Dear Margo: When Leaving the Nest Is Hard

My parents seem lonely now that my sister and I have gone away to college. Margo Howard’s advice

When Leaving the Nest Is Hard

Dear Margo: My sister is two years older than me, so when she went away to college, I was still at home with our parents. Last year, I graduated high school and went away to college. I immediately became concerned about my parents. They only had two kids, and I knew that once we were both gone, they were going to be lonely. Last year, I went home for many weekends to see them and my friends. Now that I’m in my second year of college, I’ve tried not to go home as often so I can focus on studies and having relationships with people at school. However, I’m still as concerned as ever about my parents.

My dad has mentioned how bored he gets at night after my mom goes to bed, leaving him with nothing to do but watch TV. Basically, without my sister and me, I know they only work, sleep and watch TV. I think about them a lot and worry that they are bored, lonely and depressed because nobody is home. I’ve suggested they get a puppy or try new hobbies, and they say they work so much that they don’t have the energy for a hobby. Sometimes my mom begs me to come home for the weekend. Is there anything I can do? — Worried Student

Dear Wor: I don’t know if your parents are playing the violin of loneliness because their girls have flown the coop or if you are having empty nest syndrome on their behalf. In any case, people do not have children for the purpose of having them stick around forever to save them from boredom. In a few years, you or your sister could wind up across the country for either work or marriage, so let your time at college be guilt-free. If your Mom is leaning on you, stick to your guns and say you need to be at school, and then continue encouraging them along the lines of puppy, hobby and friends. If they are in a rut, it is their rut, and that’s just the way things are. — Margo, stalwartly

Things Happen, Things Change

Dear Margo: “Clara” and I have been friends for 10 years. We have shared everything in good times and bad, and since we live in different states, we talk a lot on the phone. However, she has changed drastically. All she does is talk about herself. The minute I pick up the receiver, she will start with her complaints, and I cannot get a single word in. I have tried not answering the phone. That doesn’t work because she’ll keep on calling, and the ringing drives me crazy! I’ve told her I am busy and it’s not a good time to talk. Then she says I am selfish and am never there for her when she needs me. And wait till you hear this: She has started sleeping around.

I told her I absolutely do not agree with this and don’t want to know about these encounters. At this, she got mad, saying who was I to judge her, etc. I’m beginning to detest this woman and the sound of her voice. I think she is suffering from depression and have told her this many times. At this, she says my job is to help her out of it. I don’t think so. She needs professional help, and I cannot spend every waking minute talking to her and listening to her escapades. I no longer want anything to do with her, but my husband says I am being mean. — Gloria

Dear Glo: You know, dear, friendship is not a lifetime contract. Leave your husband out of the deliberations, and when you can get a word in edgewise, tell this woman that you have tried to be a friend to her, that you are ill-equipped to be a therapist, that she must find a real one, and that the nature of your relationship has changed so much that you would like to take a break. If she persists with the phone calls, it is acceptable to say you are taking a break — as you have explained to her — and you are now going to hang up. — Margo, unwaveringly

* * *

Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via e-mail to dearmargo@creators.com. Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.

COPYRIGHT 2011 MARGO HOWARD
DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

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35 comments so far.

  1. avatar percysowner says:

    LW 1 reminds me of the current commercial about a young woman who is convinced her parent are miserable since she moved out of the house, when in fact they are having a great time. It is possible that your parents are suffering from empty nest syndrome, or that they have not yet found things to do other than to watch TV, work and sleep. Or they may LIKE watching TV, working and sleeping. In any case, your parents are adults and are responsible for their own lives. If you have not been home for a couple of months and your parents want you to visit, maybe you can work something out. If you can’t, you can’t. Give your parents credit for being able to take care of themselves. After all, they raised you and your sister, I think they can figure out how to take care of themselves.

    • avatar Brooke Schubert says:

      LOL, that car commercial was the first thing I thought of, too.  The daughter needs to just let it go-it may take the parents a few years to really adjust and figure out what their post-children lives are like.  My parents struggled with finding their new place in life for a few years, but now they are involved in so many hobbies and clubs that they are 10 times busier than they were when my sisters and I were home!

  2. avatar Sleepwalker says:

    My mother and I had a conversation before my freshman year of college. She told me that it was her belief that the reason to have children isn’t to be their best friend, but to be a parent and raise them with enough love and discipline that they become good citizens and people. My sister went to college four years after I did and they were left with an empty house. However, both of my parents are highly involved in our local volunteer fire department and when they got lonely, they got a dog to spoil.

