Dear Prudence is Slate’s advice column. Submit questions here. (It’s anonymous!)
I got accidentally pregnant after a brief fling on vacation. He was a man from another country. We used protection, and I was on birth control, but life finds a way. I went to the doctor thinking I had the flu, and while it was a shock, I was excited. I am in my mid-30s, financially secure, and have always wanted to be a mother someday. I thought my family would be happy for me.
All the congratulations are tinted with their “questions” and “concerns.” Either I am particularly promiscuous (birth control is 99 percent effective if used “properly,” you know) or I am an idiot child (what were you thinking not getting his contact info—you are having his child, a child needs a father). I felt so alienated I planned to cut my visit short when my sister made a crack about me using my lover as a sperm donor so I could skip clinic fees. She was drunk, but I was stone-cold sober. I turned around and told her that at least I didn’t get pregnant while unemployed and have to live off our parents for five years.
It was admittedly a low blow, but I was just so sick of the situation. My family was super supportive of my sister during that time. They all rallied around my youngest cousin when she got pregnant in college and refused to marry the guy. They are all liberal-leaning Democrats. I never thought they would act like this.
I left. The aftermath is my sister refuses to talk to me, my mother is very disappointed in me on all fronts, and any discussion with anyone else gets turned around on me. Our situations are nothing alike, it was awful for me to bring it up, and I don’t really know what I am getting into. While this isn’t the white picket fence ideal, my career is solid, my finances secure, and I can afford to hire help. I am not an idiot. I am not in over my head. I am having a baby. Even my ex-boyfriend acted more excited for me than my own family. Help please.
—Having a Baby
Dear Having a Baby,
Congratulations, and I’m sorry your family is treating you this way. I think it’s time for a very clear announcement—maybe even in writing, on the family text thread—that anyone who wants to have a relationship with your child should know that making a single negative or judgmental comment about the way they came into this world will be giving up that privilege. For good measure, apologize to your sister for that low blow, and say you hope to start fresh.
A colleague/friend recently left for another job, after years of being vocally (and justifiably) unhappy with his managers at our company. He knows I sympathize with his struggles and I’m happy he finally found a better (for him) place to work. However, he continues to bash my employer and encourage me to apply for jobs elsewhere, even though he knows I’m happy here (I’m on a different team with better managers) and have no intention of leaving. It feels inconsiderate and self-centered. How can I get him to stop talking trash and salvage our friendship?
—Tired of the Trash Talk
Dear Trash Talk,
Try this: “I’m so happy you found a better job and are finally in the kind of workplace you deserve. But honestly, I’m pretty happy on my team and don’t plan to make any moves soon, so I really don’t need the encouragement to look for new jobs. Thanks for looking out for me, though. I know you of all people can appreciate why I’d want to stay somewhere that’s a good fit for me.”
My late husband and I owned a vacation home in a small coastal town, where we spent many wonderful summers and took our nieces on trips I’ll always remember fondly. But I just can’t bear to go back now that he’s gone—everything in the house and around town is a reminder of him. I’d prefer for the house to stay in the family and have a new occupant soon who will use it often (as opposed to it staying empty for years and possibly being sold), and since my son didn’t want it, I decided to offer it to my niece, “Katie,” for less than half of its original value. She lives just a couple hours away and has two little girls, and said she’d be delighted to give them the happy summers that her sister and she spent with my husband and I. But when her sister, “Rochelle,” found out about it, she was furious that I hadn’t offered her the house as well, and hinted that I should “make it up to her” financially (presumably in my will). Rochelle has said many times that she doesn’t want children, and currently lives across the country, working a time-consuming job. I thought that since she has so often said that she can’t spare time for “frivolous time off” and doesn’t plan on having kids, it wouldn’t make sense to offer her the beach house, since I want it to stay in the family and be used frequently. Was I really wrong to pass Rochelle over? And if I messed up here, how should I make it up to her?
—Beach House Blues
Dear Beach House Blues,
To be fair, the fact that Rochelle doesn’t have kids and works a lot doesn’t mean she wouldn’t have appreciated the opportunity to buy an investment property for half off. She very likely would have jumped at the opportunity. But it sounds like it was meaningful to you to offer the home to someone who lived nearby and would use it for family getaways in a way that reminded you of your own memories.
You are entitled to give or sell your property to whomever you want. There is no law that says you have to treat family members equally in this kind of situation. And I think that’s especially true in this case, when the transaction was made for emotional reasons more than financial ones. If you are close to Rochelle or become closer to her in the coming years and sincerely want to leave her something in your will, go for it. But do it only because you want to, not because she’s made a demand.
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