Today is my mom's birthday. Let's all take a moment and wish her a happy birthday. Happy Birthday, Mom!
This task is made even more dreaded by the fact that we're in the middle of a big spring-cleaning project at our house, and the sons-in-law get caught up in it. They've mounted my parent's TV, built furniture, changed the lightbulbs, fixed computer problems, and done all sorts of other handy things in the last two weekends. It is important to note that only half of the work they were asked to do was requested by my parents. My sister and I have buckled down to throw away things from our childhood we no longer need, and organize the rest of it all. My parents are getting rid of the things that they don't want or need any more,
My parents are great, to be sure (also, my Dad reads the blog), but I feel like asking a spouse to spend two full Sundays in a row with their in-laws is asking a lot. Especially when it involves something as daunting as spring cleaning. I should point out that my parents did not ask us to come over and spring-clean; that was our gift to our Mom, and the person who asked my husband to come over and put himself to work was me. And my Dad will surely take this the wrong way and write a long-winded comment about how when he asks my husband to change the lightbulbs, it's a compliment because my husband is much more graceful than my Dad, but the fact of the matter is, my parents like that I married a tall handy man almost as much as they like the fact that my sister married a computer scientist. Who are both neat-freaks. Between the two of them, our houses are all much better organized and we are making steps towards not being the type of family that shows up on one of those hoarders TV shows. But the fact remains: when we come to my parents house, there is always some task that has been waiting for a strapping young man to show up to do it. Not because my parents couldn't do it, but it's so much easier for a son-in-law to do it.
Nonetheless, when we visit my in-laws house, the most work I ever have to do is doing the washing up or occasionally helping in the garden. Mark sometimes gets asked to sort through his closet or the garage, and sometimes his Dad will give him strange power tools that he is getting rid of. I do not get asked to change light bulbs or clear out the shed. (In all fairness, I asked Mark to clear out the shed.) I'm not sure whether this is because I am a less useful person to have married or if Mark's parents are simply more polite than mine. (My father is going to comment and say he does not think that asking sons-in-law to do manual labor is impolite. He thinks of them as part of the family and is extremely appreciative of the help. Plus, this is totally how things worked with his parents - my mother regularly helped my grandparents with their computers and medical issues, so this is pretty much how people in my family recognize members of the family. Also, we get paid in very nice lunches and all the spare change we can find.)
Does your spouse get put to work? Do you? Is it wrong that I sometimes get a little prickly when my mom or dad calls and says, "X is wrong at our house. When are you and Mark coming over?" More importantly, if your spouse is asked to help your parents out with a task, does he/she ever feel like they can say no? Because while I might snottily tell my Dad that I do not want to help him out, my husband is significantly more polite than I am, which I worry will lead to his being taken advantage of.
I've reread and rewritten this post several times to try to avoid offending my Dad, but I don't see a way around it. So I feel the need to add the disclaimer that I frequently ask my husband to help my parents out; that my husband is always "free to say no"; and that my parents never ever would mean to upset or offend my husband. Nonetheless, this makes the point even more clear: navigating relationships with family and in-laws is tricky in a marriage.