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Return of the Natives

They’re B-a-a-a-c-k! You raised those children and now they’re adults. They grew up. They left home. You went through that “empty nest syndrome” and came out on the other side – after a few bouts with “nobody needs me now” and ”what do I do with the rest of my life”; after a few headaches, a little depression; a lot of soul searching – you came out with new priorities, goals and plans.

When the last child left home there was a jolt to the order of things. You really had to get in touch with your relationship’s “for better or worse” promise now that there were no children around to act as buffers.

 Finally, you were able to say “It’s my turn now.” You took up painting or writing or your old career; or enhanced your present career;  something you always wanted to do but never had enough time. Or you made plans to travel to exotic places – something else you always wanted to do but never had enough money (college tuitions, etc.). Or you stared “doing lunch”, playing cards or tennis or golf or — – whatever “my turn” meant to you.

You  found out that there is life after children. You and your husband were starting to relate to each other again without children in the house. That took some learning, some readjustment. Heck, you were even able to chase each  other around the house naked if you chose. 

And then daughter got divorced. Son lost his job. Daughter-in-law got hooked on drugs and left son with small child to raise.

Help!! They yelled. You found yourself filled with compassion, resentment, fear, self pity and anger. Nevertheless, you stretched out your arms and “Come Home” you called. And they came.

Suddenly it seems as though all around you other couples are traveling and socializing and even having old friends visit and sleep over, but not you. You love those children and you want to help them but you feel like a victim.

So now that these adults are home are they children again? Do you think that? Do they? How can you make it work?

What happens when you give advice and they resent it? What happens when you think you’re mediating and they think you’re meddling? What happens when the phone bills triple and the washing machine goes back to a full time job? And what do you do when that adorable grandchild who’s now living with you runs to you instead of to his mother and his mother resents it because even though she’s your baby he’s her baby.

 Do you ask for rent? Do you set time limits? Do you become the babysitter so they can go to work? Do you and your husband agree on everything now — – on anything?

You raised these people so how come they feel like aliens arriving from outer space to invade your inner space and even so, above all, you don’t want to alienate them.

What’s fair? What’s unfair? Does fair matter? Who owes who what?

And who was it who said “Life is what happens while you’re making other plans”?  Is it?

 Here are some of the calls for help:

Dear Answer Mom:  My son has dropped out of More online casino TournamentsGame InformationKnowing some details about the casinos you engage in playing at is always advised. college because he says he needs time before going back. So he’s come home to live. Now my daughter who was working in another city just lost her job and hasn’t been able to find another one  there so she’s come home. How can we work this out so everybody doesn’t get in everybody’s way? My husband has been away on an extended business trip. He was hoping to plan some vacations for us as soon as he came home. He doesn’t know about them returning and I don’t want to tell him on the phone.  -Rona-

Dear Rona: Why not? Are you afraid he’ll be the one who won’t come home? Just say sweetly “Honey, they’re B-A-A-C-K!!” A family conference is in order. There are many facets to this problem but planning, assigning and accepting responsibility for household chores, consideration for each one’s privacy and setting limits are the main issues. Your son must decide if he wants to stay out of school for the year or the semester or? He must try to get a job, pay some rent and decide on a definite time that he will either go back or move out. Your daughter also must plan on moving when she finds a job. Limits must be set beforehand. These are not children moving in but adults and they must be treated as adults. As for your husband – you’d better set limits on how long he can stay away!!

Dear Answer Mom: My son and daughter-in-law got married with the understanding that they wouldn’t have children. They both have good growing careers. Now they’re both cautiously changing their minds. My daughter-in-law says she can’t speak to her mother about it because her mother is so rah rah to have a grandchild that she can’t be honest so she’s turned to me for my advice. She’s conflicted about a baby interfering with her career and she asks my opinion even though I would also love to have a grandchild. She actually says please be honest and tell me what you think the risk is in being able to live your own life at the same time. Before I answer her I would like your opinion -Blanche-

Dear Blanche: Newborn babies should come with warning labels “Raise At Your Own Risk”. Tell her “the risk is that once you accept the role of mother you will become deeply emotionally connected to that child forever. When that child hurts you will hurt and when that child is happy you will be happy. That doesn’t mean that you don’t live your own life. This happens while you’re living your own life. However, many women are managing babies and careers but not easily. The baby will probably push out the career in terms of what takes emotional precedence. You have to decide that it’s not a contest and that the rewards (and there are many) are worth the risk. That’s something only you can decide for yourself”. And Blanche if you can tell her this without adding how much you would love to be a Grandma you will have given her an honest answer.

Problems? Ask THE ANSWER MOM. Email Helen Oxenberg at Helen@mothering21.com

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