    If the parents had children to keep them from being bored or lonely and raised them with the purpose of having someone to hang out with for the rest of their lives, then to me there’s something selfish and wrong with that. There should be a sense of accomplishment when you realized the role you played in raising that child to adulthood and while the reduced role in their life may cause some sadness, the satisfaction should more than compensate.

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      Sleepwalker: when I had my sons, it was with the full knowledge that they would be sweet helpless babies, then curious crawling critters, then wobbly toddlers, then running little guys, and then bigger, and more curious, and more exploratory. And that I would enjoy the process, and teach them to live life to the fullest, to have boundaries, to love and laugh, to think and wonder and seek, and that success wasn’t counted just by the amount of money you make, the size of your house, or the toys that you have…but by your own contentment and acceptance of yourself, and your place in the world around you. Even as the youngest is achieving escape velocity, I am enjoying watching him change, grow and become. He isn’t mine to keep, except in my heart and mind.

      That said, my husband and I are involved with one another, and have a solid, loving relationship built on mutual respect, honesty, compassion, humor, passion…and enough common sense to give each other space. We’ll survive his flight from the nest. And his highly plausible, temporary return. And eventual permanent departure. So will LW1′s parents. It’s all part of the natural order of things. So go to college, and have fun. Mom and dad will be okay, or not…but you have a life to live too. And if it’s “not”…they will learn to be okay. You are not abandoning them…you’re growing up…just like they knew you would.

      • avatar Brooke Schubert says:

        Exactly, Briana.  The fact that the daughters are grown and living on their own means that her parents did their job well!

  3. avatar Constance Plank says:

    #2,

    First of all, if she’s dialing you into submission, unplug or turn off the phone. The world will not come to an end.

    There’s a very trite saying “Friends for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.” And, like many trite sayings, it’s based on fact.

    People grow and change. My very best friend since I was 14 has an unhappy marriage and is childless against her will. (Let’s just say that when she was almost at the point of being hospitalized for pneumonia 7 years ago, her husband refused to change their sheets, even though she’d laid in them for 3 weeks. Changing the sheets was her job! I ended up driving the 6 hours down at her request, took her to a hotel and took care of her for a week. Even though the doctor said that her husband smoking in the house could kill her, he refused to stop. I was more than happy to help her.)

    She’s become increasingly self-absorbed, organ-grinds about her health, but does nothing to improve it. For the past several years, she has taken to drunken dialing at night. I now screen all my calls, and I never accept her calls after 8 p.m., or earlier if I’m too worn out to be able to deal. ( The screening started the night she called me at 11:30 p.m. to tell me exactly the same stuff about work she’d told me the day before. I get up at 6 a.m.)

    I love the person she was, and I love the friendship we had. I am saddened by the person she’s become. I’m 51, but she feels to me like she’s still in her mid-20′s in terms of emotional maturity.

    I will chat with her pleasantly when it’d daytime and she’s sober, but I will no longer tell her much of my life, because she’s really not that interested.

    Cheers,

    Constance in the Sierra Foothills of CA
    who only answers her phone when she wants to

    • avatar JCF4612 says:

      Constance, I think you are handling this sad situation with a great deal of aplomb. The boundaries you have set make sense, and we should all keep them in mind.

    • avatar martina says:

      My daughter of 17 has had friends come and go.  I remember one particular one she had had since she was six and suddenly in middle school the friendship fell apart.  I explained to her that people grow up and sometimes you grow apart.  I think that is true at any point in our lives not just when we are children.

