College kids home for holidays - houseguests or family members?

Basically I’m wondering what the dynamics are between any dopers who have - or are - kids away at college when they return home for semester breaks or other extended periods.

I have 3 kids attending 2 different colleges who are home right now. I think one will be home for nearly a month, the other 2 for about 3 weeks. Their mother and I are a little bothered by what I’ll characterize as their apparent attitude that they are houseguests on “vacation”, moreso than contributing members of the household as they were prior to going to college.

Perhaps the sensation is exaggerated this year, with our youngest having just gone away to college my wife and I got quite used to the way things were with just the 2 of us at home. The house stayed cleaner, groceries were less expensive, chores were easier …

Also, with just the 2 of you, you know that you are the only people to do any needed tasks. When you add 3 more able-bodied adults, we find ourselves wishing they would take the initiative more often. The kids are generally quite willing to do any specific tasks we directly ask them to, but they certainly do not seem overly motivated to do things on their own.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids, they all did very well in school, I see continual signs of them maturing and growing, and all 3 are getting at least some part-time work hours in over break. But having had a taste of the freedom and independence we had when they went to school, I think we are eager to ratchet down the labor-intensive parts of parenting for a while. Also, with the considerable $ we are paying towards their education, we wouldn’t mind if they demonstrated their appreciation more demonstratively around the house.

Basically curious as to what your experiences are, and how you handled it.

It sounds to me like you should communicate with your kids about your expectations if they aren’t fulfilling them… although it sounds like you aren’t entirely sure what your expectations are, other than “do more, more cheerfully” which is not 100% fair to them.

There are a lot of issues that tend to come up, emotionally, when the kids start showing they no longer consider themselves part of your household. I don’t think there is one right way to address it. But quietly resenting them is definitely a wrong way.

Sure, they’re houseguests.

Houseguest make their beds in the morning.
Houseguests clear away the dishes after meals.
Houseguests leave the rooms they’ve used tidy after use.
Houseguests present a gift to their hosts upon arrival and offer to cook or take their hosts out to a meal during their stay.
Houseguests thank their hosts daily and then write a thank you note for the hospitality shown.

I think you’ve got a pretty sweet deal there.

Maybe they are more under the assumption that they are on “vacation”? And if they were doing fantastically at school, maybe working as well, I’d be inclined to treat them as if they were on vacation- if I could afford it. If their grades were mediocre, and they live their real life like they are halfway on vacation all the time, like my kids, then I would make them pitch in a lot more when they were at home.

Didn’t mean to suggest we were resenting them in silence. Had a bit of a conversation the other day - we’ll see how effective it was.

Wife and I had gone to the store, brought home groceries, put them away, cooked lunch, put it on the table, and called the family to eat. After everyone finished, the 3 kids each took their plate, glass and silverware into the kitchen, and vanished. As my wife and I were clearing the table, loading the dishwasher, and otherwise cleaning up we realized we were both wondering why none of the kids were doing it. So we called the kids down and talked about it.

I think there are a lot of factors going on. The kids do work pretty hard at school and do pretty well (I don’t know about “fantastically”), so yeah, maybe they do feel like they deserve a vacation. But my wife and I don’t really feel like being everybody’s maid, laundress, cook, etc. while they are on vacation.

And all 3 live in places where they either don’t have to do all of their own cooking and housecleaning (dorm/frat), or live in a kinda run-down apt with a quite messy roomate. So they are not used to maintaining a home to the standards their mom and I like, and may not even personally care to.

Another factor is that come summer the oldest is moving in with her BF - so I think she is in the process of sorta distancing herself from the household. Which is a good thing. But until she moves out, we’re not interested in being her servant.

I was mainly curious whether others had similar experiences, and how things worked out for them.

If you don’t want to cook for them or do their laundry, why do you?

I am not a very good example as far as personal experience as my parents generally wanted me home more than I wanted to be home. (But weee want to seeee you). Which continues to be true to this day. For a while I would only go home (cross country) if they paid for my plane ticket. In college I generally made myself busy with seasonal work or extracurriculars over break.

Not necessarily a healthy model to emulate. My parents and I are not close.

They do their own laundry. We have valued eating meals together as long as we’ve been a family. I don’t mind doing most of the cooking, but would gladly allow anyone else to do it if they wanted. If not, I would just as soon they volunteered to perform other household chores.

I have one home from university & one about to start his final year of high school.

The uni child is home for a 3 weeks. No job while here. Shes not been too bad - cleaned out the kitchen area twice & has got after my son to do a bit more. If the weather holds she may be helping with outside maintenance…

More what bothers me is arranging for people to stay around New Years without clearing it with us first. & not letting us know if she won’t be coming home that night. Illogical I know. She is an adult & is carrying on the way she does whilst away,

34, married, live with my husband.

I think what I’m trying to say, is you either value eating with your children, or you do it in exchange for other services rendered. If you value it independently, then it has value of itself and that is the benefit to you. If you do it for services rendered, then stop doing it if services cease to be rendered.

Wait a second - I gotta figure out how not doing your own laundry makes it less of a vacation? Or loading a dishwasher makes it less of a “vacation”?

Its not like you are making them dig ditches!

plus: College = Vacation. Tell 'em to suck it up and wash their own damn laundry, and don’t forget to thank you for supplying the detergent and washer/dryer.

while I was typing this, the comment came in that they do their own laundry. The point still stands that they aren’t being required to do slave labor and helping out the parent’s does not diminish their “vacation”.

Thanks. I edited my post to delete that sentence after seeing the info you had added to yours on edit.

