Dear Savvy Auntie,

I’m feeling sad. My nieces and nephew are grown now. They live in Georgia and I live in New York. My sister and brother-in-law moved down there about 29 years ago and I made a vow that the distance would not keep me from having those children know me. My husband and I worked hard at this. I made countless trips down there for as many special occasions as I could, including weddings. In addition, I care for my 92-year-old mom. They barely call her at all.

I’m tired of being the orchestrator; I want to be the audience. My birthday was two weeks ago and I did not get calls, cards, not even a thumbs up on Facebook.

I would love to hear advice on how to manage this.

Audience Auntie

Dear Audience Auntie,

Thank you for being a fan!

You have “family” that expects, and maybe even takes for granted, that you are the one who extends herself, visits, and attends celebrations. When one person contributes more than 50 percent to a relationship, at some point they expect they will be repaid…it’s only fair!

Sadly, that is not how it usually works. Instead, the recipients expect it to continue. You are changing the “contract.” In order to do this you must either have a heart-to-heart talk with them (they are old enough to have this conversation) or change your behavior. By not extending yourself as you have in the past, hopefully they will fill the vacuum. I prefer the first option.

Keep in mind they are forging their own lives, spreading their wings, and experiencing their independence. This can be a full-time job. Be patient and understanding and ask about their lives, the pluses and minuses.

Perhaps, you are also experiencing caregiver burnout tending your mother and are in more need of attention, TLC, and support…ask for it directly. I suggest that you try to keep it light by setting up a belated birthday or half birthday celebration as it is never too late, and they have, somewhere inside of them, the nurturing you gave them when they were young.

Best of Luck,

Natalie Robinson Garfield

Edited and Updated: January 17, 2018
Originally published: July 12, 2011

homepage photo: Wayhome Studio

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