When should I tell my kids I’m unhappy with their father?

Dear Amy: My children are now young adults. I’ve remained in a loveless relationship in order for them to have a two-parent home. I made this decision because neither of my parents were present when I was growing up.

Amy Dickinson 

Now that my youngest is moving into adulthood, should I express my unhappiness to these mini-adults?!

Their dad will play the victim, as he does daily.

When should I tell them I’m ready to move on? How should I deal their resentment toward me?

Dear Ready: You should do your research and make some solid plans before discussing this with your children. Doing so before you are prepared to leave invites them into your decision-making process.

You should respect their views and responses, but not let them control you.

Children resent their parents for all sorts of reasons, some justified, some not. If you create a stable next chapter for yourself, your contentment will help you to cope with their reactions.

Dear Amy: My big old house is pretty much a mess.

We bought it “as is” with the plan to completely renovate, but never did.

My husband died decades ago, the kids moved on, and now I’m a widow living alone in this huge three-story house that never got fixed up.

My husband and kids left a lot of stuff behind, and I don’t feel like fighting about it.

The kitchen is from the ’40s. The carpeting needs replacing, with lots of spots from the cat puking. The whole place needs painting inside. There is junk everywhere (good junk — collector’s stuff, not trash), and shelves and shelves of books.

I am also a landlord and I have multiple apartments to tend to, repair and upgrade. I’m busy working with handymen, landscapers, and tenants.

Keeping a lovely home is not on my priority list, nor in my budget. The rentals come first, and the cobbler’s children have no shoes.

My dearest friends and family understand about my limited capacity to entertain in my home, especially those people who live in messes, too. But for those with whom I am trying to cultivate a friendship or those who have a really beautiful home and have never been to my house, I cringe at the thought of reciprocating their hospitality. It’s like opening Pandora’s box, and I am embarrassed.

I’m not lonely — I’m really overwhelmed with things to work on — but I also believe it is important to cultivate friendships. I know I need to do something other than work on rental properties.

My circle of friends is growing smaller due to death, moving, and/or finding myself kind of silently “written off.”

Your advice?

Old Messy House Dweller

Dear Dweller: I think you should choose to treat yourself as well as you treat your tenants. You deserve to live in a safe and comfortable home, and if you put this off much longer, you might be so overwhelmed and emotionally paralyzed that you wouldn’t be able to even start. Please, do this while you are healthy and have some control over the process.

This sort of project is made much easier, emotionally and physically, by working with one or more partners. You could hire a professional to help you to sort through your possessions and choose which to donate, sell, and keep. With your late husband’s and kids’ possessions dealt with, there won’t be anything left to fight about!

Selling some of your things could finance necessary repairs and painting. It would also liberate you from your burden.

Curating your shelves of books and only keeping favorites will make your cozy book nook the refuge you deserve.

If you don’t want to hire someone, one or two friends could help you to get started. Church groups sometimes organize teams to help people in your situation; your local Office on Aging could also point you toward volunteers.

I highly recommend that you watch the show “Clean Sweep” (clips and tips available on YouTube). These stories featuring homes such as yours are helpful, useful, and inspiring.

Dear Amy: “Testy Traveler” reported being bothered by her chatty seatmate, resulting in her writing a snarky text from her airplane seat, which the seatmate saw, causing a confrontation.

Your advice was terrible. Why is it always a woman’s duty to protect the emotions of those around her?


Dear Upset: This seatmate’s only duty was to protect herself from conflict by plugging in her headphones and ignoring her seatmate. Instead, she pretended to be polite while behaving unkindly.

You can email Amy Dickinson at askamy@amydickinson.com or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.

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