Not her parent, but still need help

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by silverlilly1, Jul 21, 2014.

  1. silverlilly1

    silverlilly1 New Member

    My sister has been staying with my family this summer. She is paying enough money to cover the food we buy for her, and the incremental increase in utilities as her rent. She is also in charge of doing one daily chore, and babysitting once per week. I have a young child of my own, but my sister is just old enough to not be a teenager anymore, and I am 10 years older than she is. Traditionally, I was her babysitter growing up.My sister has had some struggles with depression. I am unsure if this is affecting her behaviour now, but it certainly seems like a possibility. Like all sufferers of depression, she has tried a few medications and not found what she wanted. She came off the last one about a month before coming to visit us, and has no intention of trying to get a new one, from the sound of it. We also grew up with an abusive mother. Verbally, emotionally, and physically; enough to have had both of us removed from the home if anyone had known the extent. She is not affectionate or "motherly." She has no mental filter to filter out comments which most people would find inappropriate, and thus has few friends and struggles at work. Our mother cannot accept responsibility and puts the blame on everyone else's shoulders. For these reasons, my mother is not a part of my and my immediate family's lives. My mother was also absent from my sister's life in her teenaged years, even though they lived together. Her father was not abusive, but is pretty absent himself, unless you go to him. He slid by in the military by keeping his mouth shut at work and being rebellious in his head.

    I have struggled myself since moving out of the house as a teenager with trying to adjust to the real world. I spent my entire teenage years debating with my mother. I have had to learn how to be affectionate, for which I have had help from my husband whom I have known for almost half my life now. I have had to learn how to put those filters back onto my speech - I still have difficulty with this. I have had to learn how to be a mother in a loving way rather than repeat the behaviours my mother "shared" with me. I have learned that responsibility doesn't just mean looking after yourself and taking the blame when things are your fault - it also means looking after others, being respectful of others' needs, and figuring out how you can try to prevent situations from recurring, even when you don't believe them to be your fault. I still struggle with these things, but have made a lot of progress over the years.

    My sister took the attitude of keeping quiet and keeping secrets to avoid incurring our mother's wrath. Now, having her here, she started out talkative, but has progressed to spending a lot of time in her room. She is defensive whenever we try to talk to her (ie. "Did you have a good evening?"). She has chosen to change her major in university, and was very very stressed and angry around the time she was registering for her new courses. She has found a "not my boyfriend" and invites him over to spend time in her room and have sex. He seems like a reasonably nice guy. Our rules are that he doesn't come over when we're not here, doesn't stay overnight, and she tells us before he comes over so that we and our house can be presentable. She respects most of that, but about half the time doesn't give us adequate or clear notice. If we ask her to help with anything, she gives us attitude. She does not talk with us much at all. If she sees us struggling to do something, she does not offer to help. If she wants to come with us to go out, we must then wait 10-15 minutes for her to apply makeup and get ready before she can be seen in public, regardless of the time of day. She told us when she arrived that she has her own bathroom at uni, and thus when she gets ready here she enters and exits the shared bathroom about 6 times, making it very difficult for the rest of the family to get ready.

    When she moved here, we offered to bring her on vacation with us. We would pay for her breakfast and lunch, and take her with us; she would pay her gate fee, her suppertime meal plan, and babysit for us 10-12 hours over the two weeks. She would also sew the clothing she needs to wear (medieval reenactment), with my help. We talked about clothing designs, and despite my explaining how much work one style was, that was the style she chose to make. She has had two and a half months to prepare - we leave in less than a week. She has one and a three quarters of the most difficult clothing pieces left to sew...out of three total pieces. When I sewed two of these for four hours a day, it took me two weeks to finish. She spends no more than two hours a day on this, and has only worked on this stuff a maximum of about 12 days the entire time she's been here. Most times I have helped her, she randomly leaves to go to the bathroom, get a snack, etc, without telling me, leaving me sitting in the room waiting. She gets angry when she makes mistakes, telling me I haven't been watching her closely enough and didn't explain well enough. Again, on crutches, and the nearest chair for me is five feet from the sewing machine. She even told my husband, in front of me, that she prefers when he helps her instead of me. She now has to book appointments with me to get my help, and if she's not there within 15 minutes of the appointment time, I will do something else, and she can try to book time with me at another time.

