Majella O'Donnell helps to solve all of your problems
Dear Majella, I'm a 54-year-old widow with two teenagers. My husband died 11 years ago after a long illness.
My extended family and my in-laws have been incredibly supportive, and my daughters and I are really close. But it's been very lonely bringing up two girls on my own. Two years ago, I decided that I needed a hobby of my own and I started playing bridge. I've since become close to a male member of the club. His marriage broke down several years ago, and he moved back to our area to be close to his ageing parents. He understands how much my daughters still need me and wouldn't dream of trying to take their dad's place. But although they can see how happy I am when I'm around this man, my daughters, particularly the younger 13-year-old, really resent him, and hate it when I meet him.
I feel really torn. I love my daughters so much, and I know how hard it was for them to lose their father, but I don't want to give up this chance at happiness. Does this make me a terrible mother?
Firstly, can I say how happy I am that you have found someone that makes you happy after all this time. You are certainly not a terrible mother and don't ever think that way. You were widowed at the very young age of 43 and you managed on your own and brought your daughters up to the best of your ability with the support of your in-laws. What more could anyone ask of you? Now 11 years later, you have found someone that makes you feel good and someone that you enjoy being with. I say grab it with both hands!
With regard to your daughters, they will have to learn that you have a life just as they do. You have given them your full attention for 11 years and you are still a very young woman. It's great that this man is not pushy and that he understands how sensitive the situation is.
You can take things slowly for your daughters' sakes but be very firm with them that this is what you want. You could talk to your daughters and tell them how much you loved their father and nothing will ever change that but that you would like to have someone in your life now that makes you feel happy and someone that you can share things with. Try to involve him in something you do with your daughters so that they can get to know him for themselves.
Once they become comfortable with him and they realise that, just because you have him in your life doesn't mean that you love them any less, they will come around and accept this new man that makes their mother so happy.
Our eldest son is 21 and has done nothing with his life. He was super bright in school with great potential but in the last two years he has started to drink, smoke and hang out with a rough crowd. As a result he didn't get the results we had hoped for and didn't get a good place in college. Since then we have funded two different courses, but he dropped out of both in the early stages as they weren't for him. He moved out for a while when he met a girl, but came back after they split up two months on. He is back with us now, drifting in and out of temporary work. He spends any time he has at home in his room. He has put on a lot of weight and drinks a huge amount. I also think he may be taking recreational drugs. We are at a loss what to do, he doesn't communicate with us, and my husband and I are both worried he will be a bad influence on his brother who is 15 and incredibly bright. What can we do?
I really feel for you because it is such a stressful situation to be in. Parenting can be so difficult at times and it is very hard to know what to do for the best. It seems to me that you have done as much as you can up to this point and now it is time to show some tough love.
Your son is 21, which is still very young but he needs to learn that he cannot behave this way while he is under your roof. Maybe he is just going though a bad phase but you need to make it clear that you are not happy with his behaviour and that he needs to sort his life out. Is he paying towards his upkeep in the home? How can he afford to drink as much as he does? Have you ever thought that maybe you are enabling him to continue as he does? You need to have a serious talk with him and tell him how his behaviour is worrying you. Maybe you could set some house rules that he will have to abide by and if he is not prepared to do that, then it is up to you to decide whether you are willing to allow him to continue living with you or whether he needs to find his own place.
It may sound very cruel but you will be helping him in the long run. As long as you keep helping him to live the way he does, it is unlikely that things will change. If you tell him what you expect from him, it is up to him to either change or pay the consequences.