Don't Worry About the Chum: Carolyn Hax Live: (Friday, October 4)

Oct 04, 2013

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, October 4, 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 forum, home of the Hax-Philes and Hax fans. Comments submitted to the chat may be used in the discussion group.

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Hi everybody. Almost got a late start because, in my usual Friday morning reading binge, I got caught up in this (link). Classic.

Carolyn, I wanted to thank you for taking my question during a chat months ago, and especially for posting a longer answer last week. Your advice was on point, as usual, since I hadn't realized how much emotional stress I was under at the time, nor had I really critically thought about that 'marriage is between two families' idea. Also: I read through comments last week. Hearing personal anecdotes and noting my reactions was clarifying and helped me a lot. So a huge thank you to your readers as well. Thus far in life, my parents have generally been supportive of my decisions, and they raised me to be independent and high-achieving. Their hurtful behavior now reminds me of a time about 2 years ago when I had a serious health scare, and they did crazy tantrum-like things then - including blaming me for my illness (?!) and lambasting my doctors. They ARE selfish in the sense that they often care more about how something makes them feel/affects them vs. how it makes me feel and I do need to work on establishing more understanding and balance with them. My boyfriend and I are still together. We're continuing to take it slow, and are working on our relationship. To answer some questions: I have not met his children, and we first discussed his expectations of me as step-mom and reasons for his divorce early in the relationship. I did not tell my parents back then because both he and I weren't sure that an "us" could work. My parents don't hate him specifically, they just don't think us together is a good idea and that marrying him would make my life unnecessarily difficult. Getting married anytime soon isn't really an option for us for unrelated reasons, so we're waiting my parents out until we are at that stage. I am still taking little steps w/my parents to help it sink in that they really have far less choice in this matter than they think they do, and helping them get to know me as an adult. I get that, in an ideal world, it's ridiculous of them to be so genuinely upset by this, but at the same time, I want to cause them the least amount of grief, so I am willing to hold their hand through this. It matters to me how my parents feel, and as long as I get my guy (if that's what I want) at the end of the day, I'm ok with my actions being somewhat "small" right now.

Thanks so much for the update. This:

"They ARE selfish in the sense that they often care more about how something makes them feel/affects them vs. how it makes me feel and I do need to work on establishing more understanding and balance with them"

... is a great example of the kind of thing people start to see when they're thinking of their parents as people instead of just parents/oracles. Great stuff. 


Hi Carolyn, I was interested in this week's question from the woman whose boyfriend started smoking saying, "This is me, deal with it." I don't disagree with your response, but I have been mulling over the concept of unconditional love. Where does unconditional love fit into this sort of situation? Or is unconditional love only applicable between parents and children?

I'm not sure even parents and children have unconditional love. There are betrayals deep enough to destroy what are arguably humanity's closest bonds.

To me, unconditional love in a practical sense--i.e., between humans--is that barring such extreme betrayals, your love is for who the person is, and not affected by this or that belief or action or outcome. Your willingness to -live- with that person, or condone that person's actions, or even visit that person, might be affected, but not the baseline love.

I don't think the love in this week's question rose to the level of "unconditional," but let's say it had, in the sense that the LW loved the resumed-smoker completely. In that case, the LW could still break up over the behavior--it would just be a matter of "I love you completely but there's no amount of love that will keep me in a home with a smoker." Which does happen, of course. One can have "unconditional" love (as pragmatically defined) both for a partner and for oneself, right? And in that case, when the two are at odds, you have to choose one. 

For unconditional love that doesn't have any strings or disclaimers, we have dogs.

Hello Carolyn, You have a wonderful column and provide a great service to the commun ty. My question is, when someone emails you a question and you don't use it in your column nor website, do you reply to it?

Thanks for the kind words.

To most emails I receive, I do not respond. It's a matter of hours in a day. And, to be fair, also a matter of mental clarity. I can get caught up in people's stories, and that's not healthy at a certain point. 

Hi, Carolyn! I wanted to ask a follow-up question to Wednesday's column. I'm in a similar situation to LW, only I am being asked to postpone the wedding date for over a year so my pregnant sister can attend. She became pregnant soon after I got engaged, and her due date is only a month after our tentative wedding date. She will not allow the baby on a plane until he is a year old and refuses to travel "if he is excluded". I ought to add that the wedding is a destination wedding by necessity, not by choice. How far do couples really need to go to ensure that all the family is there?

