Carolyn Hax Live: 'Mommy wars'

Mar 29, 2019

Advice columnist Carolyn Hax will be online to take your 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.

Waiting for the chat? Read from the archive:

Carolyn's recent columns

Carolyn's past chats

Glossary of frequently-used chat terms

Follow Carolyn Hax on Twitter (@CarolynHax) and Facebook.

Want answers now? Search past Carolyn Hax live chats and find answers to your questions even if she is offline by clicking here.

Hi everybody, happy Friday.

Hi Carolyn. My husband and I are getting divorced. We have lived like roommates for years but it all came to an end when he started blaming me for most of our problems, began an emotional affair with someone he met online and I caught him (he kept lying about it). I've moved ahead with finding an attorney since I don't think he will move the process forward himself. He finally apologized for how things ended but it's unclear to me what he's really sorry for--the lying and getting caught, the affair itself, or how he was treating me in the last year because he said he was frustrated with me. Everything is moving so quickly. We're not compatible and maybe never were so this will be a good thing for us. However, I do still care about him and believe that his mental health issues were at least partly to blame for his behavior. He has rewritten our past enough that now I'm questioning what is true and what isn't. I'm also blaming myself for not being more emotionally available (he wasn't either), not being more compassionate about his mental health issues, and just not being a good partner in general. At the same time, he told me that he never opened up to me emotionally either and wasn't really what I was looking for in a partner either. I don't have a real question here other than how to I learn from my mistakes without thinking they were bigger than they were based on what he is telling me? How do I stop internalizing the blame that he has placed on me? There are things I could have done better but I don't feel like I'm responsible for most of our problems. How do you stop regretting something and instead, learn from it? I'd like to be able to move forward and stop beating myself up over things that may or may not have really happened. Thanks.

Whew. I'm tired just reading that.

You're going through plenty right now, and asking yourself to take on even more, right in the middle of it all.

My only advice at this point is to stop trying to figure all of it out. In fact, don't try to figure any of it out. Just get through the mechanics of it. Attorney, yes, and a home of your own, and your own finances and home goods and all of that. It will take a while and it will need a lot of your attention. Make sure that attention is available by choosing not to add anything else to the list. When the questions bubble up, let them go unanswered. Say it aloud if you have to: "I'll get to that later." Or: "That can wait."

Then, when you're there in your own space without a marriage or a divorce to manage, listen for the silence. 

When you hear it, that's when it's time to start to think about all those questions. You might find, and I suspect you will, that some of them will have answered themselves in the process. The churn of an emotional transition can make issues seem more complicated than they really are. And if your husband's emotional MO is to deflect/diffuse/muddy, then the post-marital silence will be more powerful still.

Hi Carolyn, I am a SAHM of three school-aged children (9, 7, 4). My brother and his wife had their first baby three months ago. Before the baby was born, my SIL "Sue" told me she was thinking of leaving her job to stay home full-time, and asked me to share any thoughts and tips I had. I spent the next few months introducing her to other moms in my local SAHM community and offering up every piece of advice I had so that she would feel supported if she joined in. I really would have loved to have Sue become a permanent part of a community that's been wonderful for me and my kids for the past few years. And then, suddenly, she announced last week that she's going back to work and leaving the baby with a nanny for "a variety of reasons" (not financial, she and my brother are comfortable). For some reason, I am feeling very hurt. I really threw myself into trying to welcome her into SAHM life and I feel that she surveyed the resources I showed her and decided they simply weren't good enough. Worse, I feel that she is judging me in a way that she didn't before, now that she has met my friends and knows more about my daily life. How to get past these feelings? I HATE the idea of being part of the so-called "mommy wars," and resenting a beloved SIL just because she is a working mom and I'm not. But I feel a little seed of that starting to grow and I need to get past it.

This has nothing to do with you.

She asked for your help, and you gave it, and you made her decision a more informed one. Good stuff.

In fact, if your information helped her to recognize that being home full-time wasn't a good fit for her, then you did this family a huge favor, all of them.