    Saturday morning, she was getting ready for work. My husband thought she was done in the bathroom, so he got up and had a shower. I got up, and she told me she needed to leave for work soon, and had to brush her teeth and hair. I told her my husband probably wouldn't hear her if she yelled, but should be out soon. I went into the bathroom to pee, and my daughter came in as well, to get ready. I got my daughter into the shower with my husband while she was in there, then left the bathroom with my sister's toothbrush. She was sitting on a stool in front of the fridge seething. I put her toothbrush on the counter, and she asked me where her toothpaste was. I said that I couldn't carry very much because I'm on crutches, but she could just use water to brush her teeth. She then told me, "You didn't bring my hairbrush. I told you I needed to brush my hair!" I said that I have difficulty carrying so many things. She told me I should have sent my daughter out with them. She stomped downstairs without brushing her teeth. I then went into the bathroom and got her hairbrush, putting it beside her toothbrush. She stayed downstairs to her bedroom for a while, then left. She came back inside briefly, and during that time I told her my husband was out of the bathroom. She rushed upstairs to the bathroom, didn't find her hairbrush, and I told her I'd brought it out for her. She then said, in a voice dripping with anger and attitude, "So you brought it out AFTER I left???" I said, "No, I brought it out while you were home, but you were downstairs." She brushed her hair, and left the house, slamming the door.

    That night, we got a message she would not be home for supper or that night. The next day she was working and then going to go visit our dad. She sent a message she would not be home for supper (as we knew) and would again not be coming home that night. We feel it is her trying (unsuccessfully) to make a power play and also perhaps making the excuse of being angry to finally get her "not boyfriend" to allow her over to his house. She is apparently coming home tonight for supper.

    But at this point, the only way she can finish sewing her clothing is to wake up EARLY each morning (she's been staying in bed until 11 or 12 whenever she can), and sew every waking moment she's not at work. Not going to happen, especially when it apparently takes two hours to get ready for work. We have gone out of our way to make things for her to use, borrow items for her to use, etc. We have not asked her to do a ton of stuff around the house. We have respected her privacy and taught our daughter to do so as well. My husband is at the point that he says to me that if she decides she's not going with us on vacation, she can't stay in our house while we're gone, because he feels she won't respect our rules. We are at our wit's end trying to deal with her attitude, and her negative vibe is permeating our household. I don't want her to feel unwelcome, but something has to change, and I have no clue how to even talk with her anymore, because I'm afraid she just sees me as the enemy.

    Can anyone offer any suggestions on how I can at least salvage my relationship with my sister while making our home life a little more pleasant? We have another month together, and I'm afraid she'll leave our house and never talk to me again at this point. I know she has some serious growing up to do, and I can't make that happen, but I don't want to lose her as a friend due to this experience.
  2. Childofmine

    Childofmine trying to do this thing one day at a time Staff Member

    Hi Silverlilly, and welcome.

    I would strongly suggest that you cut her visit short and she leave early. Staying another month is not going to be good for you, her or your long-term relationship.

    SL, there is not one thing you can do to "fix" her, her situation or her problems. You yourself, just like each one of us, is a full time job.

    I would resign from being her caretaker/surrogate mother since she is now an adult. Many people have tough childhoods and it's sad and hard. But it is up to them to figure it out, seek help, use the help and move on with life.

    You've done it. She will have to do it too, and likely, you will not be her angel of assistance---it will have to be some other person who will come alongside her and offer support.

