My mother married and had me while she was in high school. She is the bravest woman I know, and she raised my brother and me by herself, put herself through college, and has finally married the love of her life after divorcing my alcoholic father and waste-of-space stepfather. Recently, she discovered she was pregnant again at 41. I am 23 and three months pregnant with my first child. Everyone else in my family, even my younger brother, is happy about our concurrent pregnancies, openly celebrating and making jokes. I feel so weird about this. I get flashes of jealousy and resentment toward my mother and her pregnancy. She obviously is very focused on her own health and family right now, but I feel abandoned. It’s as if this baby has cheated me out of having a mom, or my mother has betrayed me by getting pregnant. I hate myself for feeling this way. It is irrational and petty and hateful, and I can’t even tell anyone about it! I don’t know what to do. I don’t know if it is hormones, or if I have always been an awful person. My husband has commented on the mood swings I have after I talk to my mother, but I lie and just say I am tired. I feel trapped. How do I stop this? How do I get these feelings under control and out of my head? My mother and I are both pregnant, married to lovely men, in good health, and happily employed. I have nothing to be upset over, but I am, and I hate it.
—Pregnant and Resentful
There’s a significant difference between “I have nothing to be upset over” and “I’m feeling something negative that I don’t have to do anything about.” You’re very aware that just because you’re upset it doesn’t mean your mother has done anything wrong, and you’re capable of being happy for her hard-won joy. What you’re experiencing is a pretty typical oldest-child response to finding out you’re about to get a younger sibling: surprise, resentment, fear that you’re going to be loved less or pushed aside, anxious, insecure. The fact that you’re experiencing this unexpectedly, in your 20s, and on the verge of becoming a mother yourself makes this additionally intense. You’re not taking this out on your mother or expecting the world to change to suit your needs. You’re not an awful person. Don’t censor yourself when your husband asks you what’s wrong. Instead, ask him to hear you out and help you talk through your feelings. Consider seeing a therapist or talking about this with a trusted friend for the next few months as you deal with the day-to-day realities of going through pregnancy at the same time as your mother.
Dear Prudence Uncensored
“It’s so normal to want to be parented a little yourself during such a new and difficult time.”
Daniel Mallory Ortberg and Nicole Cliffe discuss this letter in this week’s Dear Prudence Uncensored—only for Slate Plus members.
I live in a three-bedroom house with a couple, who use the master bedroom, and “Hannah.” Hannah and I have our own rooms but share a Jack-and-Jill bathroom. We’ve always gotten along. I routinely take an hourlong bath every day at 6 p.m. I work early and then go to the gym; this has always been my schedule. Recently Hannah hosted her sisters and parents for a visit. Hannah was out and didn’t tell her family about my schedule. I was in the bath when one of her sisters started pounding on the door, saying they needed to get ready to go out. I yelled that I was in the bath. Twenty minutes later, I heard a second pounding on the door. The other sister wanted to use the bathroom. Again, I told her I was in the bath. Both sisters and Hannah’s mother then had a loud discussion of how “horribly rude” I was. I guess they didn’t realize I could hear them through the door. Apparently it’s a huge breach of manners to take a bath when you have guests.
The icing on the cake: Hannah’s mother said I was obviously raised in a barn and my mother should be ashamed of me. I was so embarrassed I didn’t say anything. I stayed in my room all weekend and pled illness to get out of the dinner my other roommates were hosting. I can’t get that conversation out of my head, but I don’t see what good it will do to tell Hannah. What should I do?
The breach of manners wasn’t taking a bath, the breach of manners was continuing with your hourlong bath despite knowing that there were guests in the house who wanted to get ready on a tight schedule. After hearing the first knock, you should have said “I’m taking a bath, but I’ll be out as soon as I can,” cut your bath short, and made the room available. In the future, if guests come to visit—whether Hannah’s family or anyone else—wrap up your baths after 20 minutes and save the long, luxurious soaks for nights when you know no one else needs the bathroom. I’m sorry you had to hear Hannah’s family members venting their frustration, but I think this is worth letting go. If Hannah’s family visits again, you can say something polite and to-the-point like, “I’m sorry I hogged the bathroom last time; if I’m ever using it when you need to get ready, just let me know, and I’ll be sure to wrap up as quickly as possible.”
I’m a happily married man with a young child. Last autumn, an old female friend from college emailed me to reconnect (she’s not on social media). We never dated or flirted, and most of our interactions were tied to our coursework. We then texted for a bit and made vague plans for her to see my band when we were on tour in her part of the country. I told my wife about the correspondence in passing at the time. My band’s tour never materialized, so we didn’t end up seeing each other.
This old friend emailed me again for my address, and I obliged, thinking she got engaged or something. My wife always gets the mail, but the friend’s postcard, addressed to me and family and written in flowery glitter pen, was delivered to our downstairs neighbor by mistake, and I picked it up off the landing while my wife was away for the weekend. On the card, my old friend wrote that she can’t wait to reach out to visit when she’s in the Midwest this summer. The glitter pen looks weird. Can I throw it away and pretend like I never got it? It’s in a hoodie pocket now in the back of my closet, and I’m afraid not initially showing it to my wife makes it look like I’m guilty.
