Posted by: Mary | 2013-02-19

slumping by the hour, pls help me CS


I am nearly 40 and my parents are coming to stay with me, again. They come about 4 or 5 times a year, usually for weeks. I am the only unmarried child and they say they do not want to trouble/ inconvenience their married kids, hence never stay there –  much to my siblings relief.

My issue is when they are over, it is constant criticism. There is criticism about my single status (the very same which allows them to stay with me), criticism of how I am raising my young child. The food in the fridge is wrong, the curtains are not right. I should have a new car by now, why don''t I have a new TV? My parents love tv and watch it more or less from 7 30am to 2am the next day, daily. When the tv is on, the criticism turns to why don’ t I watch certain shows. I far prefer to put the audio channels on and listen to music but I get chastised for not watching the financial channels for example. I also switch off the tv by 8pm every night and retire with my child - but with my parents over it is on until 2am and not softly either bcz dad is hard of hearing. And this in a tiny 2-bed flat.

Then the criticism turns to why do I have a guinea pig - animals and unhygienic and can’ t I see my child is at risk. Why don''t I have a more corporate wardrobe and why don''t I wear make-up and have salon-style hair like my (far-preferred) sister.
In previous years I have borne the criticism, sometimes having answers sometimes just shutting up to end the discussion quickly. They arrive in the next few hours and just knowing I will find them at home has me in an incredible slump at work. Everyone is asking me what is wrong. What is wrong is that for the next few weeks, every day I will be told what is wrong with me  my life, my child-rearing, my home, my hair, my very being. Its like nothing about me meets my parents'' approval. Not one thing.

This is the most depressed I have felt prior to any visit of theirs. Last time I dared to speak up I was told not to speak back and that the problem with me is that I do not listen to reason and am ''unteachable'' to quote my mother. I just don''t have the emotional wherewithal to do this again. I know I am blessed to have both parents and that many ppl miss their mums and dads or don''t get to see them often. Hence I feel awfully guilty just writing this email. In about five hours I must walk into my place and be told something about the curtains or the bare fridge - I don''t keep a lot of food in the fridge to prevent spoilage and waste but it is seen as under-providing for my child because the fridge is not packed to capacity. I prefer to buy fresh food every other day but when I last gave this answer the ''unteachable'' word came up again. I now find myself sitting here spiritually crushed - all because my parents are coming over. Which means I also feel terribly guilty. This picture is very wrong, what person goes into a slump because their mum and dad are coming to stay?

Please help me understand what might be going on here and how I can help my child and I fare better.

I am sorry for the length of this post, I just had to get it all out. I literally cannot work for the depression and the absolute angst ahead of seeing them..

Thank you

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Our expert says:
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Odd, isn't it, that they assume that staying with any of their married offspring will be an unthinkable imposition, but staying with their single child for however long, won't be ? Where's the sense in that ?
Remind them that if you ended your single status, they'd have nobody left to be able to stay with, and nobody to criticize and coach !
You need to be firmer about setting ground rules. Just as I'm sure that if you ever went home to stay with them, they'd expect you to stick to their usual ground rules, they should expect the same when invading your home.
They shouldnt criticize the contents of your fridge any more than you would do the reverse. If there's some food they really want which you don't have, they can buy it and add it to your stores. If they want you to have a new TV, they can buy you one, or shut up and appreciate the one you have. Maybe you can find earphones for them to use attached to your T ; if they're so darn fussy about child-rearing, then surely they should be eager for your child to get rest undisturbed by the TV. Far more risky for a child than a guinea pig. And of course at home, they can watch anything they please whenever they please.
If they want to pay for you to have beauty treatments and hairdos you'd appreciate or at least tolerate, fine - but all these examples are of them selfishly insisting on dictating you YOu must spend YOUR hard-earned money.
Answer their foolish criticisms calmly but firmly - they are welcome to their opinions, but not to express them so demeaningly to you. This is YOUR home, and YOUR rules and wishes do and will always apply, and if they don't like that then they're very welcome not to visit.
If they tell you not to speak back, remind them that such a silly child rule never applies in your own home, as you are an adult ; when they say you're unteachable, say Allelujah - yes, you dont ask for lessons and will strive to remain unteachable.
Don't feel in the least bit guilty - you're not rejecting your parents, you're rejecting their terribly bad manners and their total lack of respect for you asd an independent adult person. I suspect that whatever other excuses they may have given, the real reason they wont stay with your sibs is that they know those people wont accept this behaviour from them, presumably strongly backed up by their spouses.
To feel miserable and gloomy at the proespect of a scarifying visit from these harpies is entirely normal and natural. Stand your ground and announce your firm rules, and that though you love them as parents, if they can't and wont play by your rules in your home, then they're not welcome to stay there. Do not allow them to lure you into feeling guilty about what is essentially their ignorance and their bad manners. They do not deserve more respect than they give.
And next time they announce they're going to bless you with a visit, just send them the message that it will be highly inconvenient and you won't be available, but will try to arrange to be free to spend an evening with them if they stay with any of your sibs or in a hotel.

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Our users say:
Posted by: Just Me | 2013-02-20

Rude and obnoxious parents visiting for weeks on end in a tiny 2 bed flat - how the hell can they substantiate this? Stop the bus right now and palm them off to your sister. Since when is it yours, and your duty alone to have your parents over under such conditions on a regular basis? We all realise that you deem yourself extremely lucky to have both parents, however right now do you actually feel that lucky...? Do your other family members see none of this as their responsibility too? Who pays for them for weeks on end. Are you not also financially drained..?
There''s only one way to sort this as CS mentions - tell them to politely sod off and stay elsewhere.
Unfortunately we HAD to visit and stay with my Mother at the coast because it was simply always expected. However, every visit became more and more unpleasant with the "  don''t think I''m baby sitting while you go out" , " what time will you be back, this isn''t a Hotel" , " I''m not cooking for you lot, this isn''t a holiday resort" , " I don''t watch those channels on the TV" , " your kids really shouldn''t be doing this or that, or whatever...!!!" ...the list was endless and we eventually never went anywhere. Sat in the flat and watched paint dry!! I decided the only way out was to stop staying with her. She was extremely offended and kept saying so...however the stress, anxiety and conflict stopped immediately. Now that she has passed on, we have wonderful coastal holidays where WE want to go, with no bickering or family squables. I miss my Mom terribly and try and remember her for the great person she was...before she got old, miserable and grumpy.
Sort your parents situation out now. You will hate them otherwise for what they''re doing to you...if you aren''t already starting to.
Take care and good luck

Reply to Just Me
Posted by: Grace | 2013-02-19

Sounds very much like when my in-laws visit. I cannot do anything right in their eyes, yet everytime they come to JHB, they insist on staying over at my house! It irritates the cr@p out of me as they interfere with my child and have snotty comments to make when I discipline him. I actually feel sick when I know they are scheduled to visit us!!! And the visits are so long and drawn out .... my mother in law is not a very tidy person, whereas I am very tidy to the point of being almost obsessive when it comes to cleanliness etc. If I were you, I would politely tell them that it is inconvenient for you to have them stay over and that maybe it would be better if they visited with your siblings for a change. Good luck, sounds like you need it.

Reply to Grace
Posted by: Maria | 2013-02-19

I don''t think you have to blame yourself for the way you feel, their visits sound truly awful. Tell them that having them their is quite disruptive to you and your child, and that they are welcome to stay for a week. Just put your foot down, there is no reason to accept such behaviour towards you in your own home. Yes we must honour our parents but respect is a two way street. Good luck.

Reply to Maria

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