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I am a 23 year old male, my father is working in Town B (for about 2 years now) and he tries to come home every weekend (Friday night - Sunday night), so it's just me and my mother at Town A during the weekdays.

I don't know what I'm feeling at the moment, but I feel very angry and confused, not directly at my parents but somewhat indirectly at them. When I go to work, I keep thinking of my mother and I feel guilty (although it is not my fault) that she is alone at home. Sure she has friends but she can't seem to keep herself occupied for the whole day, and she resorts to watching TV. I also feel guilty when I want to stay back later at work and come back home at 8pm instead of 5:30pm-6:30pm, as I want to accompany her. Also, during weekdays after work I might have gatherings and outings with friends and I would come home normally around 11pm+. So my mother will be asleep and I won't see her until the next morning briefly. This has lead to me cancelling some of the events that I attend with my friends as I want to spend time with my mother.

Then the same problem comes on the weekend. I normally would have my own plans on the weekends to do my own things, but since my father moved to Town B, I always feel guilty if I go out on weekends and not spend time with my parents/my father. So this has led to me also sacrificing alot of my own plans.

In short, I just feel so constrained by my parents and both of them even made some remarks about not seeing me alot during the weekdays//weekends. I get so angry and fustrated because I want them to understand I am not a child and I have my own life now. I don't go out for the whole day/go out excessively, its just maybe in the morning and afternoon i've got my own plans with my friends and such but I do try to come back for dinner with them or at least one meal a day. Even then, its not enough for them and they would like to me to spend the whole day with them (ever since my dad moved to Town B to work). Moving out is not an option at the moment because of my finances, but even so, if I did move out it would cause more guilt as my mother will be living alone.

How would I deal with this? Is this my fault? Or should I put aside all my emotions and do what I please. Should I confront my parents? I was thinking of it, but I don't think it will change anything.

Note: I know it's a parenting forum and Im not a parent, but I would like to think of this question also as an opportunity for other parents facing this problem to be able to get some advise here.

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4 Answers

I understand how you feel and I am sorry to hear about the effects of your parent's separation. We really cannot choose the kind of life that we will be given or the parents that we will have. But it is in your hands on how you can accept the situation and do something to improve it. I understand that you want to have your freedom, but you can't just leave your mom alone and financially, you are not yet capable of living independently. I suggest why not, set a day in a week, where you can have a mom day. Like you go home early on Wednesday night, say for example, so you can have a dinner with your mom, and then you can also do other stuff on weekends, if you feel like you don't have your personal life anymore. It's really very hard to find time when you are busy with a lot of things, but if you really want to have quality time with your parents, then set a date, even once in a week, where you can spend it only to them. For your dad, you can invite him to come over on a particular date, or you can go there, if your schedule permits. Your parents are missing you, so they are asking for your time. Anyhow, an hour of quality time, means a lot for them.

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Your a good kid cause you care. That's why you feel angry and frustrated. If you didn't care. You wouldn't feel anything. It's all part of becoming an adult. I'm afraid there isn't any painless about it. One day you'll understand that no one's parents are perfect, and you'll have to accept that they have their own problems.

What I think you need is a good sense of self-confidence and assertiveness. With assertiveness you will learn to express what you need to your parents without allowing their feelings to control what you do.

Basic assertiveness skill is to repeat what the person is saying. So that they know you are listening and understand how they feel, but then repeat when you want to them. Keep repeating this process until they learn that you are asserting what you want.

For example;

You: "Mom, I can't stay home this weekend because I already made plans to go out." Mom: "We never see you anymore." You: "I'm sorry, I know you wanted to spend time with me, but I can't stay home this weekend because I already made plans to go you." Mom: "You use to spend time with me, but you don't anymore." You: "I'm sorry, I know I use to spend time with you, but I can't stay home this weekend because I already made plans to go out."

When you apply assertiveness for the first time. It can be a difficult experience for both, but I have found that people will change. Your parents will begin to respect you, because you listen but also know what you want to do.

Here is an Amazon list on assertiveness books.

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Short and not so sweet: no, you don't have your own life until you move out from living with your parents, and you should. If you say you can't do it financially, then figure out what it would take and how big the gap is for a cheap(er) solution like renting a room or finding some housemates.

And it's not a purely selfish solution either: once she is no longer responsible for housing and feeding you, she will be free to move to Town B and live with your father, which may well make her happier. Maybe they can then rent out your current home and even give you a cut while you get your bearings? I'm just throwing out ideas here, but you should put this on the table and see what they think.

