Ask Amy: I decided to retire early. What do I say to people who are nosy about why I don’t work?

Dear Amy: I am a woman in my mid-40s with two grown children.

I have suffered with depression and anxiety for much of my life. I am on medication and work weekly with a therapist.

Things have been under control until recently.

Over the past few months my mother had a stroke, my husband had a heart attack, and one of my children called off their wedding. I handled everything as it was happening, but once everything settled, I had a bit of a breakdown.

I took some time off work to attend to my mental health. When I returned, I was pretty much told I was no longer needed at the company. I was very hurt, but in reality it was probably time for me to move on.

My husband and I talked and decided that I didn’t need to be in a hurry to return to work. We realized that we could more than make it on his salary and I still wasn’t in a great place mentally. My therapist didn’t think I was ready to return to work, and definitely not in a place to start a new job.

Being home, I’ve been accomplishing a lot of things we had been putting off due to lack of time and energy. Our home is very happy and very clean!


However, I struggle to respond when people ask about my work.

When I tell people I don’t work, there’s always an implied question as to why.

My children are grown, I’m not disabled, so what do I say when the questions do get personal?

– Young & Happy Retiree

Dear Happy: Your history of mental illness might have sensitized you to questions about your situation, but I’ll offer a gentle reminder that taking care of your mental health is nothing to be embarrassed about.

All the same, no one should feel forced to reveal their health history, just to fulfill a conversation-starter.

Also, by the way, you do work. You are taking care of hearth and home.

I suggest a friendly but vague response: “I left my previous job not too long ago and I’m taking a break until I start my next chapter. In fact, this might be my next chapter, because I love working at home.”

• • •

Dear Amy: My wonderful daughter is soon to have her first child.

She and her husband, “Jackson” moved to a community not far from his mother.

My husband and I live much further away.

The mother-in-law is a very big personality and often demands attention (especially after a cocktail or three).

Our relationship is not exactly warm, but definitely cordial.

My worry is that when I visit my daughter and the new baby, the mother-in-law will come over and “suck all the oxygen” out of the room.

She is an attention seeker, and all I’ll really want is time with my daughter and the baby.

Am I wrong to want this? My daughter is in the precarious position of trying to be warm and welcoming, and while she is capable of setting boundaries, this may not be her fight.

Any advice?


– Trying to do it Right

Dear Trying: My first piece of advice is that you shouldn’t buy a problem before they’re on sale.

Your assumptions about the dynamic might turn out to be entirely correct, but entering the family system worrying mainly about what you won’t get (enough alone-time with your daughter and grandchild) might not be best for your daughter right now.

You are not wrong to want undivided attention. That’s what most of us want. But of course the real joy of grandparenting is to give attention.

One boundary your daughter should establish immediately is that her mother-in-law should not pop in, unannounced.

You could try to telegraph your expectations in advance of your visit by telling your daughter, “I assume I’ll see Jackson’s mother while I’m visiting, but I hope that I can also enjoy some family time with just you, Jackson, and baby.”

• • •

Dear Amy: I appreciated your response to “J,” who is helping plan a 50 th high school reunion, and sought your opinion on including the daughter of a deceased class member.

As a bereaved mother, I especially liked your suggestion that other family members of the deceased, including parents, be invited.


There isn’t a day that we don’t remember and miss our loved one who died too soon.

It is a comfort to hear their name said aloud and know that they are remembered.

– Peggy in Elmira

Dear Peggy: Absolutely.

Amy Dickinson

Amy Dickinson writes the syndicated advice column, “Ask Amy,” which is carried in over 150 newspapers and read by an estimated 22 million readers daily. Email