIsAPain Sun 05-Nov-17 15:25:27

Is your town centre the main shopping area for your parents to go to? You could suggest that they go for a wander around the shops on sat morning or afternoon. Take DC to the park together the other half of the day.

You need to stop thinking that you have to spend every minute with them when they’re visiting. Treat it more as they are combining a day away with a day seeing you and DC, chunk up the time so they get to do things with AND without DC

beesandknees Sun 05-Nov-17 15:27:46

Your mum needs to go into town on her own I think. Or have the menfolk take care of the DC while the women go to town. There's no way I'd agree to take DC of that age out shopping, it would be a nightmare.

It's fine she likes shopping but its seriously U to take children of that age on a whole day of shopping, and on the high street no less... Talk about asking for trouble!

GrockleBocs Sun 05-Nov-17 15:32:30

Definitely suggest they go into town on their own or even you and your mum go if DH would do a walk with your dad. Pick up a nice pudding in town to have with the dc's home made lasagne and that'll be far less fraught than dealing with everyone out together.

RainbowBriteRules Sun 05-Nov-17 15:36:30

gybe, the trouble is they already don’t think he likes them so he then feels pushed out if we go out without him and then it reinforces their idea that he doesn’t like them. Honestly, it is impossible balancing the 3 of them, although to be fair to DH he does a good job being polite and friendly as do they. We all used to get on well and then it just deteriorated since we had DC.

Housework, I was trying not to be too specific about location but basically my mum likes going to John Lewis and they don’t have one near them grin. So normally once we have left they have a wander round. We usually go into town on the Sunday morning, go out for a stressful breakfast and then take DDs round the shops, wind them up in places like Smiggle, then we say goodbye and parents go home from there.

I wonder if that is the way to frame it, I might say to them (although I’ve tried this already) that town is too stressful and perhaps they could go in on their own.

I feel bad as they then end up spending money on the girls on tat from the shops which they don’t need. Not helped by DDs actually wanting to go into town as they of course don’t find it stressful at all until they cry hmm.

I know their job is not to provide childcare for me but I now have two DC absolutely full of energy who I will probably have to take out this afternoon when we could all have gone out this morning. DH and I are knackered. DDs need at least an hour of physical exercise a day to be manageable / they do not tire easily!

AttilaTheMeerkat Sun 05-Nov-17 15:39:15

Presumably they have always been like this. Its not your fault they are like this; you did not make them this way. What else does your DH think about your parents?. You breathing a sigh of relief when they go home is in itself a problem and one that needs to be properly acknowledged.

Do you have siblings; if so how are they treated?.

You need boundaries and higher ones at that because they are too low. You also need to put more mental distance between them and you by organising their visits far more closely along the lines already suggested. You do not have to spend all your time with your parents nor should your mother expect to spend time with your children in some big shopping centre.

I would stop having your parents in your home to stay overnight; your DH also does not get along with them either which is not surprising given what you have written about them. Their actions cause the stressful situations to arise and you to feel awful about it all afterwards. Presumably as well you are expected by default to feed and water your dad.

They are NOT lovely and also do not mean well; why do you think that (your own conditioning at their hands perhaps?). You would not tolerate this from a friend so why them?.

Deal with your own FOG (fear, obligation and guilt) properly through counselling and reaffirm your own too low boundaries here.

Pacificly Sun 05-Nov-17 15:39:43

Time to take charge of weekend minimize stress.
Make a plan in advance and announce it when they arrive
We've made a big dinner no need to eat out
kids are excited about showing you their favorite park/playground/ insert other child friendly place.
I've packed a picnic lunch
We're doing a movie afternoon in here gran let's make the popcorn

If your mum wants to shop til the kids drop put your foot down say no but you're happy to drop them into town & pick em up later.
I'd even suggest to be very cheeky and say sure here's the kids enjoy see you later (that'll teach em how stressful toy shops/cities and restaurants are with small kids)
As for your dad and his lack of tea making skills point to kettle leave a tray out of tea making essentials, he'll have to learn at some point.

RainbowBriteRules Sun 05-Nov-17 15:39:59

Cross posts. bees, absolutely it is asking for trouble. I have explained this time and time again and they see how the DC behave in town but don’t seem to see that shopping is the cause of it. Perhaps I need to be firmer beforehand?

Grockle, perhaps I need to be firmer and say to my mum that youngish children and a day in town shopping do not mix. Tell her to go to John Lewis on her own.

GrockleBocs Sun 05-Nov-17 15:43:57

You mean "Go and enjoy browsing in John Lewis without anyone nagging you to hurry up or moaning they're fed up. Here's some money for a cup of tea and a slice of cake. Off you go" grin

AttilaTheMeerkat Sun 05-Nov-17 15:44:24


This comment of yours is very telling:-

"We all used to get on well and then it just deteriorated since we had DC".

