The story of the future mother-in-law, Carolyn Bourne, and her email to her potential daughter in law, Heidi Withers, has ‘gone viral’ as the saying goes.

Heidi went to stay with her fiance’s step-parents and apparently disgraced herself while there – lying in bed in the mornings, saying what she would and would not eat, helping herself to more without being asked, and complaining that she did not have enough on her plate.

So Carolyn told her what she thought of her bad manners in an email. Heidi passed it on … and on …. and on.

So is Carolyn to be the ‘mother in law from hell’, the fulfilment of all those jokes about mothers in law which are now considered non-pc? And where does this leave Heidi? And what sort of relationship between them is going to be possible, assuming that she goes ahead and marries Freddie?


There’s no doubt that manners have changed in the last 40 years. Behaviour which we took for granted when I was in my 20s and 30s is no longer the norm, and sometimes it takes a bit of getting used to. Hub and I discuss it every so often, coming to the conclusion that, just because we behaved in such a way ‘when we were young’, does not make it mandatory on the next generation.

The next question is, then what are acceptable manners? I suspect this would have as many answers as there are people, especially in our current society where there are no clear agreements on what is right and wrong. I, for example, don’t mind if my ‘guests’ get up late – I’m not a morning person myself! But I do mind if they sit around all the time, expect to have all their own way and don’t give a hand with the washing up.

Maybe thinking in terms of manners isn’t all that important. What really matters is consideration and kindness for others. If we’re looking out for each other and take into account the feelings of others, then that will govern our behaviour, and will make us very much more pleasant guests in someone else’s home.


  1. Radio 4 have given this a lot of airtime calling it the Mrs Bouquet, (or is it Bucket)syndrome. Calling in all manner of etiquette experts and relationship psychologists to air their immortal words on the matter.

    I’m curious to know where the real parents are in all this, if these were the step-parents.

    We really do not know enough about the combination of issues to be able to honestly and comprehensively comment on the particular people in this scenario.

    It makes for a great topic on which to discuss in a wider context, the changes in generational mores, expectations and ethics.


  2. Surely wherever you are you try to fit in – turn up for meals on time and make a clear distinction between what you cannot eat for religious, moral or health (genuine, not fads) reasons (about which your hosts should be told in advance), the things you really don’t like and the things you just don’t fancy, but can take in small quantities for the sake of good manners. If help is employed thank them nicely and leave a tip, if (as is more often the case) your hosts do all the work, muck in nicely and don’t try to take over or tell them how they could do things better.


    1. I agree with all this and wish it were so. The problem arises when guests don’t behave like this. It is about selfishness and unselfishness, rather than those elusive things called ‘manners’, which are no longer acceptable to the younger generation (often, not always)- and which vary widely from culture to culture.


  3. Is this something to do with the thing on the news? Like she also wanted to get married in a Castle?

    Frankly on what you have posted I would have gone ‘ape’ had it been Becci bringing her fiancee round and the same behavour occured.

    If she had risen and he had not…he would have got the sharp end of my tongue….if they both had stayed in bed I would have left them.

    That was Highlands School, Ilford Essex.


    1. Yeah – that phrase was first coined by William of Wykeham who founded Winchester College.

      My point is that the generations no longer agree on what manners are. It’s better if we think of our qualities instead – is this behaviour considerate of others? – is the question to be answered!


      1. I disagree. I don’t think we’ve failed, if we’ve brought them up to be polite, and then they aren’t. I’m not talking about my own kids, by the way – we’re a close family and if we’re not happy with each other then we find a way of saying so. But I am puzzled as to why, when kids are brought up well, they then decide to behave badly – you expect it when they are rebellious teenagers, but some of them don’t ever grow out of that behaviour!


      2. I do not think the generation of today bar a few have any consideration.

        I will give Becci’s College mates their due…..mind this was a few year back….when they visited me…party…hangover…whatever…

        They were up, did washing up, cleaned ashtrays, cleaned the garden, walked the dog…just left me to make the tea and toast.;)

        Those children (now adults) are pillars of the community and I am proud of them..many I taught when a teacher (much to Becci’s dismay at being…Oh…My mum)

        P xx


      1. Would have been a ‘talk’ to her….she would have made all the excuses under the sun to have put him in a better light. But….I brought her up properly…proud to say…she would have understood what I was saying and then gone and spoken with him on the QT…

        Perhaps I am a lucky mum.

        #P xx


  4. May well be a sign of the times…:roll: Another example of Tennyson’s…’the old order changes…etc…etc’ ❓ Underlying moral values remain a fundamental concern…;)


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