Dear Amy: My husband and I are retired. We own two homes — one in the north, one in the south. Our 40-year-old son still lives with us up north.
We spend about six months of the year in each place. We are covering all expenses for our son (except for his food, car, and telephone). We pay heat, electric, water, cable, insurance, landscaping, etc.
He does not contribute financially in any way. He has worked full-time since graduating college and is doing fine financially.
It is comforting to have someone in the house while we are gone. He does take care of things if a need arises. When we return, however, I have to deep-clean the place and my husband becomes 24-hour gardener to restore the home to how it was when we left.
I strongly feel that my son should be contributing financially and doing some chores, but my husband keeps saying, “Oh, leave him alone.”
I think he should be paying rent. And we definitely want to relax and not be interrupted by his comings and goings (and those of his acquaintances).
We love our son dearly and do not want to hurt or alienate him.
Can you help resolve this dilemma? — Frustrated Mom
Dear Frustrated: Your son should be paying rent during the six months when you are all in the house together. His rent should be reduced or eliminated during the time he is basically house-sitting for you during the winter.
Many people hire seasonal house sitters during the off-season, because of the substantial risks to leaving a house empty. Some house sitters do it in exchange for a place to live, but many charge a per/day fee.
In terms of you returning home to face many large tasks, he is 40 years old! He should help with cleaning and do all of the yard work (unless your husband enjoys it), and yes — you should return to a house (basically) as clean as you left it. It is completely reasonable to expect this. I’m guessing you have never made this expectation clear to him, however.
I’ve offered practical ideas. However, it sounds as if you just don’t want to live with your son. That is completely understandable and absolutely within reason. You could suggest he move out altogether, or look into a six-month furnished rental during the summer (when you’re in the house) and then move into your home (rent free) in the winter.
Dear Amy: I live 3,000 miles away from my parents and have only been able to communicate with them by phone/video chat during COVID.
Due to age, my parents are considered to be higher risk for the virus. They tell me they are careful. Last week, they announced they were going to a beach house with two other couples and planned to visit tourist destinations in the area that were reopening. I was floored. I begged them to reconsider and their response was, “We understand your concern and promise to be careful.” My sister later learned through mutual friends that my parents have not been as careful as they’ve let on (friends have been in their house, they regularly have meals with neighbors, etc.).
I don’t think they’ve lied to us, but I believe they’ve conveniently withheld details. I don’t know what to do. I’ve shared my concern about the consequences of their decisions. We’re all fatigued by this virus, but I want to put my foot down. How do I get through to them? — Upset
Dear Upset: You won’t get through to them. Your parents are taking risks, and they know this because they haven’t been honest with you about their choices. You cannot control them from 3,000 miles away. You likely wouldn’t be able to control them from one mile away. This lack of control is a major stressor for family members everywhere, and it is a sadness you will have to learn to tolerate, while you put your hands together and hope for the best.
Dear Amy: You ran a letter from “Wondering,” who asked why liquor stores stayed open during the coronavirus pandemic.
As an addictionologist, I will tell you that individuals who quit drinking “cold-turkey” risk the potential of severe, even life-threatening withdrawal.
While I doubt that this was in the thoughts of the politicians who made these decisions, keeping the liquor stores open saved lives. — Charles Schauberger, MD, FASAM
Dear Charles: Many other readers pointed out the risk of alcohol withdrawal, and I appreciate the perspective and correction.