      I had a friend like yours Constance. Only, she wouldn’t call in the middle of the night but rather on her commute home from work where they served wine on the train and then she would serve me drunken whine on my cell. We’d been friends since highschool (about 30 years) and she lived about an hour and a half from me and I didn’t get to see her often and so, I didn’t realize that she had become an alchoholic.  We were to go on a cruise together and for financial reasons I had to back out.  Her sister paid for me to come because she needed someone to stay in the room with her underage daughter.  I thought this very generous until I found out that she had me along to see how bad my friend had gotten.  She fell asleep/passed out at 5 of the 7 dinners on the cruise and spent the entire time with a drink in her hand.  She was no longer the person I had once known.  The younger adults called her Aunt Pino because she always drank Pino Grigiot.  It was sad.  I promised her sister I would speak with her.  I’m a non-confrontational kind of person and procrastinated about it.  It wasn’t until I saw her the next summer in daylight and what her face looked like and the drunken phone calls became more frequent that I wrote her a letter telling her I loved her but that she was an alcoholic and she needed to do something about it or it would kill her.  I haven’t heard from her since. I send her Christmas cards to let her know I still love her.  Her father just passed away and I sent her a card to let her know I’m thinking of her.  I considered showing up at the service because I was close with the rest of the family but did not want to start drama at what would be an inappropriate time.  She is still drinking but I have a clear conscience knowing I did what I could to try and help her

    • avatar sandra b says:

      OMG Constance, I could have written your post to a tee – spiraling down drunk narcissistic friend in destructive marriage! My situation had a different ending though. My friend “since I was 14″ was sent by her family to a year-long residential rehab last year as condition not to cut her off. It wasn’t just the drunk-alogs on the phone. She wreaked utter drama and chaos on everyone in her circle. The first thing she told me when she came home was that could have an occasional drink and it would be fine. I said I was taking a break from the friendship. About a month later I got a letter saying how long we were friends (40 yrs) and I should just forgive & forget and start over. My reply was to tell her I had no problem with the forgiving but I would not forget. Remembering was my only way of determining improvement. I detailed out my issues, my new boundaries, and her accountability and told her she had the decision over the conditions of resuming the friendship. That was over four months ago – stone silence from her. I’m over it.

  4. avatar Katharine Gray says:

    LW#1:  I too thought of that commercial where the daughter is worried about her parents and they are off having a great time.  I’m sure they miss you and your sister but everyone is right…kids leave home and parents need to adjust.  Don’t feel guilty, keep encouraging them to have some new interests, but if they end up working, sleeping and watching TV for the rest of their lives, it is the life they have made.  And really, I wonder how different thier lives would be if you were still home.  I remember a friend of mine whose last child of 4 had just left home…she said she and her husband were having to *re-bond* with each other as their recent lives had been focused on raising the kids and not so much on each other.  They did rebond and are happy, active people with what appears to be a good solid marriage.  And beware, once they do get over this period of adjustment,your parents will probably be glad to see you..but.with limits…. My sister and her husband nearly went crazy when 2 of their 4 moved in for a few months between college and getting their real lives started…they got used to the *John and Mary show* with just the two of them and had to readjust to life with kids. They were very relieved when the kids moved into their own place and their own lives. 

    #2:  Listen to Constance and Margo.  Tell her you need to take a break, you cannot solve her problems, it only makes you miserable and then turn off your cell, unplug your landline and if you do talk to her again repeat as necessary.  People change, friendships change and perhaps she will get herself back in order in time and you can resume the friendship.  If not…well…it is what it is.     

  5. avatar Ghostwheel says:

    Actually, my husband did have children with the thought that they would always entertain him, got that from his father. I, on the other hand, believe in the old adage “If you love something, set it free…” My 15 year old daughter told her father and I at dinner one night, once she gets her “mansion”, she will be building me a granny flat in the back yard, with a rose garden for me. Her father asked “What about me?” She said she’d build him a shed with a lock on the outside! She’s a pill, that one…..(no, we aren’t divorced and get along fine, we’re just different in our attitudes about what children are about)

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      Ghostwheel: I just snorted Diet Coke out of my nose, nearly killing my keyboard. You’re daughter may seem like a “pill” to you, but I wouldn’t trade her in for the world. I have to admit, her comment to her dad sounded like something that would drop out of the mouth of my son…or my husband. Or, mmm, me, for instance. She has his number, quite clearly. Cherish the fact that you have a sharp, and very funny young woman for a daughter.

      And I would have never questioned the solidity of your marriage. I understand. There are some quick and wicked wordsmiths in this family. Though no harm is ever meant, and no offense is taken. I hope you don’t take any…because I mean none at all.

    • avatar KarrinCooper says:

      *LOL* That is too funny!!! So how did he take that?? heh

      #1 – you have to have your own life. Your parents raised you, and now it is time for you to find out what life is about. Now it is time for them to raise themselves. They get bored enough they will find something to do. For my Da it was doing peoples taxes, my Mum had her sewing things and friends….they will find their way, you go find yours.

