Author Topic: Using your guests as free labor during the holidays, division of labor?  (Read 8831 times)

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TootsNYC

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Re: Using your guests as free labor during the holidays, division of labor?
« Reply #30 on: December 05, 2013, 02:02:48 PM »
Growing up, we were always taught to ask if help cleaning up was needed.

If people don't volunteer, you need to speak up.

I spent a few holidays cleaning up with my husband while my sister sat and chatted with me. I became angry, as she was taught just like I was. After a few years of anger, I became bold, and just said, please do this or that. And she did! As my children got older, I asked them for help too.

Now they are adults, they automatically get to work, even if I tell them, just sit, I'll get it later when everyone is gone.

This is my approach (which apparently ticked off an uncle: thread in the Family & Children folder). In big gatherings of family or friends (we do a lot of weekend trips that involve cooking together), I start doing a task I don't mind, then cheerfully ask somebody else to please scrape the dishes, soak the pans, wipe down counters, etc.

I've also seen people make that request in a way that emphasizes the "togetherness" aspect of this kind of clean-up: "Sharon, come wash dishes with us!"

Promise

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Re: Using your guests as free labor during the holidays, division of labor?
« Reply #31 on: December 05, 2013, 02:54:40 PM »
It's family, not "guests". Family should help out. Why would they need to be asked, wouldn't they do it anyway? if they have to be asked, that's a shame.

C0mputerGeek

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Re: Using your guests as free labor during the holidays, division of labor?
« Reply #32 on: December 05, 2013, 08:07:38 PM »
Are there any circumstances where you ask your (or at least certain ones) holiday house guests to pitch in to do certain things like: washing dishes, clearing the table, packing up leftovers, taking out trash, cleaning, etc?
Absolutely!

My father's side of the family is huge. He was one of 7 children. They all got married and each family had 2 children. (7 siblings + 7 spouses) + (7 households * 2 kids per household) = 28 people. Most of my cousins are married with kids. With guests, there are 50+ people to be accommodated at each family gathering. Having one person be responsible for the dishes and the trash would be cruel. The last 5-7 family members at the party help with cleanup. You're expected to help with cleanup once you're 7-8 years old. You're also expected to take home the food you brought with you.

Anyone under the age of 4 is and my father (my dad has a degenerative muscle disease) are served food by an adult. Everyone else serves themselves.

We don't have anyone with health issues help with cleanup. The kids gather up the dishes - separating them into clean and dirty piles - and have trash duty. Dish duty, putting the furniture back in place, and packaging leftovers is done by the adults.

Lynn2000

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Re: Using your guests as free labor during the holidays, division of labor?
« Reply #33 on: December 09, 2013, 12:45:00 PM »
There have been several threads like this lately, and I find them interesting because they seem so strange to me. I couldn't tell you what tradition or division of labor either side of my family has in these situations. Things just seem to get done. I certainly don't think of myself as having a "job" to set up/clean up at family gatherings, though as I think more about it, I realized I do often clear some plates from the table, but not because anyone asked me to--just because it's something to do that's helpful, and I get bored sitting around. The same people keep wanting to host (actually there are more people who want to host than we have holidays for) so there doesn't seem to be any deep-seated resentment. My perception is that the majority of guests don't do anything to help clean up, but it could also be they're each doing something small that adds up, that seems normal enough to me and goes unheralded.

So in general I don't think there is any "rule," I think it's largely about what the hosts want, and if they want to establish something more formal or change what has gone before, they need to be upfront about that and address it well beforehand. And they need to be responsible for enforcing the rules they've set. I think the OP can certainly say to her parents, "I don't like being the only one who works, and if this doesn't change I'll stop attending." Maybe the OP has the kind of relationship with her sister where she can say beforehand, "Look, sis, I don't like this, here's what I'd like to see happen, are you on board with me?"

I don't think the OP is wrong to want others to help, but I don't think she can appeal to some objective "should help" rule--she can ask once, but if people say no and the hosts don't back her up, I think the only thing she can do is stop attending. Maybe if she wasn't there once and others realized all the work she'd been doing, that's all it would take to spur a more equitable division of labor.
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camlan

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Re: Using your guests as free labor during the holidays, division of labor?
« Reply #34 on: December 09, 2013, 01:18:40 PM »
My dad's side of the family is large. He was one of 6 kids, and they all married and had between 5 and 8 kids. Most of my generation is married, with kids and grandkids at this point.