That she chose a path different from yours says nothing about the validity of that path. I didn't choose to become a lawyer after taking a really close look at what that meant, using information I got from some of my closest friends; that doesn't mean I think I was too good to be a lawyer, I judge their lives as beneath me, and I'm now part of the non-lawyer team in a cosmic Us vs. Them, Lawyers vs. Writers death match.

This is a mommy war only if you make it one.

Don't make it one. 

Instead, congratulate Sue on taking the time to figure out what worked for her, and be grateful you live at a time when you have choices.

And if I caught your harrumphing between the lines in "she's going back to work and leaving the baby with a nanny for 'a variety of reasons' (not financial, she and my brother are comfortable)," then everyone who knows you will, too. Just stop. "Because she wants to" work and hire child care is reason enough, and it doesn't mean such parents don't love their children as much as others and it doesn't mean they look down on you for your choice. It means the adults involved have agency and aren't afraid to use it. Repeat as needed till you call a truce for the war in your head.

Hi Carolyn. I have a trans friend, and my four-year-old has asked me "is Chris a boy or a girl?" I just answered that Chris is a girl (her identified gender)--at this age is that the right thing?

That's the right thing at any age. Chris is a girl.

I don't think my husband is an alcoholic - he doesn't drink every day or even every other. But sometimes when he does imbibe, he seems like a different person, and he always feels bad the next day. He's more beligerant and totally unable to read other people's cues, which can make me feel embarrassed. So that's my question - should I not be embarrassed? Should I just let it go? He says he doesn't like it but it still happens. I don't want to be in charge of him, I don't want to get a divorce - so much about our marriage is really wonderful. I don't like it, and he knows that. And he doesn't like it. So now what?

A person doesn't need to have alcoholism to be a problem drinker or to have a problem with drinking. Your husband has two serious warning signs: personality change when drinking, and regrets after drinking. 

Either one is enough to warrant an inquiry with his primary care physician, so both = get on this.

There are different options for treatment with problem drinking, and there are questions about the effectiveness of some of them, and some of the ones deemed sub-effective are the methods others swear by, and that's why I suggest the doctor. The recovery that works is the one that works for the individual in question. This is a straightforward place to start reading--for you-- so you can help him make informed decisions: LINK 

And, maybe, just consider that a lot of the questions you are asking here are kind of unanswerable, or you already have the answers. You and your husband weren’t right for each other, you probably both made mistakes, you are bound to have regrets, but you have learned from this and in time the regrets will fade. There is no one perfect story to be told here, one that will explain everything, or send you off unencumbered into the future; there’s just life, and plenty more to be lived, imperfectly and messily, and without any definitive explanations.

My girlfriend tells me that it’s perfectly okay to have people over and not clue them in to who else will be there but I personally hate when people do this. I think if you’re going to be inviting a small number of people for dinner, the polite thing to do is let everyone know who else might be attending when you invite them. You never know what’s going on with people, even if you think everyone is on good terms, people fight and fall out, things happen that you can’t keep track of. I think my girlfriend is playing with fire when she does this but she says it’s the “way the world works.” To clarify: I understand that you’re absolutely entitled to invite whoever you want to your dinner parties and I’m not suggesting you have to let other guests veto people they don’t like, you just give them an opportunity to politely decline if they feel strongly about so-and-so. And I’m talking only about small gatherings where everyone has to interact with everyone else. I say it’s to the host’s benefit to do so, because you prevent a situation where the evening is awkward and ends early. It’s not the same if you have a large house party with like 30 invitees, then people can avoid guests they don’t like. Which of us is right on this subject?

Your GF. Utterly. Just because you want something doesn't mean it's the polite thing to ask.

The polite thing, in this case, is to be gracious about accepting hospitality--as your host chooses to offer it--and not trying to a-la-carte it into something you find more palatable.

It's also polite, when you walk into a room and spot your nemesis, to put on your grown-up face and behave civilly till the event ends of its own accord.

