One week, one small home, two families. Help an irritable introvert cope?
July 9, 2012 6:58 PM   Subscribe

Husband's family is coming to town, yay! They're asking if we can put them up for a week, eek! Small home, two bedrooms, four adults, three children. I'm an introvert and homebody in the extreme; have anxiety and, lately, irritability issues; and I don't know if or how I can cope with this. Help me make this possible.

I adore these people. As two couples, we lived together with them pre-children for a year or so, and while I did feel the need for more personal space, we were very comfortable overall.

The problem mainly lies with the kids, I guess. We have a 6-year-old, and it's a daily stretch to cope with the constant demand on my time and attention, particularly during the summer break. While I love my girl to pieces, I don't enjoy being around other people's kids. I am especially uncomfortable being responsible for anybody else's child in any way. They have two children: one preschooler, and one about our little girl's age.

I've been struggling with anxiety and irritability. I've only recently gotten to the point where I feel like I'm acting like a decent human. I still have to walk away on a regular basis to give myself some breathing room to calm down. I take an hour each afternoon for "alone time." It feels like a midday lifeline.

Having so many people, and particularly young children, in such a cramped space would wear on me far more than everyday mothering. I don't feel like I'll have the option to take my hour of alone time (which honestly, I doubt would make a dent in this circumstance), because it will mean leaving my girl in their supervision (she normally is by herself doing her own thing), and I'm not okay placing that burden on them, as I would not like to feel obliged to reciprocate with child care. I feel like this is unreasonable on my part.

They're very active, and I'll feel obligated to hitch my wagon to that. I expect they'll be out doing things and visiting the beach daily, and it would be absolutely unfair to say to my daughter, "No, you have to stay home/go grocery shopping/read with me today instead of going out and doing great things at the beach/funplace with your new friends." We have regular activities scheduled throughout our days, but for me that's very different from direct socializing.

I feel like an utter princess about this whole thing, and it's compounded by the fact that I'm not going with my husband and our daughter to his family's reunion just before this. (It's over 700 miles away, I'd be in pain and minimally functional the entire time, and far more a burden than a help. Husband and I both felt like it would be the easiest option for both of us, but I feel tremendous shame over it.)

They don't have much money, and we live in a location where hotels are expensive. I don't feel like I can say no. Please help. What are my options? What can I do to cope?

(Please don't get me wrong. I'm very excited to have them here, and I look forward to spending time with them. I'm just worried I'm going to have a meltdown when faced with the scale of it over several days.)
posted by Eolienne to Human Relations (22 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You offer to put them up in a nearby hotel at your own expense, and explain why.
posted by unSane at 7:01 PM on July 9, 2012 [5 favorites]

Compromise. They stay for 3 days, and a 4th and 5th night are spent in a hotel. You pay for 1st night. They pay for 2nd.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 7:05 PM on July 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Can you hire a local teen "mother's helper" to come play camp counselor and entertain the kids for the week? S/he could prepare lunches and snacks, lead the kids in backyard activities and/or take them to a museum or something, and you and your husband could spend some leisurely afternoons with the other couple and/or get some alone time? If you had most of the daytime scheduled, and your husband was able to take some responsibility for morning/evening meals, might that be more manageable?
posted by judith at 7:06 PM on July 9, 2012 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: We're not loaded with money, either, unfortunately. We've already overspent on our own traveling in order to do the family reunion and see my mom this year.

Additional princessitude: I'm physically limited in how active I can be, up to and including how long I can sit up.
posted by Eolienne at 7:06 PM on July 9, 2012

Can you afford to put them in a hotel? Depending on where you live, maybe you could help them find an inexpensive motel or even a campground?

The key thing is that you are not obligated to put them up if you don't feel up to it. Having serious emotional/mental difficulties is in no way less of a legitimate boundary than not having enough space, or having restrictions on overnight guests on a lease, or any other boundary that you can think of. REALLY. You can say no. You can even say no without a reason, but you can double-extra say no for this reason. And you don't have to disclose anxiety or any other specific diagnosis, either. This is what the words "I'm sorry, but that just isn't going to be possible" were made for.

