Carolyn Hax Live: 'That's what good people do'

May 10, 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.

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Hi everybody, happy Friday.

I’m kind of freaked out about my girlfriend’s unplanned pregnancy. Up until recently it didn’t seem too bad since she was planning to have an abortion. It was scheduled for last week but at the last minute she backed out. Now she is saying she can’t go through with it and will have the baby and give it up for adoption. I think this is all due to her mom working on her emotions. She should never have told her mom in the first place and I am secretly mad that she did. Even though they are very close she should have kept this to herself. I am not ready to be a father and was very clear on that to my girlfriend. I’m worried that she will change her mind again and decide to keep the baby and I will be stuck. She’s really emotional and confused right now but all I can see is that she’s going to ruin our lives because her mom stuck her nose in where it didn’t belong. How do I support my girlfriend through this pregnancy which I want to do, while still making it clear I am not onboard with being a father? I will pay the child support for 18 years but that’s all I’m willing to do. I’m not going to be father to a child because we got drunk and had unprotected sex one time. Should I lay this all on the line now? It seems cold but waiting to see if she actually does give the baby up seems too risky.

Let's see. You blame your girlfriend ("She should never have told her mom").

You blame the mom ("this is all due to her mom working on her emotions").

You project blaming your girlfriend again ("she’s going to ruin our lives").

You blame alcohol ("we got drunk and had unprotected sex one time").

So? Where's the part where you blame yourself for: having sex you weren't ready to have because you weren't ready for the consequences; throwing back more drinks than you could handle; pointing fingers instead of taking your part of the responsibility?

Don't lay anything on the line with anybody until you look in a mirror and own this. Every bit of it. To go into any conversation prepared to say any of this to anyone is to tee yourself up for memories and decisions you will, with the benefit of any maturity gains at all, be ashamed of the rest of your life.

You got it out of your system here with me, anonymously. Good. Now square yourself up and own your fatherhood. Not just paternity--fatherhood. You made the choices that got you here, just as your girlfriend made hers, and so now both of you need to work together to figure out what would offer the best possible outcome for all involved. Even if that means you stay out of it and send child support honorably, on time and without complaint for 18 years. That's what good people do.



Hi Carolyn, I've been on a few dates with 'Jack." I like him and am trying to give our connection a chance (normally I am notorious for writing people off for minor reasons and then regretting it). But he's done a weird thing a couple of times now in just two weeks of dating. He will say or do something weird or annoying (like pretend he has to cancel a date five minutes before we're supposed to meet), only to then say "Just kidding! I just wanted to see how you'd react." Eye roll. I think this is just his sense of humor and that he doesn't actually think I'm a lab rat, but it's annoying and I honestly just don't have time to be tested that way. Would it be too much to say something? Or is this a dealbreaker, meaning I should just give up on this anyway?

Any time something is a deal-breaker, you have nothing to lose by saying, "This is annoying and I just don't have time to be tested that way." So you might as well. Or not--you can also just stop seeing him, because that's your prerogative.

And now for the advice you didn't ask for. I see why you're trying to be more patient with people in light of your track record, but forcing yourself to stay with people against your impulses to leave does not sound like a way to accomplish what you hope (unless your hope is to go on many dates with people you don't want to date). Instead, I suggest you focus on *why* you tend to give up on people quickly, and why you tend to regret it. That's not about them, and that's not about bearing down against your flight instinct--that's about your emotional wiring and what it's trying to tell you. A good therapist could also help you figure it out.

