Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Spot of Tea?

Dear Jane: Aaron and I tried for 3 years to have a child before essentially giving up. No more charting, temping, opk's, testing, ultrasounds, nada. Just old-fashioned sex. At this point I'm mostly hoping that we won't get pregnant because I'm liking our life as it is. That being said, I still find myself touchy on the subject of having children and sometimes have a hard time being around those that are pregnant. This includes my best friend.

My oldest nephew (by marriage) and his pregnant fiancee are moving into our house. That will take the number of people in this house to 6 1/2 (plus 2 dogs and 3 cats). My best friend is
due mid-October and the fiancee is due in November. The nephew is talking about the idea of living with us permanently. Am I really expected to entertain this idea? Me, live with a baby that is not mine? Listen to it cry and wail and coo and know that I am not the cause or solution to any of it? I think that I might go crazy...yet my husband hasn't told them no outright. He's hoping they'll change their minds and tells me that I have to give them a shot before I decide that. Normally he's pretty understanding and he doesn't really want them here either, but it's family, and he's always there for family. I also don't know if I should introduce my best friend and the fiancee. They're due about a month apart, and the fiancee is really young, where as my best friend is a second-time mom.

I'm so at a loss as to what to do with all this. I want to run screaming, I feel like I'm at my wits end and how dare anyone ask me to do another damn thing where family is concerned--especially the pregnant ones. My best friend is like family too, but at least she's learned to be sensitive. I'm going to have to teach yet more family members what to do and not to do but do I really have the right to do that to them, since we're not really trying any more? How do I move past this stage? Help please!!

The Frustrated Hostess

Dear Hostess:

Jane's characters were not only skilled hostesses, but in Austen's world, family came first. Jane was extremely close to her sister, Cassandra, and this relationship influenced many of the sisterly relationships portrayed in her books. A focus on self at the expense of family would have been considered a major character flaw.

At the same time, manners are everything and the way characters behave towards one another reveal their relationships and status in one another's life. But manners serve another purpose--they help conceal opinions and frustrations. After all, who can tell how much you're seething on the inside if you're smiling sweetly and pouring your guest a cup of tea? When you think about it, manners rarely reveal your true thoughts--instead, they are a dull grey coat you can throw over your bright orange dress, ensuring that you choose who is allowed to see your true colours.

Therefore, if unmarried Jane's nephew moved into her house with his fiancee and wedding planner in tow, she may have been secretly frustrated with the situation and silently cursing the fact that he has what she has been desiring, but she would have prepared him not only dinner, but a huge ball to welcome him to the estate.

That's what Jane would do.

But what should you do?

The reality of infertility is that the emotions almost never end with any of the paths out of the situation. Children cure childlessness, but they don't cure infertility. The problem still exists whether you're trying to conceive or not.

You're really between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, this is family. While friends come and go, family is a lot more complex to navigate--we're judged harshly for our actions and the expectations run higher. At the same time, you need to take care of yourself because no one but you knows exactly what you need. Though John Donne wrote, "no man is an island" we do have to put ourselves central if the goal is to maintain our own sanity and happiness.

Putting yourself central means setting some limits. The situation may not make you ecstatically happy, but you need to find a space where you can balance the expectations everyone has about family with your own peace. And this means being upfront--pleasant, but firm. Being too vague or letting things unfold too much removes any control you have for directing this cohabitation. Once you make the decisions with your husband behind the scenes, they're not really up for discussion and they're stated in such a way that doesn't leave them open for discussion. Perhaps you can live with a two week visit while they get their bearings, but you need them out of the house after that. I would kick off the visit with a dinner telling them how happy you are that you can put them up until they get their bearings and you'd love to help them with any aspect of house hunting since you know it's difficult sometimes to do things when you're pregnant.

It sends a clear message as you serve that roasted chicken and potatoes--welcome to my house, we're happy to have you while you look for your house. The chicken is the grey coat hiding the orange rage underneath a cloth of manners.

If having the fiancee in close proximity is one of the stressors, introducing her to your best friend only provides more entanglements. This introduction probably won't relieve you (at least initially) of interactions with the fiancee--instead, it will make it more difficult to create a child-free space for yourself when you need it. Not only will you be inviting over your best friend, but when you're not up for the company, the fiancee could still be inviting her over too.

