DEAR ABBY: I recently moved back home to help take care of my mom. We get along well, but there's one major issue. She has to care for my brother's four kids every day and is pretty much raising them. Because they are loud, whiny, rude and demanding, my mother snaps and yells at them constantly. It makes life miserable for everyone.
My brother refuses to accept the fact that he's taking advantage of our mom financially and emotionally. He has plenty to say about me moving back home, though, even though I help to pay bills and contribute. Never once has he offered to make a dent in the huge grocery bill his children ring up, and he complains about how much gas Mom uses toting them to the half-dozen or so programs he has them in.
I have PTSD, and the situation is taking its toll on me to the point that I can no longer be around the kids or my mom. Is there anything I can do? Or must I just accept that this is how life will be if I choose to stay home?
- Taking a toll in North Carolina
DEAR TAKING A TOLL: Have a talk with your mother about her short fuse with the grandchildren, and figure out why it's happening. If she is so stressed or sick that she can't manage them, correct them and give them positive reinforcement, they should not be under her supervision.
Your brother should not expect his mother to foot the bill for feeding and transporting them. If your mother can't make him understand that, then the two of you should make clear that if he doesn't pony up, his children will have to go to day care rather than Grandma's.
And last, because this unpleasant family dynamic is taking a toll on you, you must decide if you want to remain in that household under those conditions, or if coming home to take care of your mother was a mistake you should rectify.
DEAR ABBY: We are a couple in our 70s living in drought-stricken Southern California. Our dearest friends moved to Nevada three years ago, and we visit them often.
What drives me crazy when we visit is the way they use water. When we finish a meal, my hostess will go to the sink and rinse the dishes before putting them into the dishwasher. I mentioned to her that it was only necessary to scrape the plates, that the dishwasher is designed to wash dirty dishes, and she agreed - temporarily. The last time we visited, she was back to her old habits. Also, she runs the dishwasher when it's only half-full, instead of waiting until there's a full load.
I realize that Nevada is not having a drought, but I find her water waste very upsetting. I'm aware that it's her house and her water and she can do what she wants, but is there anything you can suggest that I can say or do to get her to cut down on her water usage?
- Parched in So-Cal
DEAR PARCHED: I have news for you. California is not the only state that has suffered through drought problems. Nevada has plenty of them, too. Make the speech you're dying to make once and get it off your chest. After that, be a gracious guest and keep your mouth shut. You are not the drought police, and if you keep harping on this, you may no longer be a welcome houseguest.