I have been living with my boyfriend for two years now and as far as I am concerned our relationship is perfect. I have no interest in marriage, I never did. I like the fact that we get up every morning and make the free choice to be with each other. I don’t want any more children either. I got pregnant in college and my son will be going off to college soon himself and that’s enough child raising for me. My boyfriend’s mom and sister hinted about marriage several times and even asked my boyfriend directly but I always assumed that he shut that down. I now find out from his sister that my boyfriend told his family that I’ve been “nagging him for a ring” but he’s just not ready to make a commitment. When I confronted my boyfriend about this outrageous lie, he said his family would consider me weird and unnatural and blame me for the fact that we’re not married if they knew the truth. This way “he can take the heat.” I’m livid. Not only did he reduce me to the ugliest possible stereotype - the pathetic, simpering girlfriend nagging for a diamond and a wedding - but he did it behind my back. He insists that he’s protecting me and he’s painted himself as the villain but I want him to set the record straight immediately. He refuses to do so and when I said I would, he said it’s not my place to interfere with his family. Should I tell them? Or do I have to live with this slander hanging over my head?

Did he validate this in any way: "Not only did he reduce me to the ugliest possible stereotype - the pathetic, simpering girlfriend nagging for a diamond and a wedding - but he did it behind my back"? 

I'm putting myself in your place here, and I think I could accept it as valid that he just saw things in a completely different way, and therefore meant well--but I don't think I could accept it if he refused to acknowledge my point that he sold me out.

Any by not accepting, I mean I am not sure I could stay with someone who did that, who would neither acknowledge harm done to me nor honor my request to make me whole. I'm sorry. That was just a crap thing to do.

Two book recommendations: (1) Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell. This is a wonderful YA novel about a character who writes fan fiction and the community she has online vs. in real life. (2) The Power of Quiet, by Susan Cain. This book will help this mom accept her daughter's more introverted personality and also help her see it as a strength, not a deficit.

Hi Carolyn, Reading your column concerning the new mother feeling pulled in many directions to celebrate Mother's Day really got me thinking. I have felt the Mother's Day guilt of wanting to make my mother and MIL happy. I try to learn from mistakes or situations in the past and I like the saying "when you know better you do better". So, I think to myself "I know it is overwhelming for young mothers to be pulled in many can I do better with my own family"? What is the best solution for mothers of adult children with their own families? I would love to hear tips and suggestions from your readers. Would you put that question out there?

Sure. Okay if I answer it, too?

A mother of adult children with their own families can tell them that her Mother's Day gift to them is an unconditional release from all obligations on Mother's Day. Say you'll love to see them (if true) and will be happy to plan or play along or observe it on the day of their choice or baby-sit so they can have time alone or whatever else (if true), but you will not be a duty they have to fulfill.

Carolyn, I don't expect you to take this comment in the chat, but I hope you will consider it. Your Washington Post colleague Meghan Kelly gives excellent child care advice that is developmentally-informed. Dan Siegel's books are great and there are others. Please stop recommending "Parenting with Love and Logic." Foster Cline is associated with a clinic in Evergreen, CO, that is associated with child abuse and practices that harm adopted children with attachment disorders. The book you recommend talks about letting a dog starve when the child doesn't feed it, locking children in their rooms, and other abusive practices. The parts that endorse parental calm area great, and there are some other good ideas, but a lot of the rest of it is horrible. I adopted an abused child from foster care when he was 7 and so I have exposure to these authors in other contexts. I'm pasting in below one of the negative reviews on Amazon, which is an accurate portrayal of the book. "1.0 out of 5 starsThis book is destructive quackery. Stay away! November 1, 2016 Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase As a psychiatrist, who works with adolescents and families, I urge you NOT to read this book. The ideas are outdated, discredited, and destructive. It takes some common sense ideas (don't get into power struggles with your children, encourage them to make choices, and allow them to learn from their mistakes) and takes them to an extreme. The book encourages parents to lock kids in their rooms when they are bad, withhold meals if they don't complete chores, and to allow the family dog become so malnourished that its ribs are showing (to teach a child a lesson about consequences for not feeding the dog). The book is rife with examples that encourage parents to be cruel, manipulative, and insincere. What this book completely ignores is the emotional health of the child. This book is about modifying behavior without ever looking beneath the behavior to understand what is happening emotionally and psychologically for the child. The entire book is based on the assumption that children are inherently manipulative and cunning and will take any chance they get to do something wrong and to frustrate their parents. This is just quackery. For parenting books that are about raising emotionally healthy AND responsible children, I highly recommend "Parenting from the Inside Out" by Daniel Siegel, "Unconditional Parenting" by Alfie Kohn, and "Parents We Mean to Be" by Richard Weissbourd."

I am happy to address this here, thanks.

I read L&L myself, upon the recommendation of one of the best therapists I have ever worked/consulted with. I did not see it as advocating cruelty, though it has probably been close to a decade since I read it and sensibilities do change, even on things that seem obvious. I credit the book with changing my thinking on discipline imposed by parental decision--meaning, on the number of times parents step in and mete out consequences when there are perfectly good natural consequences waiting for them. I thought it was an especially good message for a time when childrearing trends have parents hyper-involved in so many details of a child's life. I didn't take it as advocacy for cruelty of any kind.

I am also aware of the outrage surrounding the author(s) since the book was recommended to me. I stopped recommending it altogether for a while, then mentioned it with I-mean-their-first-book-only! disclaimers (it's a series), and now I'll probably go back to not mentioning it. Thank you for the opportunity to address something openly that I have wrestled with behind the scenes.


I am a single mom (divorced) and have spent the past few years completely prioritizing my kids. They're now 13 and 8 years old and are very happy and well-adjusted. For once, I feel comfortable dating, and have started exploring a relationship with my friend "Greg." Greg expressed interest a few years back but I didn't feel comfortable spending time away from my kids, who were so young then. Now I look forward to seeing him some evenings and on weekends. But last night as I was getting ready for dinner with Greg, my 8-year-old groaned about how I was leaving "again." The last date I went on before this one was over a week ago. I felt terrible and considered canceling the date, but went on it and could not enjoy it at all. I talked to the 8 this morning and I don't think she was actually especially upset, so maybe I overreacted, but I am not sure how to tell whether I am spending TOO much time away from my kids vs. just claiming a reasonable amount of "me" time and teaching them a healthy lesson by doing so. What do you think?

One night a week for you isn't even close to unreasonable. Just lodge that in your mind right now.

Then, have a good think about how many nights per week/hours per night is reasonable for your kids to be home without you. Don't think of it as Greg time, think of it as parent-needs-adult-reset time. Then give yourself that number of days, with or without Greg. Then use that to keep you confident in your choice against some normal pushback.

You're right in your implication that it's easy to take a kid reaction as much bigger than it really is. Look for signs of distress, not signs of I-want-what-I-want syndrome.


Caroline - I disagree with the advice you gave the man not ready to be a father. Don't disagree he is not taking responsibility, but having him involved and paying child support (assuming she keeps the baby) is probably not best for the new visitor. A father who is there but not there is worse than no father at all, and likely this woman will meet another man with enough love for her and her child. I've been where he is, so I know of what I speak, and that would be my advice to the girlfriend. Let him go free with no obligations, since that's what he wants, and it will clear her mind to make the best decision.

I disagree with your disagreement. Vehemently. Your answer to the money it takes to raise a child securely is for her to meet another, loving man? Oh hell no. She might, and that would be swell, but that's not a plan.

A plan is 18 years of promptly paid support. If she doesn't need it and sees fit to release him of the responsibility, then so be it.

As for the specific advice you're protesting, what I actually said was, "you stay out of it and send child support." Which isn't "there but not there," it's "not there but not there." As one possibility among many.


Lately during work meetings, I’ve been ‘choking’ - when called upon to contribute (an update, opinion) I find myself getting an attack of shyness - face getting red and my voice faltering. Which of course makes me self conscious and makes everything worse. There’s a moment when I wonder if I’m going to get through what I’m saying without breaking down. And now I’m starting to dread meetings and am even more nervous going into them. I’ve always been shy and reserved but have generally been able to overcome it at work so I’m not sure why it’s manifesting itself like this now. Not sure if it’s time for hard work (public speaking seminars? Therapy) on my confidence that I may have been putting off or if this is just a bad week.

