Choosing Your Family

Sitting in my office this morning I looked out the window and watched two young sisters ride their bicycles in a reoccurring pattern. Without being able to hear a word I could tell there was some sort of competition going on there. When the younger one got stuck on a turn the older one jumped off her bike and immediately ran to help her. She gently coaxed her younger sister around the bend then resumed the competition.

My brother was six years older than I and we were worlds away. He was an incredible intellect with razor sharp wit and a wicked sense of humor. I like to think that I have a bit of his humor and wit, but growing up I could not compare. It wasn’t until I went to college that my brother and I actually talked. Before then, honestly, we had nothing in common.

I went to school in Illinois for two years then back home to take care of my grandmother; he had gone to IU to get his Masters then moved to Chicago. We would see each other occasionally on his trips home or holidays. He died at the age of 28, I was 22 and living with my ex-husband starting our life, and soon our family.

The devastation of loosing my brother really did not hit until I got much older and realized how much I regretting not getting to know my own brother better, not spending more time with him. I think of him often and when my best friend and I are in a particularly sarcastic mood I often think how much my brother and best friend would have liked each other – they are so similar.

Before I get too mushy, I’ll be honest and state that there are family members that I choose not to spend time with, yes I know they are family, but what if you really just don’t like each other? I’m not going to name names because that is just rude. And by the way, any of my family that is reading this – it is not you! That’s where I realize that sometimes your family are those that you choose, not born into the bloodline.

Jackie has been my best friend, confidant and sister for – good night, I don’t even know how long! She is my family. My son’s dad, Jeff, is my family. We divorced over a decade ago and have developed a friendship that is unbreakable. It is based on our shared love for our son but a mutual respect has grown that makes us close friends. We are better today than we could have ever been married. These two are my family that I choose. These are two that I would lay down my life for and do anything needed to secure their happiness or safety.

When my ex was going through chemotherapy I remember our son asking why I was doing so much for him as we were divorced. I told him because he is family and that is what you do. But that statement is not completely accurate. Because it is okay to say no to family, it is not an unwritten rule that you must sacrifice everything for everyone.

That last statement seems a bit unclear, let me put it a little more bluntly: just because your slacker relative asks you to do something for them do not feel as though you are obligated to do it. You must regain respect for yourself and be able to say no. Here’s the thing, there are people, family or not, that will ask you to do everything for them but are unwilling to do for themselves. If they were not blood would you still feel the obligation to do something for them? Probably not. When you think about the people that you would do anything for at any time without any question then you have found the family that you choose to be a part of your life

Just because you are family does not give that person the right to disrespect you and expect to take advantage of you then lay the guilt “family” card on you. That’s wrong. It is okay to say no to family, I give you permission. Laugh if you will, but if you have never given yourself permission to say no maybe you need someone’s permission to do so – so you have mine.

Is a family member is job searching and they keep demanding of you to make introductions, calls or even get them a job where you work? What if you do make those introductions and they don’t follow up? What if you continually try to help but they are not putting any effort into their job search? Those are all demanding and disrespectful acts committed against you and honestly, you have the right to say stop. You have the right to not help them get on at your company especially if they have a bad attitude or solid streak of getting fired. Why have that poor reflection on you? Let go of the guilt.

The choices you make reflect the respect that you have for yourself. If you are allowing a family member to manipulate you then your self-respect is at a low. If a family member asks me to help I will to the best of my ability; however, if I feel uncomfortable in doing so or the tasks are taking advantage of me I respect myself enough to say no. I lost the guilt. If they want to use that as a Hatfield and McCoy type grudge, well so be it. Resect yourself which in turn will allow others to respect you.

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW
Certified Professional Resume Writer
Transition Strategist
Career Polish, Inc.

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