Sunday, June 24, 2018
Parenting & Relationships

Focus on things you can manage, not family members you can't

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Focus on stuff you can manage, not family members you can't

Q: How do you kindly tell a family member that she is no more "busy" than anyone else in 21st century America?

My sister is always given a break by my mother. She gets out of all sorts of family obligations, gets tons of child-care help and sympathy, gets passes on forgetting birthdays and milestones and engages in generally surly behavior a lot of the time because she's just so "stressed." My sister works 40 hours a week.

So do I. However, my mother often cannot help watch our kids because my sister "needs" her so badly. If I can't make it to Aunt Gertie's 80th birthday blowout, it's a guilt trip. But she gets a pass because she's so "busy." I am sick of it.

My sister's latest thing is not returning phone calls because she's just so scattered. It is beginning to cause major resentment for me. Her husband works long hours, too, but, hey, so does mine. And we'd like to warrant the same compassionate, you're-busy-here's-some-help treatment without having to behave like complete messes to get it. Help?

But I'm So Busy!

A: Let it gooooooo. … Just drop your end of the rope. As legitimate as all of your complaints sound, they're only as useful to you as they are productive.

And what have they gotten you? Has your sister ever said, "You know, I really monopolize the family's attention — I'm so sorry"? Has you mom ever said, "You know, I realize you're just as busy as your sister, but deep down I feel responsible for her inability to get it together, so I let her suck me into the drama, and that's not fair to you"?

Hafta think not.

If so, then it's time for Step 2, to stop looking for returned calls, child-care help or validation from your family. Unfair? Sure is. But dwelling on that only amplifies the impact of the unfairness on your life.

If you mentally (emotionally?) write them off as being too low-EQ to recognize their messed up dynamic, then you start looking elsewhere in your life for satisfaction and validation. Your spouse, your kids, your work, your circle of non-family loved ones, your causes close to your heart, your ability to live within your organizational means. They're your rock.

They're also, not coincidentally, the things over which you have some say. You have no say in how your sister and mother run their lives, so scratch them accordingly off your list of things you need to manage.

And when you can't make it to Aunt Gertie's birthday party, stop seeing it as a problem. Some people will always be disappointed that you can't come, and some of those will always be too unhealthy just to say, "Aw, sorry to hear that" and instead will try to send you on a guilt trip. To all of them, from now on, you are this person: "Yep, I'm so sorry. I just can't make it. … So how are you doing these days?" And if that doesn't stop the guilt-tripper, this will: "Aw, cheez, gotta go — bye. Say hi to Auntie for me!" Click.

Comments

Tell Me About It: Dad despairs at state of gender relations

Q: Day after day, we have new news of a famous man who has done unspeakably stupid and offensive things to women ... for decades. Society is, somewhat belatedly, starting to take these accusations seriously.But change is needed at the opposite end of...
Published: 06/22/18

Tell Me About It: Future in-laws are insisting on an open bar

Q: My fiance and I are getting married in my familyís hometown and my parents are hosting (and paying for) the wedding. My family are minimal drinkers. My fianceís large extended family is accustomed to weddings with full open bars.My parentsí initia...
Published: 06/21/18
Plan your weekend: St. Pete Pride, Hall and Oates, Pixies, Logic, comics Jay Pharoah and Bobby Bones

Plan your weekend: St. Pete Pride, Hall and Oates, Pixies, Logic, comics Jay Pharoah and Bobby Bones

Rainbow connection Pride weekend: One of the largest Pride celebration in the Southeast happens this weekend in St. Petersburg, bringing a rainbow of activities. Things set off on Friday with the free SP2 Concert at North Straub Park, hosted by Coc...
Published: 06/20/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Big concerts this weekend: Luke Bryan, Hall and Oates, Weezer, Logic and more

Big concerts this weekend: Luke Bryan, Hall and Oates, Weezer, Logic and more

HIS KIND OF NIGHT: Luke BryanItís been three long years since Tampa has seen the well-groomed hide of Luke Bryan, the Hollywoodiest hunk in Nashville. But heís about to make up for lost time. On Saturday heíll headline his biggest-ever show here, a b...
Published: 06/20/18
Top things to do this week: Go Skateboarding Day, Hollywood medium Tyler Henry

Top things to do this week: Go Skateboarding Day, Hollywood medium Tyler Henry

Tyler Henry: Hollywood MediumTyler Henry, the so-called Hollywood Medium who stars in an eponymous E! hit show, is coming to town with a live show called "Life Lessons I Have Learned From the Departed." The soft-spoken 22-year-old has done readings f...
Published: 06/20/18
5 things to do under $5: USF Summer Plant Festival, Bridal Show, free show by AnastasiaMax

5 things to do under $5: USF Summer Plant Festival, Bridal Show, free show by AnastasiaMax

1 Summer Plant Festival: If you think you canít get anything to thrive in Floridaís brutal summers, check out the vendors with fruit trees and advice on how to grow them, along with hundreds of blooming butterfly plants, herbs and tropical and exotic...
Published: 06/20/18

Tell Me About It: Wife punished after being victimized

Q: At a work happy hour, a male co-worker groped me. He later "apologized" with the qualification that I had been sending him mixed signals.Iím married, he has met my husband, Iíve never led him on. And when it happened I was incredibly clear that it...
Published: 06/20/18
Your guide to St. Pete Pride: What's changed for 2018

Your guide to St. Pete Pride: What's changed for 2018

Pride weekend kicks off in St. Petersburg Friday with a free concert hosted by a RuPaul’s Drag Race star, a parade along the downtown waterfront on Saturday and an expanded expo of vendors and art on Sunday in the Grand Central District that ga...
Published: 06/19/18

Tell Me About It: Mom/daughter dynamic feels controlling

Q: I am afraid I may be a controlling mom of my young adult daughter, but we have a dynamic in which she seeks me out often, solicits my advice, and makes me too important in her life. I admit to offering that advice because it is hard for me to draw...
Published: 06/19/18

Tell Me About It: Regretting staying too long in bad romance

Q: I recently broke up with someone after two years. Even though there were things that bothered me while we were together, I would convince myself I was overreacting, he didnít really mean it, etc.Now that itís over, I feel like a fool for not havin...
Published: 06/18/18