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Dear Mary: My brother and his wife use me and my parents and treat mum and dad’s home like a hotel

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"When they want nights out, they stay here with the kids, but lie in bed until late, letting someone else get up early to look after the children and to cook the food my OAP father feels obligated to buy"

"When they want nights out, they stay here with the kids, but lie in bed until late, letting someone else get up early to look after the children and to cook the food my OAP father feels obligated to buy"

"When they want nights out, they stay here with the kids, but lie in bed until late, letting someone else get up early to look after the children and to cook the food my OAP father feels obligated to buy"

My brother and his wife seem to think that myself and my parents are just there to benefit them and make their life easier.

Over the last decade there was only a handful of times when they have given me Christmas or birthday gifts, although they have always given them to my parents. They received presents from all of us. I am told every year: ‘Oh, we will have it for you tomorrow or at the end of the week’, but, of course, nothing is ever said again.

There have been numerous times my sister-in-law has borrowed things from me promising to return them, and then she keeps them. She has asked me for things that I make and sell, saying she will pay me, but then acts like it is a gift. They earn substantially more than I do, so I don’t understand why they take so much from me.

They have children who we all love very much but are very demanding. My parents are retired, and I have told my brother that our parents are not physically and mentally able to look after the children on their own for more than a few hours.

I explained to him that I have to be there to help my parents because it’s too much for them. He chose to ignore this.

They have taken to using my parents’ home as a hotel. When they want nights out, they stay here with the kids, but lie in bed until late, letting someone else get up early to look after the children and to cook the food my OAP father feels obligated to buy — knowing they will want a particular breakfast.

They always leave without cleaning up the dirt they have made and don’t even bother putting stuff in the dishwasher.

There is a birthday approaching and I don’t know if I should just wish that person a ‘happy birthday’ and say nothing or address the gift situation. I feel very pissed-off with them for their behaviour. I am aware I play a part in this as I have allowed it to happen, but I’m no longer willing to be the doormat.

There have been attempts to ridicule and dismiss me. What should I do? I can’t lie or pretend and act like all is well. Honesty is the one thing I value most, despite it not being a core value in my family members.

Mary replies: There is an awful lot of pent-up emotion underlying your email which has obviously accumulated over the years. Your brother and his wife are not going to change, so you will have to change how you approach things in order to feel less angry and frustrated.

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Honesty is important to you, so you should wish the birthday person a ‘happy birthday’ but there is absolutely no point in giving a gift when you don’t want to. It also might be an idea when Christmas is approaching to suggest that you concentrate on the children, who are really central to Christmas, by giving them presents as usual, but do a ‘Kris Kindle’ for the adults where each person draws a name out of a hat and just gives that person a present for a specified small amount of money.

In future, if your sister-in-law wants to ‘buy’ something from you, tell her that you don’t have any available because of an order you have in, or whatever is appropriate to tell her. She will surely get the message after this happens a few times.

Your brother and his wife certainly seem to take advantage of your parents, but it is up to your parents to object if they want to. Grandchildren bring a very special joy to grandparents — mainly because they have much more time to spend on them than they did on their own children, and without the responsibility that parenting brings. So they may well be prepared to be put upon for the reward of being with their grandchildren.

The home belongs to your parents, so it is not up to you to make the rules, and having a showdown with your brother would not be a good idea. If you feel that it is too much for your parents to get up early in the morning when they are all staying the night, then can you offer to get up as well to ease the burden on your parents? Or if you don’t live with your parents, can you arrange to be there?

Your brother probably doesn’t even think about the cost of breakfast. As far as he is concerned, he is having breakfast where he had it all his life until he left home! So let it go and just concentrate on your parents’ happiness. You’ll be happier if you do.

You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting dearmary.ie or email her at dearmary@independent.ie or write c/o 27-32 Talbot St, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately.


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