She lives two blocks away and it’s starting to feel impossible to not be at her beck and call. She has convinced her first daughter to continue living with her to help with daughter #2 and has now enrolled her daughter #2 at my children’s charter school (with questions of carpooling with us, etc). Her daughters have very much had behavior problems pretty typical to the situation. They are good girls and we do love them, but they are difficult to watch. They do not have much discipline or adherence to schedule. When she asks us to babysit, it is almost always an all-day/night affair. My husband and I feel we need to “deprogram” our two children, after we have watched hers, from the bad behavior they have seen displayed. We do love our nieces and this is hard to type.
My sister constantly forces herself upon us with “paying us back” when it’s not wanted or needed (i.e. she will show up and ask to take my daughter for the day and call to keep her overnight). It is great that she wants to try to reciprocate; however, it tends to be in times that we don’t prefer our daughter to be away.
My heart does go out to her being a single parent, but I don’t understand how she does not have childcare figured out at this point. She has a decent paying job and has the ability to pick up very good paying extra jobs during her slow months. She works in theater, which also adds to the chaos of her schedule.
She has exhausted me, my husband, our other sister, and our parents with this. My parents are always watching her daughters as well which leaves very little to give to their other two daughters with children. I have kept mostly quiet and let my mother vent, but it has been a point of contention with my middle sister. I want the children to see each other and I would like to help my sister out, but it turns into her constantly asking us. We’ve asked if we can help find childcare and have tried to explain it’s hard with our two and their different schedules. When we set those boundaries, she goes radio silent for months, but I know it turns out as an overwhelming amount of work for my other sister and mother. She doesn’t have a constant schedule, so there’s no trying to delegate it out.
Help! What do I do to get her to understand we want to help but that these weekly “emergencies” aren’t emergencies at all — it’s her just not planning properly? I don’t want to ruin or lose relationships, but I’m burnt out. Thanks for taking the time with this; I hope I have explained it properly. — Tired of Being Free Childcare
You’re not going to get her to understand that she isn’t planning properly. To her, she IS planning properly because she always manages to get free childcare! She’s kind of planning better than the rest of you, I’d say. She’s managed to get free childcare (and free housing?) for eighteen years!! And all of you have enabled her. There is literally no incentive for her to change. Until your whole family has a “come to Jesus” moment and decides together to stop enabling her and start setting collective, group boundaries, there will be no change.
I would strongly urge you to talk with your other family members about doing just this — setting up some collective boundaries, reclaiming your collective time, and standing firm. But just as you can’t control your oldest sister, you can’t control anyone else either. The only person you have control of is you, so start setting your own boundaries. Say “no” more often. Say “this isn’t a good time, but how about a play date on Saturday at our place for two hours before John and I go out to dinner” (it’s super important to have an end time!). Explain to your other family members that you are reclaiming your time, you will be saying no more often, and unless they follow suit, you are worried that they will get stuck picking up the slack and they’ll get burned out and not have time for you and your kids. Again, you can’t control how they behave, but you can certainly make your thoughts and opinions very clear. You can check in with them periodically and continue urging them to set some boundaries.
It’s likely that when you start setting these boundaries, your oldest sister may go “radio silent” on you again. I understand the pain and discomfort that might cause. You don’t want to lose the relationship – with her or her daughters. But just because SHE might go radio silent doesn’t mean that you have to. I would suggest you reach out to her and invite her to do things at a time that is convenient for you. Or you could invite her daughters over. Or you could say: “We miss you guys; we’re pretty free this weekend if you want to get together, or if you have something you need to do, we could watch the girls (or her younger one, since I’m sure the 18-year-old doesn’t need supervision, so I’m confused why you say your family “watches her daughters” all the time…) for a few hours on Sunday.” Again, when YOU reach out, YOU get to pick the time that is convenient for you (always have an “out” though — a specific end-time that is not flexible because you have plans at a specific time following the play date/babysitting session).
Finally, it sounds like you have a lot of resentment toward your sister, and while I get it to an extent, it’s important to remember that her behavior is supported by decades of enabling by your family. If you’re going to feel resentment, it really needs to extend to everyone who has had a hand in letting her believe that childcare can be free and irresponsible parenting will be rewarded. I suggest, however, NOT feeling resentment and, instead, releasing yourself of that burden. Accept that she is different than you are — that even though you were raised by the same people in the same environment, she’s an entirely different person with different strengths and different weaknesses and has made different choices that have led her down a different path. She SHOULD be lying in the bed that she’s made, but when everyone keeps helping her make the bed, she has failed to learn that lesson. It’s not too late to stop making her bed for her. And it’s not too late to be a role model and an example to her daughters for how to live responsibly and take ownership of one’s decisions.
Anytime she texts him or vice versa I have really bad anxiety, and this is starting to take a toll on my mental health (I have made an appointment with a therapist up help with the anxiety). He is not always honest with me about when they talk; he’s lied to my face and on occasion has admitted that he’s lied to avoid the same discussion over and over with no resolution.
This is clearly not in the best interest of my mental health; however, that does not seem to have any impact for him. He said he will not give up a friend because he would never ask me to do that. He’s divorced and said he won’t be told what to do anymore and my asking him to take my mental state into consideration is telling him what to do. This ex of his has tried to tell him that I clearly need mental help and that I’m not ready to be in a relationship. She tries to manipulate his opinion of me.
He tells me he loves me but he is unwilling to let go of an ex lover. I would have way less issue if they had been friends previously or if it hadn’t ended between them because he met me and that wasn’t long ago. The anxiety of the fighting makes me sick and I’m not sure how to get him to pick me over her. I’m afraid if I gave him some type of ultimatum, I would lose him or he would just try to hide the fact from me that he still talks to her, but I don’t want to be that person. I want to know how to either be okay with her or how to get her out of the picture entirely.
He also won’t stop talking to the woman with whome he had an affair that ended his marriage. I actually have less of an issue with her because they were friends before the affair. I don’t like who she is and their history, but I’ve been dealing with her better than his most recent ex-lover.
Everyone I’ve spoken to about this has told me he’s being disrespectful and I deserve better. Advice from an unbiased third party would be much appreciated. — Suspicious of the Ex
He’s being disrespectful and you deserve better. But, echoing my advice to the first LW today, I have to say to you: take responsibility for your own behavior here. Why are you relying on this guy you’ve known for six months to take care of your mental health? Shouldn’t that be YOUR top priority? And if you’re dating someone who is causing this much mental anguish, shouldn’t you MOA (you should). You say: “This is clearly not in the best interest of my mental health; however, that does not seem to have any impact for him.” Swap “me” for “him” and that’s how I’m reading your issue. Dating this guy is clearly having a big effect on your mental health. Is that having enough of an impact on you to leave? I sure hope so!
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.