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My husband and I would like to go sailing for a couple of years but I feel guilty leaving my parents who rely on my care. What should we do?


Question: I live in New Mexico and my parents live in California. Whenever they need help after a fall or surgery, I am so willing to help and stay with them.  I have a step-brother in Ohio who makes great efforts to help as well. My husband and I would like to semi-retire and sail along the western coast and north for a couple of years - but I feel guilty leaving and not being available to help if necessary.  My mom and stepdad are very special to me.  My mom and I have been very close as friends most of my life so it is not that I do not want to be with her, I enjoy her company.  But I do not want to pass on this opportunity and am conflicted. My daughter and granddaughter are living with us now so there is also that situation as well.  Any suggestions?

Dr. Amy: You love your parents and want to be there for them.  On the other hand, you and your husband would like to travel and enjoy life while you are still relatively young and healthy. Can you do both? The following questions may help you make your decision:

  • Can your daughter and step-brother step in and take your place should your parents need help?
  • Do you have other family members or friends who would be willing to respond, in case of an emergency?
  • How quickly could you get home if you needed to?
  • If you had to interrupt your travels and return home suddenly, who would look after the boat?

After you've answered these tactical questions and thought creatively about the possibilities, you need to think about what you want to be able to say about your decisions 10 years from now. If something were to happen to your parents while you were traveling and you couldn't get back in time, how would you feel? How would you feel if you gave up on your trip and your parents stayed healthy for the next 10 years? You face a difficult decision. Explore these questions carefully with your husband because, when you look back on this, you need to be comfortable with whichever decision you make.

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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. March 8, 2011 at 10:41 pm | Posted by Ann

    Two years is a long time and your mom and stepdad will not be in the same shape when you return home. I agree with the previous answer - go for shorter periods of time on your trip. You will never be able to replace these last few years with your mom and stepdad, and you will have more free time down the road. You can do both (with the proper support system), but I would advise against leaving for 2 years. Things can change very quickly as a parent ages.


  2. March 2, 2011 at 3:06 pm | Posted by Paulette

    Would it be possible to break some of the two-years up? Taking time off is important, but giving the situation maybe you and your husband might try this semi-retirement in shorter intervals and come home for 1-2 months in between. Just an idea. Good luck and enjoy your trip.


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