    People do exactly what they want to do. That is something I have learned. They don't change until they are ready to change, and until they are completely sick and tired of their current situation.

    I am sorry she is choosing to act like this and make your entire household miserable. It's time for her to leave.

    Warm hugs. Keep posting, we care and we get it.
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  3. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Nothing to add. Agree with COM. You can't fix her. She has to fix herself. You did it. She can do it to. But you can't make her fix herself. Only she can do that.

    Hugs for your hurting heart.
  4. silverlilly1

    silverlilly1 New Member

    I wish it were that simple. Unfortunately she normally lives 2700 km from here. She only has her sort-of-boyfriend of one month to stay with around here, or our dad, whom she would not ask to spend the summer with and has only visited three times. Our dad's girlfriend doesn't like him spending much time with his family. She has nowhere to stay back home until September. Under these circumstances, asking her to leave now doesn't seem fair to her. We made a commitment to allow her to stay for that time, and asking her to leave permanently early would cause her enormous hardship.

    We asked her to contribute financially as much as she directly impacts the household, babysit one evening a week, and do one chore (which she chose). I don't think that is trying to parent, just asking her to contribute to the house she is living in. And the rules around guys being here are related to us protecting our house (not wanting people in our house whom we don't know at all when we're not around) and young daughter, nothing about controlling her behaviour. If we weren't together, we individually wouldn't want to bring anyone but long-term partners around our daughter because she becomes attached to people so easily at this age.

    Unfortunately my sister's attitude is rubbing off on our daughter a little bit.

    I know I can't fix her, but I need to do what I can to make the living situation bearable for everyone, since I can't rely on her to try to make the situation better.
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2014
  5. silverlilly1

    silverlilly1 New Member

    It's funny, in conversations she would sometimes act surprised when we responded the way we did, thinking our attitude too accepting towards her earth-shaking revelations of having sex or or something. She would ask, "Is that what you would say to (your daughter)?" The answer has always been either, "It depends on our daughter's age at the time when this comes up," or, "No, but you're not our daughter."

    She told us she told our dad, twice, about having casual sex here, trying to get a reaction. He didn't give her one, and she was very disappointed.

    My mom likes to push buttons to get reactions, and my sister tries, but doesn't usually succeed with us.
  6. Echolette

    Echolette Well-Known Member


    Honestly she sounds quite yucky, and not some one I would want in my house.

    That being said, I think you are trying to tell us that you have sort of a mother-daughter relationship with her, and that she is acting out in sort of adolescent ways against her "parents" (you and your husband.

    I did put myself in a similar situation last summer, when I let my ex-difficult child 19 year old daugher and her difficult child best friend live with me for the summer.

    It was very nice at first and then got uglier, with less and less helpfulness, less and less thoughtfulness, and more broken rules.

    I threw the friend out when I encountered a guy coming from her bedroom in the morning (clearly against the rules--I have nothing against sex, but if I make a rule I expect it to be kept)

    My daughter flipped out and I got backed into revisiting it.

    We had a sit down, state of the union meeting, agreed to new ground rules, and established a zero tolerance policy going forward. She was warned, and honestly I would have felt fine about throwing her out if she acted out again.

    So I or you and husband (that is better) sit down with your sister. Tell her ahead of time that you want to have a "state of the union" conversation, and she should be prepared to say what she thinks is working and not working, and you will do the same. You can warn her if you want that you feel there are some issues, but also that you want her to stay and for the rest of the summer to be happy and healthy for all (see your quote above about being at your wits ened and her negative vibes!!).

    Then...tell her. Tell her you love her, and you know she can act more like a respectful adult member of the household than has been happening. Tell her you want to revisit some of the ground rules that haven't been working for you or your family. Tell her you all need to agree on some bathroom etiquette, because SHE DOESNT HAVE HER OWN BATHROOM RIGHT NOW. Tell her if she keeps you waiting, you won't wait (or you will wait, or however you want to handle it). GIve her a chance at a time when it is not the heat of the moment to hear what you have to say, and let her take the growing up step of addressing it...or not.

