Care and Feeding

My Niece’s Visits Are Becoming a Big Problem

This isn’t what I signed up for.

A college-age woman with a backpack on looks to the side.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Getty Images Plus.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

My niece recently started college close to where I live. Her family lives in a different state. She asked to stay over one weekend, early on, and I gladly hosted her. Then the requests to stay for a weekend became more frequent. She has roommates in her tiny dorm room, and she enjoys having a room to herself and good food when she stays over. I love my niece, but I also love my alone time. I have a very demanding job, and I need time to recharge on weekends. I’m an introvert, which doesn’t help.

Of course, I don’t want to hurt my niece, and I want to be supportive of her—I know being away from home for college can be challenging. What do I do? I don’t mind hosting perhaps one weekend a month. How can I share my feelings about this with her? I want her to know I care about her, but that there’s a limit to how much time I can spend with her, for my own sake.

— Need My Alone Time

Dear Need My Alone Time,

Just tell her everything you’ve told me. Never underestimate the power of pure, straightforward honesty. If you really do think you can handle one weekend a month, tell her that too. Put it on the calendar, the one weekend every month that she’ll spend with you. And by the way, dollars to donuts, once she really settles in and finds her place socially at school—like, by next autumn at the latest, I’ll hazard a guess—her visits will dwindle. You may find by her senior year that you feel she’s neglecting you. You have that to look forward to.

Michelle

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