A few months back, we had a impromtu party, inviting just the extended family in the area. There were the 7 of us siblings, plus spouses, children and aunts, uncles and cousins and their children. For a total of 62 people over the course of the afternoon into the evening. The party started at 4 and was supposed to end at 8, but people kept coming and everyone, including the host, was having a good time. I left at 9, and things were still going strong.

But everyone over the age of 6 helped to clean up all afternoon long. Smaller children knew enough to put their paper plates in the trash and soda cans in the recycling bin (or they were reminded by their parents). At various times, I went around picking up plates and cups and cans and dealt with them. I saw many of my cousins doing the same thing throughout the party. Sort of, "I'm getting up and going in to the house now. What can I take with me? Throw out? Bring back out?"

The only people who weren't helping out were the five members of my parents' generation--they are officially "done" with clean up and we won't let them do any work. They've done enough; it's their turn to sit down and relax. And the very little children who don't know how to clean up yet.

After the main meal was over and people were just snacking, I started to wash up in the kitchen--and was immediately joined by several cousins all trying to help out.

No one does all the work. No one gets stuck alone in the kitchen with a sink full of greasy dishes.

When I left the party, everyone had moved indoors. The backyard was clean and tidy and picked up. Inside was pretty tidy as well, except for the cups and plates people were using at the time, and three board games spread all over the living room floor.

I'm sure the first floor of the house needed vacuuming the next day, and the bathrooms probably needed to be cleaned, but two cousins washed the kitchen floor and wiped down the sink and countertops and put everything away.

It's family. If everyone does a little, no one has to do a lot.
Nothing is impossible, the word itself says, “I’m possible!” –Audrey Hepburn


Outdoor Girl

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Re: Using your guests as free labor during the holidays, division of labor?
« Reply #35 on: December 09, 2013, 01:42:02 PM »
Camlan, that sounds like a great party.  Want to adopt me?   ;D
I have CDO.  It is like OCD but with the letters in alphabetical order, as they should be.
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MissRose

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Re: Using your guests as free labor during the holidays, division of labor?
« Reply #36 on: December 26, 2013, 10:50:35 AM »
Update: I could not get the kids alone to say, if you help with clearing the table, presents can be opened sooner as either my mom or sister were nearby not saying so as both do not like me butting in like that unless I was able to get to them privately.  My sister did help a bit but most of the cleanup and packaging was done by me or my mother.  I think my mother needs to speak up to everyone for the next gathering at Easter, with the exception of my aunt with the health challenges, EVERYONE is to help in some way with cleanup efforts.  Even though I've said to her before everyone arrives about others sitting around while a few work irritates me, she really needs to speak up like yesterday.

GlitterIsMyDrug

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Re: Using your guests as free labor during the holidays, division of labor?
« Reply #37 on: December 26, 2013, 12:02:43 PM »
Update: I could not get the kids alone to say, if you help with clearing the table, presents can be opened sooner as either my mom or sister were nearby not saying so as both do not like me butting in like that unless I was able to get to them privately.  My sister did help a bit but most of the cleanup and packaging was done by me or my mother.  I think my mother needs to speak up to everyone for the next gathering at Easter, with the exception of my aunt with the health challenges, EVERYONE is to help in some way with cleanup efforts.  Even though I've said to her before everyone arrives about others sitting around while a few work irritates me, she really needs to speak up like yesterday.

I say at Easter, you sit your hind parts down with the rest of them. When mom says "MissRose, come clean up/set up/re-tile the bathroom", just as sweet as pie say "Ok mom, and what do you want me to have Sister and Kids do?", don't back down. You have to help? So do they. If mom doesn't want to tell them, you start telling them. If they don't like it, go on strike. It's either everyone helps or no one helps (aunt with health problems gets a pass, able bodied teenagers and adults don't).

nayberry

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Re: Using your guests as free labor during the holidays, division of labor?
« Reply #38 on: December 26, 2013, 03:31:31 PM »
Update: I could not get the kids alone to say, if you help with clearing the table, presents can be opened sooner as either my mom or sister were nearby not saying so as both do not like me butting in like that unless I was able to get to them privately.  My sister did help a bit but most of the cleanup and packaging was done by me or my mother.  I think my mother needs to speak up to everyone for the next gathering at Easter, with the exception of my aunt with the health challenges, EVERYONE is to help in some way with cleanup efforts.  Even though I've said to her before everyone arrives about others sitting around while a few work irritates me, she really needs to speak up like yesterday.

