Q. My boyfriend and I have been together for just about two years, and his parents are spending four days with us over the holidays. I work in a very stressful field (think mental health) and have to be “on” all day. While his parents are very nice and I enjoy spending some time with them, knowing that a big chunk of my winter break is now going to be spent hosting is filling me with dread. It is a family “joke” that the boys of the family are useless and their female partners are the organizers/planners (i.e., his mother sent their flight confirmations to me, not my boyfriend).
Assuming these are my future in-laws, I do NOT want to be pigeonholed into this role of being the one to come up with activities and entertainment for the rest of my life. I have already approached my boyfriend to request that he put thought into activities. I fear his parents are going to spend hours sitting around our small place. While I can be a good sport for a little bit, the nature of my career makes me really not want to spend my break putting on a good face 24-7. I am looking for A) permission and B) ideas how to politely extract myself to have some much-needed downtime during this visit.
– Just Want To Sleep Late and Wear Sweat Pants
A. Regardless of profession, sometimes we have to be “on” for guests and relatives. It’s just the way it is.
That said, you can be very clear with everyone that you won’t be available all day, and that sometimes you might be uninvolved all together.
Be honest about what you need so it doesn’t become a guessing game. When I’m staying with someone, I can entertain myself, but I want to know my host’s boundaries and schedule. If they’re going to be busy all day on a Thursday and want me gone, I want them to tell me.
Perhaps when the family arrives (or before, via e-mail), let everybody know — with specificity — when you’ll need to be alone. As in, “Hey, on Wednesday from about 9 to 1, I’ll be catching up on work and some personal needs, so that’s a great time to hit the town! Let us both know if you have transportation questions.”
You’ve already asked your boyfriend for help, but this can be a joint effort. Come up with a guide to the area that you can use for other guests in the future.
As for those family jokes, push back. The roles can be different in your house, and you can reply to those flight itineraries by cc-ing your boyfriend. Don’t participate in this “useless” narrative and let resentment build up over time.
Set limits for yourself now before you have to repeat this dynamic for every visit for the rest of your relationship. SURFERROSA
Sit down with him and plan the four days. Work as a team! THENURSE
[I]t sounds like you don’t want your in-laws to visit you. Sort that out from the planning because I guarantee your uncomfortable attitude will show if you don’t resolve it now. ASH