DEAR HARRIETTE: My daughter recently had a baby -- my first grandchild. The problem is that she lives out of state, and she's now living in close proximity to her mother-in-law. They spend a lot of time together, and the mother-in-law is getting to know my granddaughter well. I cannot move closer to my daughter, nor can I take much time off work to see her. How can I be just as involved in my granddaughter’s life as my daughter’s mother-in-law? I don't want to be bitter about their new relationship, but I am. -- Missing Out
DEAR MISSING OUT: One of the downsides of living far away from family is exactly what you are experiencing. I want to caution you to work hard not to be jealous of your daughter’s mother-in-law. Consider it a blessing that she is there and can support your daughter and her young baby. As you know, tending to a newborn is time-consuming, and it is invaluable to have support from your family.
Instead of being bitter, figure out creative ways to engage. Invest in a device that will allow you and your daughter and family to have video chats on a bigger screen. We got the Alexa Echo device in order to see and talk to my mother who is in an assisted living facility. It is easy to use and to see, and it creates an opportunity for us to feel close, even from a distance. Talk to each other daily so your grandbaby gets to know your voice and your face. Plan visits when you can, and accept that you are all doing your best. Resist resenting the mother-in-law. Instead, thank her for giving amazing support.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I’m an empty-nester. My husband wants me to work with him 24/7 now that my kids are out of the house. We live together, work together and share a car, so when I need to go anywhere, he’s the one taking me. How can I tell my husband that I need a break from him without hurting his feelings? -- Need Space
DEAR NEED SPACE: Your story reminds me of my mother when my father retired. He followed her everywhere for about a year, even going with her to the hairdresser once. That’s when she drew the line and explained that she needed some alone time. It hurt his feelings at first, but eventually he came to accept it.
Talk to your husband about your new reality. As empty-nesters, you need to reset the rules. Express how much you love him AND your space. Make it clear that sometimes you need time alone. Pick a place in your house that can be your sanctuary, off-limits to him. Establish times when you can use the car without him, even if it’s just to go to the store or visit a friend. Suggest that he carve out time and space for himself, too. Your lives have changed dramatically, and you need to figure out how to be comfortable with a new rhythm.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)