Carolyn Hax Live: Advice columnist tackles your problems (Friday, September 28)

Sep 28, 2012

In her daily column in The Washington Post Style section, Carolyn Hax offers readers advice based on the experiences of someone who's been there. Hax is an ex-repatriated New Englander with a liberal arts degree and a lot of opinions and that's about it, really, when you get right down to it. Oh, and the shoes. A lot of shoes.

Carolyn was online Friday, September 28 at Noon ET, taking your questions and comments about her current advice column and any other questions you might have about the strange train we call life. Her answers may appear online or in an upcoming column.

E-mail Carolyn at

Got more to say? Check out Carolyn's discussion group, Hax-Philes. Comments submitted to the chat may be used in the discussion group.

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Hi everybody, happy Friday. 

Not really a question, just a comment, but wow. If LW was raised by people that would blather those sorts of terrible, untrue, and unhelpful-borderline-nasty remarks, I'm not too surprised that she ended up being the sort of person that defines her worth by her relationship status. I have real sympathy for how she ended up there. That said, I do firmly believe that how you were raised is only a pass for so long, and then you have the adult responsibility to actively work on healing yourself (speaking from experience here: abusive dad that committed suicide, absentee mom, decades of depression but much better now, thanks!). I really hope she listens to you, I really really do. That said, what she needs is a whole paradigm shift. It's really difficult to start making decisions that assume your personal value when you've spent years of your life assuming other people were more valuable than you, which I think is at the crux of relationships-validate-me-itis (i.e. other people's worth can rub off of you, and that's the only way to "earn" it. Yikes.). Any baby-step level advice to help people start the long road of assuming self-value?

Thanks for the comment.

I'm not 100 percent sure the comments she's been hearing from people are nasty, untrue, unhelpful, etc. She said "family and friends," and she wasn't all that specific; there was room for at least some of the comments to have been from the same perspective i talked about in the column: "Cheez, slow down, starting over with another man is the last thing you want on your list right now." All the comments about her appearance were from her, you'll notice.

The baby-step level advice is what I suggested to her. Stop, breathe, think; assess whether you have reason to trust the feedback you're getting from people; establish your priorities and stick to them.

That second step can seem daunting, but it's not--not if you strip down your reasoning to its basic elements: 1. What are the person's motives for advising me this way, and 2. Is the person who says X in any position to speak with authority on X? If you resolve not to take any from people who are invested in (or validated by) your failure, you're off to a great start. If you also resolve never to take personal advice from people who manage their lives poorly; nutrition advice from people who eat poorly or are susceptible to fashion; financial advice from people who haven't managed their money well; parenting advice from people in high-conflict relationships with their own kids; etc., then you'll start to get a better sense of who they are, and, over time, who you are.

That was going to be a quickie answer, then I kept adding to it. Sorry.

Hi Carolyn, my husband and I have been in a difficult situation for the past year or so. He lost his job and had to take one that isn't quite as good. I also work, but only part-time to save on the cost of care for our toddler. My mother-in-law is very sympathetic to our situation and has given us a significant amount of cash to help with bills, and she babysits as often as she can so that I can be available to work occasional overtime. We mentioned to her recently that we are trying to get pregnant. She exploded. In her words, "Why are you trying to get pregnant when you rely so much on me already?" I understand where she's coming from, but I want my daughter to have a sibling, plus I believe our situation will eventually be a lot more comfortable and that we'll be able to sustain a two-child family. We dropped the subject with her, but are still actively trying to have another baby. I'm wondering how you think I should handle it when/if we have news to share? I don't want to seem ungrateful for her help, or like I don't understand her concerns.

I'm curious: If the situation weren't yours but instead your sibling's, and you were giving a lot of money to this sib to help her deal with a money shortage and underemployment problem, and she told you she was trying to get pregnant again, how would you feel and what would you say?

My nephew and his wife just had a baby. They also have a large mixed-breed dog they got from a shelter about a year and a half ago. The dog is probably pit bull and boxer mostly, maybe lab, who knows what else. They don't know much about its history; it's young and energetic, needs a firm hand, but it likes people and activity. I know you went through this with your babies and your AmStaff dog. How did you manage it? Do you have any tips for keeping the baby and dog both safe from each other? We are a dog-loving family; still, it's cause for concern reading about how easily a large dog like that can hurt a baby, either through aggression or through trying to drag a baby out of its crib or something like that. How did you do it?

