Ask Natalie

DEAR NATALIE: My husband and I are fairly young, and we have many close friends who have children. We still get together with these friends regularly, and most of the time their children are also welcome. We love their kids, and some of the children are practically like nieces and nephews to us! But occasionally an event will pop up that is simply not appropriate for children. 

For example, my husband and I recently had a party at our house, and we invited close to 40 people. We knew it would be crowded and not the type of party for children, however we struggled with how to communicate this to our friends. Our friends always just assume their kids are invited. We don't want to outright say, "Your children aren't invited and you need to pay for a sitter," but we don't know what the alternative is. Any advice would be appreciated. -- ADULTS ONLY

DEAR ADULTS ONLY: I love kids. Just so I don't get a bunch of angry emails after giving my advice, I repeat: I love kids! However, I don't love kids at cocktail parties. Or any event after 6 p.m. that doesn't involve them directly. Your friends chose to have children, and I think it is fabulous that you are close to their kids. However, it is unrealistic for your friends to assume that you always want to see their kids at your adult parties. 

The next time you send out a Facebook invite, eblast, mass text message or formal invite, make it very clear that this is an "adults-only event." If your friends ask if they can bring their kids, be polite but firm. "As much as I love (little Shiloh or Zelda), this is just a party for the adults. I know you understand, and I hope you can make it!" Leave it there. Direct communication is the best. (But not in a "Real Housewives" wine glass-throwing-sort-of-way).

DEAR NATALIE: Is it better to quit your job or to be fired? After reading your advice a few weeks ago about "Shopgirl" having a hard time at work, I realized how much I related. I am miserable at my job and my boss treats me terribly. I've tried to talk directly with the owner (I work at a small locally owned business in the city), but I can't seem to get through. 

My boyfriend tells me I should just quit, that it isn't worth being this miserable. Do you agree? I really don't know what to do, and I'm worried they are going to fire me because my bad attitude is clearly evident at work. -- MISERABLE EMPLOYEE 

DEAR MISERABLE EMPLOYEE: Quit. But, before you hand in your notice, make sure you have something lined up. I am one of those people who like to have at least two back-up plans for when the inevitable zombie apocalypse happens. Sure it can be scary to let your boss know that this isn't working, but I wouldn't give your supervisor the satisfaction of firing you. And quit with dignity. "While I really appreciated the opportunity to grow and learn, this feels like the right time for me to move on." Keep it very professional.

Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week: As hard as it can be to get a conversation started, it can be even more of a challenge to end one. You never want to have someone feel like you are shutting them down, but at the same time, some people will chat endlessly. Wait for a lull in the chatter and then politely excuse yourself by saying that you just saw someone you were supposed to meet, or that you had promised to chat with someone you know is about to leave. Then ask for their business card and thank them for the wonderful conversation. 

Please send your relationship and lifestyle questions to nbencivenga@post-gazette.com or tweet them to @NBSeen. You can also send postal letters to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15212

(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)

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