    If she doesn't shape up I'd ask her to leave. I've never met a 20 something who couldn't find a couch to sleep on for a few weeks.

    My two cents.

  7. silverlilly1

    silverlilly1 New Member

    Thanks Echo. We tried tonight. My husband asked her if she was coming home for supper and tonight. Her answer was "Yes." My husband told her he'd like to talk to her tonight. She came home at 6 pm (supper's generally at 5), and said, "Well, I didn't say when I would be home." She didn't work today, just walked around a nearby town all day.

    After supper, she started to prepare for a date. Around 7:30 pm, we finally manoeuvered to co-op the bathroom so husband could start her talking. When I came out of the bathroom, she resisted continued talking, saying that she had already made plans before now to meet up, but husband convinced her to contact the guy and stay longer to talk. We discussed the major issues that have arisen, first getting her side, then mine/husband's. She still couldn't accept any responsibility, but agreed to changes for the future.

    She says that she works 8-4 every day this week. Tomorrow is my birthday. She has not been in the same place as me for a birthday in 13 years. She has plans to go to a volunteer orientation that evening, even though she will only be able to volunteer 3-5 times at the most before she leaves. Wednesday night we're busy. Thursday and Friday nights are the only times she plans to be home while we are. And she wants help with her sewing during that time, even though we will have other preparations to make then. She continues to say she will gladly help with packing and loading and unloading of the vehicle, but actually will not be here, or will be too busy sewing, to help. She decided she only wants to go on vacation for one week instead of two. That puts us out tremendously because we will then have to set up or tear down camping for her, will not receive the babysitting she promised in return for her having parts of the trip paid for, and may have to make a 6-mile walk to get her things. She thought she could stay here and sew. husband decided that she cannot stay in our house while we are away on vacation because he can't trust her enough, and she must find elsewhere to be during that time.

    I told her that we have been going out of our way for her as she makes choices to not help or participate since day one. If she wants us to go out of our way for her and have her with us at all on vacation, she must seriously go out of her way to help us this week, as we struggle to get everything done. She must make hard choices. We did not define the desired action precisely, as husband does not want to give her the black and white of telling her what to do. Her response? "Well I'm going to the orientation tomorrow, because if I don't I can't volunteer at all while I'm here. I made those plans and I am doing this."

    Afterward we discussed between ourselves. He would like to see her spend some time with me to make my birthday special tomorrow. He'd also like to see her stay home to sew. Because if she doesn't sew, she will not have enough time to both help us prepare and sew her garments. And thus can't come with us on vacation at all. If she doesn't try to make my birthday special in any way and isn't there for supper, he feels she is putting us last and she probably shouldn't continue to stay with us.

    This is so hard. How do you kick someone out and still maintain a relationship? Because if certain actions don't happen tomorrow (and I really don't expect them to; she has an excuse for why everything she has planned to do is vitally important, including dates), that's exactly where we'll be. :(
  8. dstc_99

    dstc_99 Well-Known Member

    Ok first off if it was a big deal to you that she be there for your birthday you needed to tell her that. Not today but a few days ago or even more. She hasn't been with you for 13 of them she might not have realized it was a big deal now. Second you need to understand that she made these plans to volunteer and she seems serious about them. That is actually a sign of maturity. Last, she is the one who dropped the ball on the sewing and therefore she is the one with the issue. I would tell her that at this point it is too late and you don't have time to help her. She can either work it out or find a place to stay for the two weeks.

    To be honest I understand your frustration BUT having raised my own difficult child for a while now I can tell you that they do not read minds. They don't understand most normal thought processes like we do. You admit you had to learn them. Now it is her time. Instead of fuming silently about your birthday tell her you are upset and why. Then let her know that after your vacation you want to spend a birthday night with her. We are all adults here so we all realize that sometimes your birthday gets celebrated on whatever day works in the schedule.

