Ask Amy: The house isn’t big enough for both of us

Ask Amy: The house isn’t big enough for both of us

Dear Amy: My sister and I don’t get along well.

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In fact, my sister doesn’t get along with most people. (Our mom always says, “You know how she is.”)

I can put up with her behavior only in spurts. Her husband, however, is wonderful.

Here’s the issue: Right now, my husband and I live a couple of houses away from my widowed mom in a nice retirement community in the South.

My sister (who doesn’t work) and her husband come from their home up North to visit for two to four weeks at a time during the winter. This is great because Mom really enjoys the company and loves being with family.

Now that my brother-in-law is fully retired, they have commented that they plan on staying with Mom for two or three months at a time, becoming “snowbirds” and using her home as a free vacation spot.

Mom was looking forward to that.

This plan was fine when Mom was alone, but now that is all about to change. We have agreed to sell our two houses and buy one big house together.

The problem is that we’ve still heard comments about my sister and brother-in-law coming to stay a few weeks or months, even after we move to this single house.

A week or two is fine but longer than that is totally unacceptable to my husband and me if we will be under one roof.

There are hotels and long-term rentals available nearby, but my very frugal sister will not want to spend the money (even though they have the money).

It was fun for them to have a long-term free “vacation in paradise” with Mom, but if these are the terms, it is making us not want to share a house.

We’re wondering what you think we should do.

– Reluctant

Dear Reluctant: I agree that it is not a good idea to consolidate your households until you come up with some workable solutions for coping with your “snowbirding” sister.

When your sister and brother-in-law visit and are taking care of your mother, you and your husband might take this opportunity to travel (if you are able) during the bulk of their stay.

Otherwise, you might look for a house that has an additional unit or “mother-in-law suite” with a separate entrance. When the snowbirds come for the winter, they (or you) could stay in the unit, and you could rent it out for short-term stays during the rest of the year.

Getting your sister to contribute to the household during her stay might be easier than compelling her to pay for her own separate housing.

Dear Amy: We have a circle of friends that we socialize with at one another’s homes. Sometimes the group can grow to 12 people.

We meet in the middle of the day for lunch, or for a happy hour or dinner.

When I’m hosting, even though I’m an extrovert, after a few hours I am done and would like everyone to leave.

I don’t want to offend, and obviously people are having a good time if they want to linger, so how do I say, “OK, the lunch, dinner, etc., is over and it’s time to go home?”

– Tired

Dear Tired: My friend Hop shared his father’s signal for when an evening should end. The elder man would make eye contact with his wife and say, “Well, Shirley …”

“Well, Shirley” is now our universal prompt (from the host or the guest) that it is time to go.

You can address your guests with a version of “Well, Shirley,” by saying, “It has been so great to see everyone, but I need to wrap things up. Can I help you find your coats?”

You might add that you have a deadline tomorrow (or a conference call, choir practice, or that you’re simply worn out).

Dear Amy: “Concerned Parents” were very worried about their son, who wants to become a Navy SEAL.

Fifty years ago, I was posted in a remote area halfway around the world as a Peace Corps volunteer. Mail service was spotty. Phone service was unavailable.

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Years later, I said to my mother, “You never worried about me even when I was halfway around the world.”

Her response, “I worried about you every day. But I would never let my worry stand in the way of your life.” What a gift she was to me!

– Peace Corps Forever

Dear Peace Corps: Thank you for your service, and for sharing your mother’s inspiring wisdom.

You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.