Defining "how far" reminds me of the classic definition of obscenity: "I know it when I see it."

Asking a couple to postpone the start of their lives as a married couple by a full year is too far. It just is, and not solely because the wedding itself is one day. A sister who is so invested in being part of this slice of your life surely can respect that you are invested in your own life and eager to get on with such a large chunk of it? And if she can't, hello, what's that whiny "me me me" sound?

Now, that doesn't mean the conversation is over about accommodating your sister. Could you, for example, move the wedding up instead of back? Could you bring her in by video? [Other suggestions here, nutterati, if you have them?]

But it does mean that--with all due evidence of hearing her out, as I advised in that column, and dismay for her absence--you're just as free to draw your arbitrary line as she was to draw hers. (What happens when the baby is a year old?) Well, more so, since it's your wedding. 

"They ARE selfish in the sense that they often care more about how something makes them feel/affects them vs. how it makes me feel..." Another thing I've learned as an adult is that sometimes people who care don't show it in the best way. That the parents are generally supportive but have flown off the handle both times she's had crises suggests to me that while they don't know how to handle their emotions and are acting in a counter-productive way, that they likely care very much about her and how she feels.

Wellll ... Idunno. I am with you on the "sometimes people who care don't show it in the best way." It's something everyone would do well to keep in mind, with forgiveness at heart.

I'm even good with the, "they likely care very much about her."

But I don't think it's such a given that they care how she feels--at least, as much as they care how they feel. Take the column this week re "Smother-in-Law" (link). I heard all week from people saying, condensed version, shame on the LW for not appreciating that these people care about her. And that line of thinking makes my forehead want to commune with my keyboard. The MIL's manifestation of "care" was all about her--to the extent that she got "annoyed" when her beloved son/DIL tried to interact with her their way instead of the one she dictated.

This is very similar, in that deviation from what the parents want is greeted with punishment in the form of emotional acting-out. I just have a hard time seeing that as anything but overwhelming concern for their own feelings. True concern about their kids' feelings would manifest itself in some (even a little!) attention to what the kids actually want and need. 

Live stream it so Sister can watch. Explain to Sister that you cannot possibly derail your marriage plans for an entire year. Also consider suggestion counseling/parenting classes for Sister because her random and arbitrary unwillingness to travel with a child under the age of 1 suggests that she might need some professional and unbiased-as-much-as-possible guidance.

Part 1, yay; Part 2, love to be  a fly on the wall when that suggestion gets made. (Though I do agree with the suggestion.) Thanks.

I knew you wouldn't complete that answer without mentioning dogs. Not that I disagree.

Couldn't, I think, is the word.

Hi Carolyn, This week I had it clearly spelled out for me that there's an inner circle of moms in our neighborhood, and I'm not in it. The message came from someone I'd actually considered a good friend, which made it even harder to swallow. My confidence is shaken. While I won't seek out any of these women in the future, ours is a geographically and socially small area, which makes it difficult to avoid them entirely. I would love your thoughts on how best to move forward, apart from putting on a brave smile and staying close with true friends.

I do feel your pain, and have felt the same one firsthand, so I'm not being cavalier: I hope you'll reconsider your scorched-earth, "I won't seek out any of these women in the future" response to this week's news. They have an inner circle, okay; you're not in it, ouch; but that doesn't automatically invalidate each relationship you have with each individual in the circle. The messenger might still, in fact, be your good friend; a person can be in a "group" and still have close ties to a non-member.

Groups have their own chemistry, to the point that it can be constructive to think of them as a person unto themselves.  That's because you can -not- click with a group dynamic while fitting in really well with its members one-on-one. Or, in most cases, with one member or even two.

So while your feelings are understandably hurt, I don't think your ego is the best force to enlist as their guardian from now on. Take a moment to let the hardest feelings dissipate, and then let your natural comfort with each of your friends--in group and out--be that guardian. Where you feel a little awkward or off,* recognize the connection isn't one to count on from now on, and where you feel like yourself--and welcomed as such--then recognize that you can still count on these friendships. Think of it as just going your own way and doing what works for you, vs. being or not being part of a club.**

*Best to go on how you felt before this week, since you're probably going to feel a little awkward with everyone while this shakes out.

