Dear Annie: My husband and I both work 18-hour days at a hospital. When we get home, we are exhausted. Since our schedules are irregular, however, our siblings seem to think it means we are always available for free babysitting.
My husband’s sister (a stay-at-home mom) is forever dropping off her toddler, saying she needs to “de-stress.” She never calls ahead. We’ve tried locking the door, but she has a key. My brother has dropped off his young sons multiple times without warning and with no indication of when he’d be back. He stopped when I told him I was going to start charging him $12.50 an hour.
The last straw was when my oldest brother’s wife arrived one weekend in a van with seven little girls and stated that these kids were staying overnight with us because she and her girlfriend were going to a spa. I was just getting off a 24-hour shift, and I told her politely that since she hadn’t checked with me beforehand, she’d have to make other arrangements because I was too exhausted to care for her girls and those of her friend. She became angry and told my nieces that I don’t love them. Her girlfriend, whom I had never met, screamed at me from the passenger window. After they left, I got nasty phone calls from my brother and parents. The friend sent me an itemized bill and asked that I reimburse her for the spa trip they missed.
Instead of responding, my husband and I sent our family members an email outlining that we love them and our nieces and nephews, but we would no longer be available for babysitting unless it was an emergency. We apologized for being rude or for causing them any trouble. The email was much kinder and more polite than they deserved, but we hoped it would allow us to start over.
It was not received well. Currently, the only person speaking to us is my father-in-law. We considered moving in order to have boundaries, but I resent being forced out of a house I love. I miss my family. What can we do?
— Not the Nanny
Dear Nanny: What colossal nerve. It seems that those who take the most advantage are the same ones who are most aggrieved when they don’t get their way.
You are related to a bunch of bullies. You don’t owe the girlfriend any money, and you don’t owe your family members an apology. You have outlined your parameters, and they prefer to throw tantrums in an effort to manipulate you. If you want a relationship, fine. Continue to stay in touch. Perhaps they will come around in time, but don’t expect much. And change your locks.
Dear Annie: My wife and I received many gift cards to restaurants as wedding presents last year. We haven’t used them because we are concerned about etiquette.
When we use one of the cards, do we need to invite the person who gave us the card to join us at the restaurant? If so, do we need to cover the cost of their meal? We don’t want to be rude.
— Still Newlyweds
Dear Newlyweds: You do not need to invite the gift-giver to join you at the restaurant. You wouldn’t invite the gift-giver to join you every time you use a place setting or your new mixer, would you? The gift cards are the same. We do recommend, however, that you check to be certain the cards haven’t expired.
Dear Annie: Here is a suggestion for “Suggestions Appreciated,” who doesn’t want guests bringing snow into her house. I have had repair people work in my home, and they brought along paper “booties” that cover their shoes. These are better than slippers. They keep your floors clean and allow you to avoid embarrassing guests by asking them to remove their shoes.
— Hope This Helps
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