Ask Amy: COVID transforms house guest to housemate
Dear Amy: Three months ago, my husband and I took in a friend of our daughter, who quite suddenly lost her housing and whose college switched to all online classes, due to COVID-19.
We have been hosting her without asking for any kind of payment. All we’ve requested is that she cook one night a week. She’s a lovely girl and usually washes the dishes after dinner, but does not do any other housework.
When she came to live with us, her parents (who live overseas) called to thank us. They said they would be in touch weekly. Aside from that phone call we have not heard one word from them. We assumed she would be with us until her semester ended.
Instead, she is still living with us — and we just learned that she plans to stay another two months, after which she will go to live with her parents.
Since she clearly is no longer a house guest but rather a housemate, I’ve discussed with my husband the idea of asking her parents to make a financial contribution to our household, but he is hesitant to do so.
Prior to COVID-19, her parents were paying her tuition and for at least some of her living costs. She is getting some kind of financial help from them now, too.
Three months in, I’m feeling taken advantage of by the parents. I’d like to ask them to make a financial contribution, but don’t know how to broach the subject and how to convince my husband that we aren’t being cheap. — Taken Advantage Of
Dear Taken: You stepped in during a global emergency. Let’s assume that this phase of the emergency has now passed. The school semester has also ended. And so — if travel home is possible, it seems logical that your housemate would return to live with her parents.
This situation has taken up a tidy space in the void you yourselves have created, by refusing to communicate.
Do you want this person to leave the household? Then say so: “We’ve been happy to host you, but now that things have settled down, you need to return to your folks’.”
Do you want her to do more than make one meal a week? Then say so!
Would you feel better if you agreed to let her stay, and she paid you $50/week? Then tell her.
Maybe after considering all of your options, you would decide to let her stay — but if you do, then you should do so with open intentions.
My point is that you are basically accusing this young person of taking advantage of you, but she is young, she cannot read your minds, and because you are too afraid to have a conversation, you and your husband are now squabbling in the broom closet. If her parents are really in charge of her situation, then you should call them and review how you envision her current options.
Dear Amy: I am over 60 and have autoimmune disease, as well as a treasured parent in their late 90s that I look after.
I am quite concerned about the danger of the COVID virus.
My spouse does not share my concern and is no longer willing to forgo the gym, hair appointments, out-of-our-home hobbies, etc., just as the cases in our state are increasing!
Other couples must be having this issue; what have they done? — Disappointed Spouse
Dear Disappointed: As the pandemic grows and the risk assessment seems to change regularly, many people seem to lack the fortitude to adhere to medical guidelines. It is as if they decided: “I can do this for four months, and then I’m done.”
The medically safest choice for you might be to leave your home and — if possible — cohabit with your elderly parent. You will also be faced with some tough realizations about your spouse.
I will run responses from people facing this very challenging dilemma.
Dear Amy: Responding to the letter from “Teacher,” you stated: “I can imagine not wanting to waste your breath on your in-laws.”
It’s statements like that one that perpetuates the notion that in-laws are naturally disliked. Most in-laws are eager to babysit, do errands for the family, transport children, help with needed household items, loan money, etc., and that is strictly out of love for their grandchildren and the family. — Offended
Dear Offended: I agree with you. In-laws sometimes get a bad rap.
In this case, however, according to “Teacher,” her in-laws were bigoted gasbags (as were her own parents).