    It sounds like she is wanting to interact. Even if it means getting you riled up.

    My best advice would be not to make your life difficult to accommodate her unless you can see real effort. That means if you can see her busting her butt to make something happen do whatever you feel is right to help her. If she isn't making the effort then let it go and don't do it for her. Natural consequences often work best.

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  9. silverlilly1

    silverlilly1 New Member

    Although the above update doesn't sound horrible to me in reading it, her impact on this house has been profound. It's more of a last straw that breaks the camel's back thing. Her actions and our attempts to accommodate her are constantly making our lives a challenge. My husband is close to exhaustion from having to do way more around the house than he should because I can't and she won't. It's affecting our daughter's attitude, our relationship, and my relationship with my sister. Since she arrived, everything has been her commitment to herself, other people, and things taking priority - going to the beach, going on dates, having the guy over, not willing to help at night because it's too late at 9, "needing" to sleep in until almost noon because she is tired because she stayed up until 2 and then not being able to help with anything because she has to go to work for two hours later, not showing up when she asks me to be ready to help her sew (making me wait for several hours), asking to join us as we're heading out the door and then telling us we have to wait for 15 minutes until she's ready...

    We borrowed items from a myriad of friends and acquaintances in order to help her go on vacation with us. I even made her a purse, change purse, wallet, and quilt. Even tonight when she knew we needed to talk because she'd disappeared angry for two days she instead started getting ready for a date and making us wait for her, my husband again being forced to stay up late and not do the things he needed to get done tonight. We do not have much extra money, and have asked her for the bare minimum to support her here (paying more out of pocket than we have), and yet every month she gives us trouble about how much money she has to give us. She ignores us when we try to talk with her, makes comments when people do housework around her...

    We both want to see some willingness to reciprocate the inconveniences she has caused to us. Especially when she is asking us to again go out of our way for her at the last minute. Just once, in the time we need her help the most (and have made that fact clear), to think of someone other than herself. That's what the birthday thing is about. It's my husband's barometer to see if she can come to her own decision to think about someone other than herself, after our talk. The volunteering? It's all about her. She knew of the opportunity a month and a half ago but was too lazy to call. She wants to do it because the field interests her. But she will barely get started now before she leaves to go back to school on the other end of the country, where she can volunteer more long-term. She knew this week would be busy and yet scheduled this in at the last minute, because she didn't want to wait another two weeks. It seems serious to her only because everything in her life other than helping out around here seems serious to her. Everything in her life is an emphatic excuse why she can't be here or help out.

    I am her scapegoat for taking responsibility for anything she doesn't like, and she is treating us like landlords rather than family. A landlord would charge four times more money, wouldn't cook her supper every night, wouldn't save her leftovers for lunch, wouldn't shop for her, wouldn't clean her living space, and would kick her out if she gave them as much attitude as she gives us. She fills drinking glasses before supper, sometimes. She clears the table, puts dishes into the dishwasher, and washes the pots. When her wrist doesn't hurt and she's not too tired. Nothing else. She doesn't even clean up after herself properly, leaving dishes improperly cleaned, leaving clothing and other items laying around in shared living spaces, leaving her laundry in the machines and on the racks rather than clearing out so others can use them, and not putting away her garbage. Right now, my husband is doing almost everything else, due to my mobility issues. Our very young daughter holds the screen door open for me and shuts the door behind me because of the crutches, without being asked. My sister once came to the door to unlock it when she heard I was home, but waited until it was already unlocked. She said, "Well I came to help you." She stood in the doorway in the way of me getting in, then when I asked her to allow us in and sat down to remove my shoe, she left the door open and went back upstairs. I stood up again, grabbed my crutches, walked over to the door, closed it, and sat back down to remove my shoe. Any help she offers is all lip service.

