A "deal" gone terribly wrong

Friday, June 6, 2014

I have been struggling on deciding if I should or should not write this post due to the audience that occasionally reads.  I decided that, ultimately, I may help someone else out who is in the same position make a decision so here goes nothing...

About 10 months ago, my 26 year old (then, 25 year old) sister made the decision to come and live with us and watch our baby.  She had been away in the Peace Corps for many months and her tour of duty was ending right around my son's due date.  She was coming back to the US with lots of worldly experience, insight, and understanding, but without a clear plan on what her next steps in life would be.  It seemed like it was the perfect situation.  She would come watch her nephew while we got into the swing of family life and she could then in turn, get back on her feet and decide what her next move would be.  Since she didn't know anyone in the area, other than my sister and I, she would have lots of time, when she was not watching the baby, to work another part-time job or take some college classes to apply towards an eventual Masters in Education.  Win, win, right?  Apparently not.

The "deal" that we had worked out soon after she started, after a miscommunication right in the beginning, was as follows:

-Live with us, rent/utilities free, in her own bedroom.  The bedroom had a flat screen TV with cable, wifi, a desk, a bed, and a couch. 
-We would buy her whatever food she wanted.  She is a vegetarian so we always made sure she had vegetarian stuff even though we are far from vegetarians.
-We would buy her whatever "stuff" she needed (i.e. toothpaste, shampoo, etc.).
-We would pay for her full gym membership (included a pool).
-She could use my subway pass on the weekends.
-We would let her use the car if it was available and we would pay for it (gas/insurance/maintenance, etc.). 
-We would let her dog live with us, even though it was not up-to-date on all of its vaccines and we already had 2 cats and a dog of our own.
-We would pay her between $120-150 a week.
-We would pay her even for the days that she did not work and, as long as she gave us notice, she could take days off.
-I would stay home every Friday (and sometimes more than just Friday) to work and provide a hand.
-The hours would be 6 AM-4:30 PM (any extra time would be worked out ahead of time as $10 an hour).
-She could leave whenever she wanted to as long as she gave us enough notice to find another situation for the baby.

I thought that this was a pretty good set-up that benefited both of us.  She was going to be able to grow some roots, get her footing, and decide what she was going to do next, while we were getting a trusted family member with a degree in Early Childhood Education to watch our growing little boy.  It seemed too good to be true, and we came to find out that it was, unfortunately.

As the months rolled by, I thought that things were going really well for the most part.  B seemed to be happy, healthy, and growing.  We were all getting along well, even though my house isn't that large.  We had occasional bumps in the road, but I thought that we were communicating well and we seemed to be able to work through our differences.  We had lots of fun together including family runs, dinners out (which we always paid for), and spending time together in the evenings watching reality TV or sporting events.

My sister had decided a few months back that her next step was going to be to move to S. Korea to teach and not to go to school to get her Masters or a teaching job in the area.  It was her decision and her life, so we were obviously supportive.  She had some issues getting the paperwork together (some of which was out of her control) so she made an interim plan to teach at a summer camp for several weeks starting in mid-June.  This ended up working out perfectly because daycare was set to start mid-June as well.  We would have no lapse in coverage...yay!  Everything seemed to be working out so perfectly...

I came to find out, from another sister, that my sister was planning on leaving her dog with us (yes, the one without all of the proper vaccinations), but had not asked us or even so much as mentioned to us that she was anting to do this.  My husband and I talked it over and decided that it was not going to work to take her dog for several reasons, including the fact that my 65yo MIL was going to be watching B two days a week (FOR FREE) and would have to watch two to three dogs, including her own if she had to bring him, and the baby.  We had originally been letting the dogs out on their own in the backyard, as necessary, but just gotten our backyard re-seeded so we had started walking them 3 times a day instead because we are tired of having a backyard full of dog $#!t.  There were many other reasons that factored into our decision, which I am not going to mention because this post would end up being 100 pages.  I had talked with my mom and she had agreed to take the dog for the few months while she was at camp.  I planned on letting her store all of her stuff in our basement until she was done at camp.  I was ready to work out some type of plan with her for when she finished camp if she needed a place to stay while she was waiting to go to S. Korea or figuring out what came next.  I was willing and ready to help her out in any way that I could... besides directly taking her dog for several weeks.

