Ask Amy Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

DEAR READERS: I’ve stepped away from my column for a week while I put the finishing touches on my new book, which will be published in the fall. Please enjoy these “Best Of” columns in my absence. I’ll be back with your fresh questions and answers next week.

DEAR AMY: The other night my large family (seven children, plus my wife and I) went to dinner at a local restaurant. We made reservations for a family of nine. Upon our arrival, we had to wait for the table to be set up. As we were waiting, my children were eager to be seated. As the waiter came to seat us, I overheard a patron saying to the hostess, “Please don’t seat them by us,” meaning my children! I went back to the waiting area and confronted this man. I asked him if there was a problem with my children that he didn’t want to sit by them? When the hostess saw me confront this man, she ushered me to the table, saying that everything was OK. Amy, everything was not OK. I wanted to leave, but my wife didn’t want to make a scene. Was I wrong to react as I did?

Proud NY Dad

DEAR PROUD: I have a confession to make. I don’t want to be seated next to your children, either. Much of the time, I don’t want to be seated with my own.

Your children are lovely, I’m sure. But picture this: I’ve just hired a sitter, leaving my own kids at home to have a rare intimate dinner with my spouse. I don’t want to sit next to your children.

Or I’ve just scored a meeting with my client who’s passing through town. I don’t want to sit next to your children.

Or I’ve got my elderly mother with me and she doesn’t hear so well. Yup. No kids for me, please.

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You say you overheard this gentleman speaking to the hostess. I assume he didn’t deliberately direct his comment to you. You shouldn’t have confronted him. I would even say that, in this instance, you set a poor example for your children. If I had been your dinner partner, I would have suggested that you might want to simmer down and let the restaurant hostess do her job, in order to enjoy your own evening out. (May 2007)

DEAR AMY: I have been married for more than 17 years. My husband has worked throughout those 17 years, but he has never worked consistently on any one job for more than a year. On the other hand, I have kept and maintained the same job with the same company for 20 years. I even have a part-time job. How do I get my husband to look for more serious employment, so that when we retire we can have more than just my retirement to live on? I’ve never been able to take a real vacation. Don’t say that I should talk to him about it. Done that. Don’t say that I should try to find others who are in the position to help him out, because I’ve done that. Don’t say that I should find a job for him to apply for, because I’ve also done that.

Tired and Weary

DEAR TIRED: I love it when people surgically remove my ideas before I even have a chance to suggest them.

Now I’ve got to get creative.

I’m going to suggest the hardest thing of all. It doesn’t involve your changing or fixing your husband.

My suggestion is that you either figure out what he does well and appreciate him for that or mosey along.

Does your husband maintain the home, do yardwork or volunteer in the community? Does he maintain the car, cook and do housework? If you have children, is he a good father?

Many husbands accept being the primary breadwinners for their households when their wives are working at home or working part time.

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Perhaps you would feel better in this relationship if you acknowledged that you are the primary breadwinner. If your husband isn’t contributing much financially to the household, then he should definitely contribute in other ways.

If you are not able to change the way you feel about the balance in your marriage or about your husband’s contributions to your family, then you should consider leaving the relationship. A therapist could help you sort this out. Marriage counseling was not on your list of things I can’t suggest. It might work for you. (April 2007)