However, last year they couldn’t afford an Airbnb and so they stayed with us in our small two-bedroom apartment for two weeks. I love my in-laws, but I wasn’t comfortable with their sleeping over because: 1. We have a tiny apt, an active toddler, and one bathroom; 2. It’s a long stay for overnight guests; 3. My MIL is a massive chain smoker and the apt REEKS of cigarettes when she comes. (Even though she doesn’t smoke in the house, it took a long time to air out the apartment after the two week visit.); 4. My MIL doesn’t wash her hands after using the bathroom, and then she goes into the kitchen and starts cooking dinner.
I acknowledge that #3 and #4 also occur when we visit them in their house (except my MIL smokes in her own home) AND would occur even if they had an AirBnB — but much more so if they stay over.
We have a language barrier between us, so there’s potential for hurt feelings or miscommunication. My husband always presents us as a unified front (and his mom’s hygiene bothers him too). So, yup, that includes reminding his mother to wash her hands after going number two and then going into the kitchen. (Reminders don’t work, by the way.)
I can see how it’s offensive to confront someone about her hygiene, but I also think being a little cleaner than usual is a courtesy when you’re someone’s guest. And as a parent, I wouldn’t want to stay with a young couple with a child for two weeks because I would feel I was imposing.
This year my in-laws can again only afford plane tickets but not an AirBnB. I don’t want to deny them time with their granddaughter and we can’t fly to them. Should I put up with this seemingly new tradition going forward? The upsides are that their visits are once a year, I truly enjoy their company, I want to make my husband happy, and they pay for our plane tickets to their home country when we stay with them, so I feel selfish for being reluctant to return the favor. Am I being selfish or unreasonable? I’m struggling with my feelings, so I’m open to any insight, good or bad! — Bad Daughter-in-Law?
You’re not being selfish on unreasonable for not wanting your in-laws staying with you in your tiny apartment for two weeks. What you — and your husband — need to do is establish a rule for how many nights houseguests can stay with you and then communicate that with your in-laws, as well as help them find a suitable and affordable alternative for additional nights they want to stay in the area. For example, you may decide that you can deal with them in your home for four nights, so you tell them: “We’re so excited to see you! As you know, we have a very small apartment, with only one bedroom and a very active toddler, so because of that we now have a 4-night limit for houseguests. That will help all of us feel more comfortable and enjoy each other’s company more. And since you want to stay in the area for two weeks, we have found some alternative places for you to stay during the additional days you’ll be here.”
What will those additional places be? I don’t know! Start asking around — maybe you have neighbors who will be gone and would offer their beds for free or cheap in exchange for pet/house-sitting. Check AirBnB in your area or cheap motels that might even offer senior discounts that your in-laws might qualify for. If you could afford to pitch in with costs — even a night or two — that would help soften the blow of your new “houseguest rule” and also ingratiate your in-laws to you a bit. And if there are any other costs they usually incur when they visit that you could help alleviate — dining out, rental car, cabs — that would also go a long way in making the trip more affordable for them.
It may be, with this new rule, they decide to shorten their stay to a week instead of two, or maybe they make the trip every two years instead of one. Are you prepared to see them less, because that is a likely consequence of your creating some boundaries, and you’ll have to weigh it against the consequence of your continuing to allow them to crash in your home for two weeks at a time.
And why can you no longer fly to see them? Traveling with a toddler is more challenging than not traveling with a toddler, but it’s not impossible, and if your in-laws are willing to buy the plane tickets for you and you have a free place to stay – one that is much bigger and more conformable for all of you to hang out together – I’m not sure why you wouldn’t make the sacrifice of an uncomfortable commute for a more comfortable visit.
As for the not washing of the hands, I would have your husband continue harping to his mother about how important it is for all of you, but especially for the health of her grandchild, that she clean her hands after taking a shit. But yeah, beyond constant reminding, and maybe handing her a diaper wipe before ever handing over your child for her to hold, there’s not much you can do. Except, don’t let her cook any more of your meals. If she asks why, tell her to talk to your husband, and instruct him to tell her it’s because her lack of hygiene is a health risk.
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