How long is reasonable for a world-traveling sister to drop in and live with us (a family with small children)? And how do I gently help her to go? Am I being the family jerk?
posted by radagast to human relations (45 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
My sister-in-law (SIL) is a world traveler, but no permanent home, job, or funds. For the past 3 years she's dropped in whenever the current job has ended and stayed anywhere from a couple weeks to a few months. She has a knack for languages, so she ends up working for NGOs or small businesses in countries like Japan, Mongolia, or China.
We have a small house and two small kids (4 & 6); two bedrooms (both occupied), plus a foldout couch. I work fulltime+some; wife doesn't but very busy. Kids both in school. Last time SIL stayed, she was unemployed for around 3 months before leaving for Mongolia - this was about a year ago. She's back, and this is her third stay with us - it's not longish yet, but I'm worried it might be.
What I've said is, as family she's welcome anytime for a visit, and she can always stay for a week or two. The problem is without a job or apartment lined up now, I'm afraid it'll be another 3 month stay, and I don't want to have to say anything mean before she decides to find a place for herself. I guess I should add that while we don't fight, we're not great friends: I don't enjoy talking to her. She doesn't seem to have other friends in our city.
She's not super-ambitious: she's 40; she tends to watch a lot of TV and surf the net, maintain strange hours (reasonable, I guess, with the time difference), leaves the house once a day to buy food for herself. She will babysit once in a while (maybe twice a month?), but not drive kids around, errands, or housework. She doesn't eat with us or go out with us on weekends. She doesn't have a big impact on the house - but she does take up the living room and couch. I'm sure she'd let us watch TV if we asked, but it's awkward having someone sleeping on the couch half the day, and I can't take a shower without walking past her in a towel. She buys some of her own food.
She can't stay with her mother, father or brother : she says they won't let her stay with them anymore. My wife can't really say no to her. I think she enjoys having her sister around for a visit, but I feel having her around wears thin on my wife's patience after a while (which mostly should be reserved for the kids' shenanigans), which ends up making people unhappy. I think if I didn't say anything, she would be able to tolerate the sister for a pretty long time (months), but not be internally very happy about it. My wife ends up sneaking her money from time to time (sent her $1000 about a month ago to help her return from Mongolia).
So what's reasonable for a sister-in-law? She's only 1 week into her stay now, but she hasn't started looking or talking about a job or apartment. Should I wait another week before asking her about moving out? Should I say something now, or is that rude? Should I say it myself or is it more polite to come from my wife? (On my side of the family, we've had a sister stay once for 3 months, so my wife wants some "equality" for her side: on the other hand, that sister had a fulltime job the entire time, and is now married and owns her own house, so it's not a perennial thing like with SIL).
If we do nothing, SIL will probably end up staying around another 3 months; she'd like to relax, take some time to find another NGO job out of the USA that she likes, and prefer not to have to get any apartment in the US while she does that. We haven't really talked about it yet : I want your advice before I say anything I shouldn't!
As anyone with small kids knows, family life with a fulltime job is already pretty stressful; we're trying to settle a lawsuit from wife's past business; and all marriages needs constant upkeep. Yeah, I'm looking for the magic answer that resolves all conflicts and makes everyone happy - or failing that, some advice on how not to be a jerk to family! Thanks metafilter!