How can I make my daughter do the housework I can no longer handle?
Due to degenerative diseases, I am now disabled and mostly bedridden, and unable to do the housework I used to do. My husband works full-time at a job where he's on his feet most of his eight- to 10-hour day, yet he comes home, makes supper, loads the dishwasher, and does the laundry. I have a daughter who will be 17 in November. She's in school and works as well, but refuses to help around the house. Her excuse is that she goes to school and works, so she shouldn't have to help out at home, because she wants to have fun before having to enter the "real world." My comment is that we're living in the real world right now and things aren't the way they used to be. All I ask is that she sweep a few times a week, mop floors at least once a week, and dust a couple of days. As someone who's used to having the house looking clean as can be, it bothers me that a) I can't do what I used to, and b) she doesn't even make an effort to help. She spends most of her free time with her friends, but I wish she'd come home long enough to do the few tasks I ask and say, "Hi." My illness has been hard on all of us, but she's been through counseling, with us and by herself, and seemed OK with what's going on. Yet I feel she's being selfish, and I'm resentful toward my own daughter, which causes me to feel guilty for feeling that way about the child I love with all my heart. What do I do?
—Disabled, Displeased, and Distraught
Keeping a spotless house was a point of pride for you, and how painful it must be to no longer be able to do this. But it's the rare teenager who would share this interest, and you have to stop turning your relationship with your daughter into a battle over mopping the floor. When she walks in the door of her home, you don't want her to feel like Cinderella. You want her to feel that even though your family has suffered a blow, you still can support and love and laugh with each other. She's got a full load with school and work, so no wonder that in her free time, she wants to feel young and lighthearted with her friends, not that she's letting you down yet again. It's good you've all gone into therapy. Continue it, and discuss the issues of what you can expect from each other in your changed circumstances. Also look into what local social-service agencies can offer—you might be eligible for house cleaning and other help that would ease your life, and your worries. This doesn't mean your daughter should have no responsibilities at home. Maybe you could have a weekly family spaghetti night, where she and your husband make the dinner and you all sit around the table and talk about your lives—with no one allowed to mention chores. Your daughter will be leaving home soon enough, and you need to reinforce the connections between you so you don't lose her when she goes.
Dear Prudence Video: Shirtless
I started a relationship with an amazing woman just as her last relationship was sputtering out. Our relationship remained open-ended, as she would not commit to me. I would be lying in bed with her, and she would get phone calls from her boyfriend, so she would catch him up on what she was doing. It was heartbreaking. Now it's three years later, we're still dating, and I am very much in love and considering the next step. She travels for work to fantastic locations and meets amazing and successful people. When we're together, everything is perfect, but when she's away, she seems very emotionally distant. She has many nonprofessional conversations with some of these people when she's back—she is entitled to her personal life—but I always get the feeling there's something more going on. Since I watched her destroy another man's life firsthand, and I know he still has no idea who I am or what happened, I am unnerved by other men in her life. She tells me nothing is going on. Can I ever build trust enough in this relationship to take the plunge, or am I doomed to always be fearful of a repeat performance?
—Mo' Info, Mo' Problems
You say when your love was next to you in bed, having intimate phone conversations with her cuckolded boyfriend, it was "heartbreaking." Obviously you mean for him, but was it also for you too, because you were imagining what it would feel like to be next? And now here you are three years later, noticing that when you have long-distance conversations with her, she sounds a little, well, distant, as if maybe someone else is in the room. When you say you'd like to take the plunge with her, I assume you don't mean being plunged into the despair of being the next guy whose life she "destroys." Perhaps your girlfriend is telling the truth when she says nothing's going on—but it sounds as if you don't believe it, which is almost as bad as being cheated on. Nor does it seem that over the course of three years, she's become much more interested in changing the rather uncommitted nature of your relationship. There doesn't seem to be any way to build trust and move to the next step without airing all your desires and concerns, seeing where she stands, and deciding whether you believe her.
Photograph of Prudie by David Plotz.