There is an inherent stress that comes to every household when your parents or in-laws (or both at the same time) come to visit.
Some of you may have REAL issues that take an entirely different track, but that’s not this article. I’m talking normal non-dysfunctional, super happy childhood-type parents. They were fantastic to grow up with and have always been a huge part of my life. Seriously, we have like zero issues. My in-laws too.
Because of this, I lie to myself and tell myself everything is perfect and “business as usual” when they visit. I think that there is NO STRESS. But the reality is I am stressed. Things are different. I act differently; my kids do too. And so do my parents. They were stressed when their parents visited them years ago and feel stressed when coming to MY house.
To lie to ourselves and pretend it’s completely routine and ordinary is a hindrance that builds discontent.
Like everything I talk about, the key to all of this is awareness.
Awareness changes perspective.
The thing is, there’s a bunch of different kinds of stress. I’m not even talking about the negative connotation type stress here. I don’t want to get into the psychological parts of it, but our routine is disrupted when someone else lives in our house or stops by 4 to 5 times a day. It’s not in itself a negative thing. For me, and is often anticipation, planning, and even eustress. (Positive)
So, before anything else, do not take the wrong message away from this. Mom and Dad, you two especially, I LOVE having you guys here!
So get this…Despite acknowledging that there is stress when people come to visit, if I had a choice, I would pick my family, my in-laws, my sister-in-law Lou and my friends from Calcutta to visit. Every time and Often. I love it when they are here. It just changes the dynamic – that’s a reality.
But to be unaware or in denial that your day will be different than your “plans” is a poor decision. It sets up the mousetrap to not work correctly.
It is a hurdle that must be overcome to move forward and dissolve unwanted pressure. To not understand and act on this is careless.
Take my example from yesterday as it became very apparent as I found myself shouting at my wife, “I AM NOT stressed!!! I’m exactly the same every goddamn day! NOTHING changes when my parents are here!!”
I also see that my dad is on edge because I am on edge and that puts me more on edge because I want him to relax. You see where this is going right? It is a never ending loop of everybody tiptoeing around each other trying not to light the fuse or my mom thinking I’m like this every day and on the brink Of a meltdown.
Mom: “Oh honey, let me get that for you, you work so hard, you just need a second to relax.”
Me: “Mom, it’s a coffee mug. I’m just putting it in the dishwasher.”
Mom: “I know sweetheart…I’ll get it for you.”
Things are different when they’re around. The coffee pot is always unplugged. Mere minutes after the pot is full. I assume because mom thinks it will start a fire. Also, my fridge is stuffed to the hilt with stuff wrapped up in aluminum foil. No idea what it is, just 100s of foil balls. My mom loves foil guys. Loves it. She doesn’t even use Tupperware lids. She foils the top…Despite having to move the lids to actually get at the containers. Lots of foil. This and a million other things. This Stuff bugs me. No. It bugged me. Today though, I chuckled as I plugged the coffee pot back in and drank a cold brew. I had a new awareness, and that gave me perspective. The perspective to realize that it’s basically nothing. Small fries. That and the fact that she probably hates it when I visit her and leave my shoes in front of the door and my keys on the dishwasher. Because it’s not the everyday norm. Today it wasn’t stress; it was simply awareness.
“Wow Chad, that’s great advice. Is this something you’ve been doing for a while?”
Nope. I’m absolutely terrible at this.
In fact. It all became glaringly obvious just today. It unfolded in my brain as my dad wandered aimlessly around the house, asking, “Has anyone seen my flip-flops?”
Great ideas…they come from nowhere! The universe just provides whatever you need when you most need it.
“I know I left them right here, and they’re not here? I’ll bet Nikki or one of the kids took them swimming today. That’s got to be what it is, no big deal, I don’t mind that at all. I’m glad they can be some use for them.”
Meanwhile, he had stepped over the flip-flops five times while telling me about the kids that may have taken them.
He just giggled and said, “Does that ever happen to you? When you have an idea of where you left something in your head and once you don’t find them there, there’s no more looking. I’ll run around and ask out loud, but I am just scanning and don’t even see what is out there.“
Yeah dad. That happens to ALL of us. And that’s real science. Actually 2 different science /psych theories.
These are so real that they even teach them in the military and to law enforcement to save lives!
1) Men look, but they don’t see.
I’ve talked about this many times. Even my young boys will often open the fridge and before even giving a cursory glance will ask, “Hey mom, where is the ketchup?”
Men look, but they don’t see.
2) Blinders go on when plans go sideways.
We all have this idea of how the day should turn out. Often it is not even truly visualized. Just more of a cloud of pre-plan. When the day inevitably turns out differently, especially the timing of certain aspects like breakfast, kids waking up, a traffic jam, etc., we tend to not see other glaringly apparent things. We feel anxiety and a sort of internal stress because of it. And typically, we are unaware we think this and are missing intel.
That was my case yesterday. I didn’t see that the change in my regular routine, what I expected my day to be like, was different from my preconceived plan.
I didn’t feel stressed because my parents were there; it’s just not how I usually wake up and operate every day. Things are different, and that is putting me into a hyper-alert mode.
It’s the exact same thing as my dad and his Flip Flops. 10 minutes were wasted looking for something that was right there; it just wasn’t what he was expecting or had mentally planned for.
This is real science.
I talk about it in my articles about “being perfect.”
Increased anxiety and stress are impossible to ignore when things don’t turn out exactly how you had planned. Ok, not exactly true. You can ignore it, but it’s happening anyway. Your subconscious knows and feels it even if you have blinders on. And that will nearly always be the case with human interaction of any kind. There is no perfect. It is an impossible parameter and unreachable. But yet, when things aren’t perfect, we feel it.
And yet, there is an easy solution, a quick tip, that will take about 95% of the stress away. You just have to be aware of it. You just have to be able to roll with it, be a little bit resilient, and realize that your day may not go perfectly according to plan. And we’re not talking about important things; I’m talking about getting up ten minutes earlier because more people need to use the shower or need coffee in the morning. Little things add up that, without awareness, continue to build.
My dad stepping over his flip-flops to find the flip-flops gave me a life lesson about how to deal with vacations, car rental agencies, lines in the grocery store, and parents and in-laws coming to stay.
The fact that it is dynamic and ever-changing is what makes it such a valuable experience. Don’t lose this over external stresses that we basically are putting on ourselves. Try not to make your parents feel uncomfortable about staying as you are yelling at your wife that everything is fine! Their going to think that you are a complete mess and a jerk.
And continue to hang out with your parents. You’ll want to do this with your kids, right? Chuckle about the changes, point them out, and enjoy it. Laugh because it’s something that should be one of the best memories of your life. It is mine.