Friday, October 29, 2010

Long-term family visitor protocol

An issue we’ve been struggling with over the last three years is how to deal with family members that come to visit for long periods of time.

The problems revolves around food and meals. In our house, food is a communal effort, with everyone pitching in at some point, either in shopping, cooking, cleaning up, etc. When someone is here visiting for a longer period of time, we expect them to pitch in as well. If they want to eat something from the fridge, sure, go ahead, but next time maybe you can bring a replacement.

I mention that there is no such thing as a free lunch (or dinner), that someone (ie us) needs to go shop for and make this food, and that there’s a lot on our minds with the new baby and all that. Sure, our nanny could go and try to figure out what to buy, but she’d probably buy the wrong stuff. Hired help is not a magic solution that makes work go away, especially in things that require independent initiative and thinking. What you gain in less grunt work, you lose in needing to micromanage.

Unfortunately, any discussion around this topic goes bad very fast. Umbrage is taken and I usually end up playing the UN negotiator trying to get everyone to kiss and make up.

I think there is an added cultural dimension, since Spanish hosts are required to be so overly pushy and generous. When combined with Anglo-Saxon guests who don’t know how to say no, I think this leads to long term resentment.

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