My problem is the somewhat “uneven” distribution of household chores. I find myself spending an upwards of four or more hours a day before and after work cleaning up after my sister’s children, taking care of her dogs, and trying to get as much yard work done as possible. Every morning before work I clean up after my nephews’ breakfast, walk the three dogs, water the yard and perform a number of other daily household chores. My sister never seems to be able to clean up after herself or her children. I understand that she is a single mother who has recently gone through a lot, and that can be a tremendous struggle in and of itself, but more often then not she has her friend come over and help her watch the kids or hang out with her as she watches me mop the floors or sweep up Cheerios her children leave around the house. I think that during the time she has another set of eyes on her children, she could at least bother with sharing some of the household’s burdens. It’s a sensitive matter because, every time I even try to mention it, she becomes upset and shouts that I’m calling her a bad mother.
My two brothers are always “offering” to help me out more, but, when push comes to shove, they never seem to be able to make it. On days when they’ve promised and failed to show up because “something came up,” I’ll often see that they’ve posted photos of themselves on Facebook of themselves relaxing at some lake or out with friends. A lot of the work I need help with requires heavy lifting and, strong as I may be, I’m not physically able to do it on my own and really could use their help. They both have good-paying jobs and the means and time to help, but they never seem to make the time. I mean, for shit’s sake, my one brother works in landscaping and has easy access to lawnmowers, hedge trimmers, and all of the other tools I need to use to get the outside in order. I’ve been using an old rusted push mower for months now because we don’t have an automatic one at the house.
My parents are old and not in the best of health, so I know they won’t be able to help out — nor should they be expected to when they have five able-bodied children, two of whom live at home and two of whom live within a few minutes’ drive.
To make matters worse, my oldest brother, “Kevin,” stops around the house frequently to go jogging through the neighborhood, do laundry, or even just “borrow” food. I’ve begged him to take the larger of the three dogs running with him but he never has. I walk the larger of the three dogs twice a day, about two miles around the track each time and then I have to come back and walk the two smaller dogs. Rinse lather repeat twice a day every day. I pay for all of the dogs’ medical and daily expenses, and I’m the only one who walks the dogs even though they aren’t even mine! To make things even MORE irritating, often when Kevin comes over he jokes about how “neglected” the dogs and the house are. I do everything in my power and beyond to make sure these dogs are well taken care of! Even when I’m worn out from work, mopping, dusting, taking out the trash, mowing the lawn, changing the cat box (oh yeah, there are two cats involved here), sorting my nephews’ toys, and sweeping the floors, those dogs get walked and played with. I’m a big animal rights activist and I would never sit by and let the dogs or cats go unattended to. I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night thinking the animals were left wanting. I know he’s only joking, but it still hurts. He gets to spend all of his free time doing what he enjoys and spending time with his girlfriend, but I can’t even find the time to see my boyfriend or practice my creative endeavors like music — which I went to college for.
I don’t make much money where I am now and I’m still willing to shell out as much as needed for cleaning supplies, dog supplies, and anything else. A few weeks ago I read something Kevin posted on Facebook about how “ridiculous” his parents home is, and I broke out in tears. It’s one thing to share a private joke with family, it’s another to post it on the internet for the world to see, and none of it was true anyway. My mother called him and tried to talk to him about it and he even left me a voicemail later with a half-hearted apology, but he and my other brother have yet to show up to help me with even some of the chores. Am I being taken advantage of here or am I being self-absorbed and jealous over my siblings’ freedom? What can I do to to elevate some of the strain? — “Tired of being Cinderella”
You are being taken advantage of, and you are 100% responsible for enabling that. You have made it beyond easy for everyone to take advantage of you. I don’t even understand why you are living at home. You say it’s to save money, but are you even saving anything at all when you spend so much on dog food and vet bills and cleaning supplies and “anything else” needed around the house? Move out already!! My God, the hours you spend cleaning up after everyone else could be spent at a second job if you really need the money that bad. Or you could, you know, have a life — you could hang out with your boyfriend, play music, and still stop by your parents’ home a couple times a week to help out in a much more manageable way.