Your mental health is precious - both for your sake and the long-term health and stability of your family. It is 1000% reasonable to defend it.
posted by Fee Phi Faux Phumb I Smell t'Socks o' a Puppetman! at 7:06 PM on July 9, 2012

Response by poster: On non-preview, we could totally pay for one night.
posted by Eolienne at 7:07 PM on July 9, 2012

Best answer: We have a 6-year-old, and it's a daily stretch to cope with the constant demand on my time and attention, particularly during the summer break.

I also dread being in charge of other people's kids, but I promise you that having another child the same age and gender as yours in the house for a week will diminish the demand on you hugely. Seriously, set out some playmobil people and some crackers and juice and let em rip. You will finally get to that book you've been meaning to because they will fall into their own world. Gosh, and there are so many fun possibilities here! Set up a tent and let the kids camp in the backyard! Let your energetic inlaws take them to the beach!

Also, since this is your husband's family that means HE is first in line for heading up any reciprocal babysitting.

Lastly, your daughter will probably enjoy and remember this visit for a very long time, if not forever. Personally, I'd put up with a little (or a lot of) inconvenience to give my kid the excitement of a week-long sleepover, especially since these are people you basically like a lot.
posted by apparently at 7:13 PM on July 9, 2012 [20 favorites]

Best answer: You're asking for us to find a way for you to tolerate 7 people (including three kids) in a two bedroom home in a manner that won't trigger the anxiety. I just don't think that it is possible.

But it IS possible for you to just be honest about this. Make the call and tell them that, at this point in time you're not up to the arrangement. Let them know you're excited to see them but the cohabitation isn't in the cards right now. Offer what you can that might facilitate the visit (the hotel room, or, is there a friends house they could stay at?) Being loving and being honest are not mutually exclusive.
posted by HuronBob at 7:14 PM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You say above that it would feel like an burden to ask them to do childcare since you don't feel comfortable watching their child. But I'm sure that the chores you will have to do during their visit are going to be more time-consuming and maybe you can look at that as a way to reciprocate. If they take Eolienne jr to the park or the beach, that gives you time to get groceries or work on meals or do clean-up for everyone.

You could also volunteer to do late night babysitting. Something close to or after their kids bedtime, they can have a chance to go on a "date", or head out with your husband while you unwind with a quiet house.
posted by saffry at 7:18 PM on July 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I totally get where you're coming from but I also think you're spending too much energy thinking about how this is going to go.

It is going to suck for you, but you'll survive it.

Your kid and the other kid will amuse eachother, giving you room for mental breaks. Go to the beach! Sit there and read a book. Multiple adults means less work for you.
posted by k8t at 7:22 PM on July 9, 2012 [7 favorites]

I would absolutely say that you don't have to open your home to houseguests, particularly if you are short on space or patience/emotional energy.

You say that you lived together pre-children. I think that this might make a difference. Did you all decide to rent a house together, or did they put themselves out and take you in? I think that the answer to that would color my decision. If they at all went out of their way to live with you for a year, I think that you might owe them a week. If you were doing them a favor and helping them out, I would have an easier time not extending the invitation.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 7:22 PM on July 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

Space-wise: when I was a little kid and an aunt and uncle came for an extended visit from overseas one Christmas what was arrived at was that they simply rented an RV for a month and parked it in the back yard. That way there was no commuting from a motel and we could all eat meals together and hang out in the living room but sleeping arrangements weren't cramped and they had some private space if they wanted to get away from us kids.
posted by XMLicious at 7:24 PM on July 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

I know it can be really difficult to set a boundary when it comes to things like this, especially when it's with guests that you really like and would enjoy visiting with in other circumstances. I have a chronic autoimmune illness that it seems like no one in the world REALLY understands how it affects my everyday life, so I can really relate to your concerns. You've come too far though in getting a handle on your anxiety issues to take a chance on something like this derailing that improvement.