**Not to encourage sour grapes, but Groups aren't immutable objects. An "inner circle of moms in our neighborhood" can implode, fade, reconstitute, etc., in too many ways we can possily foresee. If this one doesn't, well, bummer, but the odds are strongly in favor of this being temporary, even if in a slow-motion kind of way. 


I just read the letter from 9/16 discussing how to handle being around a family member's unruly children. I have been in this situation (as the person without kids trying to deal with the chaos of young kids) and would like to suggest a third option other than blaming or pulling away with no explanation: Talk to the parents, but put it all on your own head. I've used things along the lines of: "You know I don't have kids or much experience with them, so could you tell me what would be most helpful to you when the kids are _________ ?" I've gotten many different responses from different parents over the years from "Please speak up" to "You don't need to do anything" to "Please do NOT laugh because it just encourages their antics." (yes, I used to giggle because the little ones can really be funny when they are being bad.) I have joked with parents about how, not having kids of my own I'm not used to the craziness and decibel level that comes with them and how I'm a wimp about it. (all parents seem to get this - it isn't like it is news that kids take a ton of energy!) I also have honestly talked with parent friends/family members about the fact that I'd really like to keep in touch with them AND get to know their kids, that of course it is hard (for them as well as me) to have a true conversation when kids are around, and so it'd be nice to slot in some adult time along with the kid time, but that I also understand their time and energy is limited with young kids.  If you have these kinds of conversations, with the right loving and self deprecating tone, you will KNOW (instead of guessing) the best way to handle chaotic behavior for that family (they are all different) and the parents will know you care about both them and their kids, even if you pull back a bit until the kids are a bit older.

Yes! This. Thank you. 

Carolyn: When, if ever, is it advisable to tell a loved one that you are concerned her relationship is not worth staying in, assuming no abuse? My 30-year-old wonderful sister-in-law has wanted to marry her boyfriend of 12 years for several years now. They live together, she supports him financially, but he seems either just totally lazy or genuinely uninterested in actually marrying her--at least not for a while. I am worried for her. I don't think he supports her or her priorities the way a partner should, and I think that if she stays with him she's looking at a future of being with a guy who frankly just isn't all that good to her. I think she deserves so much better, but I'm sure the idea of breaking up with him (her only relationship of adulthood) is terrifying to her. Neither my husband (her brother) nor I have really expressed these concerns to her--should we, or should we just trust that she knows what she wants and will do what's best for her?

"Should we [express our concerns], or should we just trust that she knows what she wants and will do what's best for her": These are not mutually exclusive. You can believe in theory that adults can run their own lives, and you can trust a specific adult to be a competent captain of her own little ship, and still speak up when something doesn't sit right with you.

Turn it around on yourself for a moment: You know you've got most things covered, right? But don't you occasionally appreciate when someone--someone you respect and who respects you--weighs in with some useful perspective?

I know we all rant quite a bit around here about the perpetual nuisance of judgmental bystanders and unsolicited advisers, and it's warranted -when- the balance is out of whack. It's when your parents keep telling you how to raise their grandkids while never once recognizing different times have different demands or never once patting you on the back for what you do right. It's when strangers weigh in without the smallest scrap of background on your situation, or when people assume that what worked best for their lives will automatically work best for your life, too. 

But when the foundation of trust and respect is there, then by all means, bring your outside perspective on occasions where you think the value of your view outweighs the risk it'll be poorly received. 

Also, concentrate on what you do know instead of undermining yourself by speaking to what  you don't. In this case, you don't say, " I'm sure the idea of breaking up with him (her only relationship of adulthood) is terrifying to her." That's just you talking. Instead, here's what you do know--er,. what your husband does know: what your sister has been like over the course of her whole life. If lately she is a pale version of her former self, then her concerned sibling can say, "I'm worried about you. I've noticed X and Y in the past few years, when your norm has always been Z."

It doesn't explicitly indict the boyfriend, which is the point. it means you're not forcing her to defend him. You're just saying, essentially, "I care, and here's what I'm seeing, and here's a mirror"--which presumably is what you'd want from your loved ones if you were in a rut.

Then you back off and let her figure it out.

