My daughter and family are moving in with me, but for how long?

Tue, Mar 12, 2013, 00:00

Q My daughter, her husband and baby are coming back home from abroad to live. I am delighted and happy they will be staying with us, but a little apprehensive about how long for.

A Congratulations on the reunion, and the prospect of being able to see more of your grandchild. With so many adult children emigrating, you must feel lucky to have the reverse.

According to Relationships Ireland this type of living arrangement, common in continental Europe, is becoming normal in Ireland, too.

However, as you wisely sense, there can be challenges when children fly home to the nest after making it on their own abroad. Similar challenges often occur if a child moves home after becoming unemployed.

“It’s best to be upfront from the beginning in broaching the subject of how long they will stay,” says Brendan Madden, psychotherapist and chief executive of Relationships Ireland. “Family members tend to think they can read each other’s minds, so don’t assume your daughter sees the situation like you do.

“Your daughter and her husband are accustomed to an independent lifestyle but will now be living within your lifestyle, so there will have to be compromise and acknowledgement that a baby disrupts any household,” he advises.

On the touchy subject of “boundaries”, you need to respect their privacy and resist going into the room in which they are living, and advise any younger children to do the same.

Be straight about your availability (or lack of it) for babysitting so that you don’t feel put upon. You worked hard to raise a daughter who learned independence and built her own family abroad, so keep the boundaries clear.

Resist getting drawn into any arguments between your daughter and her husband and never, ever take her side.

Financially, Madden also advises, you should expect them to pay something out of their budget towards your household.

If you don’t need the money, you can always save it, then gift it back to them as a deposit or a washing machine, for example,when they find their own place.

If you are paying for everything and they are counting pennies towards a deposit, you may start monitoring their spending and wonder, for example, how they can afford a meal out when you can’t. It’s crucial to discuss these issues openly from the outset.

Q I am almost 50 and married with two children. My husband is suffering from depression; he is just beginning to turn a corner.

I also help to care for an elderly aunt. She is becoming increasingly demanding of my attention. This is causing tension, because my husband sees no reason why I should jump every time she has a whim to go somewhere.

My aunt is semi-invalid and needs to be driven everywhere she goes. I have never driven so my husband always drives.

Her latest idea is for us to drive to Dublin on St Patrick’s Day, and take her out to lunch.

I have not mentioned this to my husband, as he will blow a fuse. He likes to relax on Sundays and bank holidays. We just want to enjoy quiet days at home.

My aunt was with us for two weeks at Christmas and will be down for Easter, whether I like it or not. I take her to nearly every hospital appointment. She calls every day and is on the phone for an hour at least.

I want some peace. What can I do to make her leave us alone? I am not going to abandon her, but I need some space.

AYou’re in a desperate situation. You are the carer for four people: your recovering husband, two children and a demanding elderly aunt. You have all the usual practical responsibilities on top of that.

Meanwhile you’re walking on eggshells, which is understandable considering that you’re living with someone who is coming through depression.

You’ve made “an important first step in writing down your concerns and sending them to the column, as it has taken the pain and stress out of your head and expressed it”, says Ursula Somerville, psychotherapist with the Irish Association of Humanistic and Integrative Psychotherapy.

You actually say what you need in your letter: over the St Patrick’s Day weekend “we just want to enjoy quiet days at home”. “That is what you need to be able to tell your elderly aunt,” suggests Somerville.

After all, you had your great-aunt at Christmas and she’ll be down for Easter, so you’re not rejecting her – quite the opposite.

You may fear that if you do say what you are entitled to, something terrible will happen. It won’t.

“You have a simple thing to say, but you’re struggling to find your voice to say it,” says Somerville. This can be frightening when you are so used to catering to everyone else’s needs that your own have been buried.

“You may benefit from some sessions of psychotherapy to help you learn that when you say what you need, the other person doesn’t collapse,” Somerville says .

Finding your voice may take some time. As for this weekend, maybe you can give a polite excuse – a husband in recovery who is too exhausted to drive that distance, two children needing attention, and a stressed mother (you) who needs rest.

Anyone who cares about you will understand that.


Send your questions to
tellmeaboutit@irishtimes.com. Selected entries will be published on an anonymous basis only. We regret that personal correspondence cannot be entered into