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December 13, 2007 / missknowitall

Surviving Overnight Holiday Visits

Dear Little Miss,
This year for Christmas, we are staying with my husband’s family.  I love his family so much!  But, I don’t enjoy staying at their house.  The room that we stay in smells like mold, the sheets don’t fit the bed, it’s freezing, and I’ve found spiders in the bed.  I would say something, but I have already with poor results.  Last time I said something, she came down to our room with anti-mold spray and started spraying our carpet, but it humiliated me.  I think I’m already known as a high-maintenance DIL.  We have a baby now that will be staying in our room with us.  I brought up these issues with my husband last night, because I was worried about our baby staying there.  He got really hurt and upset with me because, he pointed out and I admitted to it, I complain to him all the time when we’re there.  He said he had been looking forward to the time with his family for so long, he didn’t want me to complain and ruin it for him.  That really humbled me.  I felt terrible because I knew that I complained all the time about it.  Can you offer a compromise for us?  I still really don’t like it, but I’m willing to compromise.  Or should I just suck it up and wait it out because it means so much to him? 
Don’t know what to do DIL

Dear Don’t Know,

Unfortunately I understand this situation all too well.  It is one thing to have to put up with bad living conditions yourself, but it is another thing when you have a baby to worry about.  Even with my sympathy, though, it is a clear rule of conduct that a guest should never complain about the quality of their host’s hospitality (unless it is downright rude or abusive).  Does this mean I want you to sleep on moldy carpets, or be bit all over by bugs?  Not at all.  Here are a few things you can do for yourself while still being the polite guest.

1.  GET A HOTEL ROOM.  If you are worried that this will offend your in-laws just tell them that you wanted to get a hotel to save them on their water bill, that the baby cries at night, and that you wanted to get a hotel with a pool so everyone could come over and go swimming.

2.  Bring your own bedding.  I learned long ago that it is far better to bring my own sheets and pillows than to have to lay awake at night wondering why the sheets smell so funny or wondering what those stains were on the pillows.  We even bring our own air mattress and baby crib to other people’s places for that added assurance.

3.  Develop a reputation for cleaning.  When I go to someone’s home and it is too dirty for me to bear I just start cleaning and I smile and laugh apologetically and tell my host, “Oh, please forgive me.  I know it is silly but I just LOVE cleaning other people’s homes.  There is something so nice about cleaning a place and not having to watch it get messy.  At home I clean and 5 minutes later it is totally trashed again.”  Or I tell them to please let me clean because it helps me feel like I’m “earning my keep.”  You could bring your own mold cleaner to your in-laws and that way you could clean it behind a closed door and they wouldn’t even know.

Also, I just gotta say this, do refrain from complaining to your husband.  I’m willing to bet that he is embarrassed by the situation and is pained that his family is giving you such a bad impression.  If he could change the situation I’m sure he would have by now.  So, either come up with a good reason to just stay home for the holidays, or put a smile on, follow the tips above, and let only compliments fall from your lips.

Politely, clean-freakishly yours,

Miss Knowitall

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