Newlywed from Rochester, NY says: Hi Caroline - My mother-in-law has a key to our house ands seems to think it's OK to pop in, which is lovely. However, she thinks unlocking the door and letting herself in without knocking is OK, because she doesn't want to startle us or wake us up. I think she's coming from a good place, but it's uncomfortable not knowing when she's going to pop up! What's a good way to approach this and still make her feel welcome and comfortable in our home? We tried politely encouraging the doorbell a couple of times, but it didn't take.
Caroline says: If you have a good relationship with her, tell her the truth. It's all in the delivery; put your arm around her and tell it like it is. Explain to her that you welcome her visits, but you're looking to avoid an embarrassing situation. If you can infuse a little light-hearted humor, that's even better. Hug it out and make sure she gets where you're coming from.
The bottom line is this; it's your house and you're entitled to your privacy. Allowing it to continue only makes it harder to diffuse, and although her intentions are good, it can become an uncomfortable situation and ultimately cause hard feelings. Nip it in the bud while it's new and avoid a bigger problem down the road.