Q&A with Geoff: Can I Pursue Personal Happiness without Neglecting My Familial Duties?

q&a with geoff Aug 09, 2023


I finally have the opportunity to move across the country to be close to my children and grandchildren since my husband’s passing. I feel good about this move. It’s also a chance for me to make changes in my life.

However, my sister is trying to convince me not to go because of my dad. Although my father is aged, he’s very active, drives and thinks clearly. She is concerned I won’t be there when he has a need. This sister is also obsessive. She calls my dad at least twice daily and has done so since she moved out 20 years ago. She tracks his whereabouts on her phone, which at his age is not a bad idea.

Both of my sisters have taken it upon themselves for many years to take over his financial, medical, and personal life although he is still capable. It has benefited him as he doesn’t have to worry about those things, and I think he likes that. Also, he’s good at boundaries and if they cross he lets them know. He’s a very wise man. The best.

Both sisters live quite a distance away. I do feel some guilt for leaving and I would miss him. These past years I’ve been closer to him than ever. When I asked my dad how he felt about my leaving he said I’d know what to do. He has been lonely since my mother’s passing. I’m the only family close by but he has no desire to leave.

I think my sister believes I’m being selfish. Am I wrong for wanting to do this for me even though it means leaving my father here alone?


The question you pose is a complex one and touches upon familial duty, personal growth, and the pursuit of individual happiness. Ultimately, each of us must work out our individual path, even though it intersects with the lives of those we love. Indeed, it can be challenging to discern between our individual needs and those of our loved ones, but it is an important part of our journey.

It’s important to recognize that your feelings are valid. You have a desire to be closer to your children and grandchildren. Of course, you desire the same with your father. It’s interesting to note that your father doesn’t appear to be preoccupied with you staying physically close to him. I must wonder if he has a bigger vision for his posterity as he winds up his days on Earth. Perhaps one way of honoring him is to consider his counsel to honor your own sense of what to do.

It sounds like your father is well taken care of and self-sufficient. You have honored him by being close to your him during these past years. It’s also essential to remember that honoring doesn’t always mean sacrificing your own happiness or growth. Your father isn’t narrowing the definition of honoring him to include sacrificing your time and influence in the lives of your children and grandchildren.

I can see how your sister’s concern might be out of her love for your father, although it might also be mixed with managing her own fears and anxiety. It’s understandable that if your sister was preoccupied about your father’s well-being all these years, losing your direct contact with him would spike her anxiety.

If you decide to move, I’m confident there are ways to make sure he’s receiving the necessary care and support as he advances in age. You could consider discussing with your sisters about possible local solutions as well as establishing a rotation to visit your father frequently. It may not be the same as living in the same town, but it would ensure that your father regularly has the company of his children.

Ultimately, you can allow your sisters to have a relationship with your father that is different than yours. In families, we all get to shape our own relationships with everyone. Your sisters prefer to have more of a caretaking-type relationship with your father, while you trust that he will ask for what he needs. Neither style is incorrect, and your father can take responsibility to adjusting the distance and closeness as he sees fit.

Please recognize that moving closer to your children doesn’t mean you’re abandoning your father. He wants to stay where he is comfortable, and you want to go where you’re comfortable. Thankfully, in today’s world, there are countless ways to connect with him. Regular communication is simpler than ever before, and you can maintain a strong relationship with him despite the physical distance.

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