And it's healthy to ask yourself exactly how many people are on your don't-put-us-in-the-same-room list, because if it's more than one or two over a lifetime, then maybe it's time for a hard look at your role in sowing conflict.

I wish you had addressed this ridiculous trope in the first letter today. My kids go to daycare, but my husband and I are raising them. It smacks of the patriarchal notion that a woman's place is in the home with the children and perpetuates myths about daycare. It's also something no one says when children go off to elementary school, yet if you really believe the mindset, kids should be homeschooled lest they be "raised" by the school. Sorry, that phrase always rubs me the wrong way.

Yeah, always hits me wrong, too. I teased today's column on FB with this:

"Cared for by others, not raised, by the way. (No staff from the orange room, green room, ovals, diamonds, or butterflies is here holding my teenagers accountable. Alas.)"

So I was torn about flagging it in the column. Still am. In the end, I took her "(to me)" as an indication that she got it and didn't need it spelled out, which meant I could focus on other things. Rightly, wrongly, but now it's donely.


Something I realized about myself the other day is that the closer I am to someone/the more I trust and like them, the more sarcastic and dry I am toward them. My default setting is extreme dry humor, but I’m not going to go to my default setting unless I trust the person can handle it. But .... am I really just a glass bowl?


Why don't you ask. "I go over to the snark side only when I trust people, but it occurs to me that maybe I'm just punishing the people who care about me the most. Is that how you see it?"

We're probably all thinking that your "letting people see the real me" looks suspiciously like most people's "putting up defenses just I'm getting close to someone," so I'll just throw it out there to dot the i.

Dear Carolyn, My husband is overseas until mid-April for work, and we just got the news that his mother has been hospitalized with double pneumonia. My husband is her primary support system, and he has asked me to be his proxy and go check on her every day until we have a sense of when she will be released (and then, if necessary, to coordinate help for her when she gets home). He said that if I'm not comfortable doing that, he can end his trip early, but that's way less than ideal and is probably not necessary. The problem is that I'm very awkward with his mother. She is a beautiful, elegant, and accomplished woman and I feel like a clod around her. She is nice to me, but I am sure she believes her son could have married better. I don't think we have ever been alone together without my husband, and I'm not even sure how much she will appreciate having me intrude on her in the hospital (though she has said she would be glad to have me). How do I approach this? Do you have any good tricks for cutting through initial awkwardness with an in-law?

"She is a beautiful, elegant, and accomplished woman and I feel like a clod around her. She is nice to me, but I am sure she believes her son could have married better."

Um. "Beautiful, elegant and accomplished" is not the way I'd describe someone who thinks less of someone just because she isn't as polished. I'd use "snob."

So, if your MIL is a snob, then my answer is to go, be yourself, be as helpful as you can, know it's finite, don't stay longer than 30 minutes, and call it an act of love for your husband.

If your MIL is indeed all that, then please consider that she considers you as her family, and maybe even wonders and laments that you keep her at arm's length.

You'd be visiting as a helper, so your best awkwardness prevention tactic is to help. Find out what she needs, talk to the care team to the extent you're allowed, bring something to brighten the room or help her occupy her time. Ask your husband and also think hard about her interests, so you can bring something apt. If you can't think of anything, bring a little flower arrangement/potted plant and ask if there's anything you can bring to help pass the time.

In my experience, at least, hospitalized people want visitors to come, then want visitors to go, but only after they lend their mobility to get a few things done.

Hi Carolyn - We found out I was pregnant a few weeks ago. I was thrilled. My husband (after several years of trying) had come to the conclusion that we were better off without a child. He's genuinely doing his best to adjust to this new reality, be supportive, and be excited about the process. How can I best help him in adjusting to what will (hopefully) be a very different future to what he imagined?) On a related note, I would appreciate any suggestions for DC-area new parent classes. Thanks!