Once your siblings see that you will no longer be doing everything, they will have no choice but to step up and help out. Your sister, especially, will have to take responsibility for her kids and her dogs. And all of you together — including your parents! — will have to discuss a way to divide household chores in a way that works for the seven of you. Maybe one brother does yard work, maybe you do some grocery shopping and cook a dinner for your parents once a week. Maybe you get your parents to hire cleaners once a week or twice a month! Can they afford that? If not, maybe among five children, you all can pitch in $25 a month to at least have the place deep-cleaned once every few weeks.
The point is, with four siblings, you should not be shouldering all the burden of caring for aging parents, and you sure as shit shouldn’t be shouldering the burden of caring for your sister’s dogs and her kids. What the hell is up with that? Get a backbone and say no to this! I get that you’re an animal rights person and all that, but what about YOUR rights? What about YOUR needs? You’re putting yourself last on the list of priorities and no one else but you is going to fight to move you closer to the top of your own list. As long as you take advantage of yourself, so will everyone else.
It’s time to set some boundaries, and the only way I see that happening is if you move out. It’s also time for your parents to step up and ask for help from someone other than you. Just because they’re old and in not-so-great health doesn’t mean they can’t call up one of your brothers and ask if he can come mow the lawn or trim the hedges. Also, maybe it’s time for them to think about downsizing. They obviously can’t maintain the upkeep of such a large house and yard, and neither can the rest of you, so why are they living there? Time to sell 80% of everything and move into a two-bedroom apartment or even an assisted living facility.
These are all things your family should be discussing. These are proactive steps toward maintaining independence and healthy boundaries among your family members. But, see, everyone else apparently feels fine with the status quo — the one in which you’re the only person doing anything — so no one else is going to bring it up. You have to. And no one is going to listen to you unless you move out and stop doing everything for everyone. Once your parents and siblings realize that shit has to be done and you’re not around to constantly do it, they will be much more open to creating a plan that works for everyone. Including you.
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csp June 27, 2016, 8:14 am
I think you need to act more like a manager and less like the hired help. Make lists for people, delegate, then then follow up. I mean, I know your parents are old, but they can’t dust? how old are the kids? can they have small chores? Your sister and brothers as well. Also, I like Wendy’s ideas about outsourcing some things. I know my husband and I both work full time and have a son. So we make the joke that we outsource a wife. So I get groceries delivered from Peapod. It is $8 a trip and then I tip the driver. But they bring the groceries to the house. Or I have a cleaning lady. I know house size varies but it is $85 a cleaning. It is worth every penny. You need to let people know how you feel. Did you tell your brother what you wrote here? Also, stop asking, and start telling. Next time your brother comes over, say “Take the big one” and hand him a leash. Then sit there and be quiet and make it uncomfortable. If he says no, look him in the eye and say, “this is the least you can do for me.” then sit there and make it uncomfortable. If he jokes it off, say. “We will have words when you get back and I want you to know that you are willfully making my life harder.” It is your life so take it back.
csp June 27, 2016, 11:53 am
one more note, this one really stuck with me because I feel for you so much. People need you to be specific about things. I remember my Husband’s Grandfather moved in with one of his daughters. The daughter that took him did 95% of the work and grumbled about the work load. However, people didn’t know how to help or what she needed. She expected people to just look around and help. Well, one day she just put the grandfather into a home without telling her sisters. The situation got so bad, that when he passed away, the aunt who cared for him for years did not attend his funeral. Nobody asked me but in hindsight, she should have sat down the family and said I expect the following from the kids, from the grand kids. You need to be firm and follow up. This will help in the working world as well. Fight for yourself
bagge72 June 27, 2016, 8:27 am
So you take care of your sisters kids, and pets for free, plus clean up after them while taking care of your parents? Your sister sounds like an asshole, who pulls out the bad mother card to keep you at her beck and call, I assume she is living there free of charge as well, and now she has a free housekeeper, who also pays her vet bills. Your brothers sound like they only care about themselves, because they know you will always be there to pick up the slack. So stop being there, start making unbreakable plans for yourself, and stick to them, everyone else around are grown-ups, they can figure things out for themselves, it seems like things might have to get worse for them to get better for you. I would also talk to your parents, and tell them this is something you have to do.
saneinca June 27, 2016, 9:18 am
No she is not taking care of the kids. Only cleaning up after them.
