Dear Captain Awkward,
My bedroom is the house guestroom, and has been as long as I can remember. Usually this isn’t problematic, since I’m up at school most of the year. However, during the holidays it becomes a bit of a problem, when my sister and BIL come to visit. Her old room has been absorbed as storage space, so they stay in mine, while I sleep out on the recliner in the living room.
This comes with two problems for me, though. One, my dad and BIL usually stay up well past midnight talking and watching movies in the living room. This means that I can’t get to sleep until they finally turn in. Second, my clothes are stored in that room, so I can’t actually get dressed until they decide to get up, which ranges from a reasonable hour through almost noon. I’ve tried taking out the next day’s clothes ahead of time, only to have my mom put them back, saying that I shouldn’t “clutter up public space with guests over.”
Now, I love both Sister and BIL dearly, and I don’t want them to stop coming over, and my bedroom is really the only logical place to put them at this point, and I don’t want to begrudge Dad and BIL bonding time, but this situation gets more frustrating every year. What reasonable boundaries can I set there?
Not a night owl
Dear Not A Night Owl:
How long do they usually stay? It sounds like it’s more than a night or two. If so, my question is, could this be solved with an air mattress ($30-$40 from a quick search, may be able to find them even cheaper) on the floor of your room (or your parents’ room, or the now-storage room)? If that’s not an option, could you share the bed with your sister? Sister can have your bed or you can share it, or you can have the bedroll on the floor (and access to your clothes), brother in law has late nights with your dad + the recliner?
They are married and sleep in the same bed all the time, presumably, yes? You can pitch it as “I want time to talk to Sister!” and get her to be your ally. “I really love it when you guys come here, but we have to rework something about the sleeping arrangements and schedule.” Maybe your sister can do the asking – “Can Night Owl bunk with me tonight? Husband, why don’t you stay up late with dad and then grab the couch.” Because yeah, this stinks. They can take over your room OR the living room but there has to be somehere you can a) sleep b) keep your clothes so you can get dressed.
The thing to think about is, is this a logistics problem or a family dynamic problem? Are you going to get a lot of pushback for being the squeaky wheel? Will your sister help you out? Are you going to have to deal with drama re: But This Is How It’s Always Been, Really Can’t You Be More Accommodating? Don’t You Want Your Sister To Be Comfortable Here? Do You Think You Are Some Kind Of Special Princess Or Something? Are you from a Yelling Family? Because one thing that might happen is that you speak up and your parents say, “You know what, you’re right. We didn’t realize how much this was inconveniencing you. Let’s solve this!”
Sometimes people have a weird resistance to changing ANYTHING about their Precious Sacred Holiday Traditions, even though a) those traditions suck for some people and b) with a tiny bit of thought and pre-planning, it can be worked out. But sometimes things don’t change because it hasn’t occurred to anyone to change it. I know $40 is not an insignificant amount of money, especially not a college student or a family with kids in college, but sometimes (hopefully?) it can be that simple with the added benefit of solving the “Where do guests sleep?” problem for the longer term. After all, pretty soon you are going to move out permanently and be a guest just as much as your sister is now, and I’m sure your parents would want you to be comfortable visiting home during the holidays. As I approach 40, let me tell you, the recliner is not a long-term solution.