Can't Foot The Bill
Laura Caseley for LittleThings
My sister-in-law’s boyfriend is always losing jobs. We all care for him and my sister-in-law. They are both very good people. We have always helped them one way or another.
However, my husband is getting tired of helping them. Are we enabling them?
Not sure what to do. He [the boyfriend] is possibly getting evicted from his home, and he needs about $800, I think.
His rent is way more than our house payment. We just don’t have that kind of money to give away. Just crossing my fingers here hoping they can make it on their own.
I think you’re caught between a rock and hard place, and you have to make a tough (but inevitable) choice.
You love your sister-in-law and her boyfriend, and you want them both to be happy, but they aren’t your responsibility.
It’s not your fault that he lost his job, and you have no obligation to help them out financially.
If you and your hubby had a lot of extra cash to spare, I think there would be no harm in helping a loved one out of a tight spot.
Unfortunately, you guys don’t have anything to spare at this juncture, so you can’t afford to spend what you have on bailing out the boyfriend.
I think that’s absolutely fine, and you shouldn’t feel guilty about it.
Think about it this way. If you’re lost at sea, you put on your own life vest first, before you help your friend.
You can’t help anyone in the long run if you don’t take care of your own financial needs first.
Your sister-in-law and her boyfriend are grown-ups, and they’ll find a way out of this financial pickle.
Good luck, and don’t be too hard on yourself — you aren’t a money tree!
Anxious And Angry
Laura Caseley for LittleThings
My husband was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder nearly 15 years ago.
He was put on a medication that helped his mood a great deal. Our family and friends noticed his improved mood and commented to me how wonderful it was to see him happy.
He stayed on the medicine for maybe three months and then stopped taking it. His anxiety and associated anger is out of control and it affects my life and the lives of our three children.
I have talked to him about it but he gets angry. The kids and I often retreat up to our rooms to get away from him in his fits of rage.
He lets little things upset him and feels he deserves more material things based on how hard he works. He is borderline a compulsive spender.
On the flip side, he is loving, has a successful career, nice home, a great sense of humor, and he would spend his last penny to help a friend in need.
Everyone who knows him loves him; but everyone who knows him also knows about his rages and stays clear when they flare, leaving me and our children to deal with it. His own parents tell me they feel terrible with how he treats me sometimes.
My husband knows he has a problem with his anger and his anxiety. He chooses not to deal with it.
He doesn’t sleep well and worries about everything. He tells me all medications give him terrible side effects.
However, he is also on medication for type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. I think he feels less of a man knowing that his mental state requires meds.
If his arm were broken he would take care of it, why not his mental health?
I spoke to his doctor for help but his doctor can only do so much. Can you help?
We have been together 25 years and we are still madly in love. If only he’d take his meds again…
Loved & Helpless
Dear Loved & Helpless,
I agree with your husband’s doctor. If your husband doesn’t want to take his medication, there’s only so much anyone can do about it.
Your doctor can’t force him to take medication unless he is committed to a hospital, which doesn’t seem like the right route for where you are right now.
Your best bet is probably good old-fashioned communication.
Sit him down for a serious talk, and make sure he knows you aren’t messing around.
Tell him: “I love you, and I care about you. I think you are making yourself and the people around you miserable by refusing to take your meds. There is no shame in treating a medical condition.”
Make sure you emphasize this last part, which you also noted in your letter.
Mental illness is a lot like physical illness. Sometimes you need medication to treat it, the same way you would treat hypertension or a migraine.
There’s an unfortunate stigma about mental health, where people are afraid to discuss their own challenges for fear of being seen as “failures.”
Your husband needs to be gently led out of that mindset and encouraged to see his mental health difficulties in a different light.
That said, you can’t force him to do anything, and it’s not your responsibility to mandate how he cares for himself.
All you can do is present lots of encouragement, and a clear path toward a healthier and happier future.
With support and affection,
Laura Caseley for LittleThings
I read the article about the mom frustrated with her teenager, thinking that her teen hates her.
I’m dealing with a similar situation, the difference being my child is 4 years old.
She won’t listen, talks back, interrupts adults whether talking in person or on the phone, gets mad if we finish her sentences, and refuses to pick up anything.
I think she has some symptoms of OCD as well. Help me?
The first thing I want to address is your belief that your daughter is exhibiting symptoms of OCD.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a serious condition that can be observed in children as young as 4.
However, I want to emphasize that only a trained psychiatrist, psychologist, or medical doctor can diagnose OCD.
If you have concerns, you need to schedule an appointment with a professional right away and get an accurate assessment of your daughter’s symptoms.
As for your daughter’s other behavioral issues, I would simply say: welcome to the terrible under-10s.
I don’t mean to seem glib — kids really can develop serious behavioral problems at an early age.
That said, the issues you’re describing seem perfectly in line with behaviors that kids in the 3 to 5 age range exhibit.
Kids this age will interrupt adults and talk back, and they definitely won’t do chores.
None of these behaviors are symptoms; they’re just a natural part of being 4.
What can you do? Simply reinforce when bad behavior is bad, and let her know that her interruptions and back-sass are not appreciated.
Give her manageable chores, and slowly help her adjust to behaving better.
This, I’m afraid, is just a totally normal part of raising a child, and can’t be avoided.
It will be tough, it will get better for a few years, and then she’ll be a teenager. Good luck!
Laura Caseley for LittleThings
My husband’s older brother is single, middle-aged, living at home with his mom, and extremely bitter.
