Dear Amy: My spouse and I have decided not to have children.
This is for several reasons, including: (1) we have multiple pets whose companionship brings us immeasurable joy, and are quite happy when we are together with just us and our pets; (2) we are both busy working professionals with established careers who travel a lot for work and don’t see each other as much as we would like to as it is; and (3) health and financial reasons.
My spouse has a brother and a sister, each of whom is married with their own young children. When we get together, all they can talk about is their kids.
I understand children are a focal point of your life if you are a parent, but that’s not the only aspect of a person’s personality. What about their hobbies, work, politics and other contemporary events?
When they do invite us to get together, they talk about kids exclusively and to such an extent that it leaves me and my spouse feeling isolated, almost as if we are inferior for not having children.
They also don’t seem to understand or respect that, for us, we love our pets as if they were our biological children, and we are quite happy with our decision not to have our own kids.
Any advice on how to bridge this gap and have better quality family time at get-togethers?
— Cheerfully Childless in Chicago
Dear Cheerfully Childless: Of course family members should show a personal interest in you when you are with them!
However, here’s some tough love: If you want to have better “family time,” then you should stop seeing family gatherings as cocktail parties, and more as time to dive into family matters. Right now, this extended family revolves around young children. I agree that this single-focus can be monotonous — to say the least. But for these parents, children are their hobby, work and current events. Kids are what they do.
I recently attended a day of sheepdog trials. When I met each of these dog handlers, guess what we talked about? Their dogs. This is to be expected. This is their passion, and in that context, this was their focus.
You should never feel less-than when you are around these young families, and it is completely understandable that you wouldn’t share their obsession. But, during the times when you are in their households, you should tolerate their overall focus on their children.
Dear Amy: I’ve taken on the task of digitizing my family’s old negatives and slides. It’s a lot of work, but so worth it!
As I’ve been processing the pictures from my childhood, I’ve come across several pictures my dad took of my mom that were clearly not meant to be seen by their daughter.
Once I realized what they were, I quickly set them aside and have not digitized them.
My parents have been divorced for almost 20 years. I’m sure my mom doesn’t want my dad to have these photos, but I don’t know how to ask if she wants them back, both because they are personal and because it wasn’t the easiest divorce, and mention of my dad is still awkward.
The negatives are useless until they are digitized, which would fall to me. What do I do with them?
Dear Digi-Don’t: Put these negatives into an envelope and give them to your mother. That’s it. Tell her, “I wasn’t sure what to do with these, so I’ll let you decide. If you want me to go ahead and digitize them, I’m happy to do that.”
These photos are your mother’s property and she should have the right to make a decision about them. I see no reason to involve or invoke your father.
Dear Amy: “Trying to Be a Good Mom” presented an interesting dilemma. Her adolescent sons wanted to buy a cellphone for their uninvolved and distant (divorced) father.
You suggested that she should let these boys do what they wanted with their money. But I thought their father was obviously manipulating them. If they give in to this, he will only ask for more, and Mom should tell them that.
— Been There
Dear Been There: In my response I noted the unfortunate dynamic — the sons want to please their dad, and he is using and manipulating them.
I also sensed that these boys may need to get burned before they can develop a more realistic stance toward their dad.
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