Brise June 27, 2016, 8:39 am
Wendy is 100% right. You have nothing to do there. You are an adult, stop playing the housemaid, or worse, the martyr. Just live your life instead of trying to control everybody, and complaining about your self-inflicted chores. Your parents are in charge of their house, not you. Let them sort out their situation: there are still in possession of their mind, Put your energy in finding a place to leave, finding a better job, exert your musical formation and build your life with your boyfriend. All this is your way of escaping your responsabilities.
PumpkinSpice June 27, 2016, 8:47 am
Wendy is right. The only way to make this stop is to move out. My parents used me as their personal maid from the age of 5/6. I have 2 brothers and 4 sisters. After I moved out, they had to pick up the slack. My youngest 2 sisters and brother suffered the brunt of it (picking up the slack). And they ran like hell to college or the Army. Now my parents have to do it themselves. You need to move out and live your own life and dreams. I moved out at 19, and have never regretted it, even if it meant struggling to put food on the table and keep a roof over my head.
va-in-ny June 27, 2016, 9:18 am
Seriously, the only way to stop being the person doing all the chores, is to stop doing all the chores!
When your sister is finished serving your nephew breakfast, leave the breakfast for her to clean up! Don’t mow the lawn! Let it grow! At some point, one of your brothers should step up and do it.
None of them do the things you want them to do because you’re just going to do it anyway. Sure, you’re being taken advantage of, but you’re allowing them to do so and then griping when they don’t do what you want them to do.
Flip the table. Do what they do. You might be surprised at how much the others will step up once they realize that no one else is going to do it.
saneinca June 27, 2016, 9:30 am
There are a few questions:
1. Who owns the house ? Your sister or parents ?
2. If there is mortgage to be paid, who is paying it ?
3. Does your sister work at all ?
4. Who cooks the meals ?
5. Who owns the dogs ? Who used to care for them before you moved back home ? Who owns the cats
6. Whose decision it was to have a animal menagerie without planning to care of them ?
I am asking these questions, because the owner of the pets is the person who needs to take care of them. Or if they can’t take care like your parents, they should give them up to people like your brother ‘Kevin’ who seems to be concerned with their state of welfare.
Ale June 27, 2016, 9:41 am
I’m sorry LW, but I know your type. Does everything, complains about not getting any help, plays the martyr in the situation, continues to do everything the same. I know your type because I am the same. Always complaining about having to do everything and never doing something to change the situation.
The only logical way out for this is, like EES, moving out. If you “make lists, delegate, start putting more responsibilities on other people”, you will hit a brick wall. These people have not helped you before, they won’t compromise to do something now. You need to move out. Help with what you CAN do. Start thinking about yourself.
dinoceros June 27, 2016, 9:45 am
What incentive is there for them do anything if they know you’ll do it yourself? I get that a person with some sort of integrity would have enough intrinsic motivation to help out on their own, but your siblings seem self-absorbed and lazy.
Moving out as soon as possible is the key. I think you need to adjust what you’re doing around the house to help make that happen faster. So, if you’re spending too much on cleaning supplies and other stuff to save money, then stop. If you’re spending too much time on it to make enough income, then reduce your time.
No one is going to set boundaries for you but you.
Wendy (not Wendy) June 27, 2016, 10:29 am
Just FYI, the “vast majority” of your generation does not live at home to save money. I think I read a statistic that 25% of recent college graduates are moving home. There’s nothing wrong with it in and of itself, but don’t use that idea to make excuses for why you’ve made these choices. I think most parents are making a mistake by not charging their kids rent (outside of personal crisis, temporary) and most kids are making a mistake by not offering it. If you pay rent and clean up after yourself, your obligations are done.
bittergaymark June 27, 2016, 11:45 am
Honestly? Yeah. Move out. And for the love of Pete, stop paying other people’s vet bills. As a dog walker you should be making 100 or more a day for those three dogs if you walk them multiple times…
Northern Star June 27, 2016, 11:58 am
Okay, your parents are aging, but are they bedridden? Wheelchair-bound? I get not wanting them to do heavy yard work, but are they unable to perform basic household tasks? Why are your parents a non-factor in their own home? Why don’t they have an opinion about your sister staying in their home and not cleaning up after her kids?
