DEAR AMY: I am a semi-young (35-year-old) single mother of four who is working and going to school full time. I have lately become very negative and very down. I feel very alone and unappreciated by my children. I ask them to clean up behind themselves and they half do it. I ask them to keep an eye on their younger sibling and no one wants to help. Their grades are not the best (just barely passing) and there is hardly any communication between us. All of our communication consists of yelling and arguing. I feel helpless and as though my back is up against a wall. I am now fully aware that I am not happy and have lost control of my life. How can I get back on the right path? I have no friends -- only my mother -- and I don't want to be the kind of mother she was, but now I'm turning into that. I know it may be a little late to want to grow up, but I want to grow up so badly. Do you have any advice on a first step in the right direction?
DEAR AWARE: Your question breaks my heart and makes me (once again) feel so grateful to my own mother, who raised four children on her own.
You are trying to do a job that is more stressful than most of us can imagine. Mothering without a net is physically, mentally and emotionally depleting.
My main advice is not for you to grow up more, but to try to reconnect with your youthful exuberance, energy and joy. If you could shed even one of your stressors, you will feel lighter. You need more energy to cope with your everyday challenges. Can you stretch out your schooling and take fewer classes so you could perhaps become more involved at your kids' school? If you spend time at their school you will meet other parents with the potential of friendships between adults and your kids. You will also be more actively locked in to their academic challenges.
You also should find an activity outside of your home that you and your children do together that is not about work, homework or housework -- but about fun, play and feeling connected. You might find this through a faith practice or at your local YMCA.
Family life is not a seamless journey, but a series of challenges. You need to feel (basically) good about your own life in order to show your children how to live well. I'm rooting for you.
DEAR AMY: You asked for feedback (so to speak) on the issue posed by "Hungry for Leftovers," about the hostess of a potluck keeping leftovers after the meal. As a serial potlucker, both as a host and as a guest, I can say that generally your host will expect to keep the leftovers at the end of the evening. The idea is that since your host/hostess provided the space, he/she will also spend the next day or two cleaning up after company and won't have to cook during that time. Often certain guests request to take their leftovers home, for many reasons -- dietary, monetary, promised their spouse they'd bring any leftovers home -- and as a hostess I always accommodate someone who asks. More often, we split the leftovers -- everyone takes home some of everything. Again, as a hostess, I usually announce how I plan to handle this in the invitations to the dinner.
DEAR PRINCESS: Potlucking -- it's a whole world. I can see how keeping tasty leftovers would be a nice compensation for hosting. Thank you for describing how you do it.
DEAR AMY: There is an obvious solution to the question posed by "Slurped Out," whose husband drives her crazy by loudly slurping his coffee. He claims he slurps it to "cool it down." She should add an ice cube to his coffee, or simply serve it to him when it is less hot.
Also Hate Hot Coffee
DEAR ALSO: I do not assume that she makes and serves her husband's coffee to him. Cooling it down with an ice cube (or another way) is his job, not hers.