Got a burning question for Prudie? She’ll be online at Washingtonpost.com to chat with readers on a special day next week due to the Presidents Day holiday: Tuesday, Feb. 22, at 1 p.m. Submit your questions and comments here before or during the live discussion.
I have a 5-year-old daughter who loves to take showers and baths with my husband and me. Sometimes just with me, sometimes just with him, sometimes all three of us together. Is it a bad idea for my husband and daughter to still shower together? I am always in the house, and she doesn’t like showering alone. We’ve been doing it since she was a baby, and nothing creepy is going on, but I noticed my husband is getting uncomfortable. If my husband or I am in the whirlpool tub, she unlocks the door and hops in. She also walks into the bathroom during “private” bathroom functions. Is this OK? I know at some point we will have to break her of it. If she hears one of us say “shower,” she brings her jammies down and hops in. Is this bad or potentially harmful?
Context matters. In Japan it is not unusual for both parents to bathe with their children even beyond toddlerhood. In some Nordic countries, whole families go into the sauna together. In your household, all of you are casually comfortable with nudity and bodily functions, so your daughter will grow up with a healthy lack of shame around this. However, that doesn’t mean the potty parties should last forever. It’s time for your daughter to start understanding the concept of privacy. Explain that when you and Daddy are on the toilet, you want to be alone, so each of you is going to shut the door, and she needs to wait until you’re done. Since your husband is starting to feel uncomfortable with the family bath hour, he has to follow his instinct and lather up solo. He can tell your daughter now that she’s getting so big, it’s time for just the girls in the house to shower together. Your daughter may always be the kind of free spirit who’s only too happy to drop her drawers for a dip in the hot tub—which may present its own set of problems around 2021. But it’s just as likely that in a few years you will discover you are living with a modern-day Puritan who cringes at the thought of seeing her parents’ flesh or letting you see hers. And since you mention she loves to unlock the door of the whirlpool herself, invest in childproof locks; you don’t want your little mermaid bathing without supervision.
Dear Prudence: Housewarming Blues
I’m in my early 50s and have been happily married for more than 20 years. I am also an only child to two 90-year-olds in failing health, and I’m committed to helping my parents fulfill their wish of dying in their own home. They have part-time help, but there is still plenty for me to do: doctor appointments, late-night falls, thrice daily visits, even combing Mom’s hair because no one else can do it in a way she likes. As a result, I’ve been preoccupied and quick-tempered. I long for this phase of my life to be over, and then I feel guilty for thinking such a thing. The truth is, my husband is not my top priority right now; I just have too many other pressing responsibilities—like lifting mom on and off the toilet 10 times a day. We’ve tried date nights, but they are frequently interrupted by phone calls from my parents in need. Going on a vacation is impossible. Whether my husband and I are watching TV or making love, my mind is on my parents. I now worry frequently about my own old age and want to craft a suicide plan for the day when I can no longer enjoy life. When a previously strong couple faces a bad spell, what can they do to get back to the closeness they had before?
When your parents’ wish to die in their own home is killing you, it’s time to rethink their final plans. Of course you want to help your parents to the best of your ability. But if that means capsizing your marriage, going without vacations, or being unable to enjoy life’s pleasures, then your parents are asking too much. A nursing home does not have to be an ammonia-scented warehouse. I’ve been to depressing ones, and I’ve been to lovely ones. Your parents clearly need round-the-clock care. If they were getting it at a facility, you could start paying attention to your husband again and return to being your parents’ daughter instead of their nurse. They’re in the final round, yes, but it could last months or even years. When you find yourself longing for their deaths and fantasizing about your own, something’s got to change. Whatever you do, it will be hard, but you can’t sacrifice your life and sanity for the sake of overseeing your parents’ end.
My wife and I have recently learned that we are going to have our first child. The pregnancy was unexpected. Nonetheless, this is wonderful news, except for one thing: The due date falls on the same day as my sister’s wedding, which will be held eight hours from where we live. My sister loves being the center of attention, and we worry that she will think we are trying to steal the spotlight on her special day. We are almost certain that she will throw a fit when we tell her that we cannot attend her wedding, because she has a history of throwing temper tantrums over perceived slights. We feel terrible about the situation, but there’s nothing we can do about it. Any tips on how to break the news so I’m not writing to you again in a year about my estrangement from my sister?