I think I would sit down with your husband and really hammer out what you can healthily offer; can your husband take one day or a couple of half days off during their visit, do you know a teen or young adult who you would trust to take care of the kids for a morning or two, you said you can offer to pay for one night in a hotel. Once you are in agreement with what you feel comfortable offering, I would just lay it out for your friends. "I've been struggling with some health issues of late and while they are improving, I'm not where I need to be yet. We would love to see you and spend time with you, but I have to be realistic about what I can safely do without compromising my health. These are the ideas we've come up with and we'd love to hear your thoughts." I'm sure if they are as nice and caring as you say, they would be more than willing to compromise with you.

Good luck and I hope your health continues to improve.
posted by SweetTeaAndABiscuit at 7:26 PM on July 9, 2012 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Arrangements don't need to be symmetrical to be fair. Maybe they'd enjoy taking your daughter for two hours every day, along with their pre-schooler and at the same time you stay in the house alone and clean-up and prepare meals.

Just because they look after your kid a bit doesn't mean you need to have an arrangement where you look after theirs. I'd be honest with them that this is stressing you out, but you really want to make it workable. You might be surprised at the things you dread that one of the four of you would be delighted to do.
posted by meinvt at 7:28 PM on July 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think Apparently might be on to would be an exciting adventure for your kid and your reciprocity for babysitting is the fact you are letting them stay with you. So you provide the house, they provide the fun/child care. In fact, you might get off easy in this arrangement as long as your husband steps up for meal times etc. It might work out much better than you think. A week is a long time though...can you talk them down to three days?
posted by bquarters at 7:51 PM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: it would be an exciting adventure for your kid and your reciprocity for babysitting is the fact you are letting them stay with you. So you provide the house, they provide the fun/child care.


I won't opine on the question of whether you should ask them to stay elsewhere instead, except to say it would be totally reasonable (not princessy at all) to say you can't put them up for a week since your space is small.

But assuming that you do as you say want to find a way to make this work, then yes--the way you make it work is to let them take your daughter off your hands in repayment for the place to stay. Your husband should be the one to communicate this to them, as they are his family. He can tell them, "We'd love to have you, but Eolienne will likely be sitting out a lot of the activities, as she's not up to them healthwise and needs rest. Will it be okay for Junior to hang with you guys some of those times, so we don't have sad feelings among the kids?"

Things you should not feel guilty about are these:
1) letting your friends watch your child along with their own with no babysitting reciprocation
2) going into your room by yourself and closing the door to take a two-hour nap or "nap"
3) (unrelated to the visit but I'll throw it in anyway) skipping out on the reunion... stop feeling princessy about this; it's perfectly normal for you to have made the decision you've made with your husband, and nobody's business to second-guess it.

The visit can work, but you have to let yourself off the hook, and ask for and then let your friends give you the space you need, in return for your hosting them.
posted by torticat at 8:18 PM on July 9, 2012 [6 favorites]

Best answer: p.s. One other thing--just because your friends are on vacation doesn't mean that you are. They can't reasonably expect (and I'm sure they won't) that you will clear your schedule and take off the whole week to "hitch your wagon" to their activities. This is something else you need to stop feeling guilty about. If you're putting them up for the week, you'll get plenty of social time in the evenings and so on. Let them do their vacation activities on their own, and take your daughter along with them, and don't feel a bit bad getting some alone time (hopefully a lot of it) in return.
posted by torticat at 8:24 PM on July 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: If you can afford one night in a motel, then that would give you one night's break, and you could present it as a gift to them to go see XYZ thing just far enough away that they normally wouldn't take the time to travel to see. Make it their last night, so that they're on the way out of town anyway.

Also, nthing the idea that the two older kids will play together. Make it possible for them to be outside as much as possible. Set up a tarp for shade and have plenty of sprinklers a cheap blow-up pool, a tarp, etc for water play. If you have a tent, set it up--the two older girls might be tickled to sleep outside--my grandkids love it. (as per apparently's idea)

Explain to them that you want them to come, but you're having health problems that require you to take 1/2 hour in the morning and one to two (or even three hours) in the afternoon to rest. Period. No compromise on this. No interruptions. Explain that you normally walk in the evening. If you're up to it, you might ask the guys to keep an eye on the kids and walk with your girlfriend, or take the two older girls and let them go ahead.

