I live with my 65-year-old widowed mother and my two adolescent daughters, who are 11 and 13 years old. My father gave me half of the ownership of the house when he died. My mom is dating a 75-year-old man who lives nearby at a retirement home.
My youngest daughter told me that mom’s boyfriend had made repeated sexual comments to them. She said he has never touched them. I told my mom that he is banned from coming over at the house. She dismissed me as hysterical and said, “That’s just the way men are.”
She continues to invite him over. My daughters are so creeped out by his behavior that they often leave when he is around. If I buy her out, she would be homeless or stuck in a retirement home. If I leave, my daughters would lose out on the great public schools and neighborhood.
What should I do?
A Mother Feeling Trapped
If your mother is old enough to have a boyfriend, raise a child and bury a husband, she is old enough to know the difference between right and wrong. I’m sorry you have to deal with this, and I’m sorry that these were the values you were raised with. Parents teach their children how to behave and act by word and deed. It’s an awesome responsibility.
Contact the retirement home and raise the issue that he has said some strangely inappropriate things and you are flagging this in the event that he has the early stages of dementia. One symptom can involve inappropriate sexual behavior. “It can cause considerable distress and put placements and people at risk,” according to the journal Current Treatment Options in Neurology.
Back to you and your family: You gave me two options. Door No. 1: buy her out. Door No. 2: find a new place to live. Whether you realize it or not, you chose Door No. 3. There is no new home for you and your daughters behind Door No. 3 and nor is there a house without your mother. Behind Door No. 3 lies an empty room with no windows. It is a place where nothing gets done.
You have, whether you realize it or not, chosen inaction in the face of a man who makes your children feel unsafe in their home. You risk them being exposed to more aggressive sexual harassment or, worse, physical molestation. That’s not the responsibility of your mother. It’s not even the responsibility of her friend. This responsibility lies with you.
Show your daughters what I assumed your mother did not show you: your conviction. You’re telling the wrong person to go. At least, for now. Tell this man that he is no longer welcome in your home. If he doesn’t leave, call a friend who would be physically able to remove him, if need be. If he refuses to go, report him to the retirement home and/or the police.
Do this when your daughters are not in your home. The conversation might go something like this. “John, I would like to talk with you. I have been told that you made inappropriate and sexually suggestive comments to my daughter. This made Mary uncomfortable and it makes me uncomfortable. I would like you to leave.”
Then talk to your mother about red lines: “This is a red line for me. My No. 1 job is to make sure that my children are protected and feel safe. If you don’t understand that, let’s talk about a new living arrangement. I will move, or I will buy you out.” If you can afford to buy your mother out of this home, you can afford a smaller place to live in the same neighborhood.
Today is the day to do right by your daughters, and to do right by the other little girl who grew up in that house too.
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