Dear Annie: I am expecting my first child. My mother is a wonderful, intelligent 68-year-old woman. She is also bipolar and seems incapable of keeping herself physically healthy and her house clean. I know her poor health almost certainly stems from the fact that her living conditions are filthy. She also has a sour smell about her that makes me worry that she is lax about her personal hygiene.
I have tried many times over the years to help her keep her house clean, but inevitably it returns to a state of extreme disarray. The only visible floor is the pathway through piles of junk. The kitchen and bathroom are moldy biohazards. Eventually, I came to the realization that nothing I say or do is going to make her start taking care of herself. I can't afford to hire a caregiver to help her, and I'm past the point of trying to make a dent in the perpetual filth myself.
My main problem is that when my baby is born, I know Mom is going to want to spend time with her. I don't feel comfortable allowing my infant child to be exposed to the unhealthy conditions of her house. I am ashamed to say that I also don't feel comfortable placing my baby in the care of a woman who seems incapable of caring for herself.
How can I tell my mother, the woman who raised me, how to live? This is a conversation I never wanted to have. Is there any way I can avoid breaking her heart and embarrassing her? — A Concerned Daughter and Mom-to-Be
Dear Concerned: We sympathize, but your child's welfare will soon become your first priority. This will make it easier for you to talk to Mom. Tell her you love her and understand that her level of cleanliness and hygiene is her choice, but it is not appropriate for your child. Explain that visits with the baby will take place only in your home, under your supervision. She will promise to do better, but that is not a guarantee. So, also say that you hope this will spur her to seek professional help to make her life healthier for herself and everyone around her. Her doctor can refer her. If she is heartbroken and embarrassed, that should not change the parameters you have set up for the care of your child.
Dear Annie: "On the Outside Looking In" complained that at holiday gatherings, four of the female relatives go into another room to laugh, excluding the other three women and the men. The others should plan something they can enjoy together with or without the other four.
Plan ahead, and make sure everyone knows you have a game to play, a funny gift exchange, a skit to perform or a tale to tell of holidays past in which each person is expected to speak for one minute. Have a bonfire and roast marshmallows. Be silly and lighthearted, forget your troubles and play games with the children.
Turn these gatherings into a celebration for all of you, instead of a party for the clique and a whining session for the rest. Whether they join in or not, you'll have fun, and your children will remember that for a lifetime. — Been There
Dear Been There: We couldn't have said it better. Thank you.
Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of This Classic Annie's Mailbox column was originally published in 2015. To find out more about Classic Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit Creators Syndicate at www.creators.com.