      #2 – I agree with Constance as well – set a boundary and stick to it. Clearly your ‘friend’ is making YOU miserable….and that’s not what true friends do.

      Off to the grind…..

      Kar’rin

    • avatar Brooke Schubert says:

      Ghostwheel-you have a smart mouthed, snarky teenager there.  And I mean that in the nicest way possible-she reminds me of me, and I like her already!  ;-)

  6. avatar JCF4612 says:

    LW#1: Your sister sounds more grounded than you on this situation, if it even exists. Your focus should be on academics and building campus relationshiips. Curb your treks home to holiday breaks and maybe a couple of other weekends. What is your plan after college graduation? Living with mumsy and daddy? Grow up.  

  7. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    L #1: Yes, stick to your guns. Your parents need to find other avenues of interest. I work fulltime, am old enough to be your mother, and I’ve got plenty of energy for writing, talking walks (with husband), reading from different genres, helping with a Wed.-night children’s program at our church, etc. I’m considering enrolling at local community college, to take a couple of courses. Your parents are in a rut…and it’s *THEIR* job to help themselves out of it. You deserve your time at college; to develop an academic and social life there (but do avoid chug-a-lug drunken parties okay?).

    L #2: Your friend needs professional help. Your reaction would be the same as mine. Basically she’s virtually grabbing you by the throat and *demanding* you kowtow to her. Her depression, or whatever it may be, is obviously out of control. Your husband is calling you “mean”?? Next time she phones, blurt out “(insert husband’s name) says he’s willing to listen to and help you,” hand him the phone and walk away; see how long HE’S willing to “help” her. This woman wants the easy way out: And that is to latch onto someone, bully them into listening to her, being as selfish as she pleases instead of facing and addressing her issues, and obtaining a better life for herself. To be blunt, she’s miserable — and she wants YOU to be miserable with her. Your husband is goofy if he’s okay with that; and it is your right to STOP these behaviors. Tell her firmly but kindly to GET HELP.

  8. avatar Lisa Cornell says:

    I only had one son and I was a single parent from the time he was an infant until he was halfway through college. We were and are close, but I was concerned that I needed to encourage him to grow and thrive independently and not be a momma’s boy. He went to a boarding school through high school, because I worked horrendous hours, and he went to an exclusive university in the UK. I missed him terribly but was thrilled he was doing what he wanted. He came home after graduation to find no job prospects here and immediately got hired in Korea as a school teacher. He loves it and has lived there for going on three years. I still miss him and always will, but I am thrilled he is so happy living his life on his terms. As for me, I retired early from my stressful job and now work in my husband’s firm and am happy as a clam. As for hobbies, I don’t have time, but I have managed to become a cat mommy to four abandoned cats I adopted, who delight me constantly. I am enjoying this chapter of my life immensely and I would not nor ever want my son to worry about me in the least.
    BTW, next year I’m off to Korea for a visit.

    • avatar KarrinCooper says:

      Cat Mommy – I hear ya! : ) Although mine are step children I am looking so forward in 2 1/2 years of the last one flying the coop! I found this awesome HUGE tractor living quaters horse trailer *lol* – either that or open a Brit pub in Cancun ; )

      Kar’rin

    • avatar bright eyes says:

      Lisa I totally understand. I’m a single parent to a teenager. He has 4 years before he moves out and possibly 6 depending on where he goes to college. I started telling him that he’s going to college and he’s moving out at 18, or after 2 years of community college. I’m making him as ready to move out as I can (he cooks, cleans, etc.) On the other hand – grandma is telling him that he can never leave her. (he lives with me, she lives 30mins away) So I’m trying to strike a balance. I know he has to move out on his own to live his own life, etc. I hope that when he moves out he’s not worrying about me missing him, although I know he will be. That’s just the kind of kid he is :-) But I know in order for him to have his own life – he has to fly the coop! Enjoy your trip to Korea!! My son is looking at going to school in Japan, so maybe I will be where you are in a few years.

  9. avatar amw says:

    I know my Mom was greatly affected by “empty nest syndrome”. My Dad has always been the sole provider while Mom took care of things at home.

    Honestly though, I think it was less about us being gone and more about her fear that she and Dad couldn’t maintain the relationship they had prior to having children.

