DEAR AMY: I am a 25-year-old living abroad. I have had some wonderful life experiences and have made good friends. I find my work fulfilling. I am the youngest of two children, with parents who are nearing their late 60s. A few weeks ago my mother wrote me a message telling me how important family is and how much she misses me. I couldn’t help but feel like it was a guilt trip and my response wasn’t the kindest. My mother is now healing from back surgery and I feel guilty for not being there to help her (and my sister, who has a new baby) while she heals. I come home for a few months each summer, but as my parents had me later in life, I can’t help but feel like I am being selfish for taking advantage of this opportunity while they are aging. Is it wrong for me to be so far away? How much of my life do I owe to my parents once I enter adulthood?
DEAR WONDERING: Like you, I lived abroad for several years in my 20s. I understand the mixed blessing of being far away.
However, I’m confused about why you would respond with hostility to your mother’s statement that family is important and that she misses you. The way to respond is to say, “Oh, I miss you too, Mom!”
You seem to have sent yourself on this guilt trip, and it is inappropriate and unkind for you to blame your mother for saying that she misses you. Of course she does!
Your mother is recovering from major surgery. Give her a break, and respond to her with kindness and concern.
It is not wrong for you to live so far away. You don’t report that anyone in your family is pressuring you to do anything differently. The only thing you are doing wrong is to assign your own guilt to the wrong party, and to reflect your own conflicted feelings through hostility. It is easy to maintain something of a presence, through Skype calls, messages and photo sharing. (When I was your age, I only had something called airmail.)
Apologize to your mother for your own reaction, and reconnect with your family when you’re home this summer. As an adult, you don’t “owe” portions of your life to your parents. You only owe them respect and kindness. I assume that’s all they want.
DEAR AMY: I have a co-worker who constantly refers to me by a pet name: “honey, sweetie, baby,” etc. While I don’t feel it’s a sexual reference, I do find it condescending. Our departments have worked together on a project for a few months, and we interact enough that she has had ample opportunity to ask me my name in case she forgot (or if she can’t read my ID badge). I know I look younger than my age, despite being a few years older than she is. We hold an equal rank within the company. I have told her my name and tried gently correcting her on how she refers to me. However, I’m still “Baby,” and she adopts a tone like she’s speaking to a child. She does not do this to anyone else. I do not want to create any friction with her, but it is becoming an annoying habit.
DEAR ”SWEETIE PIE”: You are not “creating friction” by communicating a very reasonable expectation to be called by your name.
I disagree with your assumption that this behavior might somehow be inspired by your youthful appearance. She does not do this to other people in the workplace; she should not do it to you.
You have not been forceful enough.
Ask her to speak with you privately. Tell her, “My name is ‘Bart’, not ‘Baby.’ ” I’ve tried to gently correct you in the past, but now I’m telling you. You really need to use my name when you’re talking to me.”
If she continues to call you “Baby” or “Sweetie Pie” in front of your co-workers, then you should shut it down in front of them: “Only my mother gets to call me ‘Baby’. Please use my name.” After that, you might want to get a supervisor involved.
DEAR AMY: Like the letter from “Concerned,” my (former) daughter-in-law lambasted me on Facebook. I was horrified to be so publicly slandered. Facebook is now a place to air personal grouses. There is dignity and respect in keeping things within the family.
Looking for Civility
DEAR LOOKING: I completely agree.