My youngest sister, her husband and two small children are moving even further into the country than they already are, Abbotsford to Yarrow. This is happening in February. And when they move they will need help decorating their house. The last time my sister moved (about 7 years ago) we spent many weekends over the years shopping and painting furniture together so that her house would be great.
Nope. I do not.
Do I expect my generosity to be reciprocated?
Yes I do.
Because in the end, if you’re a human being, you generally expect something–no one wants to always be the giver or the taker (maybe). Anyone that is in a service oriented business eventually gets to the point where they have to draw boundaries when helping their family.
My mother is the only person who I will do anything for without expecting reciprocity because she is my mother. When I moved this summer, I ended up having a huge argument with my sisters because they did not come over to help me pack. And our conversations about this topic are always the same. Where they resent me for feeling like they don’t have a choice, like they should jump when I need something because I have helped them sooooo much, they can never (in my world and theirs) do enough to pay me back. It doesn’t matter that they both have toddler age children—that excuse is not good enough 🙂
My sisters don’t want to feel like they always ‘owe me’ (and I get that) because it’s pretty hard to reciprocate enough when design advice is on-going and never-ending, we need a solution that works for us all.
My Chiropractor Brother-in-Law is actually pretty good at setting boundaries with family (and friends). When he gets asked for advice, he lets people know that the appointment is free but that you need to schedule one with his receptionist and come see him in his office which I’m pretty sure cuts down the number of people that would take advantage of the offer down to family members.
My sister called me this a couple weeks ago in tears because she feels like she can’t ask me what kind of sofa she should buy or even discuss what the colours in her new house should be because she doesn’t want to have to deal with me getting cranky doing it for free. So yesterday when both of them (the other one is about to renovate her kitchen) said, “Is it okay that I’m asking you this?” I said “You guys are driving me nuts, yes already :)”
What do other designers do? Well so far from the discussions I’ve had, the ‘free thing’ doesn’t work. Any designer who has been in the business for more than 10-15 years is at the point where they simply do not help their family anymore. It’s an easier way to maintain the relationship. And then there are no gray ‘I’m doing all the giving’ conversations to deal with. It’s fine if you only have one sibling, but I have three, and a mom and I’m the only one that got the (designer) creative gene.
I love my sisters and I want them to have beautiful homes, so I’m torn. Bottom line, we’ve pretty much worked it out and basically, they are going to pay me because they get that this is my profession and I can’t work for free but it’s still uncomfortable because we are so close. And obviously every single casual conversation will not be billed.
So I’m putting it out there for your feedback too. How do you handle designing (insert your service profession here) for your family?