Feeling Guilty

 Posted by at 2:42 am  Nick's Blog
May 192013

I want to share an e-mail I received yesterday from a couple facing a common dilemma for new fulltime RVers:

“Nick, we need advice! We started fulltiming in October, 2012 and it has quickly turned into a nightmare. It’s not because of the traveling or problems with our coach or because we can’t adjust to living in such a small space. It’s because we always seem to be making somebody mad or disappointing them because we can’t go visit them or don’t stay as long as they expect us to when we do. We have a son who lives in Minnesota with his family, another son in Pennsylvania, and a daughter who is married to a soldier stationed in Texas. Add to that Jim’s widowed mother who lives in our old hometown in Ohio, my parents who divide their time between a home in Chicago and a winter place in Florida, and various brothers and sisters in Ohio, Illinois, Arizona, and New Jersey. They all expect us to come visit them, to help with projects like reroofing a house, to be there for every family event, and on and on. And many times we are expected to be in two places halfway across the country from each other at the same time! When we were planning to fulltime we made a list of places we really wanted to see and things we really wanted to do. To date the only thing we have crossed off the list is visiting Washington, D.C. for a day. The rest of the time has been spent trying (and usually failing) to make other people happy, and in the meantime we are miserable.”

Many fulltimers find that the demands placed upon them by family and friends takes away the sense of freedom they sought when they began the RV lifestyle. Either they don’t do the things they want to, like the folks who wrote me above, or else they feel guilty because they do.

The thing to remember here is that it’s your life and you need to live it in a manner that makes you happy. Because, as this couple pointed out, sometimes you can’t keep everybody else happy no matter how hard you try.

We train people how to treat us. If we allow them to dictate what we will do and when we will do it, the only people to blame are ourselves. On the other hand, if we set limits on what we will do and how we will live our lives, they will come to accept it, even if they don’t like it.

It’s okay to be selfish. It doesn’t make you a bad person. Just because you may be retired and mobile doesn’t mean you have an obligation to become everybody’s babysitter, construction helper, or whatever.

It’s okay to say, “I’m sorry, we have other plans. But we do look forward to getting together sometime when it works for all of us.”

Thought For The Day – There is no such thing as perfect, there is just me, and I’m okay with that.

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Nick Russell

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  15 Responses to “Feeling Guilty”

  1. We went thru that the first couple of years that we were on the road,….took a while to get them to accept that we would see them when we could, not necessarily when they thought we should be there. All is fine now, they have adjusted to our lifestyle. :>)

  2. Ann Landers had a saying something like, “No one can take advantage of you without your permission.” In other words, you are allowing people to dictate what THEY think YOU should be doing and then you end up feeling guilty. We did commit to spending the winters in the warm south Texas weather on the lot behind my parents. At 88 and 89 we feel fortunate to still have then and while we don’t travel a lot during those months, we are helping out with them if they need it and enjoy the warm weather at the same time. The rest of the year is ours. We do spend time with each of our children by choice, even though one is in Virginia and one in Florida. But we leave tomorrow for Alaska for 3 months and the entire family is supportive of our trek. But we would be going regardless.

  3. If these people were not full timing would they be racing back and forth across the country at everyone else’s whim? Are these relatives taking advantage of the fact that these people can be available for free?

  4. Point already made is that many people think that because you are retired you should be at their beck and call. They forget that you have a life of your own to do as you choose and if they don’t like it they better re-examine their own priorities. If the shoe was on the other foot they would not let you dictate their lives. Be Safe and Enjoy!

    It’s about time.

  5. It’s kind of like when you first retire or are out of work for whatever reason. Or if you are trying to “work from home” as a writer or artist or whatever. People (especially family) seem to share the feeling that you have “nothing to do” and should be able to pitch in and help them out any time they want your assistance.

    Just like when I was working at home I had to train family and friends that I actually was quite busy, thank you and would not be able to run all those little errands for them. Maybe they are jealous of what they see as all your free time.

    But! You’ve worked hard to get to the point where you can relax and enjoy life and you need to be very firm with your goals. Like I’ve always said, if you don’t want to be walked all over then get up and pull the welcome mat off your chest.

  6. Your friends and relatives need to know that it is expensive to drive your RV across the country several times a year to visit. These same people can take a week of their vacation and come visit you. They may find that they really enjoy seeing the places you are stopped at as well as seeing you. The road goes both ways. The unfortunate part of this is that you have to be selfish. We have gone back “home” for a month or longer at a time and found that the relatives are busy living their own loves and we were lucky to see them once a week on the weekend. They want us there and at their beck and call but they don’t actually see us that often. It is unfortunate about the guilt trip they put on you but you need to do what is right for you. You deserve it after working for 40+ years.