Regardless of the answers: Just move out. Nobody’s going to die if Cheerios are left unswept and the mantle isn’t dusted for awhile. Someone who actually lives in the house will have to step up. I kind of get why your brothers aren’t doing so, because both of their sisters are living rent-free in their parents’ home, while they are supporting themselves. Maybe they figure doing some cleaning and care taking is the tradeoff.
bittergaymark June 27, 2016, 12:09 pm
Honestly? Yeah. The attitude of the brothers seems more than justified. The REAL problems is the mother of the year. Oh, and the LW’s parents who apparently do absolutely fucking nothing. Never mind lifting a finger, how fucking hard is it to open one’s mouth…
honeybeenicki June 27, 2016, 12:25 pm
Plus if there’s 3 dogs, how many Cheerios are REALLY left? I think my 1 dog eats everything half a second before it hits the ground.
SpaceySteph June 27, 2016, 1:47 pm
I was totally thinking this. My dog is my kitchen floor cleanup crew, it’s the way he contributes to the household.
dinoceros June 27, 2016, 3:27 pm
I sort of wondered what “aging” meant, too. My aunt and uncle are 70 and 75, and they still do all their normal household chores. I’m sure one of their kids comes over for big chores, but they don’t have any desire for people to treat them like their bedridden.
Vathena June 27, 2016, 12:40 pm
What the hell? Why are you doing this to yourself? It doesn’t seem like anyone has forced you to take on all these tasks. Presumably they were somehow getting done before you moved back in. So just stop! Do as much as you feel like doing, and no more. There’s no need to martyr yourself to this situation. Are you hoping that your siblings and parents will wake up one day and start appreciating everything you do for them? It doesn’t sound like that’s going to happen. So stop doing the chores! Save up, and move out.
csp June 27, 2016, 1:50 pm
So I am wondering if the house was filthy and in disrepair before she started doing this and maybe the dogs are neglected. Like she feels like she can’t live that way and maybe she doesn’t want her family to live that way
SpaceySteph June 27, 2016, 2:03 pm
I did start by thinking that chores seem a fair trade for living in the parents’ house rent-free, but the amount of chore time is excessive. I don’t feel like any house really needs 4 hours a day of upkeep and if you give it that then it better be pristine sparkling clean. I am wondering if maybe the LW holds things to a higher level of cleanliness than is feasible…
If sister wants to leave dirty breakfast dishes in the sink until she gets home from work, does that matter? If grass is only cut once every other week instead of every week, isn’t that ok? And why bother sorting the kids toys? Kids live there, they have toys, so what?
LW — you should pick a feasible amount of time–2 hours max– to devote to house chores and prioritize accordingly. (And don’t prioritize taking care of your sister’s kids, that’s her job and i bet she’ll step up if you stop enabling her)
I will say it’s nice you walk the dogs and maybe should consider reframing the dog walks as not in the same bucket as other chores. I mean, I walk my dog about 2 miles a day, but I think of that as exercise for both of us. Unless you have a super-physical job, it’s good for you to get this daily walking. Listen to music or a podcast, take some deep breaths of fresh air, and be happy for the time to yourself to get some exercise and get out of what sounds like a kinda crazy house. (That said, can you cut their walks down from 2 miles each, or walk all 3 together? Maybe they can get the extra energy out by running in the yard, if you have one?)
And finally, if your parents aren’t destitute, you should talk to them about maybe taking some of the burden off of their children (all of their children). Can you guys hire a lawn company (maybe even work out a deal with the brother’s lawn company)? Or a maid once a week– or even once a month?
Essie June 27, 2016, 2:30 pm
The curious thing here is the lack of any mention of the parents doing anything about their own house. How old are they? Given the LW’s age, unless they had her when they were in their 50’s, they’re not very elderly. I mean, my mother is 83 and she cleans her place and does the shopping and manages the household just fine. My dad was still doing all of the yard work at 90.
The bottom line here is, LW, they’re not doing anything because you’re doing it all. It gets done without them having to. Yes, it would be nice if they’d offer, but if it’s all done without their having to offer…they’re gonna let you do it.
So, as others have said, move on out. Move in with friends temporarily if you have to. Or, get a second job. If you’re going to work day and night, you might as well be getting paid for all of it. You’ll have the money to move out sooner, and they’ll learn to deal with the house and kids because they’ll have to.
