Ask Amy: Smoking mother prompts ultimatum

September 9, 2012

DEAR AMY: Approximately three years ago I became very sick with an upper respiratory infection that essentially never went away. The illness was bad enough to damage my lungs, leaving an asthmatic condition that has me on a daily steroid inhaler and a rescue inhaler for when my lungs close up.

My mother wants me to visit her over Christmas in Florida, which would be a nice change from my current locale that time of year. The issue is that both she and her live-in boyfriend smoke like chimneys, and tobacco smoke is one of the biggest triggers I have for an asthma attack.

Unfortunately, when I express concern over this, she tries to pass it off as, “The house never smells like smoke, so it’ll be okay.” When she lived in my home town, I couldn’t even be in her house without being short of breath, let alone staying longer, especially since she’s unemployed now and spends more time at home than ever before.

My ultimatum is pretty simple, and I don’t feel I need to compromise on it: Either she quits smoking or I spend Christmas halfway across the country from her. I cannot, and will not, risk my health, as I already nearly ended up in the emergency room last year for this condition. What are your thoughts on this situation? -- Breathless in the Midwest

DEAR BREATHLESS: Your ultimatum needs to be attached to a Plan B. You should assume that regardless of what you tell your mother to do, she either won’t be willing to quit smoking or won’t be able to quit. Or maybe she will tell you that she did quit but didn’t.

And then there is the matter of her live-in companion. He needs to quit, too, and you should assume that he either won’t or can’t.

Your health is your primary concern, and guarding it is your responsibility. If you want to visit your mother, you should state, simply, “I wish I could, but I can’t stay with you because you smoke.” Maybe she has a nonsmoking friend or neighbor you could bunk with. That (or staying home) is your Plan B.

DEAR AMY: I’m a mom of two and had been with my kids’ father for 71 / 2 years until he decided to end it with me, giving no reason why. He simply stated that he needed to find himself.

Three months after he left, he told me he cheated on me and got the girl pregnant. She is quite young and doesn’t know about his other life. She doesn’t know he already has kids.

I still love him, but I’m just not sure if I should make the effort. What do you think? -- Confused and Alone

DEAR CONFUSED: You should definitely make the effort, and the effort you should make has everything to do with you and your children and nothing to do with reuniting with the man who dumped all of you.

Your former partner needs to financially provide for his children, and so you must pursue legal representation to receive child support. You should also receive counseling to sort out why you maintain that you still love someone who is so obviously undeserving.

Yearning is not the same as loving someone. You must marshal all of the emotional support you can find to recover from this loss and move on.

DEAR AMY: The letter from “Cheapskate” made me smile. This person was an invited guest at a wedding and received a request in advance that she should send a check for $125 to help cover the cost of the band that would be providing music at the reception.

I think Cheapskate should have sent the check, along with a note saying, “Consider this my gift to the couple.” -- Also a Cheapskate

DEAR ALSO: Another option is to not send a check and say, “Because I’m not paying for it, I promise not to listen to the band.”

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

2012 by the Chicago Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Media Services

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