DEAR ABBY: I'm a 60-year-old grandmother of eight wonderful grandchildren, ranging in age from 2 to 24. My question is about baby-sitting.
I believe my children think we owe them baby-sitting duties. I don't mind baby-sitting once in a while, when I feel like it. But I don't feel like it when the parents want to go out and party, or they tell me at the last minute, "little Susie needs some Grandma time," or they want to go to the gym because they don't want to give up the freedom they had before their children came along.
What are your thoughts on boundaries for this generation of parents-who-want-it-all at the expense of my generation who, back in the day, if a neighbor kid couldn't baby-sit, we just stayed home? I know I should have set some rules at the beginning, but I'm starting to feel resentful of their expectations. -- WANTS SOME FREEDOM, TOO, IN MINNESOTA
DEAR WANTS SOME FREEDOM, TOO: There is truth to the saying that "good fences make good neighbors," and the philosophy applies to many circumstances. Setting clear boundaries makes for healthier relationships. Keep in mind that many grandparents would love to have your "problem." But as you stated, your problem was in not setting ground rules from the beginning.
Because you feel resentful, it's time to have a frank talk with your children and say that as much as the grandkids may "need" Grandma time, Grandma also needs Grandma time. And when you do, be firm -- because unless you stand your ground, nothing will change.
DEAR ABBY: I'm 62 years old and a widower. My wife passed away in July 2011. It has taken me a while to get over losing her. I realize how much she did for me as I have been learning how to be a house husband without a wife.
My wife told me this was the first house she lived in that had a dishwasher. She was so proud of it! I could never understand why she would wash the dishes before putting them into the dishwasher. Now I have to do it myself, I understand why. My question is, is there a detergent that will actually clean the dishes?
Also, do you have any cute readers who would like to teach an old man how to clean house? -- FENDING FOR MYSELF
DEAR FENDING: I'm sorry I can't print your name or location because if I did, you might be crushed in the stampede. If you and your late wife were married 20 or 30 years and the dishwasher was already installed in the house when you moved in, it is now practically an antique. Because you have tried several brands of detergent and your dishes aren't getting clean, you probably need a new dishwasher. (And I do not mean a cute, young one.)
DEAR ABBY: I am not happy. No matter what I do, I am filled with emptiness and loneliness every minute of every single day. Being near friends and family lifts my spirits, but only for a little while. Then I am reminded once more of my loneliness and emptiness.
I feel like I am being consumed by misery, and I don't want to feel like this anymore. Please tell me what to do. -- SEARCHING FOR HAPPINESS
DEAR SEARCHING FOR HAPPINESS: The feelings you describe can be symptoms of chronic depression, which is a treatable illness. That's why I'm urging you to discuss them with a physician. A combination of medication and talk therapy can help you feel better again, so don't put it off.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.
Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $7 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)