Mom - MissRose can yhou do the dishes?
MissRose - It's sis's turn, i did them at christmas, i bet if her kids help it won't take them long :)

cwm

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Re: Using your guests as free labor during the holidays, division of labor?
« Reply #39 on: December 26, 2013, 03:43:40 PM »
Okay, so I was at two new family gatherings this year, and it was amazing. Boyfriend's grandma's house, when you're done with your plate, you take it and rinse it and put it in the dishwasher. As soon as the meal is done, the adults mobilize and get the food stored in the fridge and the dishwasher loaded. It took about five minutes, and there were five or six adults in the kitchen, across two generations. (Boyfriend, his sis and BIL, BF's dad and aunt.) Grandparents entertained the guest and great-grandkids (BF's nieces). Dessert worked much the same way.

Boyfriend's aunt's house, everything was much the same. I offered to help gather plates and cups, but was told to sit down, I was a guest. BF and sis and BIL as well as two cousins in their generation took all the stuff into the kitchen, rinsed, loaded the dishwasher, and put up the leftovers that needed putting up. Again, no more than five minutes. Dessert was served on paper plates, so no worrying about dishes.

TootsNYC

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Re: Using your guests as free labor during the holidays, division of labor?
« Reply #40 on: December 26, 2013, 10:02:13 PM »
Update: I could not get the kids alone to say, if you help with clearing the table, presents can be opened sooner as either my mom or sister were nearby not saying so as both do not like me butting in like that unless I was able to get to them privately.  My sister did help a bit but most of the cleanup and packaging was done by me or my mother.  I think my mother needs to speak up to everyone for the next gathering at Easter, with the exception of my aunt with the health challenges, EVERYONE is to help in some way with cleanup efforts.  Even though I've said to her before everyone arrives about others sitting around while a few work irritates me, she really needs to speak up like yesterday.

I think you should speak up next year.

Stand up and say, "OK, who will help with the cleanup? Kids? We can get to presents earlier! Sis, Dad, whoever else? How about if you do XYZ."

Figure out how to divide up some of the jobs (clearing the table vs loading the dishwasher vs transferring leftovers to containers, etc.) in advance.

Just put yourself -completely- in charge, which means you can totally delegate to anyone you'd like. Just ask them directly: "Nephew, could I ask you to gather up all the silverware, and put it in the dishwasher?"  and "Niece, would you bring the plates from your side of the table, and Uncle, bring the ones from your side?"   and "Sis, how about if you tackle transferring leftovers to containers?"

Make a plan, and then implement it. No "I did it last year," no "why doesn't someone else?" Just focus on the fact that it needs to get done, and what's the fastest way (which of course will involve multiple sets of hands), and then implement the plan.
   Be direct, be pleasant, act the way a really good shift manager would: parcel out the jobs so everyone has clear instructions and nothing gets forgotten, but don't lecture or scold or whine. I call this, sometimes, "channeling your inner daycare worker" (because a good daycare worker isn't patronizing or scoldy).

(I was in charge of cleanup at my MIL's this year, and DH and I had it all worked out--we got out the leftovers containers right away, divvied things up among them, and loaded stuff into the dishwasher. I even said, to a cousin who'd expressed a wish to help, "Why don't you take these and scoop the sweet potatoes into them?")

Lynn2000

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Re: Using your guests as free labor during the holidays, division of labor?
« Reply #41 on: December 31, 2013, 11:20:42 AM »
This year I paid more attention to how clean-up from the family holiday meal occurred. We had disposable plates but real silverware, and the food was set up buffet-style. Everyone either brought their dirty plates/silverware back into the kitchen on their own, or another guest voluntarily took their plate when they saw the person was done eating but was still at the table chatting. The two hosts (people who live at the house) put silverware in the dishwasher and the plates in the trash. When it came to divvying up leftovers, anyone could fix a plate for themselves or someone else (like my grandma). If a dish needed special preparation--like bar cookies that hadn't yet been cut up--usually the person who brought the dish did that, then people took what they wanted. Anything that was left, the hosts packed up however was convenient for them.

One open question is what happens to the extra leftovers--my parents and I bring desserts, which WILL NOT come back home with us per mom's instructions, so we abandon them at the hosts' house. Other guests are free to take some, of course, but they are not coming back with us. If we want the container back, we transfer them to disposable plates or some other receptacle. But, a cousin brought creamed corn in a crock pot--kind of hard to plate and carry away, and I'm sure she wanted the crock pot back. I think they just carried the remains away still in the crock pot after everyone had gotten a chance to take some (i.e., did not leave the extra food with the host).

