Dear Annie: When my father passed away, I moved in with my mother to help with her bills. Five years later, I've paid off her mortgage and continue to live with her and pay her utilities.
I now have the opportunity to purchase my own home. At age 33, I feel I need my own space. The predicament is, Mom cares for my ailing sister and her son every day. It means Mom doesn't have time to get a job to support herself. I've told her that I can afford to continue paying her utilities, but she refuses. She said if I move out, it's like I am "throwing her away like trash."
My siblings weren't treated this way when they moved out and started their families, but they are making me feel selfish for wanting to be independent. Am I? Is it because I'm still single and don't have any kids? How can I help my mother and siblings see my point of view? — Emotionally Blackmailed
Dear Blackmailed: You need to stand your ground. Your siblings find it easier for you to live with Mom, because it lets them off the hook. They should help out more. Mom wants you to stay because she doesn't want to be alone. All of them pressure you to keep things as they are because it is in their best interests. But it's not in yours.
Since your mother no longer needs your financial support beyond what you have already offered, please ignore their entreaties to stay. Don't argue with your family. Simply promise Mom that you will see her often, and assure your siblings that Mom will not be neglected. Calmly repeat those words as often as you need to. In time, they will get used to your new circumstances and things will normalize.
Dear Annie: What do you do when relatives invite themselves over all the time, sometimes with no notice? Their children's language and table manners are deplorable. The parents help themselves to whatever they want.
Any suggestions? Maybe printing this letter would give everyone with this problem a break. — Going Nuts in Nebraska
Dear Nebraska: You need to be more assertive. You don't have to welcome every relative every time, especially those who invite themselves and show up unexpectedly. Practice saying, "Sorry, we aren't able to host you right now. We will be sure to invite you another time." If they turn up on your doorstep, say, "Oh, sorry, but we were just leaving. I wish you had phoned first." Then grab your coat and go. Be sure to escort them down the front walk when you lock your door behind you. (Do not agree to let them wait for your return in your house.)
People who take advantage of others are counting on you not to make a fuss. Some folks love having even boorish family members drop in. But since it bothers you, please make it clear that these visits are not going to be so easy. In time, they will learn to ask first or go elsewhere.
Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to [email protected], or write to: Annie's Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. You can also find Annie on Facebook at Facebook.com/AskAnnies. To find out more about Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
Photo credit: Robert Couse-Baker