Dear Prudence

She Had Him First

My husband goes on road trips with his mother.

Emily Yoffe.
Emily Yoffe

Photo by Teresa Castracane.

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Dear Prudie,
I am in my late 20s and have been married to a wonderful guy “Dave” for three years. He and his mother have always had a very close relationship (which I think is great), especially when it comes to their mutual love for a local professional sports team. They have a tradition of going on trips to see their team play away games. This went on even after we began dating, and is continuing now that we are married and have our own home. I think it’s extremely bizarre for a married man in his early 30s to still be taking trips with his mother and sharing a hotel room. He has been on three trips with her in the six years that we have been together. (I was invited only once.) I have expressed to both of them that I don’t think it’s appropriate that these trips are still taking place, and I was basically shrugged off. (His father doesn’t seem to see any problem with it.) Now they have another trip coming up, which they booked without consulting me. I have no problem with their attending a few home games per year together, but I think it’s time that these overnight trips came to an end. I definitely don’t want this continuing once we have children. Should I put my foot down, or should I just accept that this a tradition that is going to continue despite my efforts to put an end to it?

—Starting to Feel Like the Other Woman

Dear Starting,
This indeed is deeply disturbing—not the trips themselves, but your implication that something untoward, even incestuous, is going on between your husband and his mother. If this is what you believe is taking place, then you owe it to your unborn children for them to remain that way until you get a divorce and find a husband not in a Psycho-like relationship with his mother. But despite your vague insinuations, I don’t think even you think that’s what is going on. In the time you’ve known your husband he and his mother have gone to see their favorite team play an away game every other year. So what? They have a passionate attachment to a sport that you apparently don’t share. Given your attitude, it’s no wonder they only extended a request for your company once. I agree it’s inconsiderate for your husband to announce his upcoming departure without talking to you beforehand. But I hope you can see that he wanted to avoid listening to your unreasonable demands. Without an additional list of bizarre behaviors that would bolster your case that an intervention is needed, I don’t see the problem. You even say you’re glad he and his mother enjoy each other’s company. So to ensure that Dave continues to enjoy yours, stop your foul objections, and join your father-in-law in wishing them a fun trip that ends in victory.


Dear Prudence, 
My husband and I are expecting our second child around the end of June. We are also planning a big move this spring to a new city to be closer to my family. We are both excited, but my husband will have to give up most of his freelance career in New York—although he will travel occasionally. One of his biggest jobs of the year lasts four days and comes at the end of June and he wants to accept because it’s a lot of money, which we could use. (I’m the main breadwinner and he’s the main child care provider.) But I’m concerned he could miss the baby’s birth or the first few days of our child’s life, given my due date. On the one hand I am incredulous that he would be willing to miss such an important family moment. On the other, I don’t want to deprive him of a big job when I know that they will be few and far between, and he’s making a big career sacrifice to be nearer my family. I suggested he line up a possible replacement, but he is a perfectionist and doesn’t really have someone he trusts to fill in for him. Should I let him accept the job and possibly miss the birth of our second child or try to convince him I need him next to me and that he should turn it down? 

—Labor Dilemma

Dear Labor,
It’s hard to imagine your husband laboring away on a freelance project while you’re laboring in the maternity ward. No one knows how a birth will go, and the father just has to be there except for unavoidable circumstances, like being deployed in the military. It’s also hard to imagine your husband feeling good about missing his child’s arrival, and not being there to support you, for a freelance project, however lucrative. It’s possible that when planning his or her appearance, the baby might take both your needs into consideration, but newborns are notoriously uncooperative. Since this is a recurring project and your husband is a known quantity to the employer, he needs to talk this out with them. Maybe there’s a way he can oversee the planning with the understanding this year that would mean he has to have a well-trained assistant on-site while he remains available remotely. If the baby arrives before the job and all is well, let him go for a few days while your family helps you out. But he and his employer may conclude that this year he just can’t do the job, but that your husband should stay in touch and hope to get the gig back in 2016. You both have major projects in the works, but the one he started with you has to take precedence. 


Dear Prudence,
I work for a small affiliate of a large, nationally-known nonprofit. We have fewer than 10 employees and are often short on volunteers, so I put in many hours of volunteer time. The problem is that my family is expected to help out as well. They do not like my boss because she can be rude and makes them uncomfortable. Though they support what we do, they are reluctant to participate if she is around. One of my roles in the organization is to be the “nice face” and smooth things out with donors, volunteers, and clients, but often she is rude to me as well. We live in a small town and all of us are involved in community projects, so their absence is conspicuous. How do I explain to my boss that my family is unwilling to help without hurting her feelings?

—Don’t Want to Hurt My Cause

Dear Hurt,
If you work for an organization that, say, collects blood, I’m afraid your boss has to understand even that does not give her the right to drain you dry. Nor does your employment give her dibs on what flows in the veins of your family members. It would be ironic if you worked for a group that fought abuse, because you need an intervention yourself. Horrible bosses show up everywhere, but my inbox shows a preponderance of them are do-gooders by profession. The work required to make the world better seems to attract people with a gift for making the lives of the people around them worse. Explain to your boss that your family members do not work for your organization, so you cannot require them to attend your events. You’ve also got to stop the unpaid labor. It’s one thing if your organization does a couple of major events at which everyone is expected to pitch in. It’s another if your work week is expected to encompass all your free time, for free. Since one of your duties is to save the organization by keeping everyone important from stomping off because your boss offends them, you have an obligation to inform headquarters of the peril your affiliate is in. The best thing you can do for yourself, your family, and the cause you believe in is to have someone competent put in charge.


Dear Prudence,
In 2013 my mom died at age 87, and my dad died recently at age 94. They were both deeply loved, and since our extended family is spread far and wide, we have set a date for a joint memorial service for this April. I am the only family member who lives in the city where this will take place, and I want to open my home as a place for everyone to gather and visit. However, I have one brother and his wife that have made it clear that I would never be welcomed in their home because they do not approve of my “lifestyle.” I have had a same-sex partner for over 10 years, and they have never recognized him at all, ever. My dad, who lived with us until the end of his life, loved my partner as he would one of his sons. Even my ex-wife, who will be attending, accepts my partner as part of the family. I will not disrespect my partner and have them in my home when he is not welcome in theirs. So, do I have a gathering at our home and tell my brother and his wife they are not welcome, or do I just not plan to host anything and avoid the drama?

—Don’t Darken My Door

Dear Don’t,
Please don’t let these bigots in any way dampen the celebration of the lives of two beloved and loving people. Fortunately, this brother and his wife are outliers. Your father embraced your partner as one of his own, and it must have been deeply distressing to him to see his other son behave in such a repugnant way. You must have the reception. I understand why you’d want to tell your brother and his wife that they are unwelcome at your home, but I think you should perform some emotional jujitsu on them by not doing what they’ve done to you. Barring them may not even be even be necessary; they may decide on their own not to come. If so, great. But if they do show up, I think you and your partner should take a deep breath and welcome them. They know the rest of your family finds their stance unacceptable, so they will be the ones on notice. As long as they behave politely, show them where the refreshments are and then have little interaction. If they do say rude things to you or your partner, then ask them to leave. It’s a long shot, but this event might be the kind of turning point that causes hateful people to re-examine their assumptions. 


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