Advice Column: Response to Fed up Rye

 Dear Hailey,

I’ve had to live with my parents into the current year (I’m 22) due to a health condition that makes it difficult to find a job. Also living with my parents are my younger sister Oat (19), my older sister Barley (28), and Barley’s 2 kids, Sorghum (4) and Wheat (2). It was very happy for me at first to have both my sisters and my beloved niece and nephew living in a house with me. We’re a very close family and I used to think we got along really well.

However, more and more it’s become apparent that Barley isn’t being considerate of our time. She spends large chunks of the day not in the house, sometimes leaving me and Oat alone to watch Sorghum and Wheat for hours.

There are several cases, very recent ones, where she knew that I had plans for things I was going to do today, yet still went off without telling me so that I had to stay behind and watch her kids. Oat’s had many similar experiences, I’m led to believe even more frequently than I am.

I love my big sister, and I love both these kids. But they’ve been forced on me without my consent over and over. As I’m certain you already know, taking care of children takes time and effort. Time and effort I’m not able to put into looking for a job, visiting my friends, working on my writing or my videogame collection, or any of the other things I feel I should be allowed to do instead of spending the whole day watching my sister’s kids in her place, without any sort of compensation, financial or otherwise.

Her demeanor when confronted by me, Oat, and our parents on her behavior makes it very clear to us that she doesn’t intend to stop doing this, and she believes she can convince us to do her parenting job for her for as long as she pleases.

What should I do?


Fed up Rye

Dear Rye,

It sounds like you’ve attempted to reason with Barley.  You’ve attempted to set boundaries. She’s taken advantage of you and your parents generosity. I don’t doubt that you love your sister and her kids, but it isn’t your job to care for them 24/7, so you shouldn’t feel bad about putting a stop to this.

Some creative solutions you can try:

Start leaving her a bill when she forces you to babysit. Your time is not free, don’t allow her to continue to use your time without paying for it. Pick an hourly wage, and write up a bill when it happens again. Have Oat do the same.

Give her a list of babysitters that she can pay, or daycares that are available. If Barley is low income, she might qualify for assistance in paying for childcare. However, she likely needs to be employed to take advantage of those programs.

At times when your sister generally forces you to watch her kids by simply leaving, make sure that no one is in the house. Do some job searching and writing at the public library or community center. If you aren’t home, she can’t force you to watch her kids. 

Continue to do your best to set boundaries, and let Barley know that sort of behavior will not be tolerated.

Honestly, it might be time for Barley to find a new place to live. If your parents aren’t aware of the impact of parenting Sorghum and Wheat is having on your wellbeing and goals for yourself, enlighten them. They might ask her to go if she can’t respect the other residents of the house.

I wish you luck with your sister and your job search. You’ve got this!


Posted in Q&A

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