Q: My parents (mom and stepdad) are in their 70s, retired, healthy, and doing well financially. They spend their money on traveling the globe and constantly remodeling their new Florida McMansion. That’s fine.
My sister had joint-replacement surgery and has high medical bills. I am going through a legal fight with a previous employer, am unemployed for the first time in my life, and legal bills are eating my 401k. Our parents know the details. We’re not asking for any help.
But I don’t want to get on the phone with my mom and have to hear all the issues of remodeling rooms that looked perfectly fine when I visited a year ago. Plus they don’t even ask how things are going with their children and grandchildren.
There are other old issues stemming from some childhood abuse and all the divorces, but my mom is in complete denial about that.
I don’t want to talk to them anymore.
But we are made to feel guilty if we don’t call often.
Do I just ghost my own parents?
Hate the Smile and Nod
A: You’ve presented this as a two-item menu: either endure your mom’s affluenza, or stop calling your parents.
There’s a middle choice, though: truth. "Mom, [sister] and I are buried in legal and medical bills. I can’t sympathize over expensive renovations."
She won’t respond well to that, right? So have this handy: "OK then. Let’s talk another time." [click] This middle is where you set the agenda to your emotional limits, making time to converse with people — but not to be anyone’s audience.
To back up: You mention "childhood abuse and all the divorces" as a tangent, but how is that not central?
Some therapists will charge on a sliding scale, so consider looking for a good one near you. Your parents’ legacy might run deeper than you know.