Living Columns & Blogs

Healthy families invest in each other’s happiness

DEAR CAROLYN: My spouse and I are on the cusp of what feels like the next phase in our lives. Our only child is a senior in high school and is very excited about going off to college next year. My spouse is finishing up his MBA in January and looking for new career opportunities. I am in a contract (teacher) until next summer, but I could look for another job at any time.

My spouse has been yearning to leave the Southeast. I felt the same need for “escape” in my 20s, but I feel less and less that way now, mainly because I make my home wherever I am. I get along with others and make friends quickly. I could be happy in pretty much any realistic location.

My issue is that my parents are now in their mid-60s, and I feel terribly guilty for thinking of moving hours or states away at this time in their lives. I wish we could have made a move out of the area five to 10 years ago, but we were trying to provide a stable situation for our teen.

I want to be adventurous, but I know my parents and sister will freak out and lay the guilt on hard and heavy. I should mention that right now we live about two hours from them, but we only see them about five times a year, four of them being because I drive there. However, I talk with my parents and sister on the phone every week.

No Place Like Home

DEAR HOME: I have a problem with seeing this as a problem.

Your being an adult, spouse, parent, child and sibling means your obligation chart reads as follows:

Top: Serve your child.

Close 2nd: Serve yourself, spouse and marriage with equal regard.

Distant 3rd, unless and until they need you: Serve the emotional blackmailers you call a family.

Meanwhile, “mid-60s” means your parents could truck along just fine with no extra care besides your quarterly visit for another 15 to 20 years. Do you really want to look your husband in the eye and say, “I realize you’ve spent the last two or three decades desperate to escape this region, and the past few years re-educating yourself to enable this mobility, and I realize I’m easy-peasy and can be happy anywhere you want to go – but I might have to visit my parents eight times a year instead of four sometime in the next 20 years, so you’re “poop” outta luck”?

That’s a rhetorical question.

If you expect your parents will need extra attention from you sooner rather than later, then you can build that into your decision and choose a new hometown based on access to a discount carrier or on a manageable drive.

If you expect the misery of familial guilt-tripping will overwhelm any happiness you feel at supporting your husband, then I suggest you launch this “next phase” with a few trips to a good family therapist.