| As They Grow |

“Who Gets Guest Room Priority for Pesach?”

Your problem is what we call “a rich man’s tzuris

Our oldest son (28) and his American-Israeli wife live in Israel. They come to America once a year for Pesach, and spending time with him, his wife, and their adorable children is a real highlight of our year.

We also have two teenage sons in a local yeshivah living at home and two adult daughters living outside the home in the Tristate area, for work and shidduchim purposes.

Trying to fit all the kids in our home comfortably for Yom Tov has become quite a challenge. Our five-bedroom normally feels quite spacious, but come Pesach, it feels small and claustrophobic. My two adult daughters (26 and 30) each insist on sleeping in their childhood bedrooms. Of the remaining three bedrooms, one is our master bedroom, one is shared by my two teenage boys, and the last one serves as a guest room.

For the past few years, my married son and his wife stayed in the guest room, together with their two children. This past year, they were blessed with a third child, baruch Hashem, and now they are asking if they can have two rooms, so the kids can sleep separately.

I hear them, I really do. They get off that international flight looking like zombies. It takes almost a full week for them to recover, and having to all sleep together in one room doesn’t help their jet lag at all.

On the other hand, the only way I can accommodate their request is to ask my two adult daughters to share a room. I’m loath to request that of them, and honestly, I’m pretty sure they would flat out say no. They both really value their personal space, and I am sensitive to the fact that their unmarried status does not make them any less deserving of adult privileges.

One of my daughters would likely agree to have the children sleep in her room with her, but when I broached that idea with my son, he made very clear that his wife would not feel comfortable with that.

All things being equal, I do think it makes more sense to have my daughters double up to allow for my young marrieds to have a sense of normalcy. Although it would be uncomfortable for my daughters, I think being sleep-deprived for four weeks straight would be far more detrimental for the young family.

Is it my place as the mother to insist on what seems to me to be the fairest arrangement? Or should I allow my adult daughters to do what is comfortable for them?

A: Many years ago, I had a wonderful student who wrote in her application, “I come from a home that taught us if you never had to give up your room for guests, you had a deprived childhood.” This was borne out in every interaction this young woman had with others.

Your problem is what we call “a rich man’s tzuris.” You have, kein ayin hara:

  1. a number of children
  2. one of whom has found his zivug and has children of his own, and
  3. they want to come home for Yom Tov.

Our Torah teaches us that a man leaves the house of his father and mother to join his wife in creating a new entity, a new family. This new entity is not an integral part of the nuclear family the husband grew up in. Notwithstanding the beautiful maxim, “We didn’t lose a son, we gained a daughter” (which definitely describes how we feel about our wonderful additions), they do not live in your home any longer. “Their rooms” are no longer their rooms; the other children still living at home now occupy those rooms and have first claim on them.

Of course, the memories and the emotional sense of belonging still exist, but these do not create “rights.” Had you moved to a new house in the interim, there would be no rights. In a sense, this is what happened:

He moved out to a new house, and his “rights” have been transferred. So he no longer has those rights.

If we teach our children from a young age that family is included in the very special mitzvah of hachnassas orchim, welcoming guests, then there is a chance they will appreciate the opportunities that come up and be willing to give up their rooms. If this is not a part of their culture growing up — or even if it is — as they get older, it will become more and more difficult. The most challenging aspect is the expectation that someone coming to “my” house needs me to leave my space for his or her comfort. If I offer to give up my room, then that is a generous offer; more difficult is that feeling that someone else is entitled to my personal space.

When we give children their own rooms, we should discuss with them the fact that we want to continue hosting guests and other family members on a regular basis and make that a part of the agreement. If we do not give them the impression that having visitors is more important than accommodating them, it will be easier for them to comply when the situation arises.

Your home is open to all your children, and that is a beautiful attitude, if your other children feel they are taking part in your blessings. You need to understand your children’s side by discussing the issue with them, taking extra care to do so with the sensitivity required under the delicate circumstances you describe.

A single daughter who is older than her married brother still deserves her space as the older sibling. You write that one daughter would likely agree to have her nieces and nephews sleep in her room, but would probably say no to pairing up with her sister. It seems like you might be making assumptions without including them in the dialogue.

If your daughter would indeed rather have the children sleep in her room (a very generous offer) than share a room with her sister, is it fair to be more sensitive to her sister-in-law, who might not feel so comfortable? Is that discomfort comparable to a single girl moving out of her room? My mother always says, “If there’s room in the heart, there’s room in the house.” Your situation requires room in a few people’s hearts.

Obviously, every family dynamic is unique; children are different, as are their spouses. Some people are more flexible, others find it difficult. You made it clear that your daughters both really value their personal space. You need to sit down with them and put the problem on the table for having a discussion. You can lay down the ground rules: You would like your son and his family to be able to stay comfortably in your home.

Someone will have to be flexible. Do you do have the “right” to force your solution, because it is your house? The answer is yes, just as the kid who owns the ball can make the rules. However, finding a compromise would be a much better idea for the long run.

Your daughters will im yirtzeh Hashem find shidduchim in the near future, but the “problem” will continue when they return with their new spouses. Which room belongs to whom? Who comes first? If there is no dialogue, no flexibility on anyone’s part, then at some point, you will need to limit visits, stagger visits, or find other solutions. The best time to seek cooperation may be now.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 1005)

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