Dear Wendy June 27, 2016, 3:27 pm
From the LW:
Dear Wendy June 27, 2016, 3:30 pm
It doesn’t sound to me like you have any intention at all of moving out, even though you give a little lip service at the end of your spiel about it being the right advice. So I’m wondering: what problems/challenges/questions in your own life are you trying to avoid by focusing on all the problems and challenges in your family members’ lives?
dinoceros June 27, 2016, 3:30 pm
I think you need to consider what the long term plan is. If you’re sticking around because you are afraid of what would happen when you left, are you not planning to leave ever? Because at a certain point, you’ve got to, if you want to have your own adult life. It’s great to help, but as adults, they’re going to have to figure out how to handle all this stuff without you. Whether it’s now or later isn’t going to affect them much, but it’ll affect you.
Anonymousse June 27, 2016, 3:58 pm
Exactly what Wendy said. It sure sounds like you clean and take care of everyone (really, four hours of cleaning a day?) because you want to, and because you also enjoy complaining about all of it. And for the record, you are holding all those things against your sister and very much have an “I told you so” attitude. So, are you staying there rent free? Sounds like it. And I also call into question the food all over from the kids….if there was even one dog I wouldn’t believe that…three? Really?
Move out into an apartment all on your own. Problem solved.
SpaceySteph June 27, 2016, 4:26 pm
I think if you honestly are afraid your father will drop dead while doing yard work on his own house then your parents need to move from this house into a smaller, more manageable place.
Which unfortunately means your sister and you will have to grow up and take responsibility for yourselves because you won’t have a soft place to land with mom and dad anymore.
You might be able to get your brothers onboard with this, though… they may even be relieved without the weight of all the help they aren’t providing for their aging parents on their shoulders. It gives everyone, you included, the chance to live your own lives.
csp June 28, 2016, 7:13 am
Oh LW, I really feel for you. Here are three things I will say:
1.) No matter how hard you work, you can’t fix people.
2.) You will have a better relationship with your siblings if you get some space. If you got your own apartment, it can be a place where your nephew, dogs, and parents can visit. You can give what you want and retreat when you need to.
3.) The biggest fallacy about the “yard work” or “shoveling snow” heart attack is that somehow the heart attack wouldn’t have happened. If someone is going to have a massive heart attack, it will happen regardless.
4.) The dog might still be able to be yours. If you decide to leave, ask for the dog. If they say no, say “who will walk the dog?”. Then come back a week later and ask if the dog is getting walked and if it is fair for the dog. Say the nephew can visit and have sleep overs.
5.) You can be a really good role model for these kids. You can be a model of what hard work, independence, and standing on your own. Please think about cultivating the life you want and still be the dutiful daughter within that context. You can go over an help around the house once a month. Once you get your feet under you, you can buy them a roomba to help with cleaning. You can go over for Sunday dinners and do the dishes and clean the kitchen as a thank you. You can be both things.
bagge72 June 28, 2016, 7:23 am
I don’t think you should feel that bad for the LW at all, it seems like she is the only one putting her self in this situation, it doesn’t seem like there is a single person forcing her to do this, and not a single person making her stay in this situation. You don’t hear anything about “if you live under my roof you’ll follow my rules” type BS, it really is all the fear in her head that somebody in her family might not like her if she doesn’t do all of these things.
csp June 28, 2016, 7:39 am
See, I think she is paralyzed by this because she loves them. I am making the assumption here that the house would be filthy without the LW. And she doesn’t want to see her family live is squalor. I mean, 3 unwalked dogs and hours of chores. It sounds like she is rearranging chairs on the titanic. I think she needs a way of seeing that she can step back lovingly and be better for herself and her family if she does so. She sees this as dooming the family and pets if she walks away and what she needs to see is that there is a middle road.
bagge72 June 28, 2016, 7:20 am
So you parents are still capable people who are still working, and you think because they have depression they are going to drop dead from a little house work? I get that you don’t want your father out in the sun pushing a non-motorized lawn mower, but how does that keep them from keeping the inside of their house clean? Why can’t they take care of the inside while you take care of the outside. I see nothing but excuses being made here. Honestly, move out, and let your sister take care of the house she gets to live in for free, and then show up once a week to help clean, and every other day you visit just hang out and enjoy the kids, and whoever your sister moves in to the house next. Then once your parents really need your help move them into your house, and leave their house to your sister, it’s just the natural progression of things here.