My wife and I are finding the “empty nest” experience to be quite different than we anticipated. So I’m interested in whether folk are speaking from experience (as either parents or kids), or how they imagine it might be.

Family members.

I find your eldest daughter’s attitude strange, although common. She’s about to get her own household; for many of my friends of both genders that was a time of trying to figure out the holes in their housekeeping knowledge and asking for help filling them ASAP. Does she expect her floors to clean themselves? She’s behaving more like my current kitchenmates, none of whom had cooked a single dish or washed a plate in their lives (I’m a mature student living on campus; we’re all graduates but I have some 15 years on these Momma’s Boys) and who were surprised to find out that the cleaning ladies in the dorms do not take down the trash or do dishes. Three of them are now trying to learn, the fourth one isn’t.

Very few people volunteer to help with household chores. Maybe, if they’re in a position where they’re almost entirely sure the offer is going to be refused, but if there’s a better than decent shot that the answer will be “there’s the broom,” most people won’t volunteer.

Still, kids living under their parents’ roofs do the chores the parents tell them to do. Adults in shared living spaces (who don’t want to go nuts) divide up the chores among themselves. Whichever group your kids are in, having an explicit conversation of who will do what when will make things easier. The difference is more in whether the conversation is a set of instructions or collaboration.

I’m very confused. You say your kids aren’t doing enough to help around the house, but then you say they cleaned off their plates from the table. And your complaint seems to be, why didn’t they clean off my plate?

So the question comes back to you, are they your kids (and you expect them to do chores) or are they houseguests (at which point they’re doing all they should be doing).

My first break I came home and it was vacation, with control.
The next break I was treated a bit differently, and my break was not a vacation.
That was the last time I came home for more than a couple of days.


(a few decades ago admittedly - but I was not longer in high school, and just needed a break)

When they lived at home, did they volunteer to do chores or did you have to assign them?

I think your best bet is just to ask them to clean up after themselves and help around the house, which from your post, they seem willing to do. From my experience, kids never volunteer to do chores, myself included. When I come home (granted, I’m not anywhere near a college student any longer!) I usually cook (and purchase the ingredients but, then again, I have a job) a couple of dinners, do my own laundry (and buy detergent etc. if we’re running low), etc. That said, I hate cleaning off the table (wet food aversion!) but I do clean up my own place setting and put it in the dishwasher.

I agree with this and wanted to add that many people (I hesitate to say most) will always feel like a “kid” when they are in their parent’s house. If they didn’t jump up and offer to do housework when they were living at home, I wouldn’t expect it now.

Perhaps you and your wife should just tell them what you’d like for them to do. I can’t imagine that they would give you much flack about it, especially if they were expected to do chores when they were living at home.

The lunch was light - fruit, cheese and crackers, and smoothies. I’m not sure how you prepare and serve meals, but in our case in addition to each person having a plate, glass, and knife on the table, there were also serving pieces. 2 plates of cheese, a plate of crackers, a bowl of grapes and a plate of sliced melon. So yeah - it is minor, but if each kid only takes their plate, glass, and utensil into the kitchen, then mom and dad have to clear our own plates, glasses, and utensils - as well as any serving plates and leftover food.

Then in the kitchen, there was leftover cheese, crackers, and fruit to be put away, a knife. cuttingboard, and blender used to prepare the meal to be cleaned, some packaging to be tossed in the recycling (in the garage), then the dining room table and kitchen counters were to be wiped off, and as the dishwasher was full, it had to be started. Not a lot of work, and I could have done it all in well less than 5 minutes. And for the past 20+ years my wife and I often have done it ourselves.

The kids would have done it if we had asked (tho it would not be unheard of for them to bicker among themselves as to who does what.) But to be honest, we didn’t really notice that they had left us to clean up until we found they had all excused themselves so quickly. And then we realized that we had bought the food and prepared the meal as well, and decided it was time for a talk.

I’m not sure about your statement of few people offering to help. I think it axiomatic that if you are enjoying the benefits of living in a home, you ought to do your fair share of the work involved. The fact that you believe “very few” people act in this manner does not convince me that it is not desireable.

Heck, when it is just my wife and me, it would really suck if either of us regularly waited for the other to point out every task that needed to be done. Instead, I think that each contributing member of the household ought to regularly be aware of what needs to be done, and do it without waiting to be asked/told. Empty the trash and replace the bag when full. Empty the dishwasher when it is finished. Occasionally volunteer to cook, set the table, clear, clean up, etc. Run the vacuum when the doghair tumbleweeds start to pile up. Let the dogs in and out. That sort of thing. Expecting one person to be the taskmaster is simply imposing yet another task upon them.

The second part, however, is quite on point with what we are experiencing/feeling, tho. At this very moment my kids are 18, 20, 22 - in the process of transitioning from the former category to the latter. In some respects they are eager to exhibit greater independence and responsibility. In others, they seem quite content to let mom and dad make the tough decisions and do the lion’s share of the hard work.

So in large part we are reassessing our household dynamic with the aim of making our kids better able to successfully make it on their own. But I readily admit that another part is due to my wife and me being older than we used to be, and having had a taste of the freedom and ease of empty nesting, we are not eager to slip back into the old roles. :stuck_out_tongue:

Sounds like you’re making a mountain out of a mole hill to me.

Again, it comes back to your question. Are they your kids (at which point you need to tell them what to do because they’re not “contributing members of the household”, they’re kids) or are they houseguests (at which point they’re doing all they need to do).

Hey, that’s what I do best! :stuck_out_tongue: