DEAR ABBY: "Tracy" and I have been best friends since junior high. (We're both 31.) A couple of months ago she and her two sons (my "nephews," ages 9 and 5) moved out of her parents' home and into their own apartment.
Tracy has never lived on her own before. As a result, she's constantly asking me to come over, spend the night, keep her company, etc. I'm happy to visit for a couple of hours once a week or so, but feel uncomfortable and pressured doing it to the extent she's asking. She didn't act this way when she lived with her parents.
I am single, childless, have my own place and a full-time job. My home is my sanctuary and I value my peace and quiet. The last thing I want at the end of a hectic workday is to go to her apartment and hang out for hours on end with her and her sweet (but loud and rambunctious) boys.
Tracy is also single. She works full-time and is a devoted mom, but there's an obvious deficiency in her life. I try to encourage her that she'll grow accustomed to her new life, but it doesn't stick. How can I make her understand that while I love her dearly, I can't be her lifelong security blanket? -- SMOTHERED IN THE EAST
DEAR SMOTHERED: Do it by explaining to your friend what you can give her, rather than what you can't. If it's one afternoon or evening a week, arrange your get-together for when you're available.
Let her know you need time to yourself to unwind after a hectic day at work, that you also need to run errands and do housework. You can be her good friend without coming running every time she snaps her fingers. And remember, she can't "smother" you any more than you allow.