If writing it off as a bad week is available, then do that, always. 

But there's nothing wrong with trying the public-speaker training. (I'll post programs if the nutterati have some to recommend.) I also suggest "box breathing" LINK (or Google it--it's everywhere). A daily yoga and/or meditation practice could help you too, even if you give it only 15 minutes a day.

I've been dating a guy for about a year, and so far it's gone really well. I love him and he loves me. Falling in love with him was totally unexpected for me, I guess because we're so different? Essentially none of the same interests, vastly different life experiences, families, education levels. But it's been great so far - we laugh all the time, he is by far the kindest person I've ever dated, and time spent with him is so easy and natural. Maybe this sounds silly, but sometimes I worry that all those differences will eventually catch up with us. What if eventually we run out of things to talk about, or the googly-eyes of early love wear off and I'm with a guy who I don't feel I can relate to? I'm sure we could find some common hobby or interest, but I think we're also pretty content doing our own things right now. Is this a normal thing to worry about? Do I just have to wait and see?

Waiting and seeing sounds lovely. 

What you're doing now, by the way, is relating to him. It's just with an endorphin assist.

I know you are seeing it that way, but what he really did was what he said he did: he made sure that he got all the blame for you guys not being married from his family so that they never mentioned it to you at all. He allowed the two of you to decide to live together without getting married and without having children and he was the only one who had to listen to his side of the family nag about it. Can't you at least appreciate that part of it? Now the decision to come clean to his family that the situation is a mutual decision and that you don't want to be protected from his mom and sister nagging you is something you can discuss, but an instinct to protect you from his intrusive, possibly obnoxious, relatives is hardly the worst thing in the world.

This is a finely argued defense of an other side that was hard to defend. Thanks for that.

Is there a support group for spouses of depressed adults? How can a wife be supportive and helpful without becoming a micromanaging mother figure? How can she help his difficulties without infantilizing him? We're in the DMV.

Family to Family, via NAMI. Very highly recommended. LINK. The number for the helpline is also there for more immediate guidance. 

Hang in there--a partner's depression is hard.

CH's advice is great, except for one caveat: If the kids take you at your word and don't do anything for you on Mother's Day, no sulking, no guilt trips, no complaining to your friends about how rotten your kids turned out.

Yes, yes, thanks.

Carolyn, I think you missed the essence of what our future father is wrestling with - they both made the decision to have unprotected sex but girlfriend decides by herself if she will carry the pregnancy to term because it's her body. (That is, of course, her right and my comment is not about her right to decide.) I think you've done future father a grave disservice, however, but not recognizing that his question is really about how to handle this situation where he has no rights, only obligations.

I see your point. But I am having none of it.

For a man who doesn't recognize that a woman he impregnates gets the last word on the pregnancy, and therefore needs me to point that out that he incurs obligations he doesn't necessarily control any more? I just have nothing. 

Unless I've misread your post, which is certainly possible.

Now, if he had acknowledged that in his question instead of blaming everyone else, then I would be very sympathetic. It is a lot to carry for a long time for one lapse in judgment.

But it's his ultimately his judgment that got him here, rooted in the laws of nature, and no good decisions will rest on any other foundation than that.

Carolyn, I disagree with, "If she doesn't need it and sees fit to release him of the responsibility, then so be it." Even if the mom doesn't need the child support, she should insist on it and put it in the bank. Some day the child might need it -- for a medical procedure, for college tuition, for something -- and it should be there when that day comes. Child support is for the child and should be paid regardless of whether the custodial parent really needs it.

Consider joining a Toastmasters club. I had a similar problem with nervousness in meetings, and Toastmasters helped me overcome it. Biggest payoff - in confidence and speaking ability - for the smallest investment in time of anything I have ever done. Will look good on the resume, too.

This has been happening to me my entire life and it was only recently that I was diagnosed with anxiety. I cannot speak in public or even get through a job interview without sweating, stuttering, and my face turning bright red. Not sure why it would come on all of the sudden like this but I highly recommend therapy if it doesn't stop soon.

For the record, I'm married to my kids' father and when we go on date night, my kids also groan. I don't think it's because you are going out with Greg. It's just that kids generally want their parents! Go out on a date and enjoy it because then you wasted the night you did spend away from your kids.

He's annoying you intentionally to get a reaction out of you? This wouldn't just be a deal breaker for me, it would be a red flag.

Rightly so. 

Carolyn, I know you've been told about ChiGirl losing her husband late last week (father of 2 young children). Abiding Dude just lost his beloved brother of a massive heart attack (46, father of 3 young children). And justaguy lost his own brother 5 months ago and is just now able to tell us. I felt sure you'd want to know.

Thank you for telling me, and my condolences to all for these shocking losses. My queue is flooded today with news of them, so I take that as heartening assurance that this sprawling, brawling, heart-on-sleeve community is taking good care of its own. You guys are the best.

This is Teacher’s Appreciation Week. My husband is an elementary school teacher and his students have been sending home a bunch of stuff all week. Tonight the PTA is having a barbecue for teachers and their families. I understand this is nice, but what I actually want is for my husband’s classroom to be stocked with supplies that he doesn’t have to buy. I want parents to respect his office hours and stop texting and emailing on nights and weekends. I want him to be paid a salary that reflects his education and work ethic. I feel like events like this are placating and I am not in the mood to participate. My husband is much nicer than me and really wants me to just go and have fun like the other spouses. How do I shake this feeling?

First, please pass along my thanks to your husband for being there for kids.

Second, your husband really wants you to just go and have fun. Since that's what he wants, I hope you'll do it. Even if you're in no mood. Since you need to leave said mood at home, I suggest this: A PTA barbecue isn't placating, it's celebrating. Just as with a retirement dinner or arts/athletic banquet or even a wedding, gathering is a legitimate way to recognize someone's value to the community, and not just a shortcut alternative to something else.

Third, you have a hugely valid point with the problem of financial support for education, which includes the lousy-pay problem and the lack-of-supplies problem. I'm glad to post your question as part of the effort to say, "Come on, people." I know a lot of people are working very hard to support their schools and teachers, but until we all do so at the ballot box, we're stuck with teachers using their own money for crayons and kids being lunch-shamed. It's appalling.

Fourth, please don't include "stop texting and emailing on nights and weekends" on the list of complaints. If parents expect off-hours responses, then that's a valid beef to have with them--but a lot of us tend to these things outside of work hours ourselves, and write with the expectation a teacher will respond during his or her work hours only. We're all just trying to navigate busy lives.

Fifth, barbecue! Maybe it'll be good. And neither of you will have to come up with dinner tonight.

The sexism you're displaying in your responses is truly shocking. This is unworthy of you.

Please explain what you see as sexism, vs. being tough on someone who is abdicating responsibility, which I hope I would do regardless of sex. I am happy to consider your perspective.

I don't think the mother can or should turn down child support. My Mom was a lawyer who did lots of divorces and I remember her saying that mothers cannot legally refuse child support because the money is not theirs, it is the child's, and the mother cannot refuse the money that the child has a right to.

Please elaborate on why the mothers of grown sons and/or daughters should be providing childcare for on Mother’s Day. I care for my little grand ones about once a week. I also do many other things to ease my grown loved ones’ stressful times (baking, main-dish cooking, shopping). But I’ve been feeling more and more that what my adult offspring and their partners need is to recognize that it is not my job as grandparent to be a babysitter (made clearer when I was compared to those who take little ones so the parents can go away on vacations). Thank you.

"should be"? No. There's never a "should" for this.

Just pointing out that Future Father DOES have rights. However he doesn’t want assert them. If he doesn’t wish to be an involved parent by asserting his right to visitation or shared custody that’s his decision. It doesn’t absolve him of his obligation to support the he helped create.

