Posted on

I need to go away


Dear Life Coach,

I am a 22-year-old female. I am presently in college and hoping to go off to university next year. I have a major problem, however; I live with my 60-year-old mother who is diabetic, but otherwise healthy. I am conflicted about leaving her alone. If anything happens to her and I am not around I would never forgive myself. On the one hand, I believe that she will be fine, but on the other hand I can’t help but think what if something happens while I am away.{{more}}

Loyal Daughter (LD)

Dear LD,

Thanks for your email. It’s usually hard to leave the nest for the first time and fly so far afield.

Your Situation:

Several factors are at work here: early adulthood, leaving the nest, empty nest syndrome, eldercare, family support, guilt, and timing, among others. I will address these briefly.

Early Adulthood

You are in the early adulthood stage of your development (20s to 30s). During this stage, individuals have the tasks of establishing personal and economic independence, career development, select a mate, start a family and raise children.

Leaving the Nest/Empty Nest Syndrome

According to the family life cycle, you are at the stage where the child is being launched from the nest. Many students believe that when they leave, their parents will suffer. Research has shown that parents who live vicariously through their children are impacted more by the empty nest syndrome than parents who do not. Also, with children gone, parents have more time to pursue careers and other interests. See more at:


As a young person who has lived all her life with her mother it is understandable that you would experience some amount of guilt at the thought of leaving her in order to study, especially since she has a health concern.


Eldercare is the physical and emotional caretaking of older members of the family who are unable to take care of themselves, due to illness or the aging process. You are blessed, however, since your mother is able to care for herself, despite her illness.

Family Support/Social Integration

Family support is important for every individual, but is essential for children and the elderly. Social support and social integration play an important role in the physical and mental health of older adults. Both serve as protective factors against cognitive decline, depression, disease, hospitalization, and mortality.

What to Do

Talk with Your Mom

Your mother may be more supportive of your studies overseas than you realize and may be prepared to be on her own. This may be her dream for you, but you will never know until you talk with her. By so doing you will know her concerns and be able to address them, if you decide to go.

Weigh the Pros and Cons

As with any major decision, you need to weigh the pros and cons. Write down all the advantages and disadvantages of going abroad to study, as well as all the advantages and disadvantages of not going abroad to study. Rate each advantage and each disadvantage on a scale from 0 to 10 (with 0 being of no importance to you and 10 being of utmost importance to you). This will give you an idea of the factors involved, as well as how important each is to you. The table below is an example of weighing the pros and cons. Your factors and ratings may be different.

Advantages (Rating 0-10)

Disadvantages (Rating 0-10)

Going overseas to university

• Getting a degree 8

• Meet new people 5

• Increased earning power 10

• Increased status 7

• Job advancement 10

• Dream fulfillment 10

• Being away from home 8

• Missing my mother 10

• Missing friends 5

Not going overseas to university

• Being with mom 10

• Remain at the same 0

professional level

Being with my friends 5

In the event that you decide to go, consider the following:

Enlist Extended Family Support

Talk with your extended family about your intention and enlist their help and support. Different family members may be willing to check in with your mother, or visit, or assist in other ways.


Ask your mother about her plans for companionship while you are away. Some possibilities for eldercare include: employing a live-in companion for your mother; have a relative move in with her; have her participate in a day support group or other community/church activities.


Set up a system of communication for quick contact; telephone, email, facebook, twitter, Skype etc. Some older adults do not fancy the technological gadgets that are available today. So, ensure that your mother is comfortable with the communication system that is in place.

Frequent Visits

Schedule frequent visits (e.g. at the end of term and at holidays). This means you will be able to see each other every few months instead of at the end of three years. This will reduce anxiety for both of you.

If you decide not to go, consider the following:

• Some universities and funding agencies are willing to defer the start of a program for several years

• Pursuing online courses in the degree you are hoping to obtain and attending the university for shorter periods of time for specific modules (e.g. a month or two)

• LD, all the best as you contemplate this major decision, as in the end you have to live with every decision you make.

Life Coach


Need help with relationship and other problems? Ask DYNACII’s Life Coach. Email your questions to [email protected] To Chat with the Life Coach, visit: Dynamic Action Center International Inc. (DYNACII) a non-governmental organization committed to social and spiritual empowerment.