Hi Carolyn. I'm going to try to write this so none of the affected parties recognize themselves, so I'm sorry if it sounds tortured. A parent insists on calling an adult child (very adult, as in professional career, married, kids, 30s, etc) a baby-ish nickname that the parent used when the child was little. The child has asked that the parent not use the name multiple times over the course of several years. The parent claims they cannot change that easily, and either forgets or ignores repeated requests to use the child's actual name, and seems to outside parties to be using the name more frequently. The parent will slip into this nickname at public events as well, including events that involve the child's work colleagues. The child is annoyed at the continued usage, and does not believe the parent has bothered trying to adhere to the request at all, but instead is refusing to change and using the excuse of not changing easily as a way out. Is either side being unreasonable? (Ok fine, you can probably guess which one I am, but I would still like an unbiased outside opinion.)

The parent who sticks to the name is being unreasonable, maaaaaybe accidentally, but I suspect with intent. Power trip? Usually is.

The adult child apparently has outside parties in his or her corner, which will make this part easier for you (and it will make this easier for me by addressing my answer to Adult Child):

If you've spent any time in this forum at all, you've already concluded that you can be right about the name and still not control another person's use of it.

But, you do still control a lot. You can choose not to fuss over the name, since that's part of the power-trip circuit, and it's best not to complete it.

You can choose not to respond to the name. When this parent calls you Pookie, s/he might as well be saying "armchair." Your head does not turn. It is neutral at best, and at worst a non sequitur. This is where the outside parties come in: They can all do the same, including play dumb. "'Pookie'? I'm sorry, I don't understand." Straight face. Confusion when Parent says, "Oh, Pookie is what I call Dana." "Oh ...? Okay. I use Dana."

You can also limit this parent's presence at your public events, which presumably are where your colleagues are.

And, you can take several deep cleansing breaths as needed and remind yourself that the parent who still calls an adult child Pookie, beyond where it could credibly be an "oops," around Pookie's friends and colleagues--who do not themselves refer to the person as Pookie--is actually making more of a fool of him/herself than of Pookie.

Refusing to try to see it that way is where the adult child would enter the unreasonable zone.


Don't think of it as an "inner circle," think of it as a "parallel circle." You will probably form your own circle with your own friends, And, if some of those friends overlap with the other circle, then you can draw a Venn diagram!

And if there's a Venn diagram possibility, I'm in. No pun intended. 

Dogs have taught me about unconditional love, but what I've learned from cats over the years is that it's important too, if you can, give the kind of love someone is able to accept, that they want. Too often we want to give the kind of love we want to give or the kind that makes us feel good. Cats in particular seem hardwired to only be able to receive the kind of love they want, regardless of whether or not you want to be all snuggly and kissy-face with them.

It just kills me that you have a point. Thanks.

Carolyn, in one of your chats a year or more ago, you said something along the lines of "someone who cares about you will care about how they make you feel." It was in the context of an OP whose significant other often behaved in a belittling, nasty manner and then blamed OP for being oversensitive (or similar) when OP's feelings were hurt. It was one of the wisest things I have ever read and no matter how I apply my Google-fu I just can't find it. Is this something you or your Awesome Producer of Awesome would be able to find?


I have to admit failure on this, and I consider myself a pretty good Google-er. Anyone out there able to help this person out?

I was also raised by high achievers who freaked out when I had (still have) a major and permanent health problem. They love me, but the freak out was 100% about me not being able to be a career and social rockstar - which was THEIR desire to enjoy THEIR definition of success in ME. (Yuck.) It took a lot of work to realize this was a flaw of theirs and find others who would love and support me with my definition of success - not giving up, handling adversity gracefully, showing love despite the challenges I face and giving to others.

Pow. (as in, "__erful.") Many thanks. 

I'm sure that doesn't help the weddling-planner at all, but anyone who would agree to take a 1-year old on a plane, but not a newborn, clearly does not have children yet.


Hey wait a minute...what about cats!! Mine is staring at me and demanded that I type that...and well...I'm scared so I did.

My MIL threw a year-long tantrum after she found out that her daughter would not be married in the church she never attended (my wife's parents moved after high school and before we met). We offered a "celebration" party in her un-church a month after the wedding (the locales are about 500 miles apart, and we had a small wedding anyway), which was rebuffed for months until FIL accepted. Twenty-five years on, MIL is still peeved, but we've learned how to fry the fish we want to eat and not worry about the chum (perhaps the worst metaphor you'll read this week). Be inclusive, be kind and then be firm. Enabling a whiner just makes life miserable for everyone.

