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family businessI have an aunt who lives in Florida. An aunt I love. An aunt who has done more for me than most anyone (except my mother). An aunt that helped me when I couldn’t help myself. An aunt who harps on everything she thinks is wrong with my life. An aunt who begins far too many sentences with “What you need to do is…” An aunt who drives me crazy.

My aunt, Pink Susie*, owns her own business working with developmentally disabled adults. When I first began college, she asked me to work for her for the summer. I was sick, and not trying to work for so little money (I had standards). By the next summer, broke, scholarship-less and with no job prospects (again), I accepted. I liked the job well enough and was able to save up almost every dime that I made, which set the stage for the magical year from August 2006-August 2007 that I talked about in “What Day is Today?”

After that year, when I didn’t have enough financial aid to go back to my Midwest big ten school, I tried to go in-state in Michigan. Needless to say, that didn’t work out. When it didn’t, Pink Susie invited me back to Florida to work, establish residency, and go back to get my degree. I accepted.

There were problems from the very beginning. my aunt wanted me to change my major from English Literature to Psychology (what she studied…more job opportunities, she said). I wouldn’t budge. I loved English. I had already made the concession with myself to study English and not Creative Writing; I would concede no further. She complained about how I chose to wear my hair,  she made me get more than one job, she wanted me to come back from school and work weekends. She wanted me to finish school, graduate, and come run her group homes. I didn’t want to go back to her small town, nor did I want her calling me all times of the day and night with problems in the group homes. I wanted to get a job working for someone who wasn’t family. Who I didn’t have to feel bad telling “no” when I couldn’t do something. Who I didn’t have to see when I went home. Who was only interested in supervising my job performance and not my life.

I got a job at a bank and lost it. I got an apartment near said job and lost it as well. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I did know I was NOT going back to living with my aunt for another year. So I hit the pavement and found a job as a temp, and a new apartment. I was doing okay, but struggling a little bit, as I didn’t make much. The job had the possibility of being a permanent position, and I was determined to do everything in my power to be the best employee and be hired on.

My aunt called me and asked if I could do some monthly paperwork for one of her two group homes for some extra money. I needed it at the time and I agreed to work with her emails, write letters, and do the monthly summary paperwork for her–all things I had been doing before–for the smaller group home. She called me again to take over paperwork for the second home. I agreed again; after all, I owed a lot to her, and extra money didn’t hurt.

Long story short, I soon grew exhausted from working two jobs, having a boyfriend, and trying to find a moment to myself in which to breathe and think. I would do the paperwork when I had time, but I also had a fulltime job and a life to lead. I was finally made a permanent employee and began my 90 day introductory period. I was rear-ended and my car was totaled. I finally got a new  one about two weeks ago. I had guests, I had projects, I had things I wanted to do. Some of her paperwork got pushed back.

Pink Susie left me a voicemessage this morning that made me see red. She talked about how she had asked me for this paperwork several times and she couldn’t wait any longer. If I wasn’t going to do it, let her know. She had just been trying to help me with a little work and extra money, but she could do it herself and say thanks for your efforts and be through with it. I obviously didn’t want to work with her.

First of all, I hadn’t heard from her in over a week. I’d been struggling to figure out how to accommodate my student loans coming out of deferment, even with my new salary. I was trying to get my car situation squared away. I was trying to get back to zero, let alone to the plus side. Her comments made me mad because I had done the best I could with all that was going on, and with her adding to the monthly paperwork with last minute requests for things she needed TOMORROW. It wasn’t as if I was pushing her work off; her other, more immediately needed work was pushing it back.

I sent her the work she wanted this morning. Instead of my boyfriend and I having a much needed Saturday together, I sat down and did everything she asked me for and sent it to her. I let her know in my email that she had upset me and hurt my feelings and maybe we should just be aunt and niece again, with no business mixed in.

Between Pink Susie’s demands, her sister, my aunt Faith* , thinking I was trying to take her job as group home manager, and all of the other drama, I wouldn’t recommend anyone work with family. My aunt complains about every family member she hired for her business–her husband, who drives her crazy by talking roughly to people they have to work with; her son, who quit without notice to take a better paying job doing something he would rather do; her sister Faith, who she believes isn’t competent to do the job she hired her for, but won’t fire; her other sister, Pearl*, who used to be a nurse, who is always having her grandkids or doing something for the church or with Faith that prevents her from working; and, of course, yours truly. I never minded working for my aunt in theory; I just don’t want to live with her and her strict rules, her coming in to my room early in the morning to wake me up on my one day off, just because she was up. I have no desire to go home and have her calling me about something I did or didn’t do at work that just can’t wait until the next day. I never thought it would be so political working for a group home, but it is. There a parties and alliances, secret under the table deals and back scratching abounds.

So unless you’re in the mob, do NOT work with family. That’s my lesson for the day.