You say the dog needs a firm hand; does s/he get it? That's arguably the most important thing, the quality of the handling of the dog. If the dog runs the house, then the risk of problems goes way up. The parents also need to be careful to supervise all dog/child interaction, until well after they're sure it'll be okay.

Also important is the temperamant of this particular dog, which can be informed by size, breed and history, but these three things by no means add up to a dog's destiny. There's no shortage of accounts of cute little carefully bred dogs who bite kids. (My pit bull was a saint; my Jack Russell was a biter--and everyone who saw me walking both avoided the pit and lunged for the Jack, to the point where I warned kids before they even got close that if they wanted to pet a nice dog, go for the fierce-looking one.)

So, if your nephew is asking, the answer is to make sure the dog's obedience training is in place--or on the calendar asap. In time, the kid(s) will also need to be taught proper dog-handling skills. 

If I can track it down quickly, I'll post a picture for you (or, Bethonie, may I send it to you?).



My husband eats lunch with his coworkers everyday. I joined them out recently and one of his single, female coworkers began eating off of his plate. When I noticed it, she snatched back her hand. My husband is pretty familiar with his coworkers, but I'm pretty sure that if the tables were turned, he would be livid if a single, male coworker was eating off of my plate especially if it looked he did it as a regular habit. I'm not worried even remotely that he's cheating on me (and wouldn't read this as evidence that he was), but I am jealous. I am also a little paranoid now that his boundaries at work should be better and maybe I should say something? Am I reacting over nothing and just being insecure or is this a trespass?

Normally I suggest getting to know your own mind before raising a difficult topic, but in this case I suggest the reverse--talking about it with your husband to help you get to know your own mind, and his.

The important thing is to present it not as an accusation, but instead as something that just struck you as odd, and you're mentioning it to him as a reality check. You want to know why it's buggin you, and see how he sees it--and would see it if it were you and a male colleague. Etc. 

Presenting it this way--even underscoring, if you feel it's appropriate, that you'renot accusing anyone of anything, you're just chewing (sorry) on this and so it makes sense to go to the source. That leaves him ample room to say, "huh, I never thought about it that way, I guess I am sending a bad message here"--which means there'll be something to learn from his decision to take a different tack, if that's what he does. Good luck.

Producer, here. As promised, here is the photo of Gus and Zuzu!

A few years ago I was fired from a job. I was young and foolish and did something I am not proud of, and paid the price by being terminated. I've had a lot of time to think about what I had done, realized how wrong I was, and truly feel sorry for my actions. I spent time in therapy, because just thinking about everything that happened gave me panic attacks. I am in a much better place now (mentally and professionally). However, I was embarrassed by the reason why l was fired, and for my own mental health I needed to distant myself from the person I once was. So I told people who I wasn't extremely close to simply that I was let go. Two of the people who I told this "letting go" story to were my in-laws, who I'm not very close with. But my mother-in-law needed to know more. She called my former boss (a person she had never met before) and forced the true story out of him. She then spread this information to all of her gossipy prayer circle group and anyone else who'd listen. She also used this knowledge to petition to my husband what a horrible liar I was, and that if he wanted out of this marriage, all he had to say was "yes". My husband, who knew the true story, told her that he was happy in his marriage, and that was that. He's shocked at what his mother did, but doesn't seem very angry, and says it's just her nature to be in the middle of everything. I'm furious however, and can barely look her in the face. Yes, I lied. I'm not proud of it. I realized that there was the potential that the truth would come out down the road, but I feel like two people did wrong here. Was it my duty to tell every single person I come in contact with the exact reasons behind my firing? How should I handle my mother-in-law in the future? I've never confronted her about how this made me feel - should I?


Just needed to get that out of my system.

Seems to me you have two major problems: 1. Your husband isn't taking a stronger stand here. I'd say "on your behalf," but it's actually on behalf of decency. What you did wrong actually has no place in this calculation; whether you stole a stapler or embezzled funds, your MIL had no business digging around for the truth, much less sharing the treasure she unearthed. (I believe your former boss had no business giving her that information, but I'll leave it to workplace experts to parse that angle of this mess.)