Your obligation to family is to provide the essentials: food, housing, and, at times, emotional support. You do not have to be her social director or feel guilty that you're holding apart two pregnant women. Family is not code for all limits flying out the window. You need to navigate a child-filled world every day--your home should be a sanctuary and not an additional stressor in your life.

Now you (yes, you--I'm talking to you. The one reading this advice column) need to weigh in. Put yourself in Hostess's shoes and employ a what would Jane do attitude to give her advice on this situation. Leave a comment for Hostess elaborating or contradicting my advice--just do it in a ladylike or gentlemanly way.


LJ said...

I rarely disagree, and this entirely depends on what our dear questioner is comfortable with...

But I'd steer clear of having them in your house. In general, I'd say, "okay, but as long as you put a two week limit on it", but your nephew already indicated an interest in a permanent relocation to your home. I wouldn't want you to get into a situation where you feel too guilty to kick them out but to sad to let them stay.

So, I'd find some way around it. Living with that constant reminder, that just seems like a lot, no matter what your decision is wrt children.

amy said...

As usual I feel like I need a bit more information....why is the nephew moving in with you in the first place??
I think allowing them to move in with no time line or desire on their part to move out is a bad idea. I think you need to discuss with your husband and make sure their our boundaries before they move in.
It is a delicate situation being family but there is also the potential for disaster if they think they are going to stay forever.

Ann said...

For me, the pregnancy part has little to do with my opinion of the situation. A nephew has no right to "decide" he and his family are moving permanently into your home. They may have fallen on hard times (did they?), but the solution is not to mooch off another family member. The time limit for their stay needs to be clear--and you and your husband need to have a long discussion abotu boundaries. You said you like child-free living. Well, you're about to give it up!

Perspicacious Babe said...

As someone who has had to chuck others out of her home because they were taking the piss, I couldn't agree more about the boundaries. It may be your job to help family and friends through tight spots, but it's not your job to be their keeper, certainly not forever. And the more upfront you are about boundaries, the better.


Starfish said...

If I were in the same situation,knowing the person I was when we were going through treament (although you stopped) having a pregnant person in the house would have pushed me over the edge. Besides that it seems a little strange for two adults think it's okay to move in with other adults just because their family, these people MUST know something is going on with you and the kid situation, no? Do they just assume you don't have kids because you never wanted them? Do they know at all that you want children? If they have any inkling at all, then it would be quite disrespectful to suggest that they move in. Seems to me they are taking advantage of someone who they know can't say no to family. I would put my foot down to my husband, if it were me. It's not obviously, and there's probably more to the story, but that's my two cents.

nycphoenix said...

Putting the pregnancy aside, this situation sucks. How old is the nephew? Why is he considering moving in permanently? That's crazy! Talk to them BEFORE they show up on the doorstep. Make really sure they know its a temporary situation and that if the can they should chip in to utilities or groceries. Even better, help them rent a sublet or short term rental in the area.

I wouldn't even mention the infertility factor in this because the family can just run with that and accuse you of turning your back on family due to your "bitterness".

The Hostess said...

More details:

The nephew moved in with us because his brother did something really bad. He and his girl wanted to move to a new place, get a fresh start. They moved here and are staying with us until they get on their feet. They don't want to live with us any more than we want them to be here...but it was the only place they had to go. They are both 19...and I remember that age pretty well. It's hard when you're young.

As for moving in permanently...well...there are family members that already live with us. We will be selling the house next year and moving into a smaller one, but in the meantime we're stuck with family. The nephew was thinking that if he moved in and took over the portion of the mortgage that the inlaws pay, it would get them out of the house. His idea was that having him and her would be better than having inlaws!

They do know that we want kids but can't have them. Aaron has done what he can to get them to understand that it isn't HIS problem or MY problem but OUR problem...but as we all know, unless you've been in the trenches it's hard to understand. They haven't brought it up and she is being remarkably sensitive so far.

sharah said...

Hostess, I'm going to take the hard line here. It is YOUR house. Neither you nor your husband want the nephew & fam to move in with you. And a 19 year-old who has a child, while young, is still an adult. Like OSM said, it is your responsibility as family to help them -- not to let them walk all over you. Make it clear to the nephew before he moves in that you are willing to help him get back on his feet, but that moving in with you permanently is not an option and he needs to be looking towards his own future and his own responsibilities to his family.