Best thing I can suggest is to give him room to still feel he doesn't want to be a father. He -is- a father now, so that's really hard, but when a thought or feeling becomes unspeakable, it can get so heavy. Let him know you won't shout down or shame him for expressing tough thoughts as he processes all this. Acknowledge (if you haven't already) that it's hard to do an emotional 180 and you do understand. Maybe just once, clearly, then move on. 

It took him years to embrace the old reality, so his needing to embrace this one in under 9 months is actually a quick turnaround. Especially given that even people who want kids fully can have moments of, "WTH have I gotten myself into?"

I also would caution against coaching or cheerleading, in case you're tempted. Just say plainly how you feel--"I am so excited about X"--instead of, "Isn't X exciting?" Express your own doubts and fears, too, when you have them; you don't have to be the PR rep for childrearing. Once you've said the bit about understanding and giving him room, really give him room. Let him come to where you are on his own. His being a good sport takes away a lot of the worry you might otherwise have had about doing that.

As for the new-parent classes, ask your OB or, when chosen, your pediatrician. PEP is excellent and DC based LINK, but I think more geared to toddler-and-up.

I have an extremely dry sense of humour, to the point that many people can't tell when I'm making a joke. There's nothing snarky or hurtful about it, though, and nothing for people to "handle." Sounds like the LW is being hurtful, not dry. "I have a dry sense of humour" is no excuse to be hurtful.

I agree with the last sentence, but see no basis for the preceding, unless the concern itself is proof.

So how about: IF you're being hurtful, not dry, then cut it out.

I am a litigation attorney at a great firm, and feel lucky to work at a job I love (most of the time) that pays extremely well. The problem is that it is also incredibly demanding, and will remain that way given the realities of being a trial lawyer. With the help of my supportive husband, I decided to take a different, less demanding job so I could spend more time with family. The problem is that when we started telling family members of our plans, my in-laws’ first question was whether I would be taking a pay cut. Since I earned so much at my job, we had paid for several vacations for my in-laws over the years, as well as car repairs and rent when they were low on money, and we helped pay for preschool for our nieces. When we told them that yes, I would likely be taking a large pay cut, my mother-in-law asked whether we’d still be able to pay for vacations, and my brother-in-law said that his daughters were counting on their “rich aunt” to pay for college. My husband and I were both stunned. He made a comment that having me around more was worth more than the money to him, and his mom actually said, “not to us.” She later apologized and said that she only said that because she was worried about the financial implications of my decision, but I’m still incredibly hurt. Also, I’m torn about my decision now. Did we inadvertently create the impression that I would always be able to help out financially? If so, is there a way to extricate ourselves from that expectation? Finally, any suggestions for getting over my hurt feelings?

OMG! Your in-laws sound like monsters. I'm sorry.

The way past your hurt feelings is to recognize that your in-laws took your money and couldn't even summon the courtesy to pretend they care about you as a person. That, in turn, says the insult they just delivered doesn't say bad things about you, but instead reveals terrible things about them.

So for you to find their response hurtful is analogous too ... let's say, being hurt because your dog says you smell bad when his idea of smelling good involves rolling in decomposed squirrel.

Torn? Oh no, don't be. Please. You've done the right thing for you and for the only people who matter, a k a, the people who are capable of caring as much about your well-being as they care about their own. If your in-laws wake themselves up enough to join those ranks, then, okay, good for everyone. Change is always possible.

As for the best way to "extricate ourselves from that expectation"? Don't give these vultures another dime. If your nieces are still in the preschool you pay for, then maybe work out a non-abrupt exit plan. And maybe privately keep a savings account set aside for future family expenses, since the possibility of one member running aground financially is one most families face, and there are few good solutions, but being caught off-guard and broke doesn't help any of them Not that you ever need to use the money for your in-laws, it's just smart to have on hand.

Just imagine her saying "I used to think my son could have done better, but then she was so supportive and helpful when there was a crisis, I now understand what he sees in her."

Yes, thank you.

Keep a journal. Write down your feelings and thoughts about what happened. Write down what your ex-husband tells you about how he viewed it. Don't read it until much later when it's time to tackle the "I-don't-want-to-repeat-this" project. It will help you know what was real v. what you remember.

