Washing the sink
Before they arrive, I spend half an hour cleaning the house because I know their expectations. Your home is your kingdom and if your kingdom ain't spic-and-span, then it's value drops exponentially... at least in their eyes.
After hanging up their coats and dropping their bags at the door, we get ready for lunch. The table is set, the food is being heated up (my parents bring it because, to them, I can't cook), and my mother turns on the tap in the kitchen and begins washing the sink. Yes, the sink.
Even though I washed the dishes before they came, the sink wasn't clean enough for my mother. I see her scrubbing away, taking the water stopper out and using the Brillo pad on it - this takes precedence over eating.
"It's a good thing I'm here to do these things," she says, exhaling and nodding her head in disagreement.
"No one told you to wash the sink," I reply while sitting at the dining room table with my father.
She raises her head and glares at me. She doesn't care for my answer.
Since she has nothing to do, my mother feels like she needs to do something in order to feel needed. Anything. She no longer needs to raise her children (they're grown), be a romantic partner (my parents love each other, but my dad is past the smooshy stuff), or work to please her boss (she's retired). Her worth as a mother, wife and employee has dropped and she needs to be reassured that she's still wanted (she is, but doesn't need a participation ribbon). Like most mothers, she just wants people to tell her "oh, you shouldn't have" even though she's the one who shouldn't.
Inevitably, she comes to the table and we have lunch. The sink washing doesn't come up in conversation. If she wants to feel wanted, next time I'll tell her my bathroom tile needs to be regrouted.