When her son's business crashed, Sheri invited him and his family--wife, two toddler-aged children--to put it all behind them . She encouraged them to move across the country and into her house until they got back on their feet. Two and a half years ago, they accepted the invitation. They're still living with Sheri.
"Friends asked me if I put a deadline on it," Sheri says. "Did I tell them they had a few months or a year or something like that?"
She did not. "If it had been just my son or just my son and daughter-in-law, I might have put a time limit on it. But when there are two children, it's different." Besides, it is not as though they wanted to prolong the stay. As Sheri puts it, "I have sympathy for my daughter-in-law. Who at 33 wants to come live with your mother-in-law? I have been cognizant of that."
And then there was Sheri's past history: "My first husband passed away when I was 35 and I had three children. My parents and my sister were there for me. My mother never said, "We can’t always help you." So there's a unique bond because of what happened. I'm giving back to my son the way my mother gave to me."
Even if there were no emotional reasons, hard economic times make it trickier to set a deadline. And certainly, Sheri's son and daughter-in-law faced harsh times, moving as they did from the fire of Florida into the frying pan of California--two states that have suffered inordinately from the economic downturn. Besides, Sheri wanted her son to not just get a job but a career-line job. "I told him to take time to get his feet on the ground," she says. "You can't put a time limit on that."
In a few months, the family of four will be moving to a rented house an hour's drive from Sheri's. Both adults now have good jobs. Although there were difficult times and Sheri is looking forward to having her house, her husband and her life to herself again, she is not sorry she did it. Friends badgered her about not setting a time limit, but she doesn't see why she should have. Yes, it was hard. Yes, it was uncomfortable. But she had a goal in mind--not just employment but good employment--for her son and her daughter-in-law. And she was fortunate enough to have the means to afford the luxury of time it took for her son to get back on his feet. She can count the 2 1/2 years but she has never toted up the cost of the gift in terms of money. Do her other children? That's another issue.