DEAR AMY: I'm 36 years old and have recently had my first and (most likely) only baby. My baby means the world to me. For now, we've opted to have his daddy take a year off work to take care of our little dude. My mother-in-law is complaining that my husband isn't "sharing" our son with her. She seems to think she can send us away from our own son so that she can have her alone time with him, but several times when we've actually needed someone to watch the little man, she hasn't been available. She even went as far as to say she'd forward us her schedule each week so we can coordinate, based on what's convenient for her. Amy, she's retired! We don't need someone to watch him routinely; after all, my husband is home with him. When we do have her watch him, she refuses to put him on his back alone in a crib to sleep, and the in-laws have a lot of inappropriate ideas about feeding. They seem to completely ignore the fact that I'm breastfeeding him. Due to my career in health care, safety is a top concern of mine. I can't have her baby-sit him if she refuses to be safe. We tried politely asking her not to hold him while he naps, and she hasn't spoken to us since. I don't want to keep my son away from his grandmother, but she refuses to respect our wishes. Plus, she won't take him when we need her to, nor does she include us as a family in her otherwise busy plans. I'm hurt that she only wants my son and doesn't seem to want to have anything to do with us.

Frustrated mama

DEAR MAMA: Your letter reminds me of the old joke about a restaurant: "The food was terrible, and in such small portions!"

My point is that when it comes to unpaid baby-sitting, you take it (more or less) under the conditions it is offered, or you don't take it.

Conversely, if your in-laws don't respect your non-negotiables, they won't be baby-sitting your child. Your standards seem on the rigid side (to me), but it is your right to establish them and expect them to be respected.

However, you don't get to cast your mother-in-law as disrespectful and/or incompetent — and then complain that she is not available on your schedule. (Retired people have lives too, by the way.)

It seems that you and she are locked in a power struggle. If your mother-in-law wants access to your child, she will have to adjust to your parenting style. One of your gripes is that you want to be included (as a family) in her life, but you don't seem to have invited and included her, or provided much of an incentive for her to want to spend time with the adults.

DEAR AMY: I enjoy the new "pick up" option at my local grocery store, where I can order the items I need and have them brought out to my car. Being a mom of two boys (ages 5 and 6), this makes grocery shopping a breeze. My question is, should I tip the people that bring and load my groceries in the vehicle? I know they don't work for tips, but is it appropriate to give them a tip, or is it expected?

Do I Tip?

DEAR DO I: Several well-known stores I researched say they do not allow associates to receive tips for bringing orders to your car. However, if you are happy with the service, you are encouraged to leave a positive review.

If you have items delivered to your home by a third-party delivery service, yes, you should tip the driver (with the exception of the U.S. Postal Service). I don't tip UPS or FedEx workers, but — depending on the situation — I understand that some people do, and tipping seems to be permitted.

Check with the store manager where you shop to see what their policy is.

DEAR AMY: Thank you for your response to "Upset Ex," who wondered about attending her ex-husband's funeral. I recently faced this situation, myself. I asked several dear friends who also had known my ex to sit with me at his service. The family reserved a row for us toward the back of the church. I felt very supported and comforted by this group, and it solved my problem of feeling alone.


DEAR M: Everyone involved behaved appropriately, which made this easier for all.


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