Not wanting to share condo---major guilt
July 30, 2011 4:52 PM   Subscribe

We bought a condo in a resort town and I feel guilty about the fact that I am not excited about my adult sister and her family or my adult brother and his family or my husband's siblings and family using it.

I have been approached by my bro and sis with little hints about using it. I don't know why but I feel selfish about it and feel like if I start letting them use it, it could become a problem.

Actually I don't even feel like inviting them to stay with us in it when we are in it! I feel like it is our family retreat. (we have 2 adult kids and a high school-er)

I guess I am confused about my selfish feelings and yet I have seen what kind of togetherness can happen when it is just "one big happy family" in a family summer home. As in, very little peace and quiet, many comings and goings and not a lot of order. I wish I were a person who believed "the more the merrier" but that is not how I am wired.

We have hosted my sister and her family and my brother and his family one time in the year we have owned it. We have not yet invited my DH's family. They have not hinted at it yet.

My husband is in a pressure cooker job with tons of travel so he goes there to relax. He is more social that I am though and would not be bothered to have relatives there from time to time.

Help me understand my guilt and are there any easy solutions for not being a scrooge but still maintaining major privacy?
posted by seekingsimplicity to Human Relations (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You don't have to let anyone use your property simply because they're family. You could, however, rent it to them. In fact it's kind of beyond the pale for anyone to suggest that you effectively foot the cost of someone's vacation simply because you own property in a resort area. That way if it comes up again, you could state: "I'd be happy to let you rent it for a week. The going rate at similar places is $X000 per week but for family I would price it at $X000/n." Just make sure the price is the same no matter what family member you're quoting to -- in case they compare notes. Make sure you and your husband are on the same page about this.

You also shouldn't feel guilty for not wanting to play hostess on your vacation. It really is quite presumptuous of anyone to ask, even if they are low-maintenance house guests. You're entitled to peace and order on your vacation, however you define those things. You are NOT being selfish. Don't let anyone make you out to be the big meanie. It's your prerogative to invite them, not for them to invite themselves. I suppose it comes down to what your family dynamic is, and how much you're expected to cater to a blood relative under every circumstance.
posted by contessa at 5:06 PM on July 30, 2011 [6 favorites]

I don't have a vacation home, but I have relatives who do. It would honestly never occur to me to "hint" that I would like to use it without first getting a very explicit invitation from them.

It's a new thing for you -- of course you want the chance to settle in and enjoy it for yourselves before playing hostess, if you ever do. Especially if you're "wired" to like a bit more quiet. I understand your guilt (I would feel the same way) but the interwebz is telling you "it's ok."

So let yourself off the hook for not wanting to extend invitations just yet -- you're not obligated to do so. I think a non-specific "this isn't a good time for guests just yet" could work to keep the family at bay for a bit. Maybe after you've had some time to feel more at home in the new space, you'll figure out in more detail what your limits are for visitors.
posted by pantarei70 at 5:26 PM on July 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

I agree with contessa that you "shouldn't feel guilty for not wanting to play hostess on your vacation"! Sounds like you and your husband need a break, and you should feel free to ignore any "little hints about using it" (ick).

If they come right and ask to use your condo, here's how to say "no," Miss Manners style: "The polite way to refuse is to precede the denial with an apology but no excuse."

This link gives several examples of her suggested phrasing. My favorite is: "We'd love to, but I'm afraid it's impossible," though you might prefer "I'm terribly sorry, but we can't." (Don't try to soften the "no" any further -- for example, by adding statements like, "You know that [Your Spouse] has a pressure cooker job and he really needs to relax." That just leaves a loophole for uninvited guests to exclaim "Oh! We'll be really quiet! You won't know we're here!")
posted by virago at 5:31 PM on July 30, 2011 [4 favorites]

Ditto Contessa's answer.

I live 3 hours from the ocean and there are plenty of people here who have vacation homes at the beach. Unless you have a family tradition of "all together" vacations or want to start one . . . stick with offering up your place on a rental basis. I've rented from my uncle, a cousin and 2nd cousin, a boss and a former roommate. Didn't think twice about paying and yes, there was a 'family/friend' discount involved. Conversely, I was extra special careful to leave the places better than how I found them (all dishes washed & put away, fridge cleaned up, paper products stocked, all borrowed beach chairs cleaned off, etc).
posted by jaimystery at 5:32 PM on July 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

"I'm sorry, all our weekends this year are booked up with friends, relatives and the kids' friends. You get first choice for your weekend next summer though!"