Our hilarious, old soul, bit of a character adolescent son hit puberty and went cone of silence, withdrew, tanks schoolwork to the point he lost athletic eligibility. Tutor believes we should have him assessed in areas: emotional, cognitive, neuropsychological & academic. There's some pot use but not daily, he denies being depressed, he actually appears to work relatively hard on schoolwork but has no follow through, organizational skills, focus. The testing is not inexpensive. Should we take the plunge? Is there a book/article you recommend about the expectations/process/value of these assessments? Its difficult to understand kids' attitude that it is okay not perform their best in school and exrtra curriculars. Signed - Did we spoil the kid too much?

Take the plunge, trust the tutor, check your insurance--some plans will cover neuropsych testing--and now, now, now talk to his pediatrician about the drug use paired with silence and school-tanking. Rally the troops.

And, humbly suggested: Broaden your idea of what makes sense as far as attitude. As adults, we fan out into a whole world of interests and lifestyles, and in fact if someone so much as speculates about taking some aspect of that lifestyle away, we go bananas. Yet we funnel our kids through this chute of desks and books and X hours a day for Y days a year for Z years over which they have little to no say, and expect them to give every ounce of themselves to being the best through-chute-goers they can be. If anything, it's a miracle the buy-in is as high as it is.

It might be that what your son needs to hear from you most (besides, "Here is the treatment program we're considering") is that you hear him. You can understand (and explain to him) that a successful run through the chute makes life ever after a lot easier; and that work drudgery is not exactly optional for those who need to support themselves; and that he's going to have to find some way of working with his own strengths and weaknesses to do his job, be it the job of school or service work or banking or producing documentaries--and yet still be sympathetic to someone for whom being a student isn't a natural fit.

And, circling back so it doesn't get lost: call his doctor. I focused on your son getting heard, because that's more complicated, but getting help is more urgent.

My son recently got married out of state and my sisters and brothers in law did not attended. My husband and I are so devastated, disappointed, and frankly insulted. My son is the youngest and last of all the cousins to get married. My husband and I have attended many, many bridal showers, weddings, baby showers, christenings, birthday parties, etc. My sisters and brothers in law travel by air frequently, and have the financial means to attend, yet they chose not to. My son was embarrassed and hurt that his aunts and uncles were not there. My husband is appalled at his siblings' behaviour. Now the brothers a d sisters in law want to go out for brunch and hear all about the wedding. We are not in the mood to socialize with them at this time. What do we say and do?

Someone needs to tell them you're hurt. Your husband, I'd say. Not accusatory, just plain: "I have mixed feelings about brunch. I'm hurt none of you came to the wedding. I understand things come up, but this was a sweep--and we've gone out of our way for years to celebrate weddings, showers, birthdays. With pleasure, of course, because I love you all. I'm just stuck on the fact that not one of you showed up for my son."

Simple, clear, fair. And best said to the emotionally closest sib, ideally as a prelude to the honest conversation necessary to moving forward.

I feel I should add, since I have about a 1.000 average on advising against taking personal offense when someone doesn't attend an event:

Stuff happens. But when you go 0-fer on the people you've shown up for faithfully for years, and when your feelings about that are impeding your ability to spend time with these people, that clears the threshold for saying something. Plus, if you just say no to brunch and disengage with this entire family, then they'll never have a chance to make things right.


Is attraction something that grows over time? Can a relationship work is you are very much attracted to the individual as a person, but less attracted to them physically?

Attraction can grow, but that doesn't mean it will. Be friends and see what happens.

My teenage grandkids have a great saying for those questions we may not yet be ready to answer: "That's future me's problem".

Assuming we have future-me's best interests in mind, and aren't just loading up future-me with fines, back taxes and rehab, that could work.

Request an evaluation by the school. You must do this in writing.

The issue could be that the DIL is wrong about what her MIL believes.

