Braving The Commute Can Be A Challenge, Especially When The Carpool Includes Family

Braving The Commute Can Be A Challenge, Especially When The Carpool Includes Family

Dear Farnoosh,

My sister-in-law and I live and work in the same areas, so I’ve been carpooling with her for the past couple of months. I enjoy her company on the long commute, but I’m annoyed that she’s never offered to chip in for gas or toll. Would it be awkward to ask her to contribute? She is family, after all.

Cranky Carpooler

Dear C.C.,

This is a bit of an awkward situation. You have a family member whom you feel is mooching off you—and an in-law at that. Here’s how I think you can try to get your point across without coming off as abrasive:

1. Visit The Gas Station

Next time you pick up your sister-in-law from her home, head to the gas station together.  The gas pump is an appropriate time and place to bring up a conversation about carpooling…and you don’t have to come right out and demand money or tell her you’re upset. First, mention how the price of gas is soaring and how the commute is taking a toll on your car. Physically seeing you fork over money and hearing you mildly vent will, I hope, trigger her realization that this should be a shared cost and that she should offer to chip in. It’s a bit passive aggressive, but she’s family, which makes this all the more sensitive.

2. Ask For A Favor

If she still doesn’t get the hint, go to plan B, which is ask her for a favor. As you fill up the tank, politely ask if she can relieve you every other week by taking her car. “Do you think you could drive us next week? I may need to take my car into the shop, and either way it could probably use a breather. The commute is so darn long! I would really appreciate it.” The key is to make her feel like she’s helping and to ask in the right situation—not at Thanksgiving dinner in front of the whole family (and when you’ve had a few too many cocktails).

3. Suggest A Barter Of Services

If neither of those options work for you, suggest a different favor: A barter of sorts. If you need assistance with something (child care, pet-sitting, painting a room, cleaning out your attic), ask her to come over and pitch in. You are in the position to request a favor, after all.

4. Ask Yourself: Is It Really About The Money?

It may not be that you want something in return from your sister-in-law so much as the offer to help. The point is that you don’t want to feel like she has taken advantage of you. If that’s what’s really bothering you (and hinting a little bit doesn’t do the trick), then I think you need to consider carpooling only once in a while. Explain that you may need to work early or late on some days and won’t be able to sync up on the commuting schedule.

Remember: You need to be the one to take care of your emotional health.

Follow Farnoosh On Twitter! @FARNOOSH

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