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by Abigail Van Buren

House Is Too Small to Hold Both in Laws and Criticism

DEAR ABBY: My father-in-law, "Bert," and his wife of 10 years, "Mary," will be coming to town for a family reunion. My husband wants to invite them to stay with us. I'm reluctant to extend the invitation for a number of reasons. After the birth of our last child, we no longer have a spare room. The other reasons are emotional.

When Bert and Mary moved across country nine years ago, they would return every year for a 10- to 14-day visit. They always stayed in our guest room. Their last visit was three years ago, while I was pregnant with our youngest.

Mary actually told me she thought I was too old to be having another child. During their visits, I had to endure much criticism of my child-rearing skills from Mary, who is childless. They'd invite their friends and family to our home for dinners and barbecues that my husband and I had to provide. When our baby arrived, there was no acknowledgment from them. My husband didn't even get a phone call from them acknowledging his 40th birthday. I send them cards for every holiday and flowers at Christmas. I also send them pictures of the kids, which they never mention when we call.

Bert is always mentioning all his stocks and bonds, so I know they can afford a motel room. However, my husband thinks the "right" thing to do would be to invite them to stay in our home. I would much prefer inviting them for dinners and spending some time with them, and avoiding the stress of their staying with us. What do you think, Abby? -- FRUSTRATED IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR FRUSTRATED: I don't blame you for feeling frustrated. Mary appears to be one of those people who leave discord in their wake. However, since your husband would feel guilty if an invitation isn't extended to his father and Mary, invite them. In view of the fact that you no longer have a guest room to accommodate them, offer them a choice that includes reservations for them at a motel that's not too far away.