Do you still seek and or want their approval?.

Have you now come to realise that your parents are not actually the nice kind people you have always been led to believe that they are?. My guess is too that you got along with them more before DC mainly because you did not see them very much. I also do not think you actually got on as well with them as you think you all did prior to the DC.

And directly tell your mother not to keep on buying your DDs tat.

gybegirl Sun 05-Nov-17 15:45:39

Could they go to the Holy Grail of John Lewis on their way home from your house?

It's role reversal here as we haven't got one near us either and I always pop in when I visit inlaws grin.

millifiori Sun 05-Nov-17 15:54:42

If they insist on eating out (which to be fair, must cut back on mess and stress of cooking for them at home) can you not just insist on eating in a place designed for young children? That's why Pizza Express and Giraffe exist. I don't think we ate anywhere else for about six years when DC were small.

RainbowBriteRules Sun 05-Nov-17 15:54:51

Attila, DH thinks they mean well but are just too stressful and stressy to be around. We always argue when they visit, mainlt because I ask him to help me manage them and he ends up ignoring them or escaping by going for a run or similar. Leaving me with two dithering parents and two over excited DC.

Perhaps I wasn’t clearer, they want to go shopping into town (well, my mum really) so they can buy things for the DDs. It would be much better though for them to just buy these things online or not at all. Perhaps I could suggest sitting down with a cup of tea and a toy catalogue or something. It is so ungrateful but we really need stuff like a new printer and computer for their school work and it is absolutely not my parents’ job to buy these but is so frustrating when I see how much they spend on tat that could have paid for the printer.

I have a slightly younger brother. He never really grew up although has finally moved out and has a steady job and a house now. He avoids seeing them because they fret constantly.

Pacificly, I wouldn’t dare leave them alone in town with just the DCs but it is sorely tempting grin.

gybe, they can’t really go on the way home without cutting into time with DC. They need to go to John Lewis in the morning as they need to leave by lunchtime or the journey home takes too long (traffic, long drive for my dad).

RainbowBriteRules Sun 05-Nov-17 15:58:11

millifiori, yes, we have done frankie and benny’s and similar. We live in a market town which has one restaurant which is good for children and a Wetherspoons type pub. Both are child friendly and we do sometimes do that. It is more getting the DC to behave in the restaurant, it’s a bit hit and miss (i’m aware they need to learn and have done a parenting course, we are working on it and it is improving). So yes, less mess but more stress!

Thank you for all advice. I definitely need to plan the visits more rather than pretending it’s not happening and hoping for the best.

AttilaTheMeerkat Sun 05-Nov-17 16:08:26


re your comment:-
"I have a slightly younger brother. He never really grew up although has finally moved out and has a steady job and a house now. He avoids seeing them because they fret constantly"

Now why do you think that is?. I would start looking into your family of origin dynamics far more than you have perhaps done so to date because these are still being played out.

Your comment does not surprise me either. Did your parents ever really let him grow up; they probably wanted to keep him dependent on them and otherwise fussed and or fretted after him too. I do not think your parents mean well at all; they between them both stress you and in turn your kids out because they pick up on your own stress which your mother has caused from her abiding love of John Lewis and buying tat.

At the very least you certainly need to structure their visits to you a lot more than wishing and hoping for the best because that has certainly not worked out. Both of you need to present a united front when it comes to your parents and both of you need to be on the same page. He cannot run away from his responsibilities here either by leaving you to both your kids and your parents.

Butterymuffin Sun 05-Nov-17 16:13:41

Be direct about it. Tell them the trips to town are stressful all round, the DDs have plenty of stuff, and would much rather go to the park with them or have them watch them in the swimming pool etc. Prep meals beforehand. Tell your dad to make his own tea and if he's just wandering around rib him gently about it, but don't get up and do it yourself.

FinallyHere Sun 05-Nov-17 16:16:25

After a good few (horrendous) shopping trips with my parents, I held firmly to the line that I didn't want to waste their time shopping. Your parents are wanting to get your children's attention, help them to do this in other ways, for example a walk to feed the ducks, with parents armed with frozen peas or whatever the ducks like. Your investment of time figuring out what both generations might like to do together with be worth the effort. Find things that the parents can do indoors and outdoors..

RainbowBriteRules Sun 05-Nov-17 16:16:44

Yes! When they were younger my DC’s behaviour used to be really awful when my parents were around and it has to be partly because I was so stressed out. That has improved since I did the parenting course as DH and I then had a fairly united front and I spoke to my parents about it.

I’ll speak to them tonight when they get back and maybe I need to say that the visits to town need to stop.

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