I guess it sounds kind of chaotic, but it seems to work for us. The only one in charge is the host, but they aren't telling anyone what to do, unless someone asks a question like, "What knife should I use to cut this?" Everyone just kind of takes care of their own piece--put your own dish by the sink, deal with your own leftovers--and maybe a little more (put someone ELSE'S plate by the sink as well), and the host deals with anything left. Disposable plates and cups (actually cans and bottles) cut down on a lot of clean-up, and the silverware was dishwasher-safe. If anything, there's sometimes too MANY people doing things, and Grandma gets two plates of food fixed for her, or the seven-year-old walks away with two plates of cookies, but that's nothing to get upset about (unless maybe you are the seven-year-old's parent!).

For the OP, I stand by my earlier advice, though I do think family dynamics come into play. In some families TootsNYC's advice would be perfect. Personally, I would feel uncomfortable 1) pushing other people to help and/or 2) refusing to help when asked; so if one more straight conversation with the host didn't result in changes, I would regretfully absent myself from the next gathering. Then I think there would be rounds of conversation--attend the gathering to see if attitudes changed--don't attend the next one if they haven't changed--conversation etc. until I saw that progress was being made, or I just stopped going altogether. If someone suggests it's petty to miss seeing your family at the holidays because you don't want to clean up? I would say, it's more petty, and rude, to treat one family member as a servant at the holidays, when they have specifically asked for changes, and then complain when they don't show up to be ill-treated some more. ::)
~Lynn2000

immadz

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Re: Using your guests as free labor during the holidays, division of labor?
« Reply #42 on: January 01, 2014, 11:50:21 PM »
I think people are used to the status-quo where you clean up and they loll about. I would give the next couple of gatherings a miss. The lollers will then be drafted to clean up. Once that becomes standard operating procedure. Venture back and pick up your share. Also, I would not hesitate to let anyone know why you are giving the family event a miss. " I love meeting up with family but after working all week, I just don't feel like cleaning up after 8 adults. Its just not a holiday for me when I have to do it."


LeveeWoman

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Re: Using your guests as free labor during the holidays, division of labor?
« Reply #43 on: January 02, 2014, 10:44:11 PM »
Update: I could not get the kids alone to say, if you help with clearing the table, presents can be opened sooner as either my mom or sister were nearby not saying so as both do not like me butting in like that unless I was able to get to them privately.  My sister did help a bit but most of the cleanup and packaging was done by me or my mother.  I think my mother needs to speak up to everyone for the next gathering at Easter, with the exception of my aunt with the health challenges, EVERYONE is to help in some way with cleanup efforts.  Even though I've said to her before everyone arrives about others sitting around while a few work irritates me, she really needs to speak up like yesterday.

I think you should speak up next year.

Stand up and say, "OK, who will help with the cleanup? Kids? We can get to presents earlier! Sis, Dad, whoever else? How about if you do XYZ."

Figure out how to divide up some of the jobs (clearing the table vs loading the dishwasher vs transferring leftovers to containers, etc.) in advance.

Just put yourself -completely- in charge, which means you can totally delegate to anyone you'd like. Just ask them directly: "Nephew, could I ask you to gather up all the silverware, and put it in the dishwasher?"  and "Niece, would you bring the plates from your side of the table, and Uncle, bring the ones from your side?"   and "Sis, how about if you tackle transferring leftovers to containers?"

Make a plan, and then implement it. No "I did it last year," no "why doesn't someone else?" Just focus on the fact that it needs to get done, and what's the fastest way (which of course will involve multiple sets of hands), and then implement the plan.
   Be direct, be pleasant, act the way a really good shift manager would: parcel out the jobs so everyone has clear instructions and nothing gets forgotten, but don't lecture or scold or whine. I call this, sometimes, "channeling your inner daycare worker" (because a good daycare worker isn't patronizing or scoldy).

(I was in charge of cleanup at my MIL's this year, and DH and I had it all worked out--we got out the leftovers containers right away, divvied things up among them, and loaded stuff into the dishwasher. I even said, to a cousin who'd expressed a wish to help, "Why don't you take these and scoop the sweet potatoes into them?")

Amen! Hallelujah! FTW! Sing it again!

TootsNYC

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Re: Using your guests as free labor during the holidays, division of labor?
« Reply #44 on: January 08, 2014, 11:55:33 PM »
One really cool way to delegate in this situation is to just state the job that needs to be done.

"OK, will someone bring all the plates into the kitchen?"

When they get there, say, "They need to be scraped really well and stacked over there."

You don't tell anyone to do it, and you don't ask anyone specific. They volunteer themselves.

But *you* define the job as "something someone else needs to do," and you announce its status.