    We told her that this week we want her to help us by making changes to her plans that actually show her putting a priority on this family. After everything we've put up with and done for her, it's not too much to ask. Even to think of ways she can do this on her own, rather than being spoon-fed a solution. Because she is supposed to be an adult, and adults can come up with solutions on their own. She is emphatic that Tuesday is the only day she could possibly make a change to her plans (even when we tried to open her mind to other possibilities), and she is emphatic that she will not make that change. Yes, it's a test. And not an easy one.


    We really don't know what else to do.
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2014
  10. Echolette

    Echolette Well-Known Member


    How old is she?

    She sounds like a pretty typical selfish teenage girl. They suck up all the air.

    All you can do is experiment with ways of making things better for YOU.

    If the most important thing to you is to not have to have her leave, then stop doing all the extras for her. Stop cleaning her space, stop putting together leftovers for lunch, stop making extra dinner for her since she doesn't reliably come home anyway. She is treating you like drama queens teenage girls (I say it that way because not all teenage girls do this) treat their moms and families. It is nasty. Unfortunately your daughter is watching and learning. What is she learning...that you tolerate being treated this way and go on making lunch and dinner.

    So stop the enabling. No more sewing help..she is on her own. No more meals. No more rides or errands. Bang on the bathroom door if you need to use it. That is what moms do with their bratty teenage daughters.

    Whatever you do I would not disrupt your vacation by accommodating her "I want to leave half way through" stand. That is absurd.

    In general with teenage girls it is kind of biologic, and comes to and end. That is why I was curious about her age. IN your case, if you last through the summer, then you have more long visits.

    On the on the other hand, It is entirely reasonable to ask her to leave a day or two before you leave for vacation. You have made your issues clear. Your daughter will see that people have to live with consequences. It would be OK. I doubt it would even end the relationship, unless she has a personality disorder. You sa..I'm sorry, sis, this is just not working out for us. It has been very stressful for me, husband, and my daughter to have you here, and even after we talked it didn't really get better. I love you, but apparently we are better off for now at a distance or with shorter visits. Please pack up your stuff.

    I do and don't agree with D. You could have said you wanted her home for your birthday. She could have had the sense to realize that people like to have birthdays celebrated. Neither happened.

    Try reading Melanie Beatty's book "co-dependant no more." I think you will recognize a lot of your behavriors in it..I certainly did.

    Good luck. I can't tell if she is a difficult child or a bratty teen, but I can certainly see she is making your summer miserable, and I feel your pain!

  11. silverlilly1

    silverlilly1 New Member

    Yeah... :( Well, she is not a teenager anymore, but she is still young. I will say that due to our and her past I expect that this behaviour will likely be grown out of very slowly, if it does. She does have the depression issue the same as our mom does, which I managed to mostly avoid. I've just been so stressed. But I think I have now worked through it to a point that we can handle this a little better, whether she can stay here or not. I never asked to parent a teen at this stage in my life - my daughter has many more years before she'll be there, and she will not be raised the way my sister was. And my sister shouldn't have been one, and we should not have to act as her parents. I hope that it will not hurt our relationship long-term.
    Thank you everyone.
  12. dstc_99

    dstc_99 Well-Known Member

    I hear you and your husband stressing out over her issues. I don't hear her stressing. This is what we call enabling. When you are working harder than her to make things better for her it makes your life miserable and you feel unnapreciated. I agree with the above post that you need to stop doing it and stop putting up with it.

    I realize you don't want her to leave but at the same time you shouldn't continue the way things are. You tell her your plans and expectations and let her know if she wants to do something different she is an adult and can make the arrangements.

    She really needs to grow up. The best thing you can do is be a positive role model for her. Show her how to act and behave and hope that she will learn something about how an adult lives. Stand up for yourself and stick to the guidelines. That is what healthy adults do. They stay healthy by not letting others treat them poorly and cause them trauma. Your sister needs a strong, healthy, patient role model who can show her how normal life is and give her a steady person to emulate.