DEAR ABBY: I wonder how many women feel just like me. I spent the best years of my life married to an abuser and cheater, raising three children who were my world.
Now, as I approach my twilight years, I have a sick husband who needs my care and three children who are self-sufficient, successful and self-serving. I feel used by all of them. I hear from them only when they need me to baby-sit, provide a shoulder to cry on during breakups, etc.
My husband is a sick old man who appears to be headed toward dementia, and I can't find the courage to walk away. I don't know what you can do for me because I know I'm only one of millions of women in the same position: We can't afford a divorce; we want to remain a part of our children's lives; yet we yearn to give our love to those who can return it and appreciate the loving, competent women we are. What are your thoughts on this? -- LEFT BEHIND
DEAR LEFT BEHIND: Your family is not going to change. If you want change in your life, you will have to create it for yourself. Accept that you have been partly to blame for your current situation. You tolerated the abuse and cheating and focused so much attention on your children that they grew up thinking you would jump when they snapped their fingers.
If you want to be appreciated, stop acting like a martyr and make yourself less available to all of them. Use the time to carve out an identity of your own before it's too late. Donate some of that "empty" time to charities you believe in or causes you care about, and you will be appreciated. And while you're at it, talk to a lawyer and find out what your options are. You may find you're not as trapped as you think.