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When Empty Nest Fills Up Again, Mom Needs To Lay Down The Law

Mon., Dec. 1, 1997

Q. Seven months ago my 15 year-old granddaughter called crying, because she had had a big fight with her stepfather. I picked her up and brought her home. She said she would never live with him again. My son-in-law said he had had it with my granddaughter and wanted to separate. At first my daughter wanted to get back with him, but changed her mind and is settled in here. Now my younger daughter and her two kids, ages 2 and 4, have moved back to California and in with me. Her husband plans to join them in two months. Until recently I was enjoying life very much. Now, I am sharing my house, my car, taking kids to the sitter, and doing all the cleaning. I am dating a man I like, but we never have any privacy.

What suggestions do you have about rules regarding housekeeping duties and money for rent and utilities? I should have made rules when they first moved in but I didn’t.

My younger daughter pays me $20 a week, but my older one has offered nothing. Please help.

A. You offered help when your daughters needed it, and now realize it’s time to set some boundaries on your good will. My philosophy is parents can make new rules any time they discover the need.

Set a deadline, two months away, for both to move out. When the mood is right, announce the deadline and new rules about helping with household duties and expenses.

Tell them, “I love you both very much, but I’m wise enough to know that I want you to make other living arrangements by this date.”

“I want each of you to pay $25 a week toward household expenses. That’s not a lot, but it will make me feel you’re sharing the load. I would like to rotate the housecleaning duties, with each of us, including my granddaughter, responsible for one week’s cleaning.

“Also, I plan to keep my car with me. Loaning it out just adds too much stress to my work week.”

Don’t feel guilty about your requests. You’re entitled to enjoy life.

You’re teaching your daughters to take responsibility for themselves, which is a major assignment parents have.

Q. Two years ago my current husband and I moved a few hundred miles away from my son and daughter, then ages 11 and 9, who were living with their father. When the time came to move I gave my daughter a “blank book” with a letter from me on the first page. I explained she could write whenever she wanted to share something. On her first visit, her father and stepmother forbade her to bring the book. They told her they thought I was using it to “spy on them.” My daughter explained the purpose and offered to let them read what she had written, but they still refused. She tells me she still writes, but is careful about what she says. They have also read her diary without permission. Can you advise how she can handle this situation?

A. Your job is to reduce the stress your daughter lives under by helping her recognize and deal with the problem she faces.

Her father’s fear makes him unable to respect her right to privacy. She has already made a wise effort to adapt to this reality.

People who violate others’ privacy because of the fear of being spied upon, are showing signs of paranoia. This form of paranoia is defined by excessive suspicion of the motives of others.

When an individual suspects others are spying, there is little one can do to reassure them.

Trying to convince her father and stepmother that you are not trying to spy on them is an untenable task for your daughter to attempt.

Since you recognize her father and stepmother’s suspicious attitude, tell your daughter you made a mistake in thinking the book was a good idea.

Give her a supply of stamps and suggest she send her thoughts in letters.

Our government supports and protects the right to privacy of the mails.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Cathleen Brown The Spokesman-Review

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