Essentially, start now to make it a routine that they get one week or one weekend each summer. Be very, very cheerful about this.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:33 PM on July 30, 2011 [4 favorites]

Er: If they come right out and ask ...
posted by virago at 5:34 PM on July 30, 2011

(That would be an errata notice for my answer, obvs.)
posted by virago at 5:35 PM on July 30, 2011

PS: If any of my parents or siblings offered to rent me their vacation home, I would be shocked. Uncles, cousins, whatever but sorry, no, not siblings.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:35 PM on July 30, 2011 [19 favorites]

I agree that you don't have to share your home with extended family just because it's in a nice vacation spot. However, because you are conflicted, you might want to think about having a kind of open house on a holiday weekend once a year. Memorial Day maybe, a 3-day weekend so nobody overstays their welcome!

It could serve a triple purpose --- all the extended family gets together for a limited time period, you satisfy people's desire to visit your vacation place (and quash any grumbling that you don't invite them), and your immediate family gains a renewed appreciation for the quiet solitude you usually enjoy there. Plus the whole family gets a new tradition.

But you don't have to. It's your home.
posted by headnsouth at 5:38 PM on July 30, 2011

Response by poster: My sister can be quite bold---she knows me very well----and when I told her we bought it she said---"good! now I have a condo in ______ and a house in______(my parents summer home)." as if what is mine is hers!

What it comes down to is that I want to let people use it on my terms and my terms have not been determined---- so I am stressing about being asked by my siblings-----can we meet at your condo on _______ weekend?

I appreciate all the responses so far. Very helpful.
posted by seekingsimplicity at 5:42 PM on July 30, 2011

I'm with DarlingBri: I'd be happier to hear a flat-out "No" then "I'll rent it to you" from close family. But I think this is something that may vary widely from one family to another. I come from a family where you Don't Talk About money — and you certainly Don't Haggle Over money.

If you don't mind letting some relatives use it sometimes, and its just a matter of setting terms, then you have an easy out if someone asks. Say "yes" to the general idea of having some guests sometime, and "sorry, don't know yet" or "sorry, now's not the time" to any specific inquiries. "Oh, yeah, we'd love to have you over. That would be awesome. Things are kind of crazy right now, but let's make plans when Husband and I have had a chance to catch our breath."
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:48 PM on July 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the update, seekingsimplicity.

At first, I was going to say that your situation sounds like a conflict between Ask vs. Guess culture.

tldr; In Ask Culture, you feel free to ask for whatever you want, but you also realize that you have to roll with it if you get "no" for an answer. In Guess Culture, you don't make any overt requests unless you're pretty sure the answer will be "yes."

But it doesn't sound like your sister asked if she could use your place. She just skipped right over that step and proceeded to make plans on the assumption that "su casa es mi casa."
posted by virago at 5:48 PM on July 30, 2011

Whoops, wrong link: Ask vs. Guess culture.
posted by virago at 5:50 PM on July 30, 2011

How about: "Steve is so under the gun right now at work that being able to escape to our beach house is the only thing keeping us sane. So it won't be possible to loan it to you anytime soon. But let's get our calendars out and pick a week next spring/summer when we can all get together there."

If your sister keeps pressuring you, just tell her: "Look, this is still new to us and we're still figuring out how often we want to be there and what we're going to do about it when we're not there. You need to let me work this out on my terms and right now I'm feeling a lot of pressure from you. Give us a chance to sort this out on our timetable, not yours. Truth be told, we're probably going to just use it ourselves and have the occasional family weekend. But since you like the area so much, I'd be happy to introduce you to the real estate agent we used to help us find this place."

Do not fold under duress and give in to something you don't want to agree to. It's going to be a lot harder to backpedal than to draw a firm line right now.
posted by Kangaroo at 5:54 PM on July 30, 2011 [9 favorites]

If you get asked before you are ready to answer, practice this sentence so it rolls off your tongue without having to think about it...

"We have no plans to entertain guests yet. I'll get back to you when we are ready."

I like the idea of having an open house only once per year for a finite holiday weekend.

Maybe this combo would get you the buffer you clearly need and deserve?
posted by jbenben at 5:55 PM on July 30, 2011 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: My parents have a lake house and have recently limited the amount of time we as kids can use it and I can totally relate! They live there all summer and need some peace and quiet so they gave us all a week. or maybe 2. (cannot remember because I don't take it all).

I am also finished with vacationing with my family! I have my own family now and even though the lake house is very appealing, I have enough interaction with my family of origin when we spend a couple of long weekends there. weeks of togetherness are not my favorite.
posted by seekingsimplicity at 5:56 PM on July 30, 2011

It sounds like you are pretty close with your sister, so why not just tell her the truth? "For now, I really want the time I spend there to be with my husband and our kids as our little retreat. When we aren't there, I want it to sit empty, so that it remains exactly as we left it." (Or, fill in the correct reason why you don't want her there when it's not being used, if that's not true.)
posted by Houstonian at 6:03 PM on July 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

In case you're still wondering who's not normal here, it's your siblings. Your sister especially sounds like a real "gimme" sort of person.