2. You have to deal with this mother-in-law. 

Start with 1., and air to your husband your frustration that your mom violated these boundaries and left you in a terrible position for dealing with her in the future. See whether his reaction is as mild as you perceive, and why. If he's not as exercised as you are, then be prepared to say why you want more of his support. 

If you want to tell the MIL exactly how you feel about her actions, then I think you have that right, but should let yoru husband know you're doing it first. Explain that you're giving him a chance to say whether he supports your doing that and why/why not. Weigh his preference carefully, then do what you feel you need to do.

Should you choose the talk-to-MIL route, stick to a very simple argument: You make no excuses for what you've done, but you find her decision to snoop into your private business, and then share it with her entire universe, to be a violation of its own that you are finding very difficult to forgive. For fun, you can say that you'll try to forgive her nevertheless, but you also hope she'll ask herself why she thought it was okay to throw stones. 


I love the photo--it looks like the dog is meditating!

yeah, a blissed-out Boo. Though if someone had tried to hurt Gus, she'd have been "present," and fast. Gentle and protective--a great combination in a family beast. 

Your response "If you also resolve never to take personal advice from people who manage their lives poorly; nutrition advice from people who eat poorly or are susceptible to fashion..." seems a little unfair. Some of the best advice can come from people who've made poor choices but turned it around (the most strident advocate I know for avoiding credit card debt struggled with it for years). I mean, one could look at you and ask how you know anything about successful marriages, given that you have a divorce under your belt (they'd be crazy, but just sayin'). The advice can still be valid, even if the person giving it doesn't adhere to it perfectly.

The key phrase being "turned it around."

I'm curious. Is eating off someone's place really a sexual thing? I'm not a fan of the behavior in general, but often have had situations where in groups of women food is offered or women pick off other women's plates. If the situation is hetero (or of those women are lesbians) does this become more intimate? Maybe this woman is just a picker and has been eating lunch with the OPs husband often enough that she doesn't ask and he's used to it.

I see it not as a sexual thing, but an intimate thing--which can either be more distressing or easier to dismiss as just a lunch-buddy thing,  depending on how he responds to his wife's honest expression of discomfort.

Nick's piece about her makes me cry every time I read it. She seemed like such a sweetheart. I love that picture!

Thanks. And since I am a cruel and heartless person, here is the piece you mentioned, Nick's eulogy for the love of his life. 


Thanks for taking my follow-up. I'm the OP who asked about getting past our conception that having kids = financially unstable = less happy. I think you took my joke about resenting the kids for making us have to buy generic ketchup too literally, but I ask again because we're still trying to figure out how to get past this fear about how much it costs to raise kids. Also, like I said, we're frugal folks to start with, so there's not much more to cut beyond the responsible way we already live.

I did take it seriously, you're right, sorry about that. It wasn't the extra $.59 thing so much as the tone; I thought you were concerned about the little sacrifices, which I do believe you won't notice--and in fact you might keep making them after you no longer need to. But I get now that's not what you meant.

If you're going to have a hard time affording kids, then you do have to take that seriously--parents who struggle to make ends meet are often stressed parents, who often are brittle with their kids. Not a certainty, but a risk.

Since you're apparently not sure, so do some homework. Figure out whether you'll need child care, for how many hours and years, and how much it costs in your area. See whether you live in a good school district, and whether you'll want private or supplemental schooling. Take that money out of your discretionary income for the next six months and put it into a savings account, no cheating. Add a couple of hundred to that per paycheck for incidentals (gear, clothes, food, etc.). This will give you a decent idea of the short-term expenses you'd face.

To get a longer view, you can take the USDA's calculations for how much it costs to raise a child, tweak it a bit to reflect your circumstances, divvy it up to a rough per-paycheck amount and try on the idea of living without that for 6 months, a year, whatever. If you can do it, you'll have your answer--plus an emergency fund, all set to go.

That link isn't working (at least for me). But here is another link.

Weird--worked fine for me. I'll put this out there just in case, thanks.

To the LW: you say "Yes, I lied," as if you did something wrong by telling people you were let go. It's not a lie, it's the truth - you were let go from your old job. The details of why are no one else's business, and there is nothing wrong with not advertising them.

Great point, thanks. 

