Question: “Am I wrong for not letting my sister-in-law, 26, and her four kids (ages 1 to 8) stay at my house for a few days?
My sister-in-law recently bought a house. Before her family moves in, they have to do some renovations. They’re currently living in a rental. There will be a four-day gap between when they have to be out of the rental and when the new house will (hopefully) be ready. I say hopefully because there’s always delays with construction. They also live 1-hour away.
She messaged my husband asking if she could stay at our house for that time. Like a good brother he immediately wanted to say yes but given my tense history with his sister, he asked me for my thoughts. I said I would prefer it if she didn’t. Her kids are wild and unhinged. They usually have help from a family member a couple of days during the week because she can’t handle the kids on her own. Our house does not have any extra beds for all of them to sleep. Our only spare room is currently occupied by mother-in-law.
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We live in an area that is constantly in and out of lockdowns due to COVID. The kids are also always sick. I am newly pregnant and no one knows yet. I don’t want to take the risk of them bringing something into our house and putting us at risk.
My husband ended up messaging her to say that we wouldn’t be able to host them, but we can find them a hotel nearby and pay for it. She didn’t like that response and it has now made my husband resent me. (It’s not the first time this has happened with her.)
So, am I wrong?”
Answer: Navigating family dynamics is so challenging for us all. It is not your fault that you and your husband came to an agreement about how to proceed, but then he changed his mind or felt resentment towards you. Communication can be difficult with our partners, and this may be an area you two really need to address as it’s so important for the foundation and longevity of our relationships.
That being said, I’m going to let my frequent guest co-host Alejandra Nagel weigh in on your dilemma because she has lots of experience dealing with complex family dynamics. Alejandra, what do you think?
“You are not wrong whatsoever for setting a boundary and not letting your sister-in-law and her four kids stay in your home. Let’s start by acknowledging that anytime we open up our homes to let anyone crash with us, it is doing them a favor. There is nothing wrong with hosting your family and helping them out while their living situation is in flux, however, if you’re uncomfortable with it or the timing is not right, you can say no. For the record, saying no is a complete answer and does not require an explanation. It can be really uncomfortable saying no, especially to family, and particularly so with a sister-in-law whom you seem to have a tumultuous history with.
An important detail here is the fact that you are pregnant (congratulations!). Your family’s health is your top priority – rightfully so. I understand that nobody knows this yet, so it is tough to defend yourself without this piece of information, but the you shouldn’t have to.
Relationships with an in-law can be notoriously difficult to navigate. In your case, it sounds like your sister-in-law does not respect your boundaries and has tried driving a wedge between you and your husband more than once. It’s great your husband had your back and said you are not able to host this time, and it’s unfortunate he has since felt resentful.
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It sounds like you and your husband need to sit down and have a conversation to make sure you are a united front and aligned on your boundaries. If he cannot respect where you are coming from and continues to harbor resentment, then couples or family counseling may be a good avenue to explore. It may be that there is a prickly relationship that exists between your husband and his sister that has nothing to do with you, but you are feeling the impact of it.
At the end of the day, you and your husband went above and beyond by offering to find and pay for a hotel nearby. That is not your burden to bear and a really nice gesture to extend to your husband’s family. If your sister-in-law cannot appreciate this and throws a tantrum because she did not get her way, that’s a shame and a poor reflection of her and not of you.
You did nothing wrong, so please continue to stand firm on what’s best for you, your baby and home environment.
Wishing you the best,
Morgan Absher is an occupational therapist in Los Angeles who hosts the podcast, “Two Hot Takes” where she and her co-hosts dish out advice. She writes a weekly column, sharing her advice with USA TODAY’s readers. Find her on TikTok @twohottakes and YouTube here. You can reach her by email at Mabsher@gannett.com or you can click here to share your story with her.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Sister-in-law, kids want to stay during COVID. Am I wrong to say no?