Dear Ms. Savvy,
I am wondering about your opinion on thank you notes pertaining to grandparents. Unfortunately my mother thinks she deserves a thank you for everything (including just spending time with my kids). And if I don't send it in her timely manner (3 days) then I get an email from her about how disrespectful I am that I didn't acknowledge her. Anybody who knows me well will tell you that I am good with thank yous (I usually write them within a couple of days, 2 weeks max), but to get angry emails when it's not done within her timeframe is beyond my comprehension. How should I handle this?
Dear Burdened With Thank You Notes,
While I agree with your mom about the importance of being appreciative of gifts and writing a thank you note, there are limits to the use of this tried and true method of expressing gratitude. You are not obligated to write a thank you note for her spending time with your children. Hopefully, she is enjoying their company and being a good grandma and guess what? That is part of her job as your mother. Sometimes, it's actually really rude to ask someone to thank you for something that is a given. Now, that's not to say that once in a while, it would be nice of you to say to her, "Mom, I just want you to know how I much appreciate you spending time with my children. It means so much to me!" But, what your mother is doing right now is using an age-old weapon passed down to every grandma. It's called G-U-I-L-T. The nice thing about guilt is that it is only as good as the person who chooses to receive it or not. And, you do have every right to tell your mom that you choose to NOT accept her guilt. My other question is this: why does she feel she needs so much appreciation in her life right now? Maybe she's not getting it from anywhere else...It might be nice for her to do some volunteer work or something else where she can feel appreciated.
Dear Ms. Savvy,
My wife and I are considering moving closer to both our families. We both grew up in a small town in PA, but moved to Easton when I got a job at Easton Memorial. Now that we have a family of our own, we are feeling the need to be closer to grandparents who can help out with occasional childcare and support. I don't feel as comfortable with babysitters and would prefer that if we leave our small children (both under 4), they are with family that we trust. We are also always driving the 3.5 hours up to PA on holidays and for family gatherings -- it feels like we are in the car every other weekend. Pittsburgh would be the closest city and we could probably find jobs pretty easily (we are both in the medical field). My wife worries, though, about being too close to family. She wants to still have distance and our own lives and doesn't want either of our families to become our only social outlet. What are your thoughts on living in the same town and the pros and cons to moving to be closer to family?
Dear Moving to PA,
I understand your wife's concerns and can see both the pros and cons to moving closer to family. The obvious pros are: help with your children; emotional support from your families; less driving in the car to and from PA; maybe getting a date night in, while the grandparents watch the children; being able to easily attend family gatherings and holiday events; your children having a closer relationship to their extended family. The cons might include: feeling a little smothered by all the family closeness; not having the time to branch out and form an outside social network; and natural conflicts that can arise from conflicting loyalites amongst the different family units. So, here's what I suggest: the two of you talking very clearly about what your expectations are for this move. This includes discussing the importance of maintaining some strong boundaries around your little family and not being engulfed by the extended one. And, if all else fails, you could always decide to move back to Easton and take up the 3.5 hour drive again.
What's Mr. Unsavory's take on these same questions? For a totally unqualified view from the couch, visit The Unsavory Report.
Ms. Savvy, a.k.a. Ruth S., offers a sympathetic ear and compassionate guidance to those in need. A social worker, therapist and yoga teacher by day, Ms. Savvy always finds herself counseling friends, family members and random people at the gym. Finally, she can reach a wider audience through her blog and help solve the world's problems without interrupting her workout. Email your questions about love, family, work or any other sticky situations that need advice and Ms. Savvy will do her best to make your problems go away. **Disclaimer: This column is not meant as a substitute for professional counseling and is purely for entertainment purposes.*