Ask hubbies to make breakfast one morning. Girlfriend does another, you do one morning, etc. Donuts and fruit one morning. NO KIDS IN KITCHEN! Simple lunches--sandwiches, chips, fruit, etc. Hire a sitter for one evening, everyone eat out another evening (burgers maybe) Order pizza in one evening, let the kids barbeque hotdogs in the park the fourth evening. During all of this, give yourself space.

Let them take your daughter alone on at least one day trip. Go to the beach one day with them, but take a separate car and come home early.

Remind, remind, remind that you would LOVE to be doing and on the go with them, but you just can't keep up and need down time. If you're able, perhaps you can make quiet time in the evenings just for adults or for your girlfriend.

Be uncompromising in your ritual of !/2 hour in the AM alone, one to two hours in the early PM, and an hour walk (part of it alone if necessary) You can probably sneak out for a 10-15 minute breather if you need to once a day also--long shower, perhaps.

It's do able. Do it and enjoy your company.
posted by BlueHorse at 8:32 PM on July 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Convey to them that you've got some health concerns (mentally and physically) that would be exacerbated by having extra people in the house the whole week, and you really need to be able to have alone time to recuperate. If they're planning on heading out every day, well if they'd be able to take your kid with them (her expenses covered), then you will get (hopefully a lot of) alone time while they visit, which would be a huge favour to you and immensely appreciated and make you feel so much more comfortable with their staying.

If they're comfortable asking to impose on your hospitality for the week, I'd go with the assumption they'd be more than willing to allow you to impose upon them as well. Be ok with it.

You just need to figure out for yourself if you think that'd work - is being alone all day enough to cope with a full house in the evening? Do try to accept pushing your boundaries a bit. Perhaps something like sneaking off to the bedroom to read will help when it gets too much in the evening. As an introvert I forbid you to feel guilty for needing to bow out when it gets to be too much.
posted by lizbunny at 10:06 PM on July 9, 2012

Best answer: "You know, I'm not sure I'm up for a full on guest accommodation in our tight quarters, here's some nice hotel recommendations. Why don't the kids have a sleepover here one night and you go out*, and my kid can do a sleepover with you guys one night, too? We'll work out a few contingency things for the kids' and our energy levels."

*hubby primary kid wrangler that night, not because necessarily they're "his" family but because he's more up to it.

And a lot of what lizbunny and BlueHorse said. Don't break the hell out of yourself for them with your health concerns. One "long day" of fun might make sense to push yourself (if you so chose!) but a whole week .... ack.
posted by tilde at 12:51 AM on July 10, 2012

Best answer: We have a 6-year-old, and it's a daily stretch to cope with the constant demand on my time and attention, particularly during the summer break. While I love my girl to pieces, I don't enjoy being around other people's kids. I am especially uncomfortable being responsible for anybody else's child in any way.

I think these two facts -- your daughter is a constant demand on your time and attention, AND you're not willing to have other people's kids under your supervision -- are actually contributing to one another in a way you may not be aware of. Your daughter might really enjoy having another child her age around, and you wouldn't be completely responsible for her entertainment while the other 6-year-old is there. This weeklong visit might be a chance to change the way you see having your daughter's friends around, which would be good for your daughter -- it would be hard to be an only child whose mom doesn't want friends at the house.
posted by palliser at 6:40 AM on July 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

The traditional formula here (I think I heard it from Miss Manners at some point) is "We look forward to seeing you, but since our house is so small, I'm afraid we can't make you comfortable. Here is a list of reasonably-priced hotels nearby."

If they need additional nudging, you husband can quietly take aside his sibling and say, "You know, Eolienne has been under the weather lately, and while she's doing much better, the doctor wants her to take it easy for another few weeks. I'm so grateful for your understanding."
posted by La Cieca at 8:14 AM on July 10, 2012

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