Parental Boundaries

by Maggie
(Hartford, CT USA)

I am married and live with my husband and toddler son. I am a Stay-at-Home mom plus a freelance photographer. My husband is a computer engineer and works from home. We are both very close with out parents. Both set live within 15 minutes from us. Both sets of parents are very helpful to us when we are juggling our daily lives. For example, our one and only car just broke down last week, and instead of bringing it to a mechanic, my father saved us a bunch of money by fixing it himself. He is good with cars. He is also helping us with home renovations. My mother helps us with childcare when we need someone to watch our little man.


My question is this. I am a private person when it comes to my home. I am comfortable with guests as long as they give me a little advance notice before they arrive so I have a few minutes to pick up my house or at least try to look presentable. I am simply not one of those people who enjoys pop-in visitors. My parents have an emergency key that they use to let themselves in. No text, no warning. Today, my husband told me that he was working in his office when he heard footsteps in our kitchen. Once again, my father let himself in and proceeded to my husbands office to chit chat. My husband is more relaxed about this as he knows how helpful my father is. But he jokes about how many times my father has seen him in his boxers because of these impromptu visits.

I have spoken to my parents before about this very thing. They think that I am unreasonable because they are family and should always be welcome. They basically ignore my opinion and continue this behavior.

Am I in the wrong here? Am I being an ungratful daughter because they are so helpful to us? I just keep thinking of the possibility of my parents doing this at inopportune times such as when my husband and I are being intimate, or during a time that we are having a serious discussion. There are many scenerios that I can think of that would be very uncomfortable if my parents barged in. Not to mention, I'd probably be pretty freaked out if I heard unexpected footsteps in my house.

My mother does not let herself in, but she will show up at the door at the worst times with my neices (age 6 and 8) in tote. For example, during an extremely busy day that I had clients coming and going all day long, she thought that it would be appropriate to stop by with the neices to play with the bunnies that I had borrowed for the seasonal Easter photo shoots.

Please give me some words of wisdom. When I discuss my feeling about this with my parents, they act as though my feelings are not valid and that I am just trying to cause drama. My mother said that they are family and I should be comfortable with pop-ins. I feel that it is a violation of privacy.

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Do Not Disturb
by: Ms P Etiquette

Hello Maggie,

​Please use a "Do Not Disturb" sign on your door knob when you do not wish to be disturbed. While I understand your discomfort at the intrusions, your parents obviously have more flexible personal boundaries. When it is important that you and/or your husband not be interrupted, just put up the sign. Please explain this process to your parents before you start. Let them know you are doing it for the convenience of your casual visitors because you do not want anyone to pop by at a time that may be embarrassing to them or to you. Do NOT make this about their behavior.

Good luck.

Ms. Practical Etiquette

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