Q. Not My MIL: My husband's first wife died and he maintains a close relationship with her family. He is particularly close to her mother, whom he calls "mom" (his own mother passed away at a young age). Throughout our marriage I respected their relationship, although there were times when I wondered if he was doing a little too much. For example, he has given her a very large sum of money when she bought a new house, or when her nephew got married, etc.—more than what we could afford. Another time, her daughter was meant to visit her but had to cancel the trip last minute—so he invited her to come with us on what was meant to be a romantic getaway so she wouldn't be alone on her birthday. She had surgery a couple of times and both times my husband took unpaid sick leave to take care of her. She's been having medical problems but does not want to live in a nursing home. Her daughter lives in another country so my husband now wants her to move in with us. I could see myself living with his father if need be, but this woman has minimal ties with me. We've had horrendous arguments over whether to live with her or not. He says she is his mother and I should not be so heartless. I certainly don't think of her as my MIL and I don't want her to move in with us. What should we do?
A: Even if his former mother-in-law was his actual mother, I would object to the place she has in his life. People should not go broke to support their parents; they should not ruin romantic weekends with their spouses to accomodate their parents (except for an emergency); and unless both spouses are in favor, they should not move their elderly parents in with them. The problem here is not convincing your husband this woman isn't really his mother, it's that he's undermining his marriage by placing her needs above yours. I try not to end every letter with a call for therapy, but here goes. Stop having the horrendous fights and get the two of you to a neutral party to help you negotiate how your husband can feel he is honoring this woman while respecting your limits.
Q. Re: The Greatest Generation: I think there is a real issue in labeling generations "Greatest" or "Entitled." These labels group an extremely large group of people into one personality trait. Some members of the so-called Greatest Generation are probably entitled. Some members of the so-called Entitled Generation are probably hard-working, honest individuals. Labeling generations this way does not really help us fairly designate groups of people. Perhaps we should be rethinking these labels and what they actually mean. I'm glad the LW's father served in WWII and I am thankful for his service. But that doesn't mean he can act any way he wants.
A: Excellent points, thanks for making them. Yes, the father here seems a little too enamored of hanging a halo over his own father's head. You can honor your father's service, appreciate that he was a great dad, and still be infuriated that he would demean your own son. If the letter writer feels there's nothing to be accomplished by standing up to the old, old man, OK. But it's a bit much that he expects his son to go over and get bashed.
Q. Snip It Good: I am 26 years old, and completely certain that I never want to have children of my own. I am open about this side of myself with partners, family, and friends. For financial reasons, I haven't yet pursued a tubal ligation, but with a new job I'm starting, this surgery may soon be a realistic opportunity. As I consult with doctors to find a suitable course of action, how can I prepare myself for the judgement I may endure because of my young age, and gracefully defend my choice against those who might feel the need to dissuade me?
A: That you're getting your tubes tied is not something you need to share with anyone. If you don't want to discuss this, don't bring it up. But I urge you to choose some less permanent form of birth control. Yes, I know there are many happy child-free people who knew at an early age they never wanted kids and never changed their minds. There are also many people who in their 20s who were convinced they never wanted kids who in their 30s are thrilled to be parents. It's really hard to imagine at age 26 that life could throw so many twists and turns your way that things you were once certain about are now no longer true. I understand you may find my remarks presumptuous and offensive, but keep in mind you sought out my opinion.
Q. I Bought a Book on Procrastination, but I Never Got Around To Reading It: I am a 52-year-old attorney and single mother of three teenagers. I have my own solo practice, and I enjoy what I do—when I do it. My problem is, I get to my office, and I get on Facebook, then go to Pinterest, then read your column—and before I know it, the day is over and I've done nothing. I'm very frustrated with myself. I never miss deadlines, but I should be working harder. We should be comfortable financially, but I make just enough for us to scrape by. I really did buy a book on procrastination, which I never finished reading. I went to a counselor (I had a very hard time finding one I could afford, as my insurance doesn't pay for it), and all she said was, "Well, stop it." I tried ADHD medication and it made me feel jittery and terrible. Do you have any other ideas?
A: You sound like me, except I don't have a law degree and I waste my time with other stuff besides Pinterest and Facebook. First of all, it's important to start your day with my column. After you accomplish that goal, you need to have systems built in that remove temptation. I know there is software you can put in place that will keep you off-line so install some. That way you will only be able to work on your documents for a given period, until you're allowed a window of reward. Instead of beating yourself up, I think mindfulness therapy is a useful way to go. It means you accept your flaws and try to handle them, instead of seeking to trying to extirpate them. Maybe it would help to say, "I've got three great kids, I've built a practice I enjoy, and I like scrolling the Web a little too much." Then when you have an urge to waste time, you say, "Yes, there I go again, I really want to check Facebook, and why not, it's fun. But right now, I'm going to finish two more pages first." Maybe I'll even try taking my own advice!
Emily Yoffe: Thanks everyone. I hope we ride this out safe and dry. Fingers crossed we'll have power in time for next week's chat. Good luck!
In a new approach, we’re publishing the chat transcript in shorter, more digestible pieces. You will still be getting all the questions and answers, and we may even publish bonus letters Prudie didn’t get to address during the chat hour.