Dear Amy: I’m a single woman with three children, ages 9, 16, and 24.
Recently my mother moved in with us. Soon after, a longtime friend of mine (and godmother to my eldest child) moved in with us, as well.
During the pandemic, my house has been very busy, as no one is working due to COVID-19.
I’ve noticed some things about my friend that I didn’t really notice before (or maybe chose to ignore). During everyday conversations she constantly interrupts everyone while they speak, and she doesn’t interrupt quietly, either.
Dominating a conversation is actually what she does and before anyone knows it the topic is turned on to herself. Wow! She is self-absorbed!
I’m not sure how to broach this subject, as I do not want to hurt her feelings.
Any ideas? — About to Explode!
Dear About to Explode!: Your friend is not a houseguest; for now, she is a member of the household, and should be treated like one.
You should consider the fact that your feelings, and the feelings of others in your household, are just as important as hers are. Each of us can usually tolerate a small dent to our feelings, as long as we feel respected.
You need to be brave enough to handle this deliberately, rather than waiting until you erupt and say something harsh in front of others.
You are providing housing to your friend — and your family members. You have the responsibility, and the right, to offer course-correctives in order for the household to continue to run peacefully.
Talk to her privately. Tell her, quite plainly: “I’d like to offer you some feedback about a habit of yours that is bothering me. You tend to interrupt me and others when we’re trying to converse. It’s important to me that each of us has the opportunity to express ourselves. This includes you. But the kids — and my mom and I — all need the space to say what we need to say. Can you work on that?”
Your friend might interrupt you while you are trying to explain this. Wait patiently. She might react defensively or tell you that you’ve hurt her feelings. Wait patiently. The rest will be up to her.
In the future, when she interrupts, say, “Whoops. Wait a minute. I’d like to finish my thought.”
Dear Amy: I just want to give a shoutout to the overlooked dads out there who are out of their comfort zones. I keep seeing items about moms homeschooling their kids, and how things have changed for mothers with kids home all the time during the pandemic.
Well, our family is different. I am in the medical field and have been working this whole time. My husband was laid off. We have four children, three of whom need extra help. Daddy is the one handling online classes and keeping track of all assignments, and juggling who needs to be on what website at what time. Normally I handle school assignments and meetings with teachers, so this is ALL new to him.
He is a real rock star right now, and I couldn’t be prouder of how he is handling everything. — Proud Wife and Mom in Wyoming
Dear Proud: So many families’ norms are turned upside down right now, and yes — it has been great to see dads stepping up at home. I genuinely appreciate how many fathers seem to be putting their own dad-spin on their parenting duties: donning tutus to dance with their daughters, building elaborate indoor obstacle courses, and lovingly reading bedtime stories to their children.
It’s generous of you NOT to note that prior to this, for some reason, you (working full time), managed all of the academic issues related to your four kids, before this virus upended your domestic structure.
Thank you for what you do — at home and at work. You and all of our healthcare workers risk a lot to provide care to the rest of us.
Dear Amy: I read your good advice to “Tired Ears,” the mother-in-law whose daughter-in-law frequently complained about her husband — to his mother.
Thank you for urging this MIL to nip that in the bud.
My wonderful mother-in-law has a different solution: If I complain about my husband to his mom, her response — while smiling and shrugging — is, “Gee! I wonder who raised him, anyway!”
This definitely stops me. — Grateful
Dear Grateful: Your mother-in-law is a smart cookie.
Let us all learn from her.