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July 28, 2014 / 1 Av, 5774
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Give A Little, Take A Little

Respler-042613

My friend forwarded this letter and I am sharing it with you, my readers as it concerns an issue that affects many in the “sandwich generation.”

Thank you for thinking of me in the midst of a totally chaotic Erev Pesach.

I was able to gather from our conversation that you are feeling very overworked, having spent almost the entire Yom Tov in the kitchen. That is one of the advantages of going to the children for at least the first days.

By the time we got home after the first days, I was fine preparing for Shabbos and the last days in my own kitchen. My daughter and son-in-law called Friday morning and asked if they could come for Shabbos; they would bring all the food. I was fine with that – even with the additional eight people. I had already prepared a few things, and in addition to what they brought, we were good to go.

Even though Sunday was very hectic, I was finished by 3 p.m. – early enough to accept a surprise visit by my friend.

I am beginning to strongly advocate the idea of going to the children. This has nothing to do with the volumes of food we need to cook if they’re by us, but rather with the unending tumult that we are just no longer used to: kids running around, jumping and fighting; schlepping out almost every game I have, etc. Thus, my husband says it is time for us to spend the entire Yom Tov with our children – at their houses.

While I am happy to help them financially as much as possible, our tolerance for total commotion is becoming more and more limited. My husband said that once the youngest grandchild reaches 18, we can have the families return to our home for Yom Tov. But until then, he’d rather go to them.

On one level I definitely understand where he is coming from, yet there is something special about being home that I enjoy, so we will have to wait and see what we decide to do in the future. I miss the personal interaction of sharing menus and ideas with them, but we could still do that over the phone.

Yael, as I read this letter, I thought of my challenging Yom Tov. I was so tired, seemingly having been in the kitchen the entire chag. While I enjoy hosting my children, I wish it were more relaxing and less exhausting.

Bottom line: as we are getting older, it is becoming too hard for us to have everyone over for Yom Tov. I therefore vote for the idea that parents go to their married children. I would like to hear your response, as well as those from your readers.

A Friend

Dear Friend,

Thank you for sharing this honest and intriguing letter.

I remember having to make Pesach as a newlywed as we often had my parents and in-laws over for the Yomim Tovim. Then, when my children married, they too joined us. Most of my friends remember having experienced the same thing. The “sandwich generation” has thus likely been hosting these types of Yomim Tovim for many years – which is probably why we always feel exhausted. While the beauty of having everyone come over is something that is irreplaceable, it is also beautiful for parents (and grandparents) to visit their children and grandchildren for Yom Tov. This gives them a chance to relax a bit.

The problem is that many of our married children work very hard and want time to relax as well. As you noted, perhaps you can help your children financially, making it more affordable to have you or their in-laws over. (The financial assistance would also provide cleaning help for them.)

Many children also find it challenging to pack up all the children and go away for Yom Tov. They may even appreciate having you visit them so their children can remain in their own environment. In fact, if you are able to assist them financially in the twin areas of cleaning help and food expenditures, the children may be thrilled to have you in the comfort of their homes.

Here’s an idea to consider: Broach the subject with the children in a loving manner, so that next year you can better enjoy your Yom Tov. Have an honest conversation with them and remember to converse in a manner that will not hurt them or make them feel guilty. Having already given them much love and attention throughout their lives, it would not make sense to cause them to feel bad about this – possibly causing a breach, chas v’shalom, in the family. Explain to them how much you love having them over, but that as you get older it becomes more difficult for you to prepare for their visit and then to entertain them. Always remember that communication is the key to solving divisive issues.

Stress your offer to help them in any and every possible way, while making clear that you would love to go to them next year. Don’t emphasize that this year was hard for you; rather, accentuate the fact that you strongly prefer going to them next year. Hatzlachah!

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