This has been hard for me too. It gets easier over time, and finding a FUN babysitter for my son has made him look forward to me going out rather than complaining. Also, my relationship got very very (probably getting married in a yearish) serious, so boyfriend does a significant amount of childcare/raising now, and my son adores him. It's good for your kids to see you prioritize yourself and your happiness outside of parenting too!

Thanks for this.

The kids in the Q are 13 and 8, so presumably the 13 is in charge, so no sitter? But I do agree that a fun sitter can make your kids want you to go out, and so I wrote out, then deleted, an idea of hiring a neighborhood older-teenage girl to hang out with the 8-y-o. I just wasn't sure how that would work and I was taking too long, so, backspace. Anyone have experience with this--a sitter just for the younger(s) when an older is old enough?

If you get the system involved at all you will not be able to waive child support. And to waive child support legally you'd have to give up parental rights. So consult attorneys. FWIW, you might not pay the support because she doesn't need it, but the kid could come back and demand it down he line. How do I know? I did this as a kid, my Mom didn't pursue child support because she so hated my Dad. (and back then it wasn't the law to make a father pay) I'm old. We lived terribly poor. When I got wind that this is why I suffered financially so much through childhood I petitioned him to pay. He had no idea it was so bad. He ended up paying. I got the money I deserved because it was for me, not her. It wasn't much, but it was mine.

I would also think that maybe the guy should go to a therapy session or 2, just to talk out his feelings. I'm concerned with how angry he seems. He seems angry and almost panicked about the idea of his girlfriend (and her mom) "ruining" his life. I know the thought of (unwanted) fatherhood is scary and it WOULD change your life (change, not ruin)... but the level of simmering rage I'm getting from what he wrote is a little bit scary, honestly.

Appropriate even if it's just your garden variety panic, thanks. Room to think clearly makes every decision better.

' I now find out from his sister that my boyfriend told his family that I’ve been “nagging him for a ring”' Your spontaneous reaction to the sister probably set the record straight.

Fair point.

I am about to celebrate my 20th wedding anniversary with my "nothing in common" guy. In fact, if he hadn't asked me out for a second date while still on our first date, I never would have seen him again. He, too, is the nicest, kindest, most caring person I have ever met, he has been the first to jump right in to anything that interests me. I am not similarly accommodating. I still hate ALL sports, but I do acquiesce to one game a year. Enjoy the ride. You will find a rhythm in this relationship as all relationships do. I haven't regretted one day!

Hi There! Any recommendation on how to approach mommy going on a one nighter with her best friends to Palm Springs? My son is 8 and he loves weekend family time and I don't want to hurt his feelings. Thank you.

Omg. "I'm going on an overnight with my best friends, and I can't wait!"

You do not have to explain that you are human and have friends. You certainly don't have to, and shouldn't!, encourage the idea that your having friends has anything to do with taking something from him emotionally.

Make it normal that you see your friends, too, just as he does--do you grab a PS4 controller for his play dates?--and you will take a lot of the edge off without saying anything.

And if he does say something?: "I'll miss you! [hug] And I'll see you Sunday."

No, no, no. It's true that he protected her from the relatives, but he did it by shaming her. If he'd said "She wants to get married, I told her no, and she's been kind enough to not bring it up again" then he'd have been protecting her. When he says "She's nagging me for a ring" he turns her into something she's not, and something not good. Not kind at all.

Lies are a defense and liars are a dime a dozen. Pay for your losses and your own sins. Tell them to drop dead.

Damn. You're good.

I agree with CH's advice to the writer, but let's also understand our society's irrational responses to unplanned pregnancies. The mother of the pregnant woman could very likely be applying unhealthy pressure on her to not abort. He has every right to ask her to consider getting counseling from a more neutral source. Our society's hostility to abortion leads to unwanted children... and decades of guilt in store for both teen parents, including boys who pay support dutifully. Mom should back off, for sure. It will be easier for him to realize though that he can't control what she does.

