DEAR AMY: I married my husband three years ago. We’re in our early 40s. His younger sister has two children, ages 8 and 2. The children were in a very bad situation, which ultimately led to them being sent to live with my in-laws two states away. The courts are involved, and the children are in counseling. My in-laws are well into their 60s. It’s clear to everyone that my sister-in-law likely won’t ever get the children back, and my in-laws are not in a position to raise kids for another 15 years. My husband and I are child-free by choice and have, frankly, no desire to raise a family not our own. This is causing anxiety and stress, but we are unified in the knowledge that we might need to step in when his parents can no longer handle things. His mom has shown some serious lapses in judgment during the time she’s had the kids. I’m struggling to reconcile my selfish feelings of not wanting a family, and taking on the family of someone who was irresponsible. Not to mention, the emotional trauma the children will continue to have. I’m so angry at my sister-in-law. We had plans to travel far and wide. Now we’re talking about settling down somewhere where his parents could potentially live near us with the kids. None of us want this, but foster care isn’t an option. I don’t know what to do with any of this.
DEAR RELUCTANT: I applaud your realization that you will make a choice to benefit these children. Family members who pick up the pieces and raise innocent children caught in the crossfire of family dysfunction or the addiction crisis are unsung heroes to a generation of children.
You mention that you both have no desire to raise a family “not our own,” but these children are in your family, and I hope you will start the process to make them your own.
You should try to take this in stages, starting as soon as possible. Getting to know the children when they are this young will help all of you make a transition toward living together.
You and the grandparents could start by sharing parenting duties (as many families do). Even if you are the primary parents, the grandparents could be enormously helpful, possibly giving you and your husband opportunities to travel.
Yes, this is NOT what you had planned. Yes, you are angry, and yes, you will mourn for the radical shift in your plans. But this is what life is about. Illness, job loss, random acts of violence — or kindness — will turn many of our lives upside down. And making ethical and compassionate choices, sometimes in opposition to your own desires, has to be its own reward.
A professional counselor could help both of you come to terms with this, and arrive at an action plan.
DEAR AMY: What’s the rule about taking guest-size packets of shampoo, conditioner, moisturizer and those little soaps left in the bathroom of a hotel for guest use? I always thought they were there for the paying guest to use every day, or even take for future use. Is it proper to take these small packets every day and store them in one’s luggage, if not using them at the hotel? This is in regards to someone’s choice to remove these items every day during a week-long stay at a hotel.
DEAR CURIOUS: I travel a lot. I use these products while I’m staying at a hotel, and then nab any unopened or unused ones to stash for future use at home or on the road. They are often great advertisements for products and hotels, and fit into the TSA liquid guidelines.
Stashing these unused products every day, and then returning home with a seven-day supply of tiny bottles and soap bars seems excessive, but I don’t think it is unexpected — or wrong. If hotels wanted, they could simply charge guests for these items, the way they do for those $5 bags of M&M’s that I occasionally grab from the mini-bar.
DEAR AMY: “Mentor Over My Head” was a male mentor to a young female employee who disclosed a sexual assault to him. Thank you so much for running a question by a man who is demonstrating his #MeToo support. There are many of us out there. Thank you, too, for encouraging him to continue to try to help her.
DEAR #METOO: I also appreciated this man’s compassion.