A friend has recently dropped several, "why don't we see each other/hang out/talk anymore?" queries. They're casual mentions, but it means she's noticed that I've distanced myself over the past year, largely because Friend is always full of complaints about how hard everything is, and she is full of condescending opinions about public school, kids these days, other parents, and people who just don't "get" whatever she's all about. I feel like Friend is asking for an honest response, and I feel like a weasel for giving her "eh, we're just so busy these days." I don't know how to be both honest and kind about this. What do I say?

How would you want to hear it from a friend who finds your negativity draining, or your opinions condescending--"We've grown apart"? "I just don't share your view that life or public schools or kids these days are falling apart--and, forgive me if I've misinterpreted your comments, I find we have less in common than we used to"?

If you'd rather have a friend worry about your negativity than cut you off for it, maybe: "To my ear, you've sounded unusually negative the past year or so--is everything okay?"

How you'd want to hear it may not be just the right approach for dealing with her, but at least it will be a compassionate one, and honest.

Hi Carolyn. 6 years ago, I got involved with a guy. It was brief, intense, and ended terribly, with me devastated and hurt. I never received an apology or any acknowledgement that he'd been so callous. I got swept up in his enthusiasm and certainty - not a mistake I'll make again, not when it comes on so quickly. Anyway, I don't pine for him, I wouldn't get involved with him again if he wanted to - not out of spite, out of a lack of interest - but I find myself resentful of his apparent happiness. He was recently married, and I keep thinking, "why does he get to have that happiness and I don't?" This, coming from an existentialist, who doesn't believe in things like karma. Nevertheless, I am plagued by what feels like unfairness. I am having trouble getting past how little how cruel he was seems to have bothered him, if at all. And now he seems to have one of the things I've wanted my entire conscious life and for which I long the most. I realize that these thoughts are probably distorted, although that doesn't make me feel any better. I suppose it seems strange that a brief interlude would affect me so profoundly, but I was honest and vulnerable with him - the first time in a long time - and given how quickly and absolutely I became an afterthought, I may as well have been Longfellow's crushed wild flower to him. It was terrible. I would be grateful for any advice you have on letting go of these feelings that I'm being cheated out of my karmic due while cads hit the lottery.

Maybe I am just Porter's Pollyanna with a mean streak, but I don't think cads hit the lottery--or, at least, the way I'd define the lottery, which is a life of emotional intimacy (and perhaps a non-corrupting degree of creature comforts). the rationale being: Someone too cold to recognize harm to others isn't capable of intimacy--only the appearance of it.

Alternately, someone who received a comeuppance or two for bad deeds done, and grew from the experience, is capable of intimacy, but then it wouldn't be a lottery hit, it would be as deserved as anyone's happiness is. 

There's a shorter answer, of course--none of his happiness, or appearance thereof, or any other element of his life, has any relation to or bearing on yours. That's a connection your hurt feelings are nagging you to make. Please don't listen to them; they're not rational.



You just need to post that photo every week. It's charming.

Or I could just overload this week, with this link and this link, too, and then spare you all for a while.

I don't want to feel defensive, but if I had a sibling in my shoes, I would try to consider the long-term facts as well as the short-term. Our family will always be our family, and any children we have (or don't have) now will be our family forever. It feels shortsighted to make such a long-term decision based on our current bank account. I should also add that we have tried very hard to pay my MIL back as much of her money as possible.

That's huge. To the extent that I have any say in the matter*, though, it would still be premature to bring another child into your family when waiting another six months, a year, two years would find you in a more stable position--with MIL fully reimbursed, for example, and a little something in the bank. You don't want to be shortsighted, true--nor doyou want to be so invested in the long-term that you're not prepared for next week. Siblings are swell, but they're not compulsory this very very instant or required to be only X years younger than the preceding child.

There is the issue of fertility; if there's a reason that waiting would jeopardize your chances at another child, then that would have some bearing on the propriety of forging ahead.

All of this is to say: As long as you're also no longer accepting your MIL's money, then that's what you can say to her. "We were and remain so grateful for your help, and fully intend to keep paying you back. We also wouldn't be trying for this child if we didn't believe we were in a position now to support him or her fully." 

Then you need to make sure you have a Plan B that isn't your MIL in case the money crisis bird poops on your car windows again.**

*I haven't posted them, but the comments are running strongly in your MIL's favor, including from people who were in your situation and chose to wait till the money clouds had blown over. It's making a complicated ethical situation appear black-and-white, actually, since the whole idea that so personal a decision as family planning becomes someone else's business the moment their money comes in is a hotly debated topic. See, "Welfare."

