What I thought would be a few weeks’ arrangement turned into a year-long one as my dad’s “contacts” repeatedly fell through and his efforts to get a job proved fruitless. Finally, about six months ago, he found a job in another state and moved. Unfortunately, that job restructured after three months, and, although my dad was supposed to be transferred to another branch, that fell through, too. So now my dad is unemployed again with nowhere to go. He’s spent the last three months going from place to place looking for a job, with no luck, and is, once again, broke and on the verge of homelessness. Trust me when I say there is no one else around to help. I’m the last line of defense.
However, in the past year and a half, my financial circumstances have changed significantly. I left my downtown job to help my husband build our own business, meaning our income dropped in half, which is fine for us, but that means that renting my father a separate place again is not an option. The only thing we could do to help would be for my father to move into our spare room, and my husband is vehemently against it, to the point of saying that he will not stay in the house if my father moves in.
I certainly understand his position. We supported my father for a year, at a cost in excess of $20,000, counting rent, utilities, food, expenses and moving costs both to here and to where he got the last job. And none of that has been repaid, nor do I realistically expect it ever will be. So, there’s that. Plus, after the last time, there’s no guarantee that my dad would be leaving any time soon. We could end up with a permanent houseguest who does not/cannot contribute financially and whose presence seriously strains our marriage. And although we have a spare room, my husband and I work from home a lot and there isn’t really any place to go to get away. Plus, my husband isn’t overly fond of my father right now, and he just wants to he able to relax and be comfortable in his own home. He doesn’t want to live with and support his father-in-law indefinitely. I get that. I really do.
But, the thought of my father being homeless horrifies me and tears me up inside. I’m eaten alive with guilt for not doing more. I hate myself for even considering the possibility of letting him be homeless. I cannot eat or sleep. It’s hard to even work. I feel like it is my responsibility to take care of him, regardless of the cost, and that I’ve failed as a human being if I do not.
I don’t know what to do. Ignore my father’s situation and figure he will work it out eventually? I cannot do that if he is on the street. Or do I watch my marriage, business and the life I’ve worked hard to build for myself crumble because my father won’t/can’t support himself? That’s not really an option, either. Do you or your readers have any advice? Or suggestions for a solution I’m too in the middle of to see? — Worried Daughter
There are a couple of things it seems you are “too in the middle” to see or accept. The first is that by helping your father, while very well-intentioned, loving, and generous, you’re actually enabling him to take advantage of your — and your husband’s — kindness. Rather than keeping him from being homeless, it’s quite possible that your goodwill toward him is actually keeping him from reaching his full potential. He may not be working his ass off as much as he needs to to live the life he wants — or that you want for him, anyway — because he knows he has you and your husband to fall back on. After all, he got to enjoy a full year of all-expenses paid living while getting to live close to his daughter. Where’s the incentive to get back on his feet? Shame? A desire to take care of himself? Wanting to feel like a functional member of society? But what if he doesn’t care about all that? What if being comfortable is more important than being self-sufficient and you’ve made it possible for him to feel very comfortable for free?
The other idea that you don’t seem to be seeing clearly is that, if you lose your husband, marriage, and life you’ve built up to help your father, what resources are you going to have left to keep helping him? If the life you live is dependent on staying married to your husband, what happens when he leaves you because he can’t deal with his dead-beat father-in-law camped out indefinitely in his home? Where will that leave you? If you are the “last line of defense” in your father’s life, what happens when you can no longer support him in the event of an emergency? What then?
Your father’s life is a bit of a mess, due at least in part to him helping out your half-sister financially and “putting out her fires,” as you say. And now you’re at risk of messing up your life by trying to put out your father’s fires. Stop the cycle here. Let your dad put out his own fire. Help him find a hose and some water if necessary — urge him to apply for government aid, suggest he reach out to former contacts, tell him to hire a head-hunter and professional resume editor — but don’t put out his fires or you’ll find yourself with a fire of your own you aren’t able to control.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.