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Make list of age-appropriate chores for everyone, including hus

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar

Creators Syndicate Inc.

DEAR ANNIE: I have a husband and three kids, two of whom are old enough to help around the house. The problem is, they don’t until I start screaming, then they help only to shut me up.

I’m tired of re-cleaning the same things 20 times a day because no one will take the time to wipe up a spill. When I complain to friends, I’m told that I’m the adult and should have control of the kids. You’d think so, wouldn’t you? They see their father ignore me, why should they pay attention?

I spend hours cleaning, and they wreck the place in less than five minutes. If I don’t clean, they’re content to stew in their own mess until I can’t take it anymore. The worst part is, I am blamed for keeping a messy house.

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How can I get my family to cooperate, short of calling "Nanny 911"? Your advice would be appreciated. — Frustrated Beyond Belief

DEAR FRUSTRATED: There are multiple problems here — your husband ignores you, the children won’t help, and you are letting this get to you too much.

On the assumption the Board of Health isn’t going to shutter your doors, ignore those who judge your housekeeping, and be willing to tolerate some mess as the price of having three children. Make a list of age-appropriate chores for everyone, including your husband. Don’t scream. Give rewards for a week of chores done decently, and take something away if they are not done. ("You didn’t pick up your blocks? I guess you won’t be able to play with them this week.") For your husband, tell him if he doesn’t help, you will hire a maid once a month, or whatever you can afford. (He might actually prefer that.)

DEAR ANNIE: My husband and I have been together for five years and married for two. He and his ex-wife, "Joan," split after 10 years. They have one child.

My problem is his family. They won’t let go of Joan and accept me as the new wife. They don’t treat me poorly. They just insist on including Joan in every family event. They even took Joan’s side over their own son in the divorce.

I have been putting up with it to keep the peace, but how long do I have to be a good girl before I can say something? I’m not trying to keep my in-laws from having a relationship with Joan — she is the mother of their grandchild — but I am the daughter-in-law now. How do I get them to understand how much it hurts me to see my husband’s ex-wife at a family party? — Suffering in Silence in Illinois

DEAR SUFFERING: It’s possible your in-laws want to include their grandson’s mother in all family gatherings for his sake, and to maintain a good relationship, but this seems excessive. Your husband should be the one to ask his parents to cease and desist, but keep in mind, you don’t get to pick their guests. All you can do is decide if you will attend or not, and how long you will stay.

DEAR ANNIE: I have had it with people who don’t think before they open their mouths. I am a divorced mother of four beautiful biracial children. I am Caucasian, and their father is African-American. We divorced soon after the youngest was born.

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The three oldest are clearly biracial, but the baby is as fair-skinned as I am. I am so sick of hearing "Are they yours?" and "Is their father black?" I consider these questions rude and ignorant. The only correct comment is, "What a beautiful baby."

I have always been a nice person, but I am losing patience. The next time I am asked, "Are they yours?" I am going to respond with, "No, their real mother was a flying purple people eater, but she got tired of people asking questions, so she gave them to me." — Proud Mama of Four Kiddos

DEAR PROUD MAMA: Those people are not trying to be rude. They are simply curious and a little thoughtless. Instead of sarcasm, why not reply, "Yes. Aren’t they beautiful?"

Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. E-mail your questions to anniesmailbox@comcast.net, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611.

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