There’s a bit of a fine art to happily hosting house guests and keeping everyone happy. Juggling the personalities, needs and wants of your own family is a fine balance, let alone any extras.
My in-laws flew out this morning (to Aussie) after staying with us for a month and my parents arrive by car this afternoon! Jacqui’s parents are staying with her now from the UK so we collectively have a few thoughts on the topic of house guest etiquette. Here are some things to consider:
The Length of Their Stay
This is a biggie and the longer their stay, the more important it is that you ‘set up’ expectations and let them know about any ‘house rules’. If they are staying for a week or more, it’s likely that some of your little idiosyncraties will come to the forefront, so if possible, mention them in a friendly way before they start to bug you. (More on this in the help or hinder section).
If the visitors are only staying for a few days, then you may choose to just go with the flow a bit more and not get into details of how you like things done.
The length of their stay will also help to determine whether you will generally spend most of the time together or whether you can take some ‘time out’. When my in-laws visit from Aussie, they come once a year and stay for 3-4 weeks. This means there is ample time to bond and also opportunity for me to take some time out. This recent visit I had the chance to go for a run, Christmas shopping and even a romantic hotel night away! If it’s my parents staying, the visits are more frequent (4-5 visits per year) but shorter 3-5 days so I feel less inclined and able to spend large chunks of time away. **Although I do endorse taking a bit of time out individually or as a couple and also to give them a chance to hang with the kids without you there! (more on this later)
Where They Are Staying
If you have visitors coming to see you but they’re not actually staying ‘with’ you in your house you will have a natural separation ie. ‘space’ which is great. Possibly a bit more tricky in terms of logistics and possibly less helpful in terms of babysitting opportunities.
If they are staying with you in your house, try to give them their own ‘space’ or somewhere where they can retreat to if they need a bit of a break from the family fun times. My neighbour had her father and step-mum to stay and although there wasn’t a lot of room in the house for them to have an ‘away area’, they had a project of a massive puzzle that although in the same room as the kids, took them into their own ‘zone’.
Other friends of ours have parents from overseas visit for 2-3 months but they hire their own house and car. So while it’s a very long stay, it is long enough for them to make some of their own friends and have a bit of their own life!
Your Existing Relationship
Depending on whether you have a close and honest or a ‘grin and bear it’ relationship with your visitors you may approach their visit differently. Their level of reliance or independence will affect the vibe of the visit.
Having visitors stay who are relatively independent is a bit easier than those for whom you have to ‘hold their hand’ most of the time. I’ve got a friend who’s parents visit from overseas once a year for 5-7 week stay. This is a LONG visit by anyone’s standards but is made even longer by the fact that they like to hang around the family all of the time and rarely do anything themselves. When I asked my friend what week (of seven) they were on, she looked at me disparingly and replied ‘week three…’.
Help or Hinder?
Some visitors/parents/in-laws may be super helpful and get ‘stuck in’ while others may sit there and expect to be waited upon. My friend Samantha’s in-laws lavish the grandkids with gifts and enjoy watching them play but they don’t get down on the ground and actively play with them. Similarly, they like to sit on the couch rather than offering to help around the house or go out and do things.
My parents and in-laws are super helpful with the kids and around the house and I definitely don’t get offended if they start wiping the table or vacuuming the carpet. I do however, have a few things that I like to be done ‘my way’. For example, if people are helping to clear the table, I like them to put the dirty dishes in the ‘dirty dishes’ area rather than randomly on various benches in the kitchen. You may know that I’m not an organisation freak, but I do have some systems!
Another one of my systems is my process for getting the kids ready and out the door. I like to pack up the kids and my own bags and then pop them out the front door ready to grab en route to the car, bikes/stroller… Although done with best intentions, it throws me off if the visitors take the bags to the car. My golden rule is ‘don’t touch my bag’ and I try not to ever get separated from my bag (wallet, phone etc). If visitors are offering to help I may give them the task of making a snack but really I prefer them to get themselves ready and get in the car or as harsh as it sounds… just stay out of my way.
Quality Time with the Kids
This is a tip from my mum (grandmother of 10) from our blog and podcast on ‘getting on with the grandparents and in-laws’. When the grandparents visit, try to give them some quality time with the kids without you hovering around. The kids often bond better when mum and dad are not around so take the opportunity for some ‘you time’ or a date!
What tips do you have for happy times when hosting guests? What good or bad stories can you share?