Yes--ask her to go with him for neutral counseling. Thanks.

NO, it is indefensible. "protecting her"? [meaning, infantilizing] Without her knowledge? By using a disgusting sterotype? With that act, we learn a lot about how he sees women.

My adult daughter virtually never contacts me. When I initiated in the past our contact, I was deemed ‘needy’. So instead I wait weeks to get any contact. How do I find the happy medium?

Yuck. I'm sorry. 

Pick a schedule and call on that schedule. Every other week, say, since she's keeping you at some distance?

And when you call, *never complain that you're always the one to call.* Nothing assures that people won't make an effort to contact you like wasting all of your interactions pressuring them to contact you. It's incredible how much this happens.

Be judicious, be pleasant, call again in two weeks.


A few years back you had a letter where a woman admitted that she purposely lied about birth control to have a baby because "she decided to take what she wanted". You advised her to lie to the guy to make sure kid was happy, but to not feel to guilty. Here a guy is being told to lie (not tell his girlfriend) that he will pay child support but will not be a part of their lives if she has a child. Why the lies? Should not everyone have the same information?

What? None of this sounds like anything I have advised. - does in person & via web.

Don't just free them for Mother's day. Do it for all the holidays. My sister was married when i was small. My wise mother explained since sis's MIL was touchy about celebrating on the actual date, we were going to have our holidays when we could all be together. She taught me that we make the holiday, not the other way around. We had Christmas as early as Thanksgiving and as late as Valentine's day. This goes for birthdays too. Wouldn't you rather have a sweet phone call a week after the fact than hear "why didn't you call?" So would your children. The benefits are enormous for everyone. No worries as to whether you are still loved if your kids don't make some arbitrary deadline. No guilt if you want to do something different on a holiday one year. Let the in-laws have the actual date. I'll take the fun (and the love).

It's fascinating that the girlfriend's choice to become a mother or not is respected, when she has consensual, unprotected sex, but that a man's choice to become a father or not isn't. It's not surprising, but it is fascinating.

The issue is what the person writing to me can do--as it has always been. I answer the person writing to me. And the person writing to me was doing the blamey thing, hard, because he didn't like the consequences of his own part of the action. 

I find it disheartening that people are looking to exploit my gender to defend him.

Hi - I have long read your chats and love your thinking. Common mental health parlance often talks about "accepting" x about y person. I know this - but what does that look like in practice? HOW do you make your brain not expect or wish for certain things, or not be frustrated when people (my mom for example) does completely insane things like let her windows rot OUT and then be upset when I won't let my kids spend the night there. How do I accept that? I don't meant that snarkily - I mean, what would acceptance of maddening, sad, upsetting things like that actually look like in practice in my life? I've already altered my expectations when we visit, but it still gets under my skin to see her live like that, to feel her judge me and get upset that I won't stay there, to stare at me so hard that I have to ask what is wrong...

Thank you. And I'm sorry your mom isn't well. 

Here is the mechanism for acceptance:

Do you get angry/sad/upset when winter comes?

You get angry/sad/upset over your mom's behavior, though, because a part of you still thinks she could be different. If you treat her behaviors instead like they are as inevitable and immutable as the seasons, then they lose their power to upset you. Then, they just are.

That is acceptance. It's hard, but your mind is powerful enough to do this.

"consequences" Do you REALLY think if your child doesn't get to go on a much anticipated trip that *somehow* he will figure out everything he did and fix everything? he is ***11***. He doesn't have the skills that you think he should have. He isn't doing things the way you want. How will taking away this trip teach him those things? The answer is -- it will not. It will only teach him that you have all the power and will wield it and that's that. It doesn't create a connection. Presumably his sibling(s) will get to go? what does that accomplish exactly? Punishment and reward systems DO NOT teach a child ANY of the lagging skills that you would like your child to learn. In no way will that happen. Either he is capable or he is not. He is showing you he is not. Taking away California will not change those facts. Please pick up ANY book by Dr Ross Greene (I highly recommend Raising Human Beings) and/or listen to his podcasts and/or go to the website ( He has a documentary out too (the kids we lose) that probably isn't for you but it sadly needed these days. It seems you are asking because you inherently know and understand the things that I have pointed out here, because you want him to go. Because it's the right things to do.

