DEAR HARRIETTE: My mother lives in a different country. Her family is from Brazil, and that is where she grew up. When my siblings and I graduated from high school, she decided to move back to her hometown. I enjoy going to see her and visiting the family I have there, but my mother has been nagging me a lot more than usual recently. Every time I take a vacation with my boyfriend or go away with my girlfriends, she questions why I did not visit her. I try to explain to her that a flight to Brazil costs a lot more than a flight to Florida and that I can’t spend all my vacation days on her. Do you have any advice on how I can handle this situation without hurting my mother’s feelings? -- Nagging Mother, Miami
DEAR NAGGING MOTHER: Your mother made a choice for her life that took her thousands of miles away from you. While it is important for you to carve out time and save money to see her, you also have the right to live your life. You should remind your mother -- kindly -- that as much as you love her and want to see her, she is the one who moved away. She has to understand that her choice has ramifications for the family. Suggest that you use other ways to stay close, such as talking regularly via FaceTime, Skype or WhatsApp. You can stay connected without being in each other’s physical company. Choose that together.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer and has been undergoing chemotherapy for quite some time. I am the oldest of three, so I have been trying to take on my mother’s roles as she has been unable to. I have never admitted this to anyone, but sometimes I just want to be a normal teen for a day. I feel like I am constantly taking care of my sisters and running the house, and not taking any time for me.
I feel unbelievably selfish having these thoughts; it upsets me so much. My mom is so appreciative of how responsible I have been, but I would never tell her how I’ve been feeling every now and then. I haven’t seen my friends or hung out with my boyfriend in the longest time. It upsets me that I feel this way because I can’t imagine how my mom is feeling, but sometimes I can't help myself. Am I a bad person for feeling this way? -- Girl With a Sick Mother, Akron, Ohio
DEAR GIRL WITH A SICK MOTHER: It is OK for you to be honest with your mother, even though she is ill. Given what she’s going through, she needs to think about outside support that you and your siblings may need now. Obviously, you are not going to abandon your duties, but you can let her know that every now and then, you need a break. Perhaps there is a family member who can stop by to help out, or through her insurance you may be able to get a part-time caregiver. Let your mother know that you need help, and then she and you can begin to investigate it.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to email@example.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)