My husband and I now have two daughters and are expecting a son in less than a month. Our daughters are 16 months and 5 years old.
Due to my husband’s very busy schedule, we have decided that we will take our children to his mother’s house for a few hours on Saturdays.
My mother-in-law would like to have more time work my kids throughout the week.
However, my brother-in-law is constantly hanging around.
He is very clingy about my family and kids as well and constantly makes comments to my daughters such as “you can stay here and be my daughter.”
We have asked on several occasions that he stops smothering our kids with kisses and hold them in his arms all day.
By the end of the day, my kids smell like spit and cologne. Our youngest broke out all over her face on two occasions after he had kissed her several times with aftershave on and we ended up having to take her to urgent care.
He stopped for a week, then determined on his own that the breakout was from something else, then continued to smother her again. She became upset and started crying.
I haven’t seen this, but I have a very bad gut feeling that he may be causing her some other kind of discomfort or pain because my baby doesn’t get upset at just getting kisses.
When we put our baby down for a nap and close the door, it’s common sense for him to stay out of the room!
Instead, he goes into our kid’s room and lies on the floor next to the crib and eventually disturbs the baby’s sleep.
Because of these reasons, I’m constantly on high alert and following my girls around every minute around him.
Recently, he’s started to ask that we leave the children at their house overnight, or to allow him to take our older daughter out to the movies and ice cream. Neither my husband nor I feel comfortable with that.
My 5 year old has told us that when [her] uncle asks for hugs and kisses, and she doesn’t feel like it, he gets mad at her and keeps asking.
At any time my husband or I ask him not to do certain things with our children, he throws a tantrum, makes it a big deal and starts a fight, then accuses us of being offensive, mentally ill and that we make a big deal out of nothing.
Unfortunately, his aggressive and unpleasant behavior has caused us to limit my MIL’s visits with the kids to a couple of hours on Saturdays.
I could use a break sometimes from the kids or get a helping hand, and it would be great to have her around more, but I can’t stand that he follows her everywhere.
It saddens me that she is losing time with her grandkids, but I cannot bear to spend anymore time around my brother-in-law than I have to.
I feel very frustrated because I feel he smothers my children, and I’m failing to protect them from things like forceful kisses.
I feel that he is manipulating us out of speaking up for our daughters, because if we do, it will turn into a fight.
I feel like I’m failing in teaching my girls that their bodies belong to them and they must be strong and say “no” when they want to.
I make sure that my girls are never left alone with him. I don’t have proof, but my gut tells me something is wrong with him.
My husband and I have a very good marriage, a happy home, and happy children. My husband is very close with his mother and younger brother (who is an angel), and I don’t want to ruin that.
I feel trapped. I don’t know how else to deal with him or what I need to do or say.
My heart breaks for you, and for your little girls.
In your question, you write an incredibly powerful sentence about the responsibility of motherhood: “I feel like I’m failing in teaching my girls that their bodies belong to them and they must be strong and say no when they want to.”
That sentence brought tears to my eyes, because it’s a lesson so many children learn too late, and you are doing an incredibly brave thing by shining a light on it.
I have never met your brother-in-law, and I am not a psychiatrist or a criminologist.
Still, my instinct as a woman is the same as yours: I suspect he does not have good intentions toward your girls.
You describe the way he pushes himself into their lives, how he invades their personal space, and how he obsesses over them.
Reading your descriptions, my gut says that your brother-in-law might have an inappropriate attraction to your daughters.
Kissing and touching your kids without consent is a clear violation. Your older daughter has told him to stop, and your younger daughter cries when he kisses her.
You and your husband have also spoken up for your younger daughter, and he has persisted in his behavior.
Your two little girls are just kids, and they are vulnerable — but they are not defenseless, because they have you.
The first and most important step is this: I think you should cut off contact between your brother-in-law and your children.
Next, talk to your older daughter. At 5, she probably understands the basics of “private parts” and “bad touches.”
If not, explain them to her, but try not to reveal your suspicions: she might give you an answer that will make you happy, instead of an answer that is truthful.
You need to let her know that she can tell you if something bad happened, and that she won’t get in trouble. If your brother-in-law did progress past inappropriate kissing, she might be afraid to tell anyone.
I would also consider taking her to see a child psychologist, who might be able to help her open up and talk more about things she won’t say to you or your husband.
Next, talk to your mother-in-law. Tell her what you’ve experienced and seen, and explain why you aren’t comfortable letting her son see the girls. If she doesn’t understand, she probably doesn’t have your kids’ best interests at heart.
Lastly, I don’t want to sound alarming, but you might want to consider talking to the police.
You can’t prove that your brother-in-law touched your daughters inappropriately, but where there’s smoke, there could be fire. It is very possible that he is “grooming” your girls, and if he is, it’s also possible that he’s done it before to other little girls.
If that’s the case, he may also have a disturbing internet search history to go along with the pattern. If he is in possession of child pornography, police may be able to find it and pursue a criminal investigation.
Even if the police can’t do anything at the moment, reporting his behavior will establish a record and help you out if you ever need to get a restraining order or other legal assistance to protect your kids.
I can’t imagine how scared you must feel right now, but please know, you are doing the right thing.
You must move heaven and earth to protect your daughters. There may be fallout within your family, but your daughters and their unborn brother matter more than anything else.
If all else fails, I will be here, cheering you on and supporting you as you prove to your daughters that is is OK to be strong, and independent, and to say “No!” as loudly and as often as necessary.
Laura Caseley for LittleThings
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