If you have a sister who would have a hissy fit over the fact that the arrival of a niece or nephew is stealing the spotlight from “her day,” I’m curious as to how she convinced some poor sap to marry her. First of all, stop feeling “terrible” that you’re about to become parents. You didn’t owe your sister a vow of abstinence during her “wedding season.” And if you and your wife were to show up at the wedding, just think how your sister would react if your wife’s water broke and made your sister slide down the aisle. The good news is your wife is pregnant; there’s no bad news. Yes, it’s unfortunate you will miss the wedding, but a simultaneous marriage and birth just means your family is in for an abundance of good fortune. There’s nothing to say to your sister except that while you’re so excited to become parents, you’re sorry it means your wife will be in labor during the ceremony. But when your sister gets back from the honeymoon, you’ll be able to introduce her to her niece or nephew. If you sister says one tantrumlike thing in response, then you say, “Sue, I’m going to pretend you never said that, and I’m going to hang up so you don’t say anything else I’ll regret hearing.”
I’m a graduate student, and my adviser has been staging mock interviews for us so we have an idea of what to expect when it’s time to enter the job market. Apparently, in the interview, I came across as “high-maintenance,” a “prima donna” personality type, and generally someone who is difficult to work with. This is simply not true! The interviewer loved my credentials but definitively did not want to hire me based on my interview, which is just mortifying. My adviser was present, and he gave me feedback about how I must present myself differently to avoid giving an inaccurate picture of who I am. My personality is naturally confident, direct, and aggressive, which is valuable in my field. Frankly, I’m embarrassed to even confront this aspect of my personality, but I need to change this so I can stop misrepresenting myself. I have real interviews coming up! How do I show the true me, without overdoing it on the first impression?
—The Accidental Diva
I can certainly sympathize, because I’m also one of those people who has had to learn that less is plenty when it comes to me. What you think is “confident, direct, and aggressive” apparently comes across as superior, rude, and hostile. Your adviser had a great idea about giving you some training; now you have to continue it on your own. You should see yourself in action, so recruit some friends to conduct and film mock interviews. Then watch the results and listen to their critiques—it would be great if you could get your adviser to help with the review. Use your own “confident, direct, and aggressive” qualities to analyze what you’re doing right and wrong. Study tough television interviews and note the style of people who successfully keep their cool and charm while being grilled. You don’t want to give yourself a personality lobotomy—you’ll come off as stilted and artificial. You need to figure out how to be the real you, just in a more palatable dose.
More Dear Prudence Columns
“A Cornucopia of Crises: Prudie takes on Thanksgiving quandaries involving uninvited guests, the ghosts of holidays past, and exiled smokers.” Posted Nov. 18, 2010.
”Bob & Carol & Ted & Malice: My parents’ swinger friends are trying to blackmail our family after Mom and Dad’s tragic deaths.” Posted Sept. 30, 2010.
”No Debt of Gratitude: I borrowed cash from Dad to care for my dying mom. Now he’s demanding payback.” Posted Aug. 12, 2010.
”Dirty Pretty Things: My girlfriend has worn the same undergarment for weeks. Isn’t that disgusting?” Posted Aug. 27, 2009.
More Dear Prudence Chat Transcripts
“The Grinch Who Stole Thanksgiving: Prudie counsels readers on Turkey Day predicaments, such as flying solo for the holiday, hosting irritating in-laws, and attending multiple dinners. Posted Nov. 22, 2010.
”Baby Mama Drama: Prudie counsels a sleuth who uncovered a baby-trap scheme—and other advice-seekers.” Posted Nov. 1, 2010.
”The Family That Bathes Together: Prudie counsels a mother who wonders when the time is right to stop bathing with her little boy.” Posted Oct. 12, 2010.
”Help! I’m Too Hot for My Age: Prudie counsels a woman whose youthful looks bring her nothing but problems—and other advice seekers.” Posted Feb. 8, 2010.