Dear Miss L’Anne: DISH-functional family

Dear Miss L'Anne: DISH-functional familyDear Miss L’Anne,

I need your help! I have a job that requires me to live far away from my parents. Luckily enough, I have a solid group of friends and family in the area. The Smiths have been friends with my parents for as long as I can remember and my sister, Maggie, and I grew up with their two sons, Kyle and Max.

Every Saturday night, Mrs. Smith invites Maggie and me over for dinner.

Mrs. Smith spends a majority of the day preparing dinner. At the end of the night, my sister and I always clear the table and do the dishes without being asked (our parents taught us well!). We do not expect Mrs. Smith to clean ANYTHING since she provided dinner for us. We know not to expect the men at the table to really help but, Kyle’s fiancé, Lucy, never offers to do anything. If she does, she waits until my sister and I are almost done and then helps load a few dishes in the dishwasher. We clear her plate, she thanks us and brushes us off as if we are working for her.

Part of me thinks that Lucy feels more privileged than us because she is marrying Mrs. Smith’s son. Maybe she feels as though she does not need to help since her future mother-in-law is the one who cooked? This weekend, I came close to asking her to help, but I do not know if that is my place. Mrs. Smith does not say anything and Kyle does not suggest she help us.

My sister and I feel like they almost expect the two of us to clean up since we are not technically part of the family. I am sure I am over thinking that part, but it irritates me that Lucy feels she is so entitled and doesn’t have to help us. Is there a tactful way to tell her to get off her butt and load the dishwasher with us?! Please help!


Mary in California


Dear Mary,

How wonderful to have such caring family friends who open their home every week to you and your sister. Building relationships is one of the most beneficial things we can do, but sometimes it takes work.

It is difficult to know what someone else is thinking, and even if I do know, I try to remember this old prayer that usually puts things in right perspective for me:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Because you do not know what Lucy is really thinking, only that she doesn’t help clean up, shifting your attitude might help you resist the bad feelings you are experiencing. Perhaps Lucy’s future in-laws and others who may be judging intimidate her. But to you, it appears like she is stand-offish and privileged.

It is best to focus on what you can change. Try focusing on the generosity of The Smiths and work on showing your gratitude for Mrs. Smith’s time spent cooking and entertaining the group.

Try being kind and generous to Lucy with a sincere compliment. It might take reaching deep to find something, but with practice, you might begin to see and appreciate who Lucy really is beneath her outward appearance.

It will take time to develop and practice a new way of thinking – no quick fixes here!

Remember that relationships help us grow into the kind of person we choose to be. I’m sure you will choose for the best!

Miss L’Anne


Need advice? Ask Miss L’Anne! She has an answer for everything. Seriously.


3 thoughts on “Dear Miss L’Anne: DISH-functional family

  1. I love Miss L’Anne’s advice to let go of what Lucy “must be thinking.” If you’re going to volunteer to do the dishes, own it! And don’t expect others to make your same decision, even if it is a polite one.

    On a separate note, why aren’t the men expected to help? Growing up, both of my parents cooked and cleaned up; it was expected from all of us. Admittedly, the idea of only the women doing it doesn’t sit right with me. Granted, my roof was far from the south, but our house was still a school of politeness and consideration where men participated in kitchen work as much as women.

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