    One of my younger sisters is in college and worries herself half to death about being absent from “home”. It takes away from enjoying life, experiencing new things and planning for the future. No child should feel obligated to sacrifice themselves because their parents can’t handle their own lives.

    It’s not uncommon for this to happen. Stay strong and make your plans clear. It may take some time but your folks will adapt and adjust and be much happier for it in the long run. If you enable them and come running every time they call, the process will be much longer and a lot more stressful.

  10. avatar amw says:

    Gloria…if I had a dime for everytime I was in your shoes, I’d probably have enough money for a nice getaway weekend…and I’m only in my mid-twenties.

    I had a teacher tell me once my greatest gift and fault was empathy.

    Friendship is not a “job”. You are a friend by choice, not necessity. A true friend will bend over backwards for you if it means making you happy. However there is a fine line to be drawn when said friend continues to make negative choices and expects you to pick them up every time.

    You aren’t being mean and I’m sorry your husband seems to think so. It’s easy for him to say since he’s not walking in your shoes.

    Try once more (in no uncertain terms) to get across to your friend. Be honest but kind. Let her know that you care but you refuse to enable her destructive behavior any longer. Stick to your guns. She’ll get the hint either way…and the ball will be in her court to maintain or drop the friendship.

  11. avatar R Scott says:

    LW1 – Sweety, your parents are just overcompensating. They’re afraid to hurt your feelings but they are sooooooooooo glad you’re finally out of the house. They have been waiting for this moment since you turned 12. Really. Don’t worry about it. You stay at school and do your homework and your parents will run around their house naked doing the nasty on the washer during the spin cycle.

    LW2 – Wow. I didn’t even finish reading your letter and didn’t need to read Margo’s response. Just do what she said. Been here, read that.

  12. avatar Lesley Morgan says:

    Dear LW2:  There seems to be a common problem here with regard to both the ”friend” and the husband: inability to be assertive and stick with it.  Hubby lacks empathy, is allowed to accuse you of something you’re not guilty of (being mean), and is unsupportive in what has become an abusive relationship with the “friend.”  In fact, I’d go so far as to say he’s exacerbating the abusiveness of the situation by accusing you of being mean.  “Friend” is allowed to abuse you by calling constantly, taking up your valuable time, and whining about things you find unsavory when you have asked her to stop.   This is a one-sided relationship, and you deserve better!  And no, I really don’t think “abuse” is too strong a word.

    With “friend,” the solution could be to tell her gently but firmly that you’ve tried to be kind but that you and your peace of mind matter as much as she does, and that it’s now time for YOU to take care of YOU by no longer listening to her sordid stories.  Suggest therapy once again, ask her to stop calling you, and wish her well.  Make it clear that you expect her to abide by your wishes.  Then, if she isn’t able to do that, consider changing your phone number.  The point is: you matter too!  You have no obligation to allow an emotional vampire to drain you dry.

    As for the unsupportive hubby… we’ll save that for another letter. 

  13. avatar j d says:

    LW2: Perhaps consider changing your number or seeing if you can set up a call block of sorts if your friend doesn’t get it and keeps calling after trying Margo’s suggestion. You could even try setting up a Google Voice number for awhile and have your current phone number forward to it, so you still get all your calls to your phone as you keep your original number. However, Google Voice has a ton of advanced features for handling calls (and it’s free) so you could have only her calls sent directly to voice mail and it won’t ring your phone. Kind of like a “spam” filter for your number. Might give you a bit more peace in your day. Good luck! She sounds like a piece of work, although I hope she gets the help she needs from a professional.

  14. avatar Lila says:

    “In any case, people do not have children for the purpose of having them stick around forever to save them from boredom.”

    • avatar Lila says:

      Oops. Continued: Actually, I think some people DO. For many years, well-meaning snoops who had no business butting in would “encourage” me to have kids. Among the many reasons thrown at me: Who will take care of you when you’re old? Won’t you be lonely? Who will you leave your things to? Don’t you want grandchildren? …and many more in the same vein.

      I pity the children who are created to fulfill these sorts of desires, but I think it does happen.

