Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Acknowledge family pressure, throw a lifeline, then back off
D.C.: My wonderful sister-in-law, "Kate," is graduating college this May. She's completely unsure of what she wants to do with her life, and is leaning toward going home (small town) to "work and save money" while she figures it out. This is — trust me — a dead end. Because of family pressures and geography, she won't have an opportunity there to interact with anyone stimulating, explore options, become fired up by anything. Family is not connected professionally, so she's likely to wind up working retail. Perfectly fine — but not a recipe for saving significant money, or for getting inspired.
My husband and I are in a position to offer Kate a place to live temporarily, and to help her get a job. We're both well-connected in different professional spheres, and can help leapfrog her to the top of some resume piles. Our interest is both selfless (we love her) and selfish (we want her to become a person we can identify with as the years go on — not the case with all of the family). We would also love to hang out with her as we all age.
Question is, how do we urge her to accept our offer, without unduly pressuring her? Her mother won't play fair — she will guilt Kate about family health issues and will generally encourage her to come home, knowing she'll likely never leave. We want to support her, but we don't feel comfortable supporting a decision that we truly feel is stunting her emotional and professional growth.
Carolyn: You can certainly make the offer, and make it tempting. And you can say, "If returning home is what you really want, then we support you, and our offer will remain open should you change your mind at any point.
"However, if returning home is what you feel pressured to do, then please consider our offer carefully, because it's your life and no one else's."
Naming the pressure problem for Kate, without pointing fingers at anyone specific, is the emotional equivalent of pointing out the ocean, and throwing her a rope. Her choices will be clear.
Having made those choices clear to her, though, you need to shut up and let her make her decision. Otherwise you just become part of — actually, a somewhat smug new branch of — the family-guilt-and-pressure problem. And I'm saying this as someone who sympathizes with what you're trying to do.
Find the humor in annoying car trip with sister and forget it
Anonymous: Any tips for surviving driving my sister from one parent's house to the other this weekend? It's a three-hour trip and she commandeers my radio, criticizes my driving and generally drives me nuts every time we're in the car. Plus, she'll be ready late, and want to stop at every Starbucks we pass, which will make her have to pee. I'm anticipating the three-hour drive will take roughly 4 1/2 with her in the car. How do I do it so we arrive at parent No. 2's house with me still in the visiting spirit?
Carolyn: Read this, appreciate how funny it is and treat yourself to a foofy somethingorother-uccino at one (if not all) of the stops.