Ask Amy

Thursday, September 24, 2009 at 11:18pm

DEAR AMY: I am a 30-year-old married woman. Our children are 3 years old and 3 months old.

I have lived away from my parents' house for 13 years. They live several hours away. When we visit my parents, I still have a list of chores waiting for me.

This usually includes vacuuming, unloading the dishwasher and cleaning the bathroom.

Both parents are retired and in good health.

I am the baby of the family, the only one who lives away and the only one who still gets chores to do when I come for a visit. My husband thinks it is ridiculous that a guest would receive a list of chores to do.

I explain that my parents still think of their home as my home and that we are not guests.

He would be more comfortable with the idea if my parents occasionally came to our house to help us out.

At what point is it not OK to still expect your children to help around the house?

— Hopeful Houseguest

DEAR HOPEFUL: Like most matters involving families, this is a matter of balance.

I know of many grandparents who are greeted by their adult children with requests to fix the garage door or to baby-sit for the kids during visits. Are these family members guests? Sure. But should family pitch in when they're visiting? Absolutely. Furthermore, your husband should help out too.

However, I agree that it is slightly strange for your parents to give you an actual list of chores or ask you to clean the bathroom on the first day of your visit (you should clean it on the last day, after your family has used it).

You could say, "When we come to visit I want you to know I'll help out, but you don't have to write down jobs for me to do — I'll ask you what I can do, you can tell me, and we'll take it from there."

If you invite your parents to stay with you, it's completely reasonable for you to ask them to lend a hand, if they are able. They seem to feel strongly about family members pitching in, so you could assume they would be very helpful guests.


DEAR AMY: We share a driveway with two other neighbors, and decided to get it repaired. We paid for the job, hoping that it would make the process easier for all involved.

It didn't. We have one very bossy neighbor who tried to micromanage the process.

The other neighbor was happy with our generosity, and because we were paying for everything, I felt we were in charge.

When the workers showed up, the bossy guy somehow talked them into doing some work on his property, and he paid them under the table for a fraction of what it would really cost.

My husband and I are furious at him for taking advantage of this situation, and now the neighbor is playing the "poor me" victim. What do you say to someone like that?

— Annoyed

DEAR ANNOYED: If you truly share this driveway, then all the residents who share it should have the right to weigh in on the work being done, though I agree that paying for the job should put you in charge of the project.

You don't say what grounds your neighbor has to play "poor me," but in my experience the most annoying people also tend to be high-maintenance victims.

If your neighbor struck a side deal with the workers, that's his business, and there's no reason for you to weigh in. Because he seems extremely interested in home improvement, perhaps he should control the project the next time the driveway needs resurfacing — as long as he pays a share of the bill.


DEAR AMY: "Stuck in a Rut" was struggling to find ways to become more assertive.

You should have told him to sign up for martial arts instruction.

I have years of martial arts training, and this is a very legitimate way to increase assertiveness, build character, build backbone, improve posture (i.e., how you come across) and appear more confident.

— Z

DEAR Z: I am receiving great suggestions from readers sharing their own tips for assertiveness training. Thanks for sharing yours.

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Filed under: Lifestyles