      • avatar martina says:

        It does happen – I gave birth to one of them but it turned out good for us and her.  My husband and I had not planned on having children (I had six nieces and nephews at the time to satisfy my emotional maternal instincts) and then I got the biological urge to be a mother – what I have always described as being horny with a purpose.  I was 29 and at the time and told my husband that if we were going to have a kid it was now or never.  He said we should because we needed someone to take care of us when we got old.  I figured whatever, I just needed to get pregnant and I loved children.  Once she was in his arms his reasonings changed and we now have a very lovely 17.5 year old daughter who drives him crazy and who he can deny nothing.  After dealing with my aging parents’ various health issues, I have told her that when the time comes, throw me in a nursing home and don’t look back. I’ll have already lived my life.  I believe that my husband feels the same.  I don’t think she’d actually do that because she sees that I haven’t done that with my parents. 

        Don’t have children for the sake of having children or for the many reasons you listed – have children because you want to.  It may not always turn out as well as it did for us.

  15. avatar K L says:

    LW2 — Yikes. That is not a fun situation. Draw healthy boundaries and stick to them. It sounds like your friend needs some professional help — that she may either be suffering from depression or bi-polar (I know promiscuity is a big sign of the onset of bi-polar disorder). If you want to help her, help her find some resources — list of therapists, recommendations for therapists from friends, etc. Whether she takes that help is her decision, but it may help you to know that you did the best you could (lead the horse to water).

  16. avatar Belinda Joy says:

    Letter #2 – She says you are being mean? Well, you are, based on what you describe. However, that is a good thing. Sometimes in life when people label us as judgemental or mean it is for a reason, and that reason is because we ARE being judgemental or mean. And that’s okay.

    The friend you described is someone that is not a mere associate, but a true blue friend of 10 years. As you said you have been through good times and bad. Friendships of this type are not to be taken or dismissed lightly. I for one can see why you would be so hurt, confused and annoyed by the change in her personality and behavior. I know I would. She has a right to live her life anyway she wants and guess what? You have a right to your opinion about the life she has now decided to live. You don’t however have a right to dictate how she should live. Friend or not.

    So dumping her as a friend is definitely needed. But because you have been friends for so long, she deserves for you to exit her life with full disclosure. As Margo said,  tell her how you feel. Tell her and then leave her life. There are a lot of people in this world that have the attitude and belief we should all embrace and accept people who live lives that run counter to our beliefs. Nothing is further from the truth. To use a bit of street slang, you tell her “You do you and I’ll to me”

    Letter #1 – Talk about dysfunction!   Someone VERY close to me is living this exact situation. He and his wife have nothing in common anymore and are living quiet lives now that the kids have grown and moved out. He hates her gut and is bored stiff. And she is constantly asking the kids to come home. Without their kids in the home, they have nothing to bind them. What is up with that!

    The best thing daughter can do is stay at school, limit her home visits and let mom and dad work it out for themselves. If they can….for the truth is they may not be able to. But she must learn either way it’s not her fault.       

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      Mmmm…where did you get the idea that LW1′s parents have absolutely nothing in common, and even hate each others’ guts (your words, not mine)? I just very minutely reread her letter. She said her dad is bored after her mom goes to bed…which to me indicates that he actually enjoys his wife’s company…not that it disgusts him…because he misses her when she is asleep. It isn’t uncommon for married people to have different bedtimes…and the gap may not be terribly obvious when children are present to occupy the later-to-bed partner’s time. And the mother begging her daughter to come home doesn’t mean she loathes her husband…it could be that she feels that terminal escape velocity is imminent. Or, alternatively, as in that oddly endearing commercial, the daughter may be suffering more from the pangs of separation than her parents, and may be over-stating her mother’s request to remember to visit occasionally as “begging”…because she is anxious and worried that her parents can actually get along without her.

      What a way to project something truly awful on what appears to be a fairly normal and innocent situation. But, you’ve always been quite clear in your contempt for marriage and parenthood…not to mention children as a whole…so perhaps not all that surprising.

  17. avatar KhristiM says:

    I can totally relate to LW2′s situation. I was friends with a woman who was, for lack of a better word, a train wreck. She also slept around quite a bit, called incessantly to talk my ear off about her latest exploits, sometimes for hours, and was a prescription drug addict who hospital shopped every week to feed her habit. I grew increasingly frustrated with her. I avoided her calls, sometimes for weeks at a time, but she still kept calling. It got so bad that I finally had to tell her I couldn’t continue this toxic relationship we had anymore. She still continued to call and then escalated to sending really horrible emails. I had to block her email and changed my number. I don’t regret that at all. I had to do what was best for me for a change, and there was no way I could help her anymore, especially since she was so unwilling to change herself. That might be the best way to handle the situation. Sometimes, people outgrow each other.

