Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
I’m 66 and retired. I have a large, lovely home, lots of hobbies
including international travel, which I indulge in about four months a
year. I’m the person who’s always hosting the holidays, hand-making
gifts, giving gardening advice, and generally being kind and helpful.
Last year my former college roommate and her grandson landed in my
life. She’d rescued the seven-year old from a drug-addicted mother
and derelict father. They moved across country with court-ordered
custody. I don’t mind helping but they have taken over my life. After
four months they finally got their own place to live, but by then I had
bonded with Isaiah like he was my own grandson and he with me. I
babysit him three afternoons a week, and feed them five nights out of
seven. They hold parties here like it is their home, and I have to go
hide in my room just to find some peace and quiet. How can I keep a
relationship with this boy, but get my life back?
You can learn how to spell b.o.u.n.d.a.r.i.e.s. Say it with me:
boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. It’s fine, at whatever age, to take
new people into your life as family. It’s great that you are a generous
and kind-hearted person. But if you keep giving so much that you
become depleted, you will also become resentful, legitimately so.
Imagine that you have 100 discretionary hours in a week (7×24, with
time used each day for sleeping and personal care). Every time you
give away five hours, the next time you make that same decision and
the next, you are puling from a declining balance.
You need to set some clear priorities and communicate them. If you
want time with Isaiah, set it up on a schedule that works for you. If
you want to invite him and his mom for supper, make it an occasion,
perhaps Sunday supper or be spontaneous. Say very simply, I need to
take my life and house back or you won’t like the cranky person I am
becoming. Acknowledge it is a shift in the status quo, and that it is
very much about you, not about them in specific, just your attempt to
take better care of yourself. But the implications are that they should
ask, not assume, for access, and accept a “not now, later” graciously.
You’re doing a good thing. Take a vacation, relax, and recalibrate. It’ll
all get better because your life is solid and good.