Oh, and you are not responsible for the fiancee's social life either -- don't feel obligated to introduce her to your friend.

littleangelkisses said...

Well, I read the circumstances and it's sticky. Since you already have people living with you....but I have to say that I agree with Sarah. They need to figure this out without walking all over you. I don't think IF should even come in to the conversation. As for her social life, she needs to find one for herself. Yes you can give her ideas of where to go but it's not your job to find her friends. UGH....sounds sticky. You are a good person because I couldn't do it.

akeeyu said...

It's easier to say no initially than to get somebody out of your house, especially someone who has designs on staying, double especially when your husband is ambivalent or wishywashy about it.

I don't think IF even enters into the equation. This just seems like a spectacularly bad situation waiting to happen.

You and your husband need to be on the same page on this one, because helping someone out is not risk endangering your marriage with the inevitable fights when it all goes horribly wrong (which it will).

chicklet said...

Holy shite, I can't help but take a hard line with this one. Yes, they can move in for a very well-understood amount of time to help them get on their feet, but it needs to be WELL UNDERSTOOD. Not assumed that it's understood, but communicated, discussed, and maybe even written down. I'm worried that while you try and do a very nice thing for family, they won't get the hint or will misread what you say, and will stay longer than you can take. And then you'll be in an even more awful situation as you'll be stuck on hating it but not wanting to bring it up for fear of what feels like a selfish confrontation. I say do it, but with rules. Very clearly stated rules.

Anonymous said...

I love family, far, far away! Okay, I know you have to help family and all, but permanently moving into your house with child in tow is a bit much. There should be a time limit for them to get back on their feet (assuming they're off their feet) and then you can have your life back. It's still your house so you get to make the rules. As long as you and hubby are on the same page you should able to navigate what will likely be some choppy waters ahead.

Rella said...

Wow. I agree with most of the comments that say that once they are in, it is going to be difficult to get them out, especially with being overly pregnant. One out for you could be if maybe the in-laws have to vacate to make room for them? If so, you could simply tell them that they cannot be moved and sorry, there's just not enough space for all of us to occupy.

Besides, it is your place and assuming you don't have multiple kitchens, etc, it's going to be difficult to navigate who needs it more (and frankly, they will have hte high ground when it comes to heating up bottles and keeping people up all night). It could work with the best of planning with adult-like people (you could have rules for quiet time, set rules for kitchen time and parking spots, etc) but when a kid comes, you're going to be at the bottom of the totem pole in your own home. It seems like a lose-lose once you factor in the IF stuff (which I agree wouldn't go into my discussions with them since it seems impossible for most 19 year olds to grasp - especially ones in an 'oops' situation).

just my thoughts. good luck with your decision.

FattyPants said...

I would let them stay for a month so they could save for a deposit on an apartment. It is understandable to want to help family, but it would be way to easy for them to permanently latch on. I would advise that this be talked about BEFORE they moved in.

As for the pregnancy it would be hard. Even if you are no longer ttc a newborn could bring up emotions and feelings that would be really hard to deal with without having your own space to work it out in. Your husband should stand by you whatever decision you make.

Mandy said...

Even if IF were not part of the picture, I'd recommend deciding the length of time you're okay with and sticking to it while making it very clear up front what that length of time is. your update said he'd like to take over the inlaws position in the home but did not indicate if they have any plans for leaving.

They're much less likely to be motivated/able to move after the baby comes in most scenarios, which means your better off making this a short term stay...add IF back in and I mean this even more so. When you hear that baby cry or coo, it's going to be HARD.

It's great you are willing to help family, but if you do this limits must be set. I hear too many stories that start with "it was supposed to be a short stay..." and end with resentment and arguing.

If they stay, give them a deadline. They have X amount of time to save up to get their own place, period.

bonniekay said...

I agree that it will be much harder for them (to get them) to move out once the baby comes. November isn't that far away, and babies have been known to come early.

I'd hope/aim for everyone to be working toward a scenario where they move out next month, in October, to their own place. With family support if necessary, but their own place.

Kiana said...

Good words.