Ask Amy Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

DEAR AMY: I am a stay-at-home mom, married to a Marine. I have made many friends who also have small children. However, I am frustrated because most of the moms I know are flakes. I get it -- motherhood is hard, especially when your spouse often is not available to help. But I've found that moms use lots of excuses for canceling, even when they extended the invitation, and almost always at the last minute. I've been canceled on because people say they have made other plans, they are stressed out from taking care of their kids and even because they want to catch up on housework. Do you have any advice for dealing with unreliable people? With a husband who is often gone and no family around, I feel that an unreliable friend is better than none.

Frustrated

DEAR FRUSTRATED: I completely sympathize with you. However, as long as you continue to maintain that an unreliable friend is better than none, you won't be motivated to react honestly to this behavior.

The best remedy for a burned-out parent is not to stay home, but to connect with other parents. If your friends are also married to the military, you all would be wise to share duties, caretaking, kid wrangling and fun with one another. A collective is much more efficient and much less lonely than going it solo.

You may not be able to change these other parents' flakiness, but you really should give them a nudge about how their behavior affects you. This approach won't work if you react with anger. Instead say, "Do you realize that you have broken off plans the last four times you've made them -- and always at the last minute? This makes things tough for me sometimes. Are things OK with you?" Reliability is an underrecognized quality, but it is vital in high-functioning relationships.

DEAR AMY: I am the only family member who knows that a dying relative has had a secret romantic relationship for more than a decade. This relative has been divorced for almost 20 years. My relative does not know that I know, and I've had no contact with the significant other. My relative is suffering from a terminal illness and lives in my household. I believe this person would find great comfort in the physical presence of this significant other but is forgoing that comfort out of fear that the family will not be supportive. It pains me there is something that might make this difficult experience more bearable, especially because I firmly believe that our family would be accepting. My relative can only consistently muster the energy to open letters that come every few days from this person. Other mail stays untouched. Energy and motivation to leave home have rapidly deteriorated for this relative, who is fighting depression in addition to the diagnosis. Precious time is passing by and I just can't decide if the possibility of comfort outweighs the potential devastation of having this carefully guarded secret revealed. What if the significant other is married?

Worried Family Member

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DEAR WORRIED: I believe you are overthinking this. Your family member is spending his or her final days in your home. You can -- and should -- offer anything to help.

"Is there anyone you want to see?" "Can I take you to see someone -- or bring someone here to visit with you?" "Do you want me to contact anyone, say or do anything on your behalf?" Your family member will either welcome an offer or shut you down. Be there; be open; be loving and generous. Don't make assumptions. Let all bets be off.

DEAR AMY: "The Other Mother" described her experience as a birth mother who surrendered her child for adoption and didn't want to be contacted. I found her attitude heartbreaking. I'm also a birth mother, forced to give up my child for adoption when I was young. I've been searching for my child for many years. The Other Mother does not speak for me.

Sad

DEAR SAD: "The Other Mother" presented a little-heard point of view. Thank you for yours.