A: I would assume your father-in-law would refer you to one of his colleagues because having you as a patient would be a little too close to home. Since you have a specialist in high-risk pregnancies essentially on call, definitely call on your father-in-law. Ask him for his advice about switching from your current Ob—explain you like her very much. If he says a triplet pregnancy needs specialized care, ask if he can help get you into the office of the second-best obstetrician in town.
Q. Preschool Judgment: I have 4-year-old twin girls and an 18-month-old son. My husband has an excellent job and I have a small inheritance. I also work part-time from home as a photographer, specializing in studio portraits of expecting mothers and young children. My kids attend a wonderful day care nearby in the mornings so I can work in my studio without distraction. Recently, another mother from my child's preschool asked me to take some photos of her family. I agreed and gave her the "friends and family" rate. Although I never mentioned it, somehow she found out about my inheritance. Other mothers at day care have started acting very snarky and passive aggressive about my "dream life" and that I put my kids in day care so I can "play." I finally told them that I have a bachelor in fine arts in photography and a bachelor of arts in business management. I take my photography business seriously and it is an insult for them to describe it as "playing." They told me that they put their children into day care because they have to work to pay bills; and I am selfish and put them in even though I play at a job at home. Thus far, none of this has trickled down to the relationships my children have with their friends. But I am very uncomfortable around these other mothers and find myself unintentionally in the middle of the Mommy Wars. Any advice?
A: It would be great if one of your kids' teachers could take all the other mommies and put them in a time out. Then Miss Jean could talk to them about 1) playing nicely, and 2) the concept of “none of your business.”
You offered another mother the friends and family rate, and she turned around and thought the appropriate response is not, "Thanks so much," but, "Hey, I'm going to tell everyone she's a rich dilettante." File under No Good Deed Goes Unpunished. You made an understandable mistake by getting defensive and trying to explain your life to this crew. I'm hoping that there are still some nice girls among the mean ones you've just encountered, so try to cultivate them. Stop responding to the others' remarks. You could have a discussion with the director of the school, but I'm not sure what she can do. If going to school events becomes a stomach-churning exercise for you, ultimately you might have to find another wonderful school that's a little less convenient.
Q. Re: My FIL the Doctor: I'm a physician, and at my hospital, there is a pretty strict policy against treating family members. Chances are the same rule applies to your letter writer and her FIL. Just ask the FIL to recommend a capable colleague, and no doubt he will be happy to help out.
A: Thanks for the confirmation. Problem solved!
Q. How To Say Thanks?: Before my parents met, dad married his high school sweetheart "Elaine," who passed away two years into the marriage after being hit by a drunk driver. She was three months pregnant. After my parents got married and had me, Elaine's parents would send me birthday or Christmas gifts every now and then. I am now in my 20s and neither my parents or I have had any contact with them for a long time. Then they telephoned my parents out of the blue and told them that in the process of drafting a new will, they decided to leave most of their assets to me. Dad since told me that Elaine's parents have no siblings, so they must consider me a step-grandchild of a sort. I'm shocked and also grateful. What are my obligations toward an elderly couple I don't know very well, who are leaving me a very generous gift after they pass away?
A: One's heart breaks for these people who lost everything. It's too bad that your parents couldn't, or didn't want to keep in better touch with them over the years. I can understand the emotional complications of this, but an occasional visit allowing them a connection to a young person could have been lovely for everyone. Their gift comes with no strings, but consider creating some ties. If they live close enough for an easy visit, I think you, perhaps accompanied by your father, should go for a visit. Think of what it would mean to these old people. If you're not close, write a letter. Yes, you should open by thanking them for their generosity, but it shouldn't be just about the money. Tell them about yourself, your education, your interests, and include some pictures. There seems to be very little chance, given their reticence over the past couple of decades, that you will be drawn into a smothering relationship. More likely, all of you will be enriched.
Q. Paying for Brother's Cellphone: I've been paying for our family's cellphone plan (my mother, brother, and my husband) for the past five-plus years. When my brother got married a little over a year ago, I assumed he would start his own plan with his wife, but that didn't happen. He is a year older than I am but his choice of profession means he makes much less. My husband and I are not struggling by any means and the bill is not much (about $20/month for my brother's portion), but in principle I am offended that he continues to let me pay for his bill without so much as a thank you. Do I have a right to say something or should I just suck it up and continue to pay this bill ad nauseam?
A: Instead of seething with resentment, just talk to your brother. His bill had been paid for so long that it might not even be on his radar. Since you volunteered to do this, and have never unvolunteered, in all innocence he may be thinking you're getting a great rate and enjoy giving him this gift. So without rancor say, "Hey bro, now that you're a big married man, I'm going to cut you loose off the family plan I'm paying for the parents and let you set up your own. Why don't you do some research so you can get the best rate, then let me know in a few weeks when I can notify the company that I'm taking you off my plan."
Q. I Wish Her Well: My ex-wife and I divorced after losing our young daughter in a car accident. We have kept in touch sporadically, and we usually communicate around the anniversary of our daughter's death. My ex-wife remarried two years ago, and now I learned through a mutual friend that she's pregnant. I want to send her a small note expressing my joy for her—I am sincerely happy that she's found peace and jubilation—but I don't know if that's an appropriate gesture.
A: Your letter has me crying. I'm so sorry for your loss. I think your gesture is remarkable and wonderful and shows a great generosity of spirit. I'm sure it will be a relief for your ex to hear you are happy for her.
Q. Just Ask for the $20/Month for the Cellphone: If you trust your brother either to a) pay you six months or a year in advance or b) pay you monthly, why not keep your brother on the plan? Instead of the $40-$70 it might cost him on his own, it will save him money he doesn't have to spend, but he'll still be contributing. This only applies if you don't mind doing it this way—if it really just is about chipping in.
A: Very good suggestion. Yes, instead of cutting off the brother, say that it will save him money to keep him on the plan, but you'd like to be reimbursed for it. And a yearly or semi-yearly payment will be easier on everyone.
Q. Run-In With Old Fling: My husband and I are happily married and work in the same field. In two weeks, we'll be attending a work conference together in another state. About 10 years ago, long before my husband and I met, I had a one-night stand with "Zach," a man in our field who I had known for a long time, at this same conference. Zach and I haven't spoken since that night, but I heard through the grapevine that he will be attending the conference again this year. While my husband and I certainly have discussed our respective sexual histories, we're not the type that feels the need to swap nitty-gritty details, and he does not know about my encounter with Zach. Zach is the type of guy who gets a kick out of making outrageous, embarrassing statements and I am terrified that he'll bring up our fling in front of my husband or other colleagues. Should I at least warn my husband or do I just wait it out to see if Zach can keep his mouth shut?
A: I agree that couples aren't obligated to swap lists of formers. But what you don't want to happen is for outrageous Zach to elbow your husband and say, "So does she still scream when she comes?" Warn your husband that Zach was a fling—when they meet he will understand why it was brief—and you wanted to give him a heads up in case Zach decides to discuss ancient history.
Q. Re: FIL the Doctor: This is the original LW with the triplets and Ob/Gyn FIL. Thank you for the follow-up! My husband and I had discussed it but hadn't brought it up to his father yet because of my "ick factor" hesitations. Sounds like it's a nonissue, and you're right that we're lucky to have his consult on call. Thanks again!
A: Wonderful —and congratulations on your impending bundles of joy.