Help! I’m a Happily Married College Grad, but My Parents Still See Me as a Failure.

Advice on manners and morals.
May 12 2014 3:23 PM

Everybody’s a Critic

In a live chat, Prudie counsels a happily married college grad whose parents still see her as a failure.

(Continued from Page 1)

Q. Re: Mother’s Day: I’m now in my mid-20s, and 10–15 years ago my mother probably could have described me this way. It truly took being on my own to understand how much my mom did for me. I appreciate her so much more now, and in hindsight probably shouldn’t have been such a lame teenager. But, I think this year in the past few years I’ve been able to truly show my mom how much I appreciate everything she did, and still continues to do. I’m sure this feeling will be multiplied even more when I have my own kids.

A: Many teenagers tend to be lame on the gratitude-to-the-adults-in-their-lives front. However, that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be addressed. These are important lessons for parents to impart, and teenagers can recognize the rather startling fact that their parents are people, too, and the relationship they have with them is reciprocal.

Q. Re: On being a MIL: The best advice I ever received before I married was from my best friend’s mother. She told me that if I didn’t want my mom to dislike/hate my husband, a lot of the responsibility was on me. If my husband and I had a disagreement and I was upset, I should NOT run to my mom and tell her about it. While I would most certainly “forgive and forget” whatever small irritation it was deemed at the time to be so critical, my mom wouldn’t. She might forgive him, but she would never forget it. My best friend’s mom was very wise and it has held me in good stead for 21-plus years. My mom adored her son-in-law till the day she passed away.

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A: Thanks for this. And this speaks to the fact that sometimes it is good for older people to speak up and impart their wisdom—whether it’s taken or not. What your best friend’s mother told you about marriage sounds as if it was tailored to her knowledge of your own mother. There are some mothers and daughters who can hash such things out, with the mother being able to put the information aside and not punish the son-in-law. But I agree with your basic point that if you’re old enough to get married, you’re too old to run to mom every time something upsets you.

Q. Guests on Mother’s Day Dinner: I am visiting my daughter and granddaughter out of state. I was looking forward to our Mother’s Day outing as we do every year, but I was taken aback when I realized that my daughter had invited one of her friends and her daughter (who is a playmate of my granddaughter) to the Mother’s Day dinner. Additionally, the young girl was at the house on the previous day along with more friends for a sleepover so we did see her mother and visited briefly with her. I just wonder if we could have skipped the additional company during this occasion since these people live in the area and my family is able to see them much more frequently.

A: Maybe your daughter’s friend doesn’t have a mother. Maybe she doesn’t have a husband, so there’s no one to celebrate her. Maybe your daughter thought the two little girls would keep each other entertained while the adults talked. Yes, I can understand your feeling miffed that an outsider attended your special day. And next year, well in advance, tell your daughter that you really enjoy her friends, but you want to be able to go out just as a family. But it sounds as if you were gracious yesterday, so let that stand and let it go.

Q. Piano Teacher’s Home Smells: My kid has been taking piano lessons for years from a lovely teacher who does not keep her piano studio very clean. For years, we tolerated the dust and smell (unclean cat box, I believe), since teacher also had a full-time office job, and I sympathized with her for not having the time and energy to clean. Teacher is now retired from her office job over a year, and still, her piano room is dusty and smells painfully bad (it’s quite gross). Can we say something to her? I fear the smell and dust must turn away potential students.

A: If children must hold their breath to get through the lesson, fainting from hypoxia is not going to improve their musical skills. Yes, you can tell her that she’s a wonderful teacher, but the dirt and odor in her home need to be addressed—and you fear the conditions are turning away other pupils. If she can’t fix this, your child might be one of those who eventually finds a more congenial place to make beautiful music.

Q. Domestic Partnership: A year ago, my best friend and I, both fresh out of marriages, decided to move in together and to partner in raising our children and running our household. This is not a temporary situation, but one that we envision to be permanent, at least until the youngest graduates high school in 15 years. Our children have blended wonderfully and refer to each other as brothers and sisters; they all recognize us as equal moms. What we have is truly a “domestic partnership” in every sense of the word, and we are often mistaken for being a romantic couple. Generally speaking, when this occurs, we don’t even bother to correct the mistake as what happens in our bedrooms is no one’s business. Recently we have discussed making our partnership formal in the legal sense in order for us to have legal protections for one another (i.e., the ability to make health care decisions; the legal ability to be viewed as stepparents, etc.). My only concern is that entering into a domestic partnership as two straight women cheapens it. However, the argument has also been made that since domestic partnership is open to any couple—LGBTQ, heterosexual, and even siblings—where we live, that we aren’t cheapening it, we are simply putting it to use as intended. Thoughts?

A: If you two want to have legal protection so that you can each care for each other and each other’s kids, then you should take steps to ensure this, whether it is becoming domestic partners or drawing up a private document. You are domestic partners, and since the law gives you an opportunity to register as such, it does not cheapen this right for people who are in romantic relationships. However, you each were in marriages in which you presumably pledged lifelong fealty, and you know how that can work out. So I’m a little concerned that you two have concluded, just a year in, that this set up is for the long haul. You say you don’t even correct people when they assume you are romantic partners, so many people will assume you are. But your aren’t, and the two of you—once you recover from your divorces, may decide you want real romantic partners. That’s surely going to complicate your living situation. You two sound as if you have great thing going, but you each need the ability to assess where you’re at and be open with each other if your personal needs change. 

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Emily Yoffe is a regular Slate contributor. She writes the Dear Prudence column. 

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