I was ready to move on to a new question, but it wouldn't be fair of me to keep that metaphor to myself. 

Two months ago my husband of 7 years (together 14) told me he no longer loves me. He's apparently felt this way for over three years, but didn't want to tell me in hopes that the feelings would come back. This has crushed me, and I am feeling so stupid for being blindsided (and foolish for not seeing what was happening). He's also a lot more comfortable with all of his decisions (he really wants to leave his job and our town and me, too), and I am just so overwhelmed by frustration and grief and sadness. We're going to counseling, but it doesn't seem to be getting anywhere - in fact, everything seems to be getting worse. After going to see the counselor, we have these weird little standoffs, and I cry or vent and he avoids me and it just seems so hopeless. He wants everything to be "normal" at home, but I can't be normal; I'm just trying to survive the day. I'm not exactly sure what I'm asking, but is it possible that no resolution or solution or hope at all would be made after a couple of months of counseling? I love him, and want it to work badly, and while he says he doesn't love me, he wishes he did, and he misses what we had and wants to get it back. Is it possible to re-build a marriage? I feel like I'm on a clock, if he doesn't start loving me by next year, he'll be gone. Thank you for any help you or your readers can give me.

Do you have kids at home? I.e., would it be practical for him to move out while you work through this? It might seem like exacly what you're trying to prevent, but I suspect being in the same house as you deal with this is interfering both with your understanding of what you have/stand to lose/stand to gain, and with your ability to heal from the initial blindsiding. 

If anyone's moving anywhere, check with a lawyer and run it by your marriage counselor first, to be sure--but if there's no matter of kids' lives and care to be disruped, do consider having your own space to help you sort out your feelings. 

Hi Carolyn! Any thoughts on when (whether) I should tell the man I just started dating that I used to date one of his colleagues? It's possible the new relationship won't go anywhere (we just had our first date) but if it does, I don't want him to think I was keeping a secret from him by not telling him about the man I used to date. I also don't want it to be weird for him every time the new guy bumps into the old guy, although that factor might be out of my control. They don't work closely together, but their paths cross a fair amount of time. Thanks for any thoughts!

When he talks about his work life, say you know a little about the place because you used to date X.

The less you see this as a big deal, the lower the potential for weirdness. And it's not a big deal at all unless you were together half your lives or it ended explosively. 

But only reprinted in the Seattle PI:


By our powers combined. Here's the link to the version on our site.

The quote in question: "People who care about you will care about the effect they have on you."

(Also, that was great sleuthing, and thanks!)

Hi Carolyn, Thanks for the work that you do. I'm in professional school and doing fine. My best friend in professional school (and one of my few friends at this school) is really a star. She's won honors and accolades that don't really matter to her chosen path, but are almost essential for the path I had hoped to pursue before I didn't get these essential accolades. (We're pursuing pretty different career paths, though in the same general field.) This friend is lovely and a 100% awesome person, but my jealousy of her is polluting our friendship. I also am so angry at myself for being jealous instead of being happy for her and happy with what I've accomplished. My bad feelings are compounded by the fact that this particular accolade comes with lots of great social benefits, so she's a busier and more absent friend with a whole new group of (apparently great) people to hang out with, and I'm feeling a bit left behind. Thoughts on how I can get over this and be a better friend to her and better to myself? Thanks, Jealous in CA

Sorry about that. If there's any consolation in not being alone, you have plenty of it here--it's shaping up to be No Soup for You! day in chatville.

So, thoughts: Concentrate on what, if anything, these non-accolades are telling you about your choice of path, make any necessary adjustments, and carry on. Being in the right place -for you- and your interests and talents is a vaccine against envy--almost 100 percent effective. 


Just barely caught the typo that had it as "10 percent effective." No soup indeed.

Thanks Carolyn, that does make sense (and makes me feel like I'm not nuts for being irritated by it). One follow up question: what if the parent writes emails to the child that literally begin with "Pookie, [rest of email]"? Would you suggest ignoring the email altogether?

Well, at least you know it's deliberate now!