Right, that's what I was thinking--that fabulous MIL is indeed fabulous and embraces her DIL fully.

I can't recommend enough going through with the testing. I may be projecting too much of my own experience here, and he may have other issues, but I felt such an a sense of relief with having a learning disability diagnosis as an adult. I'm lucky that I was a good student and did well in school, but I have discalculia and number just don't make sense to me. Once I realized that there was a real reason for it, I felt this overwhelming realization that I'm not stupid because I can't do mental math, or keep a rough running total of what my grocery trip is costing me, or figure out what the new sale price of a dress is if it's 30% off. Your son knows that he's struggling, having a reason why can feel like such a relief. And for what it's worth, my dad realized through a project my mom was doing for a certification program (she's a special ed teacher) that he's probably ADHD, and while it has impacted his adult life less, he said just knowing that made so many things about his early school experiences make sense.

Is it possible the child had an experience, such as an assault, they're not telling the parents about? Without insisting that the possibility means it must be true, it happens to so many of us, and few people ever talk about it, or even know how, or even know they've been abused. I know I went from an "old soul" (which turned out in my case to be a kid who had seen too much) to someone who couldn't function at all, because of a deepening depression set off by PTSD from early abuse. Sexual maturity did not help me. At all.

Thank you for flagging this--it is a possibility. 

Speaking as someone whose child started having problems in Grade 10 but is now a decade past that, get the testing now so you can find out as much as you can. I wish we'd recognized the signs back then. It would have spared a lot of heartache, mistakes, and failed courses. We eventually found testing but convincing a younger teen in school, with the other support available there, to change is much easier than working with a young adult.

Do the testing yesterday, even if you have to sell your house. My daughter always had issues, but no one ever recommended we test her and none of the specialists I took her to ever had any answers. We just essentially withdrew her from college yesterday and life is hell right now. She lives with me (her single mom) at 20 and has become abusive toward me. I'm getting her all of the help I can, but I wish we'd pushed for extensive testing back in middle school. Something is very wrong and it would have been easier to address whatever that is when she was younger and not technically an adult.

I'm sorry, Mama. Please make sure you get some help for yourself, too. Not that you're doing this, but, just in case, don't use any guilt/regrets about your choices when she was in middle school to justify punishing yourself now. Find someone kind and qualified to help guide you through it. 

Insurance typically pays for psych portion but not education portion, just fyi. We wrote the big check and it was SO worth it. I would do this on your own rather than wait for the school to do it. We understand our child's mind so much better and realize it's not that he's not trying -- his brain works differently than other kids' does. This will be invaluable for the rest of his life. Plus, and this is VERY important, if he needs accommodation on college entrance tests, you must show that early enough that they do not think you are trying to game the system. Our child qualifies for extra time and we have that in writing now.

FWIW, there are options other than the traditional high school experience that still allow kids to go on to college. Not every family can swing them, but there is hippy-style homeschooling or eclectic charter schools or alternative private schools or online public school. If the chute is bad for him he can skip it. And none of these options mean he couldn't have an active social life. Frequently they mean more sleep and more free time because one on one instruction is so much more efficient.

Make sure when the baby arrives that he does hands on care i.e. that Mom doesn't become the expert and freeze out fumbling Dad. In my family, Dad gave all the baby baths for all our kids. Those can be scheduled when convenient for him -- our first got his baths at 10 pm as his Dad worked long hours. Baths are fun and involve hands on care. It takes a while to bond, but this kind of interaction moves it along just as nursing does for Mom.

If you don't have a lot to talk about with your MIL (other than your husband), you can ask her what she needs, what little treat she would like--does she want a special snack, or her perfume, or her Tweezerman tweezers and a magnifying mirror, does she want you to wash her hair? What about going to her house and checking on her mail? Maybe you can do some texting for her. When she comes home, have a tray on her bed with her hand lotion, phone, memo pad and pen, some magazines, tissues, maybe a small bowl of grapes (disregard grapes if the dog can get on the bed).

This is so great.

