Carolyn Hax: Trials of parenting — and dealing with parents

Carolyn Hax
Columnist December 19, 2012

Hi, Carolyn:

My friend has children. I don’t. Whenever I mention having done something that costs even a medium amount of money, like splurging on a piece of jewelry, her martyr complex comes out: “You’re so lucky you get to do things like that!”

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

Maybe I’m projecting, but this dialogue really irritates me (it happens with other mommy friends, too). Do you think these comments are intended as digs, or are they innocent insights into how moms of small kids actually feel? Do they think I would rather have disposable income than a family?

Philly

No doubt some people take the “Must be nice having [something I don’t]” tone of snarktastic self-validation — but what you describe sounds more like reflexive fatigue from people who rarely sleep.


Try replacing the kids/no kids topic with one that isn’t your hot button — imagine working two jobs to cover your student loans, say, when your friend says, “We’re spending Christmas in St. Bart’s.” You just might blurt, “You’re so lucky you get to do things like that!”

It wouldn’t be your proudest moment, but your lament also would be more insight-into-true-feelings than dig, right?

So respond to your mom friends accordingly. Cliches are your friend in (only) these instances — “Grass is always greener, eh?” — as is life affirmation: “Thanks, I do feel lucky.” When you’re inclined to make a point, there’s always, “ . . . but it’s never as easy as that.”

By the way — some people do choose disposable income over kids. No shame there.

Hi, Carolyn:

What do you say to somebody who has several “I will never ______” things, is openly snarky and condescending to those who do those things . . . and then later does those same things? Then gets angry when questioned about the change of heart, and says they never thought that, or if they did they weren’t THAT mean about it? And is your parent?

I know it will never change. Is there any way other than, “Yeah, okay, whatever,” to respond to either end of the cycle?

Oh You Won’t, Will You?

You can relish each comeuppance, inside.

You can also greet the cycle’s beginning with a mild, “Perhaps you shouldn’t box yourself in,” and its end with, “______.” You’ll both know what goes there, so no need to keep score out loud.

Hi, Carolyn:

I stay at home with our 1-year-old twins. When they sleep, I work on an online class for my master’s degree. When they’re awake, well, they need supervision.

It’s a nice enough life for me, but I also kind of sympathize with far-off friends and family who want to know what I’m doing BESIDES watching the babies . . . not much. When I do get down time, I just want to take a nap! How can I be less boring? Any magic perspective?

Boring

Zzz.

Sorry. My “magic perspective” suggests you strike “be entertaining” from your to-do list.

This is not to be mistaken for license to bore, obviously; unless you have a talent for mining humor out of tedious things, monologuing about babies is cruel and unusual punishment of those whose only crime was to care about you. But you can respond to people’s polite queries with, “What can I say — I watch babies, study and sleep.”

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Subscribe at www.facebook.com/carolynhax.

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