Pandemic creating strange bedfellows
Dear Amy: Because COVID-19 has caused universities to close, my boyfriend’s sister, “C,” has moved into the house with us until further notice (perhaps until the university reopens in the fall).
C is a very picky eater and eats mostly bread, cheese and fruit. My boyfriend and I are mostly vegetarian and vegan, but we’ve been able to find at least one meal a week we can all share together. We tend to do this on Sundays.
My issue is with the other days of the week. More often than not, C seems to take an adultsized portion of food (at least a few spoonfuls, perhaps to be polite) picks at the food we’ve prepared, and then declares she’s not interested in eating it and throws it away. This amounts to bowls of food going into the trash.
I don’t want C to feel like she has to appease us, and I’ve offered “feel free to make yourself a sandwich” several times.
How do I prevent this waste from happening?
Dear Mealmates: This pandemic — and the necessity to isolate — has created unusual and unforeseen cohabiting groups, strange (and stranger) bedfellows and occasional discomfort around the table. In my household, this discomfort is caused by various family members experimenting with new dishes, and serving up the occasional dud (I plead guilty).
Most of the issues that arise can be dealt with
(and solved) through simple communication.
You say that you don’t want for “C” to feel like she has to appease you, but she should feel that she has to appease you, by making an effort to be a responsible member of the household.
You are making the effort to appease her by providing housing for the foreseeable future and by not passing judgment on her limited diet.
“Feel free to make yourself a sandwich” is obviously a too subtle statement for C to discern what you are really getting at.
You and your boyfriend (C’s brother) should have a “family meeting” once a week. You should all review various aspects of your cohabitation, especially your experiences at mealtime. Say to her, “We all like to eat different things, and that’s fine. But you often serve yourself a larger portion of the food we prepare, even when it seems that you won’t like it — or wouldn’t eat it — and then we end up throwing it away. If you want to try something, it would be helpful if you served yourself a small spoonful or two, and if you like it, dive in! We just can’t afford to dispose of leftover food.”
Dear Amy: Due to the COVID-19 crisis, both my spouse and teen have been idle at home, but I have been working full time (from home).
I had to have a talk with them. I said, basically, if you’re not going to your job/school but I am, you must step up. Do not expect me to work and then plan and make dinner and do the laundry, etc.
They got the message. Women, especially, have the expectation of managing the family, the house and their job.
I hope this situation will be the event that helps those who don’t manage the household see and step into full partnerships with the “house manager.”
Dear Optimistic: In my household, I finally reached my limit and dealt with this issue by asking each family member to “take a night.” This seems to have worked out well and has been something of a relief for all of us.
Dear Amy: “Overworked” complained about the state of her house with her adult children quarantined at home.
This mom obviously raised these kids to be dependent and to act helpless when at home. It is absolutely unacceptable that any young adult would not automatically pitch in and be useful.
Now parents get a second chance at successful parenting. One of the parents of my sixth grade students confided in me that, in preparation for cancer surgery, she took her school age boys aside and explained how to do laundry, pack a lunch, etc.
She came out of the surgery fine, and the boys kept up with taking care of these chores. She said, “Why did it take cancer to teach me that kids can be so independent?”
Dear Teacher: Some parents are late to this valuable lesson.