Thanks. That Q stayed with me all week. There's just no way the kid connected his acts in the moment with such an abstract consequence.

For the person whose sister committed suicide and wants to avoid having to answer questions about how she died: I'm handicapped, and if people ask what happened to me, my go to answer to stop the conversation is "it's complicated." Said with a neutral tone of voice, "it's complicated" is an inoffensive but very clear signal that you're not going to explain. In contrast, "I prefer not to talk about it" tells the asker that there is emotional baggage, which may be more than the original LW wants to disclose. For the few who ignore the signals and still pushes to know, "I prefer not to talk about it" could be used next to more forcefully stop the conversation.

Excellent suggestion, thanks. (Another carryover from last week: LINK)

For a few weeks last year, my husband and I were pretty sure we were going to get a divorce, and shared that fact with a select few people (who in turn spread the news to basically our entire family and social circle). Then we found out I was pregnant and changed course -- therapy, complete relationship overhaul, the works. The baby is here now and on the whole we are happier than I thought it was possible for us to be. I consider it a win, but a number of people close to us do not; they either believe that we "gave up" or think one of us masterminded the pregnancy on purpose to trap the other. I'm exhausted by all the effort that goes into defending our relationship these days. How do we get everyone out of our business or convince them that we are happy, so they should be happy for us?

I'm exhausted by all these people exhausting you by getting so far into your business. -Trapping?- Seriously, people.

"We're accepting applications for people to be happy for us." Or, "We're happy. I'm sorry to disappoint everyone." "We're happy. Feel free to start that rumor." Ehhhhh too defensive, probably. "It's a second chance, and I'm/we're thrilled" ... and no further discussion. Naysayers can sthu. 



I did this...Older Son was in middle school, taking high school biology, but still just 11 (very smart kid), while Younger Son was 6. I didn't want Older Son to have to deal with this, as a babysitter has real authority that a sibling is more likely to accept. I hired a teenaged neighbor, and I made it clear to all three of them that she was just there to take care of Younger Son. As far as I'm aware, everyone was fine with the situation.

Please correct the person who called her "Meghan Kelly."

Of course, thank you. Probably mashing up Marguerite Kelly, of the longtime Family Almanac, with Meghan Leahy.

I think this is the column the commentator was referring to. However, it reads nothing like how he/she described your response.

Like, zero to do with it. Wow. 

It's terrifying to think what people think I say.

In other news, I can't believe you found this, Person of the Ether. I am in your debt. 

>> Do you get angry/sad/upset when winter comes? Yes?


I read this line, thought of the legislation signed in Georgia this week, and let out a long, bitter laugh.


This isn’t a gender politics issue. Biology put this in women’s control as a practical matter. Until the man can step in to carry a baby, there’s no equivalency here.

The fact is that sex has asymmetrical consequences. For women, there's the possibility of pregnancy, with options afterward that she gets the final say over. For men, there's the possibility of your partner's pregnancy, with options afterward that, ultimately, she gets the say over. This asymmetry is part of what you're choosing when you choose to have sex.

I'm shocked at all the people attacking you over your answer to the first LW. All you're basically saying to him is to wake up! A decision has been made, no matter how much he may not like it, and now he needs to understand that his options all relate to how he deals with that decision, and not on wishing it wasn't so. Yes, he's stuck. But he needs to recognize that he can't get unstuck, no matter how unfair it feels to him. The old reality is gone, and all he can do is figure out how to deal with his new reality.

Thanks. I'm not shocked.

Or moved. Thanks to all ^^ for the articulate backup.

That's it for today. Have a great weekend and type to you here next week. And, again, my condolences to those in the gallery who are grieving.

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.
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