saneinca June 28, 2016, 11:12 am
Let us see:
– Your parents allowed your sister to move in a deadbeat BF and have another child on top of the special needs child she already had
– Your parents do not ask your brothers to pitch in and help with yard work or walking the dogs
– They would not lift a finger to help inside or outside the house – cause you know depression
– But parents and brothers keep talking about supporting and keeping the family together
I think they are not pulling their weight because you are there. Once you are not available, people start fixing issues themselves.
saneinca June 27, 2016, 4:28 pm
LW, in that case you should move out even quicker. Before your sister starts her 3rd pregnancy.
And keeping the dog for the sake of a child is even more silly. He is young and get over it even if the dog is gone.
Look, your parents should have kicked your sister when she hooked up with the second loser . If could not take care of her kid, she would have dropped him with your parents and ran out as irresponsible as she was ( or is). Again, is she working at all ? Who is supporting her financially ?
Let your parents sell the house if they cannot take care of it. Your sister is on her own or one of your siblings will take care of her in future.
Ron June 27, 2016, 4:38 pm
You can’t take of your sister. If you try to be her little mommy, she is going to hate you for it. What about your life? You say you have a bf, but really, how can you ACTUALLY have a real bf with the time commitments you describe. Live your own life. It sounds like you are throwing it away on people who actively dislike you for throwing your life away on them. You have a martyr complex. This is a case where a personal therapist really could help you to get your head on straight. Really, you are throwing your life away because you don’t think your sister would take good enough care of her dogs if you left? You needed to move out yesterday, but please do so tomorrow. Have you actually saved any money, or have you spent it caring for your sister’s dogs. You don’t say a word about what your bf thinks of all of this and what extremely little time you must devote to your relationship. I don’t think you actually have a bf.
S June 27, 2016, 8:56 pm
LW — you came for advice and you received advice. Then you proceeded to make more excuses why you need to continue to play dog-sitter, kid-sitter, mommy daddy sitter, house cleaner, yard worker, shopper… it goes on and on.
The definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing and expecting a different result.
Your situation will not change as long as you choose to live in Crazy-ville and martyr yourself.
Get a life. Get an apartment. Leave the dogs. Get a job. Get two jobs. Your parents sound like they have a brain. If they get sick of the situation post-move-out — then I’m sure they’ll do something about it. Tell Kevin he’s in charge of mom and dad’s well being. The End.
Ozarty June 27, 2016, 11:02 pm
LW: This is one hot mess of everyone being too afraid to make the hard decisions necessary. Right now: If your mom wants your sister to stay with them, then your parents need to assist with childcare so your sister can get out of the house and start working. Your sister needs to be empowered to work so she can take future care of her family, without needing ‘handouts’ from family or the latest boyfriend. Dogs: Why can’t your sister put the kids in a pram and get outside with the dogs? It would be good for all of them! Yardwork: Ask your brother for a quote to do the yardwork, once a month, with your other brother assisting. ALL of you contribute to this cost (including your sister, who should be WORKING). Housework: all adults living in the house should be contributing to the housework. Assign jobs to everyone if you have to. If it’s too hard – then your parents need to sell up and downsize. Accept what you can for the house as it currently is – realistically, if they haven’t been able to take care of it up till now, they are not going to suddenly get the energy or money to do a major rehaul. Accept that things aren’t perfect; make the best with what you’ve got. Finally, move out and live your own life, where you can live it the way you want. If you really can’t afford it, then make changes, or accept your family for who they are. Do something or quit complaining!
If your dad can’t take care
bittergaymark June 27, 2016, 11:20 pm
LW1) You are living in Fantasy Land. I understand why — but sweetie, you simply cannot MAKE your siblings better people. And frankly, they sound pretty fucking terrible. I feel your pain. Especially about your sister who is why I am PRO-ABORTION. Not pro-choice, PRO-ABORTION… You can either take care of everyone else? Or take care of yourself. The choice is yours…