Well, when I confronted my sister about the dog, her response was not one of, "Thanks!  That is nice that you have thought about this situation so much even though I never brought it up to you.  Let's try to work something out", it was one of, "I have sacrificed almost a year of my life and you can't do this ONE THING for me?!"

This is when the proverbial flood gates opened.  We came to find out that she had been harboring incredibly intense feelings of anger and resentment at us for the situation that she was currently in, for months.  She felt that we were making money off of her and not appreciating the "sacrifice" that she had made to come and watch B.  She said that we frivolously spent money on things when we could have been giving to her and that she could have been making a lot more money nannying for someone who was not a family member.  Then she proceeded to pick apart other aspects of the way that my husband and I have been living our lives (and what we were spending our money on), as if she had been silently observing and gathering dirt on us so that one day she could use it as blackmail to throw back in our faces.  It was shocking and hurtful, but I didn't counter back at her and do the same thing.  Even when she told me that we NEVER did anything nice for her, I was not about to go through and list all of the nice things that we had done for her to try to get back at her (although I could list a bunch of them, very easily).

Neither my husband, nor I, ever thought that her coming to watch the baby was a "sacrifice" at all.  We thought that it was a fair situation that would benefit both she and us.  She felt otherwise, but never bothered to say anything until it was too late.

She ended up leaving to go and stay with my sister because I could not have her in the house, caring for my son, with those feelings of anger and resentment towards us.  It was an incredibly hostile and uncomfortable situation for all of us, but especially my poor child.  My attempts to talk and compromise with her failed left and right.  I tried text and tried scheduling times to meet, but nothing worked.  She didn't want to try to work anything out.  She only wanted to keep harping on the fact that she had sacrificed so much that was not appreciated.  I don't feel like that was true for many reasons, but I can't change the fact that she felt like that.  She moved her stuff out at the end of last week and I have not heard from her regarding the situation, since.

Thinking back on the situation now, it would be easy for me to say that I wish we had never decided to ask her to come and "sacrifice" almost a year of her twenty-something life to stay with us and watch our precious son so that I could have avoided what ended up ensuing.  I am grateful for the time that my sister spent with my son during his very impressionable first months of life.  She was wonderful with him and he absolutely adores her.  He is who he is today partly because of the time that she spent with him.  I am sad and upset that things ended the way that they did.  I wish that I would have known that she was feeling so terrible a little sooner so that we could have worked things out.  My husband and I are both reasonable people and the fact that she felt like she had to bottle everything up just sucks.  Even worse, other people in my family have "taken sides", which hurts because they don't know the whole story.  They have heard one side of it and think they know, but they don't.  It has driven a wedge between me and other family members and I feel totally out-casted.  Everything is such a mess.

The past few weeks, I have been left trying to work full-time and watch the baby.  Yeah, as you can imagine, not so easy.  We had to cancel our family vacation so that I could spread the time out over 2 weeks and work while he was at nap and first thing in the morning and in the evenings.  Needless to say, I am exhausted and thus have not had much extra time for blogging.

My advice to anyone wondering if they should have a family member be their nanny would be this, work every last detail out before the first day and WRITE IT ALL DOWN.  Make sure the family member understands what the deal is and make sure that they agree with it and that they don't feel like they are sacrificing.  Some of these details include, but are not limited to: hours, salary, who pays for room/board and other expenses, vacation time needed (GET THIS UP FRONT), over-time pay, and an eventual end date.  Dealing with family and money is always complicated.  I heard it from many people when I told them what our arrangement was going to be.  I guess I thought that our situation would be different and that we could somehow defy the odds and both end up happy in the end.  I was dead wrong.  

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2 Responses to “A "deal" gone terribly wrong”

  1. Ugh -- I hate family drama. I'm so sorry! I hope your sis will come around at some point and be willing to help heal the hurt in your relationship. In the meantime, I hope you will go easy on yourself. It really sounds like you were fair and did everything right. xo

  2. I'm sorry you're in this situation. Unfortunately, you are far from the first and definitely will not be the last.

    I have no advice about how to work through this situation with your sister. Truth be told, she may need to go to Korea still angry with you. What I can suggest for anyone who is looking to hire a family member to do so in a manner that is similar to how you would hire anyone else. For nannies, there are a number of services and people who can provide you with examples of contracts (salary, hours, expectations, health insurance, etc.) to use. Usually a lawyer is hired to look over everything and it has to be made clear that the contract is binding.

    Again I'm very sorry you are dealing with this. I hope you ind resolution soon.