I’m a 28-year-old New York City transplant from small-town Minnesota. I like NYC for now, but I know ultimately I want to move to a mid-size, nature-y, diverse city (I’m from an immigrant family and want to set roots where I can raise children around all types of cultures) with good public transportation. I also know I want to live somewhere with job opportunities in tech since that is what I am studying at night school.
The relationship issue I am trying to navigate is with my parents, particularly my mother. I am my mother’s only daughter, and she misses me terribly. I am so grateful for her devotion and love for me all through my life. However, despite my attempts at setting boundaries on the subject matter, she constantly insists I move back home near my small town.
Though my home state has a lot of beauty and I love visiting, I do not have any desire to return due to lack of public transportation, lack of cultural diversity, a poor dating scene for women (most men over 25 are already married), and weather I absolutely dislike. I feel guilty that I don’t want to move back to my home state, but I feel even guiltier because my father’s health is slowly declining (he has Parkinson’s). Thankfully, my mother is able to take care of them and we are in good financial standing in case he needs more care around the clock.
My plan now is to get a job with remote working options and ample PTO so I can see my parents more frequently and for longer periods of time. I plan to continue calling regularly. However, my mom still doesn’t think this is enough and ideally wants me to move near my hometown, marry someone local, and have children as soon as possible (I am not ready for children or marriage yet). She also says that she and my father visiting me in NYC or moving to my future cities are not options (she says plane travel would not be good for my father and that moving would be too stressful) and that they are unwilling to compromise on that part.
Wendy, how do you recommend I be a kind daughter to my parents when I can’t make them happy with my long-term location plans? I feel like unless I move back home, I will break my parents’ hearts, even though my home state is not where I want to be long-term. — Sad to Disappoint My Mother>
I admire and respect that you want to be a kind daughter and make your parents happy. But what about your happiness? What about your parents being kind, loving, and supportive of you? Why should the burden of maintaining your relationship fall all on your shoulders? YOU are the one to visit them, YOU are the one who is expected to move, YOU are the one whose life must accommodate their needs and desires and dreams? Wrong! You’re the one with a full life ahead of her, and it’s YOUR dreams you should accommodate. Your plan to find remote working jobs that allow you ample time to see your parents more frequently and for longer periods of time is good enough. It’s good enough if it allows you to continue pursuing a life that supports your dreams because you’re living YOUR life, not theirs.
And keep in mind: You’re also allowed to change your mind about what you want or what you can accommodate. Maybe you can’t find the kind of job that allows you to see your parents as much as you’d like, or maybe one day, if you have the kids you say you want, you will be beholden to their school schedule, which will limit your travel time. And maybe your parents, with their more flexible schedule and desire to see their grandchildren, will decide that plane travel isn’t such an impossibility after all, and they’ll start making annual trips to see you. It’s important not to make too many promises, other than “I’ll do the best I can” (because what you can do will definitely change as your life circumstances change).
My point is: You really can’t plan everything out at this point, and you can’t control your parents’ reaction to any of your short-term or long-term decisions. What you can do is change your priorities and change how you react to them. Your top priority should be making yourself happy and taking the steps that create a lifestyle that supports your long-term goals, which include raising a family in a diverse city with ample tech jobs, nature outlets, and good public transportation. From there, you work on accommodating your parents and your relationship with them. If your mother doesn’t respect the boundaries you’ve set in place or the decisions you’re making to support your dreams, you give her her space to be unhappy and close that space off so you don’t have to deal with it. How do you do that? By telling her the subject is not up for discussion with you and hanging up the phone when she refuses to talk about something else; by not answering emails that give you grief; and by even shortening your visits or making them less frequent (and telling her why your visits are shorter).
Here’s the thing: There’s not one right way to be a loving daughter, just as there isn’t one right way to be a loving parent. And even if there were only one right way to love the people we love, being a martyr wouldn’t be it. Do you think, as devoted as your parents have been to you, that they gave up everything they wanted for themselves to raise you? Do you think they chose where to put down roots without any consideration to their own desires and needs? Of course not! They put down roots where they did for the same reason(s) you should choose your home: because of things that were important to them, based on their values, needs, and special interests.
It’s ok for you to make decisions that disappoint your parents. It doesn’t make you a bad daughter or a bad person. It makes you human like everyone else, doing the best she can to accommodate the needs and desires of her loved ones without sacrificing her own dreams and happiness. Anyone who asks more of you than that is asking too much.
This man had his chance to be in your life and he blew it. He has not been a father to you in many, many years, nor has he shown any desire to be one. He doesn’t get to waltz in now, after all the hard work of raising you is over, and enjoy the fruits of that labor. I’m sorry, but fuck that! Don’t let him in any way dampen the joy and anticipation of your new baby and impending motherhood. Even if you have any inkling of desire to start a relationship with him, don’t worry about it right now. Give yourself at least until your baby is six months old and you’re past the initial postpartum craziness before you even entertain the idea of letting him in. And if you decide you just aren’t up for it, that’s perfectly fine! He deserves literally nothing from you. He abandoned you when you were two and never looked back. I personally wouldn’t even bother giving him a response at this point.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.