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by Abigail Van Buren

Mom Who Craves Empty Nest Hesitates to Force Child to Fly

DEAR ABBY: I have three children, ages 26, 18 and 15. My 18-year-old is a freshman in college and lives on campus. My 15-year-old lives with his father and visits me often. My 26-year-old is educated and has a good job, but still lives at home.

I was so looking forward to having all of my children out of the nest so I could enjoy myself. I'm in a serious relationship and marriage has been discussed, but because I cannot ask my gentleman friend to put up with the difficulties of getting along with my oldest child, those plans have been put on hold.

Every time I mention leaving the nest to her, she makes me feel guilty. I'm torn between being a caring mother and doing what is best for me. Please advise me how to handle this without ruining my relationship with my daughter. -- GUILTY MOM IN GEORGIA

DEAR GUILTY MOM: When the down has molted, the feathers have grown in and the baby bird is strong, the mother bird pushes her fledgling out of the nest so it can have a life of its own. With an education and a good job, your daughter is capable of taking care of herself. It's time for her to learn to live independently.

Get out the apartment ads and circle those that would fit her budget. Offer to go with her to check out apartments. Do not buy into her guilt trips. If necessary, offer to pay her first month's rent and half the cost of moving her belongings to her new address.

You deserve some happiness -- so please put your life on hold no longer.