Wednesday 23 January 2019

Dear Mary: I feel so unhappy and all alone

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Mary O’Conor

I am in my forties, single and living at home with my parents as I have been a carer for my dad for years. I didn't mind this at first when I lost my job but over the years I am slowly feeling so unhappy and alone.

I have watched friends come and go or get married and have kids and I am happy for them but slowly all my friends have stopped texting or ringing me.

I started minding my sister's children when I first started minding my dad as she was having money worries.

I thought it would be short-term but years later I am still minding them for nothing.

I have told her I can't mind them for nothing any more but it has fallen on deaf ears.

She has even put them in a creche or afterschool a few times; and then won't talk to me for ages.

I would have no problem minding them if she would pay me. I am struggling financially as I am only getting the carers' allowance for my dad, and my car is in need of repair.

We go to town most Saturdays and I've watched her spend up to €200 and I get angry because she knows I am struggling while both she and her husband have good enough incomes.

I have tried to look for a job but being a carer limits me to 15 hours a week and limits how much I can earn.

Yet when I think of getting my own place the guilt kicks in at leaving them like this, and how would the kids get to their activities?

Eighteen months ago I was diagnosed as diabetic. I haven't told anybody and it is getting harder to hide because of medical appointments.

I am so unhappy right now and worried sick about losing my car.

Mary replies: You gave me lots more details regarding your problems with your sister, but for reasons of anonymity I have omitted them. You are putting everybody else before yourself which is fine and admirable provided you are happy.

But you are stressed, unhappy and coping with your diabetes diagnosis so it's obviously not working for you.

I'm sure you have a very good relationship with your nieces and nephews and that your dad is very appreciative of your being his carer.

But your sister is taking you for granted, and that is not right.

First, tell your family about your diabetes and explain that you will be having to make some changes as you will have to take more care of yourself.

Then ask your sister to contribute towards your car repairs, pointing out that your car is used to transport her children to various activities. If she won't agree to this then you will have to be firm and stop taking care of her children.

It is in her own interest to help you so stand your ground.

When the car is repaired then have another conversation with her about being paid for your services.

Friendship is a two way thing, so do try to keep in touch with your friends by calling or texting them.

You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting or email her at or write c/o 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately.

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