  18. avatar Lym BO says:

    LW1: you may be correct or your parents may be thrilled they are free. At any rate, not your problem. Make sure you keep in touch & go home for the breaks.
    My husband has always stated we needed to have one homebody to stay home to take care of us. His further dream is to have one lawyer, one chef & one doctor. That’s the girls. The boy we’ll steer towards auto mechanic. At 8,8,7 & 3 it’s looking promising. :)
    My parents joke (I hope) about how they expect me to take care of them as they age since they paid for my nursing school.

  19. avatar Angeleyes13 says:

    Letter #1:  I, as well thought of the car commercial where the daughter who is an only child except for her sister, is worried about her parents who are sick at home with worry all about her.  Now only they know whether they are truly this depressed and upset, but one thing is for sure.  Empty nest is a transitional period for parents and your job is to live your life and find your path.  If you can make it home to see your parents, then do so, but if not, oh well!  They need to adjust to their “new” lives and you have to adjust to being on your own.  Its a part of life, simple as that.  I think what your doing is right with suggestions of how they can spend their time, but in the end its really up to them to get through this.

    Letter #2:  I also had a friend who had made some really bad decisions and wasn’t taking care of herself.  I tried having her come live close to me and being there for her whenever I could.  She was in an abusive relationship and was also not taking her meds for her bipolar  condition.  When you give all the advise you can possibly give and have listened to numerous 2 am crazy phone calls to only see your friend disregard everything you’ve said and dive head first into unhealthy and damaging circumstances, its time to stop answering the phone calls.  There is only so much you can do.  She is the only one that can change her life.  At a certain point, these types of friends start sucking the life out of you and you have to let go of that for your own sanity.  Been there, done that.  Tell her how you feel and stop taking her phone calls when its not convenient for you.  She will get the hint.  Only she can fix her life.  My friend got back on her meds and after being put in a mental ward for a weekend because of her actions after an abusive Friday night, she finally broke up with “Mr. Wonderful” and found her present husband after a lot of working on herself.  I am proud of her and we are still friends to this day.  With a Much healthier friendship I am happy to say.  She actually asks and cares about my life now too!

  20. avatar A R says:

    LW1: Something I think worth noting is that it sounds as if the parents haven’t really done much together for years. In fact, the dad doesn’t lament how *lately* things have changed. He just says he’s bored. Perhaps the parents quit doing fun stuff together years ago, but now that the house is empty, it’s noticeable. (Some couples lose their own personal connection and friendship during the child rearing years if they are not careful.) That’s an issue they have to fix, not you.

    LW2: I cooled a friendship about 18 years ago due to my need to grow up and his need to stay footloose, unemployed, and irresponsible. At this moment in time I’m quite proud of my own life accomplishments. Recently when I replied “no” to a facebook RSVP for his fortieth birthday (I haven’t seen him in those 18 years!), he messaged me and raked me over the coals for declining the invitation. When I explained that we had not kept up with each other all those years, he said it was all my fault.”Yep”, I replied, “you’re right. I was the one who cooled it, and I stand by my choice. Sorry if you are not content that our contact will be on facebook only.”

    Despite the passage of time, I saw quickly by his accusations, attempt to use guilt to leverage his way, and his “poor me” tone (not to mention the party invitation that requested that friends bring their own chairs, food, and drink and beer or money as an appropriate gift) that he was *still* living life as though he were 20, not forty.

    My point: Some folks can’t take a hint or three. Sometimes you have to move on without them, and if they think you are “mean”, that’s their issue, not yours.

  21. avatar French Heart says:

    LTR #1–That’s terribly unfair for parents to put unnecessary added stress on their college kids. Time for the empty-nest parents to discover new activities/diversions. I was SUPER close to my only child…his father died young…so it was just me and the dog when he left for college. I made a new life and cheered my son on in his. That’s my job as a parent. He went to graduate school in Paris, became a citizen and remained. I’ve always said–he can’t thwart his life/dreams/goals or even make life decisions with thoughts of ‘mom.’

    Everyone deserves the right to be free to choose unhampered by guilt/misplaced sense of responsibility. Much as I love him and would love it if he were nearby–am very proud of him and the exciting life he has created.