When I'm about to say something wildly amusing but kinda mean, I offer my husband the option of the good answer or the evil answer. That way it's really clear that the evil answer is "supposed to be" funny.

This too.

Pot? Just a little pot? That issue sure is being glossed over.

No, it's not, not by me--it's being sent to a doctor, where it belongs. I see discussion as distraction here.

I just read a book called NurtureShock and there's a whole section in there about how many teenagers are sleep deprived, and how all the symptoms of sleep deprivation (grumpiness, depression, lack of focus, etc) mimic the things we have come to think of as "typical" teen behavior. So the letter writer might also want to make sure her son is getting enough sleep, which can be really hard for teens.

"Nurture Shock" is excellent, a book I recommend all the time but haven't in a while, so thanks for bringing it up. Po Bronson/Ashley Merryman. It's great too on lying and on the importance of collaborative/creative play to learning. It shaped the way we're raising our kids.

Definitely do the testing to determine if there are underlying issues. My son is in both gifted and special ed. For his younger years he was able to compensate for attention span/lack of follow through issues because for the most part he gets things right away. As he progressed though and school required more studying/writing, his grades slipped. If he's really having learning issues it's important to get things in his record as early as possible so the school can make accommodations for him. I have a feeling with the recent college cheating scandal it's going to become a lot harder to get accommodations on testing without prior documentation.

Another case in which the greedy ruin things for everyone else. I.e., you're probably right.

YES by all means do the testing (my kiddo has been tested a zillion times since he was 2 ... he's almost 14 now. we still don't have all the answers). Have you actually spoken with your child? it doesn't really sound like you have (great book to recommend, Raising Human Beings by Dr. Ross Greene -- he has several other books as well). And realize that this is not the be all and end all -- high school and life can look like anything. perhaps his experiences are not so great (most people's in high school aren't that great). Maybe he needs a change of pace, a different place for him, etc etc.

This is a great opportunity to actually get to know your mother-in-law, if she's open to it. Ask her if there are any card games or board games she likes, and bring a few to play together (it's a great way to break the ice and spend time together, without much conversation needed, if things feel a bit awkward and stilted those 1st few visits). Or, you could listen to a podcast together and then share your thoughts on it with each other. Visits don't have to be long, but you could become someone she looks forward to seeing if you make the visit about finding a way to distract her from the doldrums of living in a hospital.

A good friend of mine spent the first few months of her pregnancy in complete shock and walked around in a daze... and this was a PLANNED pregnancy.

Could the story presented by "In-laws unhappy with my pay cut" be fake? Please, please. If not, poster, get away from them. I never have heard of such people. And where is your husband on this, other than his brief statement you mentioned?

PACE! Truly the best investment I made as a new mom. I learned so much and have the best community here. Please try to get that to OP.

Okay, that's it for today (unless I'm able to grab more comments later). Thanks everyone, have a great weekend, and I'll type to you here next week.

It could be that her husband is also afraid of getting too excited, for fear of something going wrong and then being terribly deflated again.

Insightful, thanks.

So is your brother too. He also had a choice to stay home and he didn't take it. But I bet that doesn't bother you.

See, I missed that. Completely. I've got work to do.

Housekeeping with the website -- why are we no longer able to comment on the chats? that was always fun, especially when I wasn't able to make it to the chats. Thanks!

News to me. I'll check.

When my dad was hospitalized last winter, one of the best things I could do to keep him as happy and comfortable as possible was to bring my laptop so we could watch movies on Netflix. It might be worth asking if there's something in particular she would like to watch so you can download it in advance, or if there's a book she'd like you to pick up at the local bookshop. Sometimes a pleasant distraction is the best thing you can offer.

After being hospitalized for pneumonia, your MIL will be exhausted. Do the practical things for her - stock the fridge, get the mail, and above all, change her sheets before she comes home. Once she’s home, arrange for meal delivery or leave meals in the fridge. Trust me, she’ll think you’re an angel.

In This Chat
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.
Recent Chats
  • Next: