Help! I Pictured a Very Different Future With My Big Family. Their Spouses Have Ruined All My Plans. (2024)

Dear Prudence

I’m the one who suffers.

Advice by Jenée Desmond-Harris

Every week, Dear Prudence answers additional questions from readers, just forSlate Plusmembers.Submit questions here.(It’s anonymous!)

Dear Prudence,

I have six children—four of them are adults with spouses and children of their own and two are still at home. My kids and I have always been close and they, themselves, were close to each other. We would get together weekly.

Now, though there are no problems amongst each other or with myself, their spouses do not get along with their siblings for one reason or another. I am the one who has to suffer because I can’thave a dinner where we all get together, etc. They are all 30 minutes or more away from me with one living in another state. With their younger siblings still at home, I find it nearly impossible to visit them due to scheduling conflicts and extracurricular activities that the younger children have. With one out of state and the others’ hectic schedules. they don’t visit either. I feel like I have lost my family.

With having six children, I always knew I would have several grandchildren and could not wait to be a grandma. I often imagined my six children with their spouses and all my grandchildren filling my home at every get-together and holidays and my heart would literally smile! Unfortunately, what I expected would be my future is the exact opposite. I went from being a single mother surrounded by my children and grandchildren living a wonderful loving fun fun-filled life to alone, depressed, heartbroken, missing, and longing for my children and grandchildren. It makes absolutely no sense to me why we are living like this, especially when the problems are not amongst us… it’s with their spouses not being able to get along with their siblings. I suffer, and my youngest two children suffer, because the people they chose to be with have driven a wedge between the family, which once was extremely close with even two of them sharing a twin bond.

I respect their decisions with whom they have chosen as their spouse and always respect them when they are around. However, I do not understand how my children are continuing to allow this to be “the way it is.” Now my health is not the greatest and my time left is in the single digits when it comes to years remaining. All I want is to live my remaining time surrounded by my children and grandchildren in a loving fun-filled environment. What can I do? I do not want to spend the rest of my life alone, depressed, heartbroken, full of regrets, and confused as to why and how all this is possible! Who would have thought with a large family I would still end up alone!?

—Blindsided By Obviously Petty People and Manipulation

Dear Blindsided,

First, some perspective: You say your younger children aren’t a part of the spouse-vs-sibling drama. So you aren’t actually alone at all! Having two children around for dinner may not be what you imagined, but they are there, they are your family, and they love you. And they’d probably be really hurt to know that they’re not enough. A lot of empty nesters would be envious of your position. Don’t waste this time being so preoccupied by the larger family issues that you forget to enjoy your kids while they’re living with you.

Second, a tool to help all of this feel less depressing and hopeless: You know what I’m going to say. Therapy. The level of despair in your letter feels like it runs deeper than disappointment over the scheduling of visits and family events. I think you might benefit from some support in getting to a place where you can consider possible solutions and envision a path to happiness, even if it may not look exactly like what you planned for yourself.

Third, a handful of practical things you can do to chip away at the loneliness you’re feeling and get a little bit more of what you want from this time in your life:

  • Remember that the loving and fun-filled environment you want is yours to create—right now, today, with the two children who still live in your home. Make a list of traditions that you want to revive or create, take requests for meals they’d like you to cook, and plan out a bucket list of seasonal activities to keep you busy.

  • Open your calendar, call up one of your four children, and say, “I would love to see you! I know how busy you are but is there a day in the next few months when you could bring the family over? I’ll make sure it’s just us and [Insert name of sibling’s spouse who they hate] won’t be here.” They will agree to something, maybe on a school holiday or a rare day when no one has a soccer game. Write it down and start looking forward to it. Repeat with your other two kids who are local.

  • Make another round of phone calls. This time the question is, “I know it’s tough for you to get out here for a visit but I’d love to see the kids. Are there any games, performances, or awards ceremonies I could attend?” Again make a plan and start getting excited.

  • Expand the way you’re thinking about being “surrounded by” your kids and grandkids. Technology means you can call them and chat while they’re on the way to work once in a while. You can ask for photos. You can text the older grandchildren and ask about their extracurriculars and how they’re doing. You can arrange a regular time to FaceTime with the little ones. I know these things aren’t the “everyone at grandma’s house at the same time for family dinner all the time” lifestyle you imagined, but they are something. And they may allow you to connect in new and surprisingly fulfilling ways.

  • If you’re still craving that feeling of a full, chaotic home, find some people to fill it up. Maybe there’s a single mom in your neighborhood who would love a grandma figure (and free babysitting). Perhaps a family who recently immigrated or some local college students who can’t afford to go home would appreciate a place to celebrate the holidays. Some of your neighbors who are your age and don’t have big families probably would, too. Ask around, make a post on NextDoor, and commit to creating the atmosphere you always envisioned. It could be a solution to other people’s loneliness in addition to yours.

Classic Prudie

A couple of months ago, I met a girl on a dating app. Our relationship was going well and we really connected emotionally. But sexually, I felt like things could have been better. I found a good-looking woman who seemed slightly older than me on Tinder. We met up and got intimate a few times. One day, she told me she was married. I was shocked, but I realized I was not morally much better, since I was in a relationship, too. She then told me she had a child and showed me a picture of her daughter…

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Help! I Pictured a Very Different Future With My Big Family. Their Spouses Have Ruined All My Plans. (2024)

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