Dear Dr. Yael,
Baruch Hashem, I have a wonderful family with many young grandchildren. I hosted two families for the first days of Sukkos, two other families for Shabbos and another family for the second days. I do have cleaning help, but cooked non-stop for two weeks – my families expect to be served when they come and for me to babysit so they can nap.
My husband wants us to just go away next Sukkos with our two single children. He feels that I am working too hard and is frustrated with how little our married children help. Even with outside help, and my single kids working non-stop, it is just too much for me.
My single children are also very upset. Although they love their nieces and nephews, they feel they are dumped on too much during Yom Tov. They want to help, but want time for their friends and themselves as well.
Do you have any suggestions for us; I really don’t want to go away for Yom Tov.
Every year around this time, we get letters like this from mothers who want to host their children, but are exhausted afterward.
The situation is complicated as many of these married couples work very hard all year and look forward to going home and being taken care of.
I think the most important thing we can do is have open communication – parents being honest about what they can or cannot do and children being honest about their expectations. If this is done in a calm and caring manner, feelings will not be hurt and the next Yom Tov can be a wonderful one for all of you.
When you speak with your children, make sure you begin by letting them know how nice it was to spend time with them and your grandchildren. Then you can say that as much as you love having them, you feel you need more help when they come and maybe you can discuss how they can help out more without them feeling overwhelmed. For example, you can mention that you would be happy to babysit the kids, after you have had a chance to rest. About cleaning up, let them know that it is very helpful to you when they help with serving and straightening up, and maybe there could be a set schedule.
Try hard not to make them feel bad about their behavior. You can say you’re getting older and need more assistance from them.
Keep in mind that children out of their routine and comfort zone will be more likely to tantrum, misbehave, make a mess, and have trouble sleeping. This makes it harder for their parents as well.
As far as your single children, they are often the favorite aunts and uncles. If they are feeling resentful, you have to speak to your married children. This should be done right before the next Yom Tov. Just say that your single children have plans for Yom Tov afternoon and will not be available to babysit during this and this time. Alternatively, your kids can just make plans and let their siblings know when they’re leaving, so it doesn’t become a major issue. Open communication is important so that there can be a time where the singles voice their concerns as well if they want.
I hope that other “married kids” will read this column and realize that if they are lucky enough to be invited to their parents for Yom Tov, they need to help out when they can.