I am in my 20s, I’m married, and I have two young children. My husband and I are totally financially independent from my parents and live a few states away. Whenever we visit their house, we’re expected to work. I’m not talking about helping with dishes or putting a load of laundry in the dryer. My parents own four rental properties in addition to the home they live in and consistently expect our help with maintenance. We’ve ripped up carpeting, refinished floors, repainted rooms, hauled large loads to the dump, broken up chunks of rock with shovels, remulched their enormous garden—the list goes on. And we do dishes and laundry and sweeping on top of that.
And they’re there too, working alongside us, criticizing almost everything we do and asking us to redo it to their satisfaction. My dad bangs on our door at 7 a.m. and says, “Time to get to work.” We’re told to pack work clothes before our visits. I openly complain about being asked to do these things (I act like a teenager again), but my parents get offended and act like I’m saying I hate their hardworking way of life. It doesn’t help that my parents get jealous over how we see my husband’s parents more frequently. Of course we do! When we visit their house, we pitch in around the house, but they treat us like guests and make us feel comfortable.
The last two trips, I’ve gotten out of most of it by being pregnant, but my poor husband has spent entire days doing backbreaking work. He hates it. I don’t want to dread the visits, and I definitely don’t want my kids being roped into all this when they get older. I feel like it’s one thing to expect your adult children to help out around the house when they visit, but I don’t think we should be expected to do such demanding work. We have limited vacation time, and plane tickets to see them cost more than $1,000 for the four of us. What are my responsibilities as their daughter here? Can I just refuse to help without causing a fight and ruining our visit?