DEAR ABBY: My mother has a tight circle of friends she socializes with often. They are all retired with grown children and grandchildren and eager to share every bit of news of their lives. Mom talks nonstop about her friends' children's parenting challenges, marital squabbles, and medical issues. The challenge for me is that anything I tell her becomes fodder for their cocktail-hour discussion, which then gets around our community.
After hearing that the daughter of one of my mom's neighbors knew the results of my breast biopsy, I stopped sharing anything personal. This has damaged our relationship. She doesn't think mothers and daughters should keep secrets from each other, and I agree, but she also said she wouldn't keep secrets from her friends.
I miss being able to turn to her for support, but do not want the world to know my business. I understand that her friends are like family to her, but they are not my family, and I think she has chosen gossip over our relationship. Is keeping her at arm's length my only choice here, or is there another path that I can't see?
- None of Their Business
DEAR NONE OF THEIR BUSINESS: Your mother's judgment is terrible. Her friends may be "like family" to her, but they are not family. If you prefer not to have your personal business be fodder for lunchtime conversation, then your only choice is to carefully edit what you tell her.
DEAR ABBY: I have an issue with my daughter marrying a man who has no job. She has been supporting him financially. He has had a few jobs, but he gets fired or quits within a few weeks or months.
My daughter is 30 and never married. She's an assistant professor at a good university and a leader in her field of education. Her intended has no career and no prospects. He asked her to marry him without consulting me. Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but I would have expressed my concern about his lack of career.
I can't alienate my daughter by saying the wrong thing. But what if she can't work some day, and he can't support a household? He has a million excuses. I don't think he's the man she thinks he is. My life lessons tell me he may never be the man she thinks he could be. I have come to the conclusion that marrying him would bring her only misery. What should I do?
- Very Worried Dad
DEAR VERY WORRIED DAD: It would not be wrong if, without putting her fiance down, you expressed to your daughter your concern about his employment record (or lack of one) and the impact it may have on their future. And when you do, raise the question of what she thinks might happen if, for some reason, she becomes unable to work, because it's a good one, and something she should carefully consider before tying the knot.
After that, accept that at 30, your daughter is an adult who has the right to go forward with the marriage if she chooses, and keep your fingers crossed.