In general, it's a natural progression in life for kids to move away, and while your mother will have "empty nest syndrome" initially, she has to figure out what she's going to do with the rest of her life sooner or later. Work? Volunteer? Study? At least find a hobby? Watching TV isn't going to cut it, and if you're lucky, you moving out will jolt her into realizing this as well.

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That's a hard situation for all involved.

My parents separated when I was about 4, so I had many years of experience dealing with being my mother's primary companion at home, and the weekend visits with my father. Your situation is a bit different, though, as my parents had had a lot more time to adjust by the time I had reached a more independent status.

First and foremost, NO, this is not your fault. This is the message EVERY parent going through a divorce or separation should absolutely be emphasizing to their children constantly. Unfortunately, I think that adult children sometimes get overlooked for stuff like this, even though it absolutely helps to hear it.

Putting aside your emotions and doing what you please is self-contradictory. The conflict exists because you want to do both. Ideally, you find a way to balance both sides of the equation, but sometimes you wind up in a position where you have to choose one or the other (sometimes you can make this a temporary state of affairs, and restore balance once the situation stabilizes, but not always). If it gets to that point, you'll have to do some serious thought and make some tough choices, but there are some things you can do to help reduce the chances of being forced into such a decision.

A good place to start might be for you to decide what your "ideal" situation is. If you could eliminate all feelings of guilt or obligation from the equation, how much time do you honestly want to spend with each of them? This can be very specific, or a flexible, general range, depending on what you want. Get an idea of this, and tuck it away in the back of your mind. Don't think of this as a goal, though, but rather a measuring stick to see how close to your ideal balance you wind up at. Most compromises don't wind up with either side getting exactly what they want, but knowing what you want helps keep you focused on getting at least somewhere in the ballpark.

I'd recommend that you talk to your parents. "Confront" is probably too harsh of a term, but you definitely want to open dialog. You'll probably get better results if you start out by asking questions in an attempt to better understand your parents' perspectives, and then introduce your perspective in such a way as to try to work for a solution that addresses everyone's wishes.

Ask your mother if she feels she has too much time to herself, and what she wants/expects/hopes for from you. It may be that your guilt about leaving her alone is unfounded, and maybe she's simply enjoying relaxing, or is taking the time to think, or just really wants to catch up on television. Ask her how she'd prefer to spend her time, both during the day and during the evenings. Tell her that you feel bad about coming home late and missing seeing her, but that you also don't want to feel like you're neglecting time with your friends.

Tell your father something very similar. Tell him that you want to spend time with him, but that there are other things that you also want to do on the weekends, and sometimes you feel frustrated by the conflict.

In both cases, you may be able to work out a schedule that works for both of you. See if you can set aside blocks of time on specific days that work for both of your schedules, and dedicate that time to a shared activity. Perhaps Saturday afternoons become "lunch and a movie with Dad", or Wednesday nights become "take mom out dinner night" (or "make dinner together with mom night").

If, after talking with them, you find that you're not able to come up with a solution that makes everyone happy, you may want to consider speaking with a therapist or social worker. A neutral third party can be very helpful in situations like this, and a professional therapist or social worker can be an excellent listener, and can help suggest possible compromises or methods of coping with your frustration. Many employee health care packages include some sort of mental health services, so you may wind up being covered.

As an alternative, members of the religious community such as priests, pastors, rabbis, etc. are good resources, and many take regular training on counseling techniques.

Through this all, you should also keep in mind that the situation may change. I'm not saying your parents will get back together (although it has been known to happen), but your relationship with your parents likely will evolve over time.

If they stay separated, they will want to start rebuilding their lives, and may find other people that they want to spend time with. That doesn't mean they won't want to spend time with you, too, but it will alleviate a large part of the burden of guilt you might feel, knowing that they have other people to keep them company.

Also make sure that you don't stop living your life, just to fill a void in your parents' lives. You need to have opportunities to advance your own relationships and career, and there are extremely few situations where putting those completely on hold justifies the damage to your long-term happiness, even if only temporarily.

Best of luck to you!

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Since his dad comes home every weekend, I don't think it's a separation in the traditional sense, just a work thing. –  Karl Bielefeldt Dec 27 '12 at 22:33
    
@KarlBielefeldt Hrm, you may be right, in which case my answer needs some fixing. I'll wait and see if the OP can chime in and clarify. Clearly, my background is showing, since I hear "separation" and immediately assume it is a dissolving relationship.... –  Beofett Dec 28 '12 at 0:17
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