You have a choice here about how far you're willing to go. You can state clearly to the parent: "I'm just letting you know, from now on, if you start an email with Pookie, I will delete it unread" ... and stick to it. Or, you can decide this is private communication and not worth the trouble, and fight your battle on the public turf. 

For what it's worth, I think the former would be effective, but it could bring you into ant-with-a-sledgehammer territory. The key detail, one I don't have, is whether this parent and the Pookie abuse is an ant or an elephant. I can imagine scenarios where each could credibly be true, so it's a matter of your best judgment, both on the size of the battle you're fighting and on the possibility of collateral damage.

Thanks for taking my question. Because she's been with this guy since she was 18 (freshman in college), I've only known her with him and my husband has only known her as an adult with him. I don't think we see any big changes or withdrawals in her. The issue is really that we think this guy doesn't treat her well enough--he does not seem to enjoy spending time with her family (which is very important to her) and has significant difficulty (or unwillingness) to engage with us when we are all together, he has no plans to get a job and instead continues to play poker professionally but unsuccessfully (she has told my MIL that he's in debt, which is one of the reasons my sister-in-law supports him), and he has suggested that he might like to move--with her, I guess--despite the fact that my sister-in-law has a fantastic job that would be difficult if not impossible to replicate in another city. Is there a good way to frame these things in terms that avoid indicting the boyfriend?

Actually, I don't think there's a good way to frame these in terms that don't indict the sister. Based on what you say, she's doing a miserable job of taking care of herself. 

In those cases, you are essentially stuck, since the problem is so much bigger than the romantic dead weight she's carrying.

That said, though, someone close to her can declare: "I will love you and back you to the very end, but man will I celebrate when you get your head out of your [butt]." Again it's a judgment call on what the relationship can withstand. 

In defense of the parents: We have the same situation in our family, and it really IS hard to remember to call the person by his given name. My brother has had since childhood a very distinctive nickname, and that's all we called him, unless he was in trouble. He's in his late 20s now, and I still find myself calling him by the nickname to his girlfriend and in public settings. Heck, he's even listed that way in my address it IS hard! I know that we try not to do it as much, but it is what we've been doing for decades now.

Right. But: If he has asked you to stop using it, then you can make a choice--right now, not decades ago--to change the way he's listed in your address book. -That- is not hard. And small things like that can not just reinforce the new way, but also reinforce the rightness of the new way--where now you're letting sentimentality remain an argument for the old way. No fairsies.

Get. Him. OUT. He has processed this for 3 years. THREE YEARS! He's come to terms with his decision and now basically taunts you because he's already gone through the stages of grieving the marriage. He needs to move out now while you sort your thoughts and then YOU decide what you want. Please.

One more time, with feeling. 

Ask yourself why you'd want to belong to a group that seems to spend a lot of time and energy on deliberately excluding and ostracizing others. Seems like a lot of effort to no good purpose.

ehhhhhhhh I have mixed feelings about this. 

On the one hand, yes, some groups are deliberately exclusive and who wants em. And even if they aren't ostracizing anyone, there's no point in wasting thought and emotion on the fact of being outside.

On the other hand, some perfectly decent people can get into a nice groove together, with no cruel intent, and so going out of your way to vilify them just because you're not one of them seems needlessly petty and self-defeating. Why let them loom so large in your consciousness? Why cut people out of your life who have generally been good to you, and who just happen to have a(nother) good thing going with a couple of their other friends? 

Never attribute to middle school what can be adequately explained by coincidence.  My very own razor.


Hi Carolyn. I need help tackling a BIG decision. First time mom (baby is 10 months old) currently staying at home. We moved for my spouses job before the baby came and now I'm unemployed for the first time in my adult life. My skill set is very specific, there are no local job opportunities. I have a possible job opportunity that is well matched skill wise, but requires a lengthy daily commute and semi-frequent out of town travel. My spouse works rotating day-night shift making childcare a challenge. I currently look after majority of child care, meals, household chores, bills, etc. Some days I love being home with my child and other days I feel like getting back into the work force is the thing to do. Our family is in a different part of the country and we don't have much of a support network here. I've recently been diagnosed with post partum anxiety but am starting to feel back to myself thanks to medication. I don't know how to start to figure out which choice is best for me, my child, my spouse, our family? Can you give me some questions to think about that might help point me towards making a choice and feeling confident it's a good fit?

