DEAR MISS LONELYHEARTS: Tonight takes the cake! I have a migraine because of my mother-in-law. She is a jealous, sneaky, back-biting old woman and I'd like to strangle her. (Well, not literally, as I wouldn't spend any time in jail for her!) She knew my husband and I were planning to go to dinner and the theatre tonight and she phoned at 6 p.m., pretending to have another one of her fake heart attacks that her son can't find a way to ignore. He should know they're fake because they always happen on our special nights out and she refuses to go to the hospital. He rushes over and holds her hand, right after she claims to have one of her "magic pills." He is terribly solicitous of her and spends the whole evening there, while I cry at home. I think it's creepy how she's so jealous of me and clingy to him. What can I do? -- Tug of War, Riverview
Dear Tug: Tell your husband not to mention your romantic nights out to his mother anymore. His stock answer to "what are you two are doing?" should be, "Oh, nothing much, mom." He could prevent much of this problem by inviting his mother out with him alone and regularly, which is what she's looking for. Suggest he take her out to lunch or dinner regularly with your blessing. Maybe the two of them could get season tickets to something and you'd be completely off the hook and could stay home if you felt like it and relax. She'll know it's safe you won't be coming to any of those events and she'll be thrilled. She doesn't like you either, because you stole her son.
Dear Miss Lonelyhearts: Hi! I'm a stay-at-home mom. I love my children with all my heart, but they're driving me nuts. Everybody in the family takes advantage of my soft nature and I end up babysitting my husband too. Last year I went on a short holiday to see my sister and the whole house went into chaos for a week. When I got back, they were all perturbed that I had gone away but they treated me better for a few months. I'm ready to go again. The kids are 17 and 15 and 13 and have a perfectly good father and the eldest drives. This time I have chance to meet girlfriends in February in Mexico at a spa. They're all pushing to go with me. It's not like my husband and I don't have money. We do. -- Fatigued Mom
Dear Fatigued: Can you do two trips? Since you have the money lying around the budget, talk with your family about a week's family trip for mid-term break. Then enjoy your week with the girlfriends and get the two or three weeks of appreciation when you get back. There's nothing wrong with taking holidays when you are exhausted from the job of mothering big kids -- and there's everything wrong with having a spoiled family. So, make a big poster with everything that needs to be done and when, and assign jobs to kids and husband. Post it on the wall by the breakfast table. This time they'll at last learn the template for running the house, even if they just sit and stare at it.
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