QUESTION: I have a 93-year-old mother who lives in her own home and I live 30 miles away. For many years, I took her shopping and helped her with housework. Now I’ve lost peripheral vision and can’t drive. My brother, who lives in New York, is here in the Los Angeles area for business trips about two or three times a year. When he is here, he stays with mom. I want my mom to sell her home and live with me. My brother doesn’t want her to sell her home. My guess is he wants a convenient place to stay when he is in town.
Mom has great neighbors who look out for her and are now doing her grocery shopping, but it’s not like a family member being there for her. I don’t want to alienate my brother and at the same time I want to care for my mother. I feel like I’m in a tunnel of darkness with no solution that everyone can agree to. Any ideas?
– Trapped in a Tunnel
Dear Trapped in a Tunnel,
Thank you for being a devoted son (or daughter). What timing! I am going through a situation like this myself with my own mother. Here’s what I’ve learned:
Your solution needs to be based on what’s best for your mother, not on what everyone can agree to. When your mom is 93, she is a precious and fleeting treasure and needs to be treated as such. As convenient as mom’s occasional bed and breakfast might be, it’s all about her now.
At that age, physical safety is the primary concern. She must not be alone any longer. Other than a visiting angel or an assisted living facility, having a son or daughter move in or moving mom in with a son or daughter as the caregiver is the best of all options. And how nice it would be for mom to have both her kids together with her when your brother comes to visit from New York!
So be strong for mom! I’m hoping she wants to be with you. If so, go through the legal steps involved. Prepare to sell the house. Go through her stuff. Keep what you can. Sell the rest. Move mom in for her own safety and your own peace of mind. Time is fleeting. Otherwise, talk with your brother about his share of the cost for assisted living. But things cannot continue like this much longer. I vote for mom!
Dear Trapped in a Tunnel,
Having aging parents can bring many difficult decisions for adult children who want the best for them. My first question for you is: What does your mother want? Since she is the one whose life will be most changed by any decision, I hope you have talked with her about it. If not, I suggest you try to get a sense of what she wants. If she really can’t communicate her choice or is happy with what her neighbors are doing for her, at least she will know that you love her and are concerned.
You might also talk with your brother to discover what his reasons for opposing the sale of her house might really be. Having a place to stay several times a year may not be his primary motive. He may just find that staying with her on his visits gives him more time to visit with her and find out how she is doing. But you won’t know that until you have an in-depth conversation with him. I don’t know what you relationship with your brother is, but you certainly don’t want to place your mother in a situation where she is forced to choose between the two of you.
Also, you don’t say whether your mother is a member of religious congregation – or if you are. If so, a minister from one of your congregations might be able to help you with this difficult situation. Your mother could also find it easier to talk with someone outside of the family who has a pastoral concern for her. My hope for you and your family is that you will find a way to reach a conclusion that is best for your mother and preserves the integrity of your family.
Blessings to you all.
QUESTION: I’m 16 and will graduate in 2013. I’ve always been interested in fashion design and began reading fashion magazines when I was 11. I’m a good artist, and I’ve sketched some designs that my friends think are great. When I graduate, I want to go to a fashion design school.
Although they know very little about the fashion industry, my parents keep telling me getting a job in that field is too difficult. They want me to go to college and get a degree so I can have a “real job.”
How can I convince them this is where my heart is?
– Young Designer
Dear Young Designer,
You are right. Your parents are right. You should follow your passion because you will be motivated to succeed at work that you love. Your parents are right in that the statistics show that jobs for salaried fashion designers are relatively few and therefore very competitive. On the other hand, jobs for everyone these days are very competitive, so that cannot be the deciding factor.
Will your parents accompany you to some tours/information sessions at L.A.’s fashion design schools? This would be mutually beneficial in that you would get them to learn more about the industry and your passion, and they’d feel like you are grappling with the gritty realities of your dream. There’s no cost beyond time associated with information-gathering. You can sort out the costs and benefits together – even the “fall back” careers for which a fashion design education will prepare you.
Because everyone is right in this scenario, you will do well to listen to all the voices, remembering that parents in general can (ironically) sound like dream-squashers because they care so much about your happy, healthy future.
It’s crazy-making, I know. But go at this step-by-step, and they’ll take the journey with you.
Allow me to offer you a favorite Bible verse from Jeremiah 29:11:
“I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the Lord; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope.”
Dear Young Designer,
First and foremost, it is important to understand that your parents care deeply about you. The reason they are concerned about your interest in fashion design is because an occupation in a creative field is often a “sink or swim” struggle. Unlike other professional careers, employment as an artist is often difficult and can leave you without work for prolonged periods of time. This reality worries your parents since they want to ensure that you are financially stable and able to pay your bills.
On the other hand, fashion certainly seems to be where your heart lies, and there is no denying the fact that you may find great happiness pursuing your dreams in the world of creativity. I think it’s important for each of us as individuals to try to engage in activities that offer us some personal fulfillment.
In almost all situations like this, a resolution can be found through good communication and dialogue. I therefore suggest that you have a straightforward conversation with your parents and, in a respectful manner, discuss your feelings with them. Perhaps you can find an acceptable middle ground that satisfies everyone. For example, maybe you can go on to college and pursue a general degree in design which can be utilized for both fashion and computer graphics. This way, if the fashion industry is slow and you cannot find work in your preferred field, you can in the meantime work as a graphic designer where there may be more opportunities.
I’m confident that there is some middle path that will enable you to use your creative talents while also satisfying your parents’ valid concerns about your financial stability. If you can come together for a conversation that is both candid and respectful – where everyone tries to listen and understand all viewpoints – I think you may find a good compromise that addresses the issues you face.