Advice columnist Carolyn Hax answers letters from a mother who feels like unpaid help to her adult daughter, and from a woman contemplating divorce.
DEAR CAROLYN: Our daughter and son-in-law recently purchased their first house. My husband and I helped advise them (solicited) during the building of the house, and I watched our 3 ½-year-old grandson on numerous occasions when the couple had to deal with the building details. We kept our grandson during the move, gave them our 12-year-old refrigerator, which was in excellent condition, and then my husband spent two days painting the powder room and our grandson’s bedroom.
Recently, I found out that my daughter and her husband are having an open house celebration. Not only were we not invited, but the weekend they chose is also the weekend I have an overnight business trip.
I was devastated not to be invited to this celebration of a milestone in a couple’s life. My daughter’s response was that I was “over the top” for being upset. She also said, “Besides, you have already seen the house.”
This is not the first time we have felt that we are the baby-sitters and the hired help rather than part of the family.
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— Sad and Disappointed
DEAR SAD: “Sad and disappointed” make sense. “Devastated” is over the top. Way.
Disappointed is when you miss out on something you value, but you’re able to grasp that life is long and you’ll get other chances. Devastated is when you miss out on one of the only things you value, and your life will never be the same again.
If it’s the former, then apologize to your daughter for overreacting. If it’s the latter, then do please reconsider.
It’s perfectly healthy for people to want to socialize occasionally with, and occasionally without, their parents/children.
You love your daughter, you love your grandson, and you see them frequently now, albeit not always on the terms you prefer. Does this china shop really need a bull?
DEAR CAROLYN: What is your position on staying together for the kids? My marriage is low-conflict and low-to-nonexistent intimacy. My husband works long hours at a high-status, high-paying job, and I often feel very lonely and unhappy. My kids will be out of the house in four years. Protect kids from divorce or be honest with spouse?
— Staying for the Teens
DEAR STAYING: Call me an optimist, but I think being honest with your spouse is the way to protect kids from divorce. That is, unless the truth is “I find you loathsome, and the only reasons I haven’t left are your high income and your extended absences.”
You say you’re lonely and unhappy, and those are things to share with a (non-abusive) husband. Don’t accuse, don’t blame, just say how you feel. How he responds to such an intimate overture will say a lot more than I can about the wisdom of sticking around.
But first, think these through to every conceivable conclusion, giving each question equal weight: What will we all gain, and lose, from a split?