  7. I hope this couple follow your blog and are able to pick up some great tips from the folks here. If these family members were expecting to see folks when they want to,
    are they also willing to drive across country at their own expense to see them?

    maybe planning your cross country trip could be done at six month increments. At least that way everybody knows they will see their family sometime. Otherwise the distant family is certainly welcome to fly out and stay in a hotel near where you’re exploring.

  8. Learn to say, “NO.” It’s that simple. Hubby & I spent a lot of time with our 2 sets of parents when they were alive by choice (every winter 4-5 months). But we still took the rest of the time to travel where we wanted and now they are gone we are free for winter travel too. I might suggest Skype for communication (computer to computer visual & audio), e-mails, post cards and meet them someplace you are going and they come for their vacation.

    Life is short. How much time do you have left? It’s you turn to go where you want, when you want. Now is NOT the time to be someone else’s babysitter, construction worker, whatever. Put Washington, DC back on you bucket list and go see it. You are not selfish, your family is selfish.

    Follow YOUR dreams. Time’s a wasting.

  9. What we do is plan where we will be for the next six months or so—well roughly plan as plans are made in jello and often stirred up. Then let your family and friends know where you will be and approximately when. We are currently visiting family and will move in about 3 weeks to visit more family and friends and everyone is adjusting to our lifestyle. We usually don’t have anyone asking us for favors except perhaps dealing with a sound system or computer. I think also it is about setting boundaries and being able to stick with it.

    Good luck and have fun!

  10. And another thing. I used to telephone or email so called friends or relatives from time to time. Then it dawned on me that the phone and email work going both directions. If they cannot be bothered to make an effort to contact us the heck with them. Join Facebook, post what interests you and keep on moving. You will find out who really cares about you.

  11. We have found what Doug said to be very true. We spent all of last summer in Wisconsin to be near our daughters and grandkids. The daughters were busy with work and doing their thing, the older grands didn’t have time for us, and we were stuck playing babysitter for the younger ones. Then one of our daughters informed us that she and her husband were going on vacation and expected us to babysit three kids for 10 days! Needless to say, this summer we’re going to tour New England and do OUR thing for a change!

  12. You all have no idea how much your comments here today have helped us. When we e-mailed Nick yesterday we felt like the most selfish people in the world for not being able to meet everybody’s expectations. And now we realized that we are not the selfish ones! Something was mentioned about skype and e-mail. We realized that we are always the ones making and maintaining contact. The brother who needs help with his roofing project has never called or e-mailed us unless he wants something. And just like Dave said above, when we do go, most of them are all so busy doing their thing that we squeeze in an hour here and there. Even though we are there at their request! Today’s blog and your responses have given us a clear picture of our situation and as of today we declare ourselves emancipated! We will do what we want and make ourselves available when we can on our own terms.

  13. Mission accomplished 🙂 Isn’t technology GREAT 🙂

  14. Jim and Amy just got a new lease on the full-time RV lifestyle. Great responses from Nick’s legion of friends.

  15. I love the perfectly accurate statement: We train people how to treat us. It is so true. Just like pets, the people in our lives need to learn our rules.

    The thing is, for many of us people, life has been filled with people putting similar demands on us our entire lives, and we have all dealt with the demands before — The people doing it have long been called acquaintances and not friends or family so we never seemed to mind quite so much –giving “takers” the heave-ho was easy — they are and always have been self-centered and what they want they want for themselves without concern for who may be inconvenienced or how much it might cost.

    The problem arises when we realize that our family and friends might be just as selfish and self-centered as those co-workers, or neighbors, or former classmates that we thought only shortly about about jettisoning from our life.

    Peg and I have a couple family members who have been saying for 40 years, “It’s been so long since we’ve seen you” when in fact we have always been the ones to travel to visit them. They have cars, they can buy plane tickets — there’s nothing keeping them from visiting us — except the will.

    It seems to me that retirement is not really all that different from the rest of life: if we let others manipulate us we’ll resent them. Unless of course we ourselves need to feel so self-important as to really think that they NEED us to come and visit. I’ve never been sure when we feel guilty if it’s because we are disappointed in others for being demanding, or disappointed in ourselves because we can’t fix someone else’s life…..

    Better to live one’s own life. I’m not sure anyone has the requisite tools to fix someone else. 🙂

    A retired photographer looks at life
    Peter Pazucha dot Com
    Life Unscripted on WordPress

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