Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Put nosy parkers on the spot, then change subject

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DEAR MISS LONELYHEARTS: My husband and I got married young at 19 and 20. We're in our late 20s now and frequently get asked when we're having kids. At the moment, it's not a priority. We're very happy with our careers, money, and travelling every chance we get. Who knows, maybe we'll never have kids! We're just very uncomfortable with all the questions. When I reply, "I don't know" or "We're not ready yet," I get worried looks (mostly from other women) and asked, "But you DO want kids, right?" Or, I'll be reminded that I have "a few years left, but don't wait too long!" Frankly, I don't think this is anyone else's business and it's rude of people to assume that just because someone is married or of childbearing age that they should have children. I'm looking for a way to respond to these inquiries that isn't rude, but will basically indicate that it is none of their business. Any ideas? -- Tired of Questions, St. Vital

Dear Tired: "That's a very personal question. Why do you ask?" is a the ideal response. It puts the nosy parkers on the spot and forces them to justify their reasons for asking. When they start sputtering, you change the topic. In my early 30s I had one old woman tell me I'd "better hurry before my bones got too brittle to have a baby." I had two healthy kids at ages 38 and almost 40 and my bones were just fine. You can also give someone the Wall of Silence treatment. Look at the person critically as if they just expelled gas in an elevator, and, after a 10-second silence which seems like forever, change the topic. From now on, never take on the unnecessary burden of answering a question that shouldn't have been asked. I once heard a feisty young woman at a party, who was being questioned by her aunt on this topic say," I'll tell you about my reproductive plans if you'll tell me about your sex life." That stopped the conversation dead, and Auntie huffed off to the safety of the kitchen.

Dear Miss Lonelyhearts: I love my mother-in-law, but right now I have half a mind to throw her out. She lives at my house with my wife and three kids, and she does a lot of babysitting, which we need. We both go to work and she drives the kids to activities and keeps an eye on them in the house and makes dinner before we get home. But over Christmas she re-met an old "boyfriend" and everything has changed. Last weekend I came home to find out my mother-in-law had packed up and gone to her boyfriend's house for the weekend. My kids, 11 and 12, were making jokes about "Grandma's sleepover" and my wife was upset. We haven't even met the guy and I worry about what the kids are thinking. It's just not right. -- Not Happy

Dear Not Happy: Cut your mother-in-law some slack. She's having fun with a new romantic interest -- be happy for her. She didn't become your teenage child when she moved into the house. And she certainly didn't sign over the rest of her life to you for room and board. Living arrangements may change greatly in the next while. Be nice to the lady, so she's not feeling pushed to leave at first chance. One day, she may move in with the new man or get married to him -- or dump him. It's hard for you to understand she has a private life and that it's really none of your business. You don't even have the right to question her on the status of the relationship when she gets back from dates and weekend excursions. The kids have taken a cue from what their parents are thinking -- that what Grandma is doing is inappropriate and disgusting. Whether she's been widowed or divorced, she's been without personal male company for a time, and she should be able to enjoy it without criticism and mockery. You do have a right to reaffirm the weekday babysitting arrangement that has been the exchange when she moved in, and ask for notice if that's about to change. If the ends, you'll make other arrangements, like every other family with kids.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 9, 2012 D6

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