I'd hold the open house one weekend a year in season (or not) and otherwise be unapologetic about the fact that it's your house. That isn't selfishness. You haven't gone into a lot of detail, but your original question hinted that you've had prior experience with what happens when everyone invites themselves over
posted by randomkeystrike at 6:39 PM on July 30, 2011

"We're just really not set up to accomodate guests now. I'll be sure to let you know if that changes..."

It's beyond rude, I think, even for close family to invite themselves over as houseguests, and completely within your rights to refuse any requests of this sort.
posted by psycheslamp at 7:24 PM on July 30, 2011

Sounds like your parents set the tradition of limitation. You can just tell everyone you have decided to do the same thing. That way it's much harder to argue against. Precedent has been set.
posted by Vaike at 7:33 PM on July 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Blech, I would be really bothered by this too. I agree that you shouldn't feel guilty but I also understand why you feel that way (I dislike being a hostess and all that hostessing entails, and I also kind of weirdly dislike having people in "my space").

One important note: You must say no and stick with it. If you let them stay even once, it's going to be much tougher to say no after that.
posted by imalaowai at 8:03 PM on July 30, 2011

If I had a vacation home, I would expect that my extended family would spend time there and I would never, ever, offer to rent it to them. My husband is more like you are, and so we would have to work on a set schedule rather than the free for all that is my family's norm. If your extended family's norm is not something that you're comfortable with, you're going to have to be completely explicit, otherwise there will be confusion and you will be stepped on which will lead to resentment and so on and so forth.
posted by crankylex at 8:34 PM on July 30, 2011

Just an added note about the "varies by family" factor. This sort of thing can vary drastically within families as well. My younger sister and I are fairly generous and not particularly materialistic. Our sister is quite the opposite. She was getting rid of an old car just as I was discussing buying one - and when I asked her what she wanted for it, she emailed me the Kelly Blue Book trade-in value for the car. I politely declined. We all gossiped about her lack of generosity. Conversely, my younger sister popped off to Afghanistan and begged me to take her car while she was gone. When she realized she would be staying longer, she offered me an excellent deal to buy it and told me to pay whenever it was convenient, that she had no particularly urgent need for the money.

Maybe your guilt stems from the fact that your personal philosophy differs from that of your family - perhaps you feel awkward that you or they are breaking some kind of unspoken family code of ethics. Perhaps it isn't guilt, but anxiety rooted in the realization that your personal philosophy will necessarily cause some people to think of you as selfish and ungenerous.

Sure, all families are different. And maybe it is a faux pas for your sister to consider your property available to her. But it is just as likely that you're out of line within your own family culture.
posted by jph at 10:36 PM on July 30, 2011

crankylex wrote: If I had a vacation home, I would expect that my extended family would spend time there and I would never, ever, offer to rent it to them. My husband is more like you are, and so we would have to work on a set schedule rather than the free for all that is my family's norm. If your extended family's norm is not something that you're comfortable with, you're going to have to be completely explicit, otherwise there will be confusion and you will be stepped on which will lead to resentment and so on and so forth.

Yeah, the norm in my family is pretty much along the lines of "If we're not using it and you want to stay there, great, just clean up after yourself!" If it was some deal where I had to pay a maid and/or house man when they were there, I'd expect them to cough up for the incremental expense if they had it or I couldn't afford it at that time.

I would never consider renting my lake house to anyone in the family unless they literally wanted to live there full time and would thereby be preventing me from using it at my convenience. That said, I'd probably also let my friends stay there for no cost if I didn't think they'd trash the place.

Now, if they were constantly on me to have some kind of big family get together all the time, that would probably annoy me, especially if I just wanted peace and quiet.
posted by wierdo at 11:03 PM on July 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Can't really speak from first-hand experience as a condo owner, but my dad and stepmother own a beachfront property and they love having family and friends stay there (when they're not there). In fact, they are constantly urging me to go.

I know why you feel they way you feel, but watching my dad enjoy opening that house to other people makes me think that you may be surprised at how gratifying it is to share your prosperity and good fortune with the people close to you. To most people a beach home is an unimaginable luxury, or at least an expensive vacation, and you're giving them a huge gift to let them stay there. It's understandable that you may be somewhat nervous about guests right now, but if my dad's experience is any indication, it's a very nice thing to have that you can share with others and you'll probably enjoy it MORE if you share it.
posted by jayder at 11:11 PM on July 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Has it been the family pattern that your sister doesn't respect your space? My father is the same way...and I made it very clear to him when I first bought my 3 bedroom condo that he would have to stay at a hotel when he visits.

How much room isn't the issue; boundaries are.
posted by brujita at 12:23 AM on July 31, 2011

Your sister is so straightforward, can't you be straightforward right back?

"You know, the condo is new to us and we want to keep it to ourselves this year. I'll let you know when the wind changes."
posted by hungrytiger at 2:54 AM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

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