Dear Amy: I’m a new mom to a wonderful, healthy and happy baby.
The birth was traumatic. My postpartum period was marred with unbearable pain, physical limitations, and multiple surgeries.
It was a difficult time of my life that I’m trying to move past in order to enjoy the happy times of new parenthood ahead.
I’m having a lot of trouble with some of my mother-in-law’s comments.
During the worst of this painful postpartum time, my active, able-bodied MIL came to visit the baby. I asked her if she’d throw in a load of laundry while she was at the house, since I couldn’t get downstairs easily.
She said no, and her explanation was: “That’s not what I had in mind.”
She was only willing to hold the baby.
Her unwillingness to help with everyday practicalities absolutely gutted me.
I now accept that this is the type of person she is.
The problem is that now, whenever she comes over and complains about having to do her own housework (she is able-bodied and lives alone), it brings back these awful memories of feeling completely abandoned by her during my greatest time of need.
It is literally like a terrifying flashback to those hard days when my pain was so excruciating. I was struggling every day simply not to give up!
How do I get her to stop talking about these things that seem to be so triggering for me?
— Gutted in Illinois
Dear Gutted: My first recommendation is that you pay very close attention to your own health. Your traumatic experience giving birth (and it sounds truly and extremely painful), could have triggered postpartum depression — and/or PTSD.
I am not being deliberately alarmist, but your flashbacks are “terrifying,” and if these feelings don’t ease considerably with time, you really must seek mental health support and treatment.
Regarding your mother-in-law, a frank and respectful talk is in order.
She created a bright boundary regarding exactly how she was willing to be “helpful” to you.
She will hold the baby, if she wants to.
You can initiate a challenging conversation by saying, “This is a hard topic for me to bring up. I hope you will understand that I need to be honest with you. I am still struggling to recover from an incredibly challenging birth. You’ve made it clear that you aren’t willing to help out around our house, and I accept that. But every time you complain about your own burdens, I’m reminded of my own. I really wish you wouldn’t do it.”
Dear Amy: I’ve been following questions in your column from parents whose adult kids keep “bouncing back.”
I feel for them!
I have three sons, ages 19 to 23.
I am aching for an empty nest! My sons are all still at home.
They are all working, going to college, etc., but I don’t see an end in sight.
I am so tired of picking up after them/reminding them of chores, etc.
Hubby and I just long for our freedom. GAWD!
— Don’t See an End
Dear Don’t: I am a parent to five, and I have absolutely “been there.”
Here is hard-earned wisdom for you: If you don’t see an end in sight, your sons certainly won’t.
Those who are working should be paying (some) rent. (Some parents who charge rent choose to save it and then give the amount to the child when they move out.)
Paying for housing gives them experience and exposure to — valuing the roof over their heads.
You and your husband should lay down reasonable expectations for all of your sons, and even if this is an extreme change for them — you parents should stick to your guns.
Do NOT pick up after them. Hound them. It’s more work for you — but you want them to hear your voice in their heads while they develop some life skills.
Choose a move-out date, stick to it, and cheerfully help them to look for housing.
Until then, you and your husband should hold weekly family meetings, where you review how things are going and receive updates from them.
Dear Amy: “Big Tipper in NJ” asked if a restaurant tip should be based on the total before-tax, or after.
Thank you for encouraging generosity.
My response would have been simpler: If you can’t afford to tip a server based on the entire bill (usually a difference amounting to loose change) then you should not dine out and let others serve you.
— Big Tipper
Dear Tipper: Great answer (and thank you for the tip)!
(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)
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