I think you are more stressed out about this than you need to be. You don’t say anything felt off about the contents of the postcard—a postcard addressed to your entire family saying she’s looking forward to getting together when she’s in town is hardly clandestine or suggestive. And glitter pen is not some universally agreed-upon code for “Let’s commit adultery!” It’s not inherently flirtatious, or the equivalent of sealing the back of the envelope with a red lipstick kiss. I think you’re jumping the gun here. If you’re not interested in reviving what was only ever an incidental friendship, you’re under no obligation to stay in touch with this woman, but neither are you obligated to tell your wife anything, because there’s not really anything to tell.
A friend of a friend contacted me about six months ago asking for money. He was in a tough place and was reaching out to anyone who had previously donated to a GoFundMe he had set up a few months earlier. I gave a little and didn’t think much of it. Since then, he’s continually messaged me for money, and the requests have started coming more often. I get that it’s hard out there, and he’s really on the ropes, but I can’t afford to give as much as he’s asking. Should I stop giving money? How do I set up boundaries with a stranger?
—How Do I Stop Giving Money?
You should definitely stop giving money you can’t afford to give away! You can set up boundaries with him by telling him you’re no longer available to make donations. That’s all you have to do! Either he’ll stop asking you, in which case your work is done, or he’ll continue sending requests, which you can either ignore or block, as you prefer. Just because you’ve done something in the past doesn’t mean you are obligated to continue doing it indefinitely.
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I used to work at a restaurant. I loved it but left when my dream job opened up. I used to visit there frequently to eat. I told an old co-worker, Mike, that I was selling my house, and he put in an offer, which I accepted. It seemed perfect, but things soured quickly. Mike called and texted me constantly about issues with the sale rather than talking to my realtor. Negotiations got heated and personal, and I told Mike not to contact me again. He turned icy. While I’m glad I stuck up for myself, I feel anxious about ever going back to the restaurant. It’s a small place with a small staff, so the odds of seeing Mike are high. I wish I was the kind of person who could flounce in and relish watching him serve me after being a jerk, but I’m leaning more toward investing in a good disguise. What else can I do that doesn’t involve spirit gum prosthetics?
—Can’t Go Home Again
I don’t think you should wish to be the kind of person who could revel in watching someone you don’t like wait tables! Working as a waiter is not some sort of just punishment for having been rude, pushy, and invasive. If you want to give the restaurant a wide berth for a little while and wait for the emotional dust to settle, go for it; try to make plans with friends when you finally do revisit so your first trip isn’t by yourself. Don’t go out of your way to speak to Mike, and in the meantime, try exploring other restaurants (with less fraught associations) in your city.
Last year I came out as trans. My wife, our child, and our friends have inundated me with love and support. Our families, not so much. We both come from conservative religious backgrounds. Immediately after I came out, they stopped returning our calls and texts. Some deleted us from their social media. We were not invited over for the holidays, and none of them showed up to our 6-year-old son’s birthday party. My son keeps asking for them, and we don’t know what to tell him about why Nana and Papa no longer visit weekly, or why everyone was absent for his birthday and Christmas.
We assumed our parents would have trouble coping but never thought they would abandon their grandchild. We are aware that we could always go to their homes to try to start a dialogue, but we both agree there’s no use in trying to force someone to have a relationship with us. We’d been putting off our son’s questions with “They’re just very busy,” in the hopes that they’d come around, but it’s been almost a year. What should we tell him? Would the truth impede my son’s ability to reconnect with his family in the future? Should we even want that? While most of my transition has gone better than expected, this one thing has been filling me with guilt. I flip-flop between sadness for my son not having a large family like I did and being relieved that he won’t have to experience their brand of conditional love.
—My Family Abandoned My Son Because I Came Out as Trans
I’m so sorry that your families have turned their backs on you and your wife and son, and that you’re having to explain this to a 6-year-old boy who misses his grandparents. I think you’re right to want to tell him the truth, because at this point it must be clear to him that they’re not “just busy.” Worse, he might start to think that at any moment someone he loves could disappear suddenly and irrevocably because that’s how being busy works—so trying to replace uncertainty and doubt with clarity, even if it’s painful, is ultimately your best choice. He’s a little young to go into much detail, but you can stress the salient facts: that your family has decided they don’t want to see you anymore after your transition, that some people are prejudiced against trans people, that you and your wife love your son and will always be here for him. I don’t think there’s a way you can effectively keep the truth from your son in the long run, and whether he’s ever able to reconnect with them is up in the air (and in many ways outside of your control). If that’s ever possible, it won’t be because he’s been shielded from the truth about the nature of your parents’ decision to shun you.
“After a lot of soul-searching, I’ve decided to divorce my wife of five years. All we did was fight, and we had little in the way of sexual intimacy. The problem is that my soon-to-be ex-wife just had a baby a few weeks ago. It’s four weeks after the birth, and things are worse. We fight constantly and we haven’t had sex for almost four months, so last week I finally got the courage to break ties and move into an apartment.”
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