The BIG decision here is whether to be a full-time at-home mom or to seek some kind of employment. The decision about this particular job is not BIG, it's just an incremental decision in the course of the bigger decision. 

So, start by asking yourself whether you want to work outside the house, and where that decision tips--i.e., what amount of stress on your home life would overwhelm any benefits you get from working. That stress can be emotional (lost time with baby and spouse, bad professional fit, too many things going on), financial, logistical, or child-care-related, which gets its own category.  

If you settle on a preference to work outside the home, then you weigh this job on its merits alone. It sounds as if you have two solid reasons to say no to the current offer (commute, travel) and one solid one to say yes (uncommon skill match). So, all you need to do for this stage of your decision is figure out which trumps what. 

If you decide to pass on this opportunity, then you move on to the next big question: What kind of work can you get, and would you want to do, and what kind of hours would be manageable? Is a career change a viable option? Retraining? 

Finally, as you toss all this around--can you strengthen your network a bit? Is there a cooperative, "parent's day out"-type child-care group nearby, for example, where you pitch in a day or two a week in exchange for care on other days? (Maybe not common, but they're out there, often they're church-based.)  A parents' support group or play group? While this is technically a wokr-or-don't question, it feels to me like a loneliness-and-fatigue question, and no wonder. Isolation and baby care just don't mix. 

If I don't post this (link), Nick will plotz. 

If you're not feeling clicky: The link is to an auction. Nick will redraw any of his cat or dog cartoons with the winner's pet instead, to benefit the Cesar Millan Foundation. 

My little sister cut me a deal when she was 10 or so - I could call her Squirt, as long as I beat up anyone else who tried. We've both held up our end of the deal to this day.

Even through the assault charges. It's quite touching, really. 

When you had a question regarding women with higher sex drives than their husbands, it really hit home. I am lucky if my husband and I have sex 6 times a year. I have tried to initiate it in the past and have been told many times that if I stop asking for it, I will get it more often. Well, I have tried that and it just is not working. He is also more likely to cuddle with a body pillow than me. This is ruining my self-esteem and I just don't know what to do. Any thoughts?

First you recognize this is not about you or your attractiveness. His is just one person's opinion. Granted, it's an important person, but that doesn't make it the last word on anything.

Next call BS on the "If you stop asking" deflection. You are not stupid, you can add 2 + 2, and you certainly don't need to be sexually neglected -and- treated like a dope.

Next, say you want to talk about this honestly, then start by saying out loud that you grasp that he doesn't want to touch you as often as you want to be touched. Not even close.

Then ask him to take part in an equally honest conversation about what each of you would like to do about  it.  

There are no pretty solutions to this problem--which you obviously have figured out, since you've lived for years with the truth that he's not going to give you what you want. But, when there are no pretty solutions, the next best thing is to put the truth out in the open and work from there.

I'm sorry. 


One of the Nuts had some bad news on the job front a couple of weeks ago, followed by some bad health news in the past week. She's having biopsies on Monday and has said she expects to have a nervous weekend. Any chance you could give a shout out to Redheadwithglasses and say you know the Nuts will be thinking of her? Thanks.

I will, but I also know the Nuts have said this abundantly themselves because the Nuts do nothing if not say things abundantly.

My thoughts are with you, RHWG, and hope the news takes a better turn for you asap.


Oops--I've got hockey gear outside and it's raining. Sorry for the abrupt shift, but have to go. Bye, thanks all, have a good weekend and type to you here next week. 

I'm confused as to why the two questions about wedding date changes seem to be different scenarios? Can you elaborate on why you responded differently to each one? It seems like you said the request in the question submitted today was going too far, but the question in the Weds column was a reasonable request. I don't understand the difference, thanks!

It's a matter of degree. It's "will you consider changing the date to one that allows me to go," from someone whose money made the very wedding possible, to which I advise a good answer is, "I'll check," vs. "Will you postpone your life for a year so that I can enforce and arbitrary rule about when I will carry my baby on a plane." The former warrants kind consideration even if the answer has to be no, and the latter warrants a kind answer even if every cell in your body is screaming to roll your eyes. 


Got the gear, but now it's first pitch, if the rain didn't/doesn't screw it up. Bye for real. 

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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 New England with her husband and their three boys.

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