**getting a little punchy here.

I'm sorry, but both the question and response seemed very petty to me. She's not happy because someone whom she feels wronged her in the past has a happy life and she doesn't. You try to comfort her by saying an anvil may drop on his head at some point - so she can feel a little better that he may not be so happy. A breakup is rarely 100% one sided. This woman obviously thinks she was not at all responsible for the demise of the relationship. Perhaps she should reflect on why her happiness seems to be contingent on the relative happiness of others. Instead of focusing on why should he be happy, she should focus on why she should he happy. Maybe this guy's happy because he moved on. Perhaps she should do the same to find her own happiness.

Er. Okay, can't argue with any of the moving on stuff, but that anvil thing is not what I said. I said if he is a cruel person, then any intimacy he's enjoying is a facade of said, and if it's real intimacy then it's likely he had cause to face and renounce his cruel ways. 

Sometimes those estimates of the cost of child rearing are wildly inflated. My daughter has found that friends have been an invaluable source of baby clothes (barely worn!) and equipment. The local parents listserv has lots of second-hand toys, etc. that are very inexpensive and some loaners. The neighbors turned over outdoor play equipment when their girls were too old for it. And of course there are grandparents! So don't take those estimates too seriously--you can get lots of stuff for free, or nearly free.

Yes, true, but for any one near the flat-broke line, the responsible thing is to locate the pipelines first, vs. just assuming they'll be there. One experience does not a statistic make, but I found that tracking down and managing the free/cheap stuff (we counted on eBay, friends, consignment) was significantly more time-consuming than buying new. People who anticipate having to run from work to kids and back again might not be in a position to work the best sources. 

Instead of "negativity," which can be so fraught with multiple meanings, why not just ask, "To my ear, you've sounded unusually UNHAPPY the past year or so--is everything okay?"

Or "down on life/things." Thanks.

My best friend calls me on a regular basis always with complaints, a new crisis, or just needing to "vent'. Most of the time these events in her life that cause her strife are usually of her doing. The more I think about it I think she thrives on the "drama" and when there is none she creates it. I am not sure how to proceed at this point. I have been through some major trauma the past 2 years, Divorce, the birth of a very sick premature child, job reduction and my own health scare. Not once during these calls does she ask about me. I am tired of the daily barrage of calls. I just stopped answering her calls. I know I have to say something, but I am sure It will be misconstrued. Do you have an idea of what to say to her to make her understand their are people out here with REAL problems, and not just ones they cause themselves.

There should be an autocorrect function in this chat software, where if you type any construction of "make her understand," the forum rejects the question.

You can't make anyone anything. (Except perhaps "stop breathing," but let's keep this chat homicide-free.)

You can only state your opinion, share your feelings and observations, or ask fact-finding questions--with as much transparency of thought and motive as possible--and hope she has the emotional capacity to appreciate what you're saying.

For example: You invite her to coffee, you sit down, and you admit that you haven't been answering her calls. Why? Because she was calling with her desire to "vent," but not asking you, ever, how you were faring emotionally during your divorce,  how your child's health was progressing, how your prrognosis was. Then ask her if she thinks this is a fair way of regarding the past two years of your friendship. Then see what she has to say.

Best not to do this in a place where you have to flag someone down for the check. 

Hi Carolyn, My kids and I just moved in with my mom. Their dad is in their life, but due to schedule and transportation logistics they see him on weekends only. This leaves me and my mom to do all the usual week-day madness... she gets my daughter ready and takes her to school while I take the little one to daycare, she sometimes cooks dinner for us in the evenings, she helps my daughter with her homework, etc. The problem is she and I have wildly different parenting styles. She believes in spanking, being more authoritarian, etc. (she has never spanked my kids, but has made it clear she thinks I should do it.) I don't spank, I'm a pretty gentle person by nature, and my daughter is really pushing my boundaries right now. She's going through a lot of change, and so I'm trying to be sensitive to that while also disciplining appropriately. I'm going nuts trying to figure out what to do with my daughter's behavior issues, how to manage my mom, not to mention all the usual stuff that comes with splitting up with a partner! Any advice you have to offer me would be helpful. I feel like a terrible parent all the time; like I'm never making the "right" decisions! I'm going nuts.

