DEAR ABBY: I married my high school sweetheart at 18 and put off college to start the family that we always wanted. Nine years later, we have three beautiful daughters.
My husband has a great job with a good salary. I have never had to work, but now I feel totally dependent on him. I have expressed my feelings to him about wanting a career. He tells me I already have one — taking care of the family. He says I need to be at home with them.
Abby, I feel like I should get out of the house and start a career of my own so my daughters don't think their place in the world is to be only a stay-at-home mommy. Don't get me wrong, I love being with and taking care of my girls. But am I doing long-term damage to them by being so dependent on their father for everything?
— TEXAS MOMMY
DEAR TEXAS MOMMY: You may think you are asking one question, but it appears you have two separate issues that need resolving. Your concern about feeling completely financially dependent shouldn't be ignored. What would happen to you and the children if something were to happen to your husband? With only a high school education to fall back on, the impact would be life-changing for you and your girls.
You ask if you are somehow damaging them because you are a full-time mommy. And yet, how can having a mother in the house whose focus is on their welfare and development be damaging? Most children should be so fortunate.
The solution to your problem lies in compromise. By that I mean devoting some of your time to taking classes so you can earn a degree when all your children are in school full time. That way — heaven forbid it should come to this — you will be able to support yourself and your daughters should the need arise.
DEAR ABBY: My mother lacks social sensitivity. She just doesn't know how to communicate with people, especially her kids and grandkids. She makes critical and inappropriate comments that create tension and misunderstanding. Often her trivial opinions will bring conversations to a dead stop.
She has told me she doesn't do it on purpose. But my husband, kids and in-laws don't understand why she's the way she is. Mom had a very hard life. My father was an abusive alcoholic. After they divorced, Mom raised three kids on her own. We were very poor and don't have many good memories. We grew up surrounded by anger, hopelessness and negativity.
I love my mother very much, and I know she tried her best, but we are still a dysfunctional family. I am considering having family therapy. Mom is 73 now. Is she too old to have therapy? I really need your advice.
— TRYING TO HELP IN NORTHERN CALIFORNIA
DEAR TRYING TO HELP: If someone recognizes there is a problem and is open to getting help, then there is no age limit for psychotherapy. However, if you think family therapy will change your mother, you're barking up the wrong tree. What family therapy can do is help you, your husband, your kids and the in-laws to react differently to her — and in a case like this, it might be helpful.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.