Miss Manners: Mother’s convalescence has inconvenienced her daughter

October 23, 2011

DEAR MISS MANNERS: The mother of a friend of mine recently underwent major surgery. She is home from the hospital and, per her doctor’s orders, needs someone to be with her 24 hours per day for the next couple of months.

My friend has set up a Web site to recruit volunteers for various shifts (mornings, afternoons, overnights, cooking meals, grocery shopping — on your own budget, of course) and frequently sends e-mails asking us to help with these shifts. (I did sign up to be on the e-mail list.)

Normally, I would be happy to help, but it bothers me that my friend doesn’t seem to want to disturb her own social life to help her mother. She works during the day, but during the nights and evenings, I don’t see why she can’t spend more than an occasional night with her mom. Or even move back in with her mom. (My friend does not have a family of her own.)

Her excuse? She still needs to have a social life and likes to spend the night out or at her boyfriend’s house.

The family has opted not to have a personal care assistant to save money, and while I understand this, I can’t help but feel bitter every time I receive another guilt-tripping e-mail requesting someone to stay overnight because my friend doesn’t have time.

Am I being ridiculous? Is there any tactful way to approach this with her?

GENTLE READER: The Victorian approach to philanthropy — “I’ll help you, but only if you let me dictate how you must live” — has been discredited among kindly people. (What — you thought Miss Manners endorsed everything Victorian? You must not have read much history.)

Your friend’s requests are not an invitation to critique her life. But neither should you take them as criticism of you if you decide that she does not need the help.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My daughter eloped about seven months ago. (She has never sent out any elopement notices.) She recently found out they are expecting their first child. Is it possible to send out elopement and pregnancy notices without being tacky? Should she send them separately?

GENTLE READER: “Notices”?

There are plenty of venues nowadays for people to post news about themselves for anyone who cares, and, incidentally, many who don’t. Your daughter is free to post this information any time, if she has not already done so.

From the way you put it, however, Miss Manners has the awful feeling that you are proposing some sort of formal, third-person, mailed announcement.

Such an announcement of a marriage is sent immediately after the wedding — or rather was sent, as it is rarely done now, as a result of which recipients tend to think they have received a wedding invitation and are angry to see that the date is already past.

There is no such thing as a formal announcement of pregnancy, which, yes, would be tacky in the extreme. But what is your hurry about getting out old news? You will soon have fresh news to announce, and baby announcements are perfectly proper.

Visit Miss Manners at her Web site, www.missmanners.com, where you can send her your questions.

@ 2011, by Judith Martin

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