DEAR AMY: I work as an executive assistant. I manage other people's lives and multiple calendars every day. I am good at my job. I have also had to take on all the "event planning" duties for my family (myself, my husband, parents, and my brother), as my mother has a degenerative neurological disorder and can't do that anymore. Amy, I am burnt out. My parents' birthdays are coming up. I tried to set boundaries, and still I was the one who made all of the plans and did everything! My brother is useless, and while my dad tries, he lives on retired-person time. He forgets that Saturday reservations go fast for most restaurants. My life is dedicated to other people. My husband and I fight constantly about how he doesn't notice that the sink is full of dishes or never gets the mail because the first thing he does when he gets home is to play video games. I am not sure what to do. I don't receive commensurate attention for my special days. I am ready to demand my father give me three-fourths of the estate because of all the work I do for them. The worst part is that when I talk to anyone about this, including my therapist, they ALWAYS make me feel like it is my fault. If I don't help these people in my life, I feel terrible, and if I keep at it, I am going to lose my mind. Is there anything I can do short of charging my family for my time?
DEAR BURNT OUT: Boundary-setting would require more than just announcing to other people: "I don't want to do this."
Instead, you would have to declare, "I'm NOT going to do this," and then you would have to stand down, and also face the consequences for whatever might happen next.
Your mother used to do everything for everyone else, and now you do. You two have either coincidentally surrounded yourselves with passive men, or you have trained these men to step back, perhaps because their way of doing things would not be acceptable to you.
What would happen if you weren't in charge of everything? You could say, "Brother, it's your turn," and then let him figure out how to be helpful, but then you would be forced to accept his shaggy or inadequate solutions, and I don't think you can.
I don't believe you are ready to step off this merry-go-round, because you say you would "feel terrible" if you didn't function for everyone else.
When you're really ready to stop, you won't feel terrible you'll feel liberated. And yes, if you are performing many caregiving tasks for your folks, you should be compensated.
You and your husband should agree on basic chores, but then you might also be forced to accept his lower standards or bad timing. This might be what your therapist is trying to tell you.
DEAR AMY: You ran a letter from a woman signed "Holding," who was wondering how to handle her deceased friend "Lynn's" ashes. Lynn's last request was to have her ashes scattered along a favorite spot in Ireland. It's not often we're mentioned in an advice column, but we saw yours and wanted to personally thank you for mentioning not-for-profit Road Scholar as a potential solution for your reader's dilemma. Since we can't reach out to her personally, we hope that you will share with her that we offer scholarships for low-income participants who wish to travel with us, but lack the financial means to do so. We also offer grants for caregivers and teachers. Please feel free to share this information with your readers, and thank you again for the mention!
Stacie Fasola, senior director, Road Scholar (roadscholar.org)
DEAR STACIE: Many people have contacted me, offering to help "Holding" scatter her friend's ashes (and I have been in touch with her to let her know). Your offer of a scholarship to help this friend make the trip herself is very generous.
Thank you, and "may the road rise up to meet you."
DEAR AMY: "Upset" received a gift of two cheap pig-shaped salt and pepper shakers, housed in a Tiffany bag. I get it that she was upset by this, but I was taught that, even if you don't like it, you should NEVER return a gift to someone!
Mannered in the Midwest
DEAR MANNERED: Yes, I thought "Upset's" choice to return this gift was quite rude. Definitely a friendship-ender.