Dear Prudence: I am the co-chair of a daylong cultural and educational event at a local college. We have people from out of town, and over the years my elderly widowed mother has allowed me to put up some of the out-of-town speakers at her large and nice house. I also throw a reception at her house.
Preparing for this is frantic and stressful. This year, five guests were staying at my mother’s. Two days before the event, I went to her house, washed all of the necessary sheets and towels and placed the folded clean sheets, pillowcases and towels on each bed, figuring that each guest could make his or her own bed. She felt not making the bed was tacky. We had a huge fight, and I left without making the beds. She got my brother’s girlfriend to help her make all of the beds.
After the event, I washed all the linens. My mother then wanted me to come back and remake all of the beds and fold the towels. I declined. My brothers often host overnight guests and have even thrown large parties there, and I have never heard her make housekeeping demands of them. Now my mother has informed me that I cannot host any guests at her house in the future.
So my three questions are: Is it socially acceptable to expect my guests to make their own beds? Am I wrong to feel angry at my mother for making a big deal about a trivial issue when I had more important things to deal with? And isn’t she being a big jerk for having a double standard between me and my brothers?
Prudence says: In one corner we have Elderly Widowed Mother, who opens her home to provide free lodging and banquet facilities for your guests. In the other corner we have Daughter With Important Things to Do, who’s not about to provide maid service.
I think the crowd will agree that Elderly Widowed Mother wins by unanimous decision.
While it’s not the world’s biggest faux pas to leave the sheets on the end of the bed, it also isn’t gracious.
Your EWM may not have been understanding how overwhelmed and stressed out you were, but you were equally unsympathetic to the stress this generous older woman was feeling about providing a lovely experience for her — I mean, your — guests.
Start by buying a large bouquet of flowers and personally delivering it to your mother. Include a note of apology that says you were wrong and you are so sorry you lost your temper. Go on to tell her how much you appreciate everything she does for you. You might also want to book the hotel now for next year’s event in order to lock in the best rates.
Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.