I realize you and your mom both are pressed for time, but I urge you to suggest that both of you do some reading on parenting styles and techniques that are proven to work. A couple of them that I've suggested in the past would do nicely--"How to Talk So Your Kids Will Listen, and Listen So Kids Will Talk"; "Parenting With Love and Logic" (which makes a point of challenging the authoritarian model and, also, the effectiveness of any model that doesn't reflect the very different reality of raising kids now vs. a generation ago); and "1-2-3 Magic." The last one is best for adopting a let's-get-on-the-same-page strategy; the first two are better for developing a philosophy. All three are heavily invested in the goal of raising kids who handle responsibility well, a goal achieved by giving them age-appropriate responsibilities and the confidence those confer.  

Anyway, present the idea to your mom as a need for the two of you to work together as leaders of a team that includes the children as members, with your book of choice as a starting point. 

Dear Carolyn, How do I get comfortable with the idea of leaving my baby with sitters (family members as well as qualified strangers)? I'm okay when she's with my husband; anyone else, and I'm a wreck. This isn't great for my peace of mind, plus I'm sure it's VERY annoying for the sitters, as I'm calling home practically every half hour to make sure she's still breathing. Did I mention she's almost a year old? Ordinarily I don't have an anxiety problem or anything, but I know how uncareful other people are when they're borrowing other people's clothes, for instance; I can't help but assume the same would apply here.

It doesn't apply here. Or, well, it kind-of does, but only in the sense that you probably don't want to trust your child to someone you can't even trust with your sweater. 

(I humbly request that you not take me too literally here; if your sister once lost a sweater she borrowed from you, that doesn't make her a bad risk as a babysitter. What would make her a bad risk is if she didn't admit she lost it, or blamed you for blaming her, or some other such buck-passing, and this was her style. Then you put her on the emergencies-only list--and even then, not because she'll misplace the baby and blame you for it, but because she's not likely to respect any of your instructions on feeding and stuff.)

Another semi-non-answer to your question is that your frequent calls take a sitter's attention away from your baby. I.e., introduce the possibility of harm without doing your child any good. If you're really concerned about keeping your child in oxygen, then call once at midday, or go all the way and admit the calls are for you, not the baby or the sitter, and don't call at all. (When your baby's talking, then you can set a time to check in to say hi--if your baby responds well to that. Some don't.)

Another semi-answer: Non-parents are often more careful with a child than a parent, because they feel the added weight of being responsible for someone else's child. 

Finally, an answer--how to get comfortable? The answer depends on whether your anxiety is clinical or just the product of an overactive imagination. The latter can be largely tamed by having your sitter--fam or hired--care for your baby when you're home. Really hand over those reins, and see how responsibly, how uneventfully, your baby can be held, fed, changed, read to, rocked. Set up this exercise by saying you have a lot to do around the house and would love a hand with the baby for 2or 3 hours. "Act like I'm not even here." Then lie low and stick to the plan.

If that doesn't calm you down, then consider getting screened for anxiety. Your OB-GYN or your baby's pediatrician can help with a referral, if needed.


Blah blah blah. Having much to say today, or just picking questions that refuse the one-liner treatment. Hope it's not too obnoxious.

I have two little kids and I work. Do you have a good response for when people say, "Oh, that stinks that you have to work and can't be home." And the person saying it isn't trying to be mean, I think it is a genuine opinion. I usually say something along the lines of, "Luckily, I don't have to work, but I have a job I love so much that I couldn't leave." Which is true, but I think it may come off a little snobby.

"That stinks that you're in 1967 and can't be in 2012." Idiot.

The nicest I've managed to conjure so far:

[beat.] "Oh my goodness, you were serious."

Or (pardon the emoticon) :-O

So maybe I'm not the best person to find the non-snobby answer to a snob who pities you for "hav[ing] to work." 

Help me. 




Hi Carolyn, I'm a bit at my wit's end here. I'm pregnant with my second child, and while it wasn't planned it theoretically isn't unwelcome. I wanted my kids to be about two years apart, and I'm going to get almost exactly that. However, I just want to push everything forward into the future by about six months. I feel miserable (I'm actually home sick today because of morning sickness/headache) and am just not happy about this pregnancy, which makes me feel even worse. With my first child, even morning sickness made me think "Wheeee! Baby!" but this time I just think it sucks. I really need to find a way to get excited for this child, because it's not fair to the baby. It's possible there's some depression going on, but I seem to be doing OK in other aspects of my life. I WANT to be happy and thrilled about this child, but I'm just not.

