Recently I visited my 28 year old daughter and her partner in Seattle as a houseguest for a few nights. The experience was new and as roles subtly reversed I realized there are some tips worth sharing with other parents of Millenials about to experience the same.
The adventurous couple moved to Seattle from NYC to enjoy a better lifestyle – nature, skiing, lower cost of living. After renting an apartment sight unseen, it is certainly an upgrade: for the same price as NY they now have a huge two bedroom with a gorgeous mountain view and a full backyard complete with thriving vegetable garden.
Last week I arrived at their new home with my suitcase and Lola (our cockapoo) in tow. Talia said that they’d gotten everything ready since I was their first houseguest – overnight or otherwise. A futon, sheets, towels were ready for me. She admitted that they’d forgotten to get a comforter or pillows but we would make do! And we did.
That evening I was standing in the powder room staring at my toothbrush and the new bath towel that hung from a small ring on the wall, tags still intact, and thought – this is the first time I’ve been a +1 houseguest at one of my kids’ and partners’ homes. I felt something shift, and realized that our family had progressed to a new milestone. The tides were turning. Once the parent, the host, the provider – for the next couple of nights I was the guest, the visitor, the third person.
Our family has had so many milestones as the kids grew, I suppose I just didn’t see this one coming!
Here are some thoughts and behaviors that helped make the stay positive…and hopefully get me invited back again:
- Internal acknowledgement that this is their home, I am a guest. Consider the behaviors that you appreciate in a guest – like if you take your shoes off, guests should do the same. When you’re cleaning dishes, it’s annoying when guests start watching TV. (And by guests, I also mean adult kids coming home!)
- Your children’s partners are their people, not you. It’s easy to assume that we will fall into our mother/child patterns when you’re together, but that would likely make any partner feel left out in his their home. You are the third person now, and it’s helpful to state that internally before and during the visit.
- Parents have strong opinions – sometimes they’re not useful. I’m still learning when and when not to express them, and sometimes my fingers get close to the flame. I decided before arriving that my opinions are irrelevant unless asked. How they live, what their furniture or back yard look like are their business. Being generous with compliments while holding back on subjective judgements unless asked seemed to work well.
- Be helpful but not overbearing. My mom would take over when she visited which made me feel like I was 12 yo again. With this in mind I offered help, but didn’t press to do things my way. Talia is a very open and relaxed person so was happy to take me up on going food shopping and cutting fresh flowers from the garden for them. It made me feel good to contribute, and I think she and her partner were pleased too.
- Don’t overstay your welcome. I left a day earlier than planned, and we all agreed it would be best. While I was there a major and unplanned thing happened – they adopted a dog, and he arrived during my visit. It became obvious after an hour with 2 dogs and a gate between them in the apartment that it would be best if we shifted our plans. I think the decision and flexibility was appreciated all around.
As life progresses, our relationships should too.
I want to have adult relationships with my kids (and their partners) and though I’m a parent, I also appreciate our friendships and ability to hang out together – either 1:1, 2:1 or 2:2. Both kids have partners so there are four adults to think about and work on relationships with now. This is a beautiful opportunity to deepen our understanding about each other, and at the end of the day, understand more about myself.
Would love to hear what works in your family!