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Posted on Sun, Apr 8, 2012 : 5:25 a.m.

Parents who helped with big move get left out of open house

By Carolyn Hax

Dear Carolyn: Our daughter and son-in-law recently purchased their first house. My husband and I helped advise them (solicited) during the building of the house, and I watched our 3 1/2-year-old grandson on numerous occasions when the couple had to deal with the building details. We kept our grandson during the move, gave them our 12-year-old refrigerator, which was in excellent condition, and then my husband spent two days painting the powder room and our grandson's bedroom.

Recently, I found out that my daughter and her husband are having an open house celebration. Not only were we not invited, but the weekend they chose is also the weekend I have an overnight business trip. I only found out about the housewarming because I saw party supplies and a list titled "House Party" lying on the kitchen counter when I picked up our grandson from day care, took him for a haircut, and took him home to help with dinner.

I was devastated not to be invited to this celebration of a milestone in a couple's life. My daughter's response was that I was "over the top" for being upset, and that she didn't know that was my weekend away. She also said, "Besides, you have already seen the house."

It seems to us that we were good enough to do all the legwork, but not good enough to be invited to the celebration. Am I being "over the top" about this? This is not the first time we have felt that we are the baby-sitters and the hired help rather than part of the family.

-- Sad and Disappointed "Sad and disappointed" make sense -- not being invited to something always stings (even when it's something you didn't want to attend).

"Devastated" is over the top. Way.

Disappointed is when you miss out on something you value, but you're able to grasp that life is long and you'll get other chances. Devastated is when you miss out on one of the only things you value, and your life will never be the same again.

If it's the former, then apologize to your daughter for overreacting. If it's the latter, then do please reconsider.

Since there's barely agreement on the significance of witnessing a wedding, I'm comfortable declaring the significance of this "milestone in a couple's life" as firmly in the eye of the beholder. Many see housewarmings as just another excuse for a party.

Plus, when adult children live near their parents, they're all faced with a small but sensitive puzzle: How to lead social lives that are both independent and inclusive?

It's perfectly healthy for people to want to socialize occasionally with, and occasionally without, their parents/children. So, if your daughter and her husband want to spend this evening with their peers, that makes sense to this disinterested observer. They're entitled.

If that's the case, then her deflections also make sense, since they're all of the it's-no-big-deal variety. None of them is exactly true, I suspect, but given how heavily invested you are in the symbolism here, you've made it very difficult for your daughter to say to you truthfully, "I love you, Ma, but this one's just with our friends."

More important, you've made it needlessly difficult on yourself. You've harnessed all your reasoning power to justify your feelings of devastation, instead of channeling it toward debunking them. You say, "We're the hired help," where you could say, "We're already a huge part of their lives, I'm glad they'll have this time with friends."

If that doesn't get by your internal outrage-meter, I've got one more thing to try: You love your daughter, you love your grandson, and you see them frequently now, albeit not always on the terms you prefer. Does this china shop really need a bull?

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Dear Carolyn:

What is your position on staying together for the kids? My marriage is low-conflict and low-to-nonexistent intimacy. My husband works long hours at a high-status, high-paying job, and I often feel very lonely and unhappy. My kids will be out of the house in four years. Protect kids from divorce or be honest with spouse?

-- Staying for the Teens Call me an optimist, but I think being honest with your spouse is the way to protect kids from divorce. That is, unless the truth is "I find you loathsome, and the only reasons I haven't left are your high income and your extended absences."

You say you're lonely and unhappy, and those are things to share with a (non-abusive) husband. Don't accuse, don't blame, just say how you feel. How he responds to such an intimate overture will say a lot more than I can about the wisdom of sticking around.

But first, think these through to every conceivable conclusion, giving each question equal weight: What will we all gain, and lose, from a split? Email Carolyn at, follow her on Facebook at or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at