Dear Amy:

My husband and I have a 7-month-old baby son, and I don't feel comfortable allowing my mother-in-law to baby-sit.

Every time she visits, she asks when she can baby-sit.

I have major trust issues with her because we found out last year that she had been cheating on my father-in-law for eight years with various men.

My husband and I have caught her in lies before.

I walked in on her with one of her male friends, and she proceeded to tell me that he was just there to fix the computer, but I knew better when I found him hiding in the kitchen with his shirt off.

I am having huge trust issues because of this, and I do not feel comfortable allowing her to look after our son. I am afraid that she will take our son and drive all around the country with him because she insisted on buying a car seat for her car for him.

My husband remembers her telling him and his brothers when they were little that they ruined her life and that she hated them. My husband agrees that he does not want her to look after our son, but he has never told her that we don't feel comfortable leaving him with her.

We have been able to push her off for the past seven months, but I am terrified to go back to work because I know she will take her holidays off and want to look after our son instead of his going to the babysitter.

I don't know if we are overreacting, but it has come to the point where I stress about this every day, and it is taking a toll on my well-being.

Any advice or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Don't Trust Mother-in-Law

Even the most careful parents realize that leaving their child with others requires a series of leaps of faith. Even if you've carefully checked references, when you first go back to work and drop your baby off with his babysitter, you'll sit in the car and think to yourself, "There is no way I'm leaving my baby with that stranger." And yet, you will leave your baby and when you return to pick him up you'll most likely see that he got through the day in fine shape. After taking the initial leap, you and your sitter will build up a relationship of trust. It is possible to do the same with your mother-in-law.

That having been said, you and your husband should never allow your mother-in-law or anybody else to pressure you into spending time alone with your son. You shouldn't hint around and stress over this, but the baby's father should simply tell her that you won't need baby-sitting and that if you want her to sit, you'll be sure to ask. You don't have to explain it -- you just have to be responsible parents and be in charge.

Perhaps in time your mother-in-law will prove to be an attentive and responsible grandparent -- any grandparents have discovered that their parenting skills are better when they are one generation removed from the stresses and strains of full-time parenting. But it's your call to make, and you shouldn't make that call until she proves to you through her actions that she is trustworthy.

Dear Amy:

I'm 73 and have been seeing a 70-year-old woman for about a year.

We are both financially secure. For a while we each paid our own way.

About two months ago, she decided that the man should pay all the bills when we date (a couple of times a week). I've been paying all the dating bills as she requested. However, I feel that because our finances are equal, she should pay her half.

Your opinion?

A Senior Date

I'm with you.

But you two need to talk about this. Her reasons for wanting you to pay might reveal a great deal about how she feels about the relationship.

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

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