While it's okay, truly, not to feel overjoyed when you're nauseated, you should still explore the depression angle. Do it just to be responsible, of course, but also because if your physical sickness isn't the only reason you aren't overjoyed, then unburdening in a talk-therapy session or three will likely help. Feeling anything but overjoyed about a child can lead to guilt feelings, which you think you can't say out loud, which can lead to a shame spiral, when in fact mixed feelings about a coming baby are quite common, and also surmountable. 


FWIW, during this same meal, my husband asked another (single) coworker for some of the food on her plate and she responded by holding out the plate. I was bothered by that, too, but not hugely. I know he goes into their offices and eats whatever food they have on hand - everyone has snacks. It's really a double-edged sword. It's good that it's not an intimate behavior with one person, but on the other hand, he seems to generally have boundary-issues with everyone in his office. Except the guys. I know you said to talk to him about it, but I'm hoping to spare him. We've been through a lot these past several months due to some medical issues and while we've become stronger than ever, he's also had to deal with me being emotional and short-tempered. I've been trying to make an effort to make sure he knows how much I appreciate him, b/c this has been stressful for him, too. So bringing this up would be a bad move. Would you be willing to reassure me that it's ok to blow this off? :)

Okay--for two reasons. 1. The fact that he did this with another colleague does point to group familiarity vs. intimacy with just one person. 2. Even without that, it's always fine to make the decision that one incident is one incident, and choose to leave it un-fussed about unless and until other incidents force you to regard it as a bigger problem. 

OP again here - fyi I did not take your response to mean I should sit rubbing my hands together in gleeful anticipation for his comeuppance, nor am I unhappy because he's happy or believing that I'm blameless. One thing that has occurred to me - if he did have some sort of reckoning that resulted in a turn around, his absent apology/acknowledgement/admission also makes me feel as though he thinks I'm so irrelevant it's not necessary. It's difficult for me not to get tied up in how those I value(d) treat(ed) me and transmute that into an valuation of my worth. But I'm working on it. After struggling with depression from my early teens for 13 years, it's taking a while to change the depressive thought process. Thanks again.

Sure thing. If it helps, some people choose not to go back and apologize out of respect for the people they wronged--on the theory that it would be presumptuous to think you even care enough about him or think enough about your time together to want to hear from him. In this space alone there have been countless instances like that, described from both sides. Just something to think about.


"No, I love my job, but thanks." It only sounds snobby if you mention economics. But back in 1967, I always felt sorry for my father, having to leave us and trudge off to the office at the crack of dawn. Even without kids, I hate office life, myself. So don't be so quick to read between the lines.

Thanks muchly.

I've gotten that kind of comment before, and I would always just make a joke about how it's nice to be at the office, there's a little less screaming, an ever-so-slightly less amount of poop to deal with, and so on. Making the point that you don't *have* to work is unnecessary (and, I suppose, a little snobbish), especially since a lot of these kinds of comments aren't coming from a 1967 place of judgment but rather a place where almost everyone prefers to be at home. I mean, for one thing, you don't have to wear pants there. And there's usually a TV. And some snacks. Have a great weekend, Carolyn!

Thanks! But--have you been spying on me? I'm so wearing pants from now on. Preemptive pants. 



If I remember correctly--the first time you posted photo #1, you wrote that the print was creased because your son carried it around all the time, yes? Thanks for posting all three sweet, charming photos.

yes, you have a good memory. And you're welcome--I love posting things that challenge the awful reputation of these dogs, and appreciate your patience. 

That's it for today. Thanks all for stopping by, have a nice fall weekend and type to you here next week.

As always, in the meantime:




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Carolyn Hax
Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997 as a weekly feature for The Washington Post, accompanied by the work of "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis. The column has since gone daily and into syndication, where it appears in over 200 newspapers. Carolyn joined The Post in 1992 as a copy editor in Style, and became a news editor before turning to writing full-time. She is the author of "Tell Me About It" (Miramax, 2001), and the host of a live online discussion on Fridays at noon on She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and their three boys.

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