Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

Want to quit work to raise a family, but friends think it’s a bad idea? Hostess attacked you verbally at a dinner party, and now you don’t know how to salvage 55-year friendship?

DEAR NATALIE: Is there anything wrong with wanting to be a wife and mother? I am 25 years old and engaged to a great guy who is 31. He and I both agree to wanting children, and he has a very stable, lucrative job at a law firm. I have wanted to have babies for as long as I remember. He says once we are married, I won’t have to work if I don’t want to, and we can start the family we both want. My mom (and my other friends) think this is a disaster waiting to happen, and I’d be crazy to give up my career to have babies. (I work in health care.) What do you think? -- FAMILY GAL

DEAR FAMILY GAL: There is nothing wrong with wanting to have a family and be a wife and a mother. There also is nothing wrong with having a career and wanting to balance that with a family life, or deciding to not have a family at all. The real issue, however, seems to be that your mother and friends are concerned for your future, and rightly so. The idea of giving up the ability to make your own money to settle down and raise a family may seem like an idyllic situation right now. You both are on the same page, you are young and in love. He has the financial stability to create a comfortable lifestyle for you and your potential children. But, you don’t want to end up in a situation down the road where maybe things don’t turn out as planned and you are left financially ruined. I know this isn’t something you want to hear, but it is important to always be prepared. Instead of completely giving up work, perhaps you could try to continue on a part-time basis. Plus, what if something happens to your husband and he loses his job? Then what? Children are many things, and expensive is definitely one of them. While being a wife and a mother are important aspects to a lot of people’s lives, it is important to remember that those roles shouldn’t be the only things that define who you are. We often times put ourselves on a back burner and try to make everyone else happy, losing ourselves in the mix. You had a life before you had a husband. Nurturing who you are outside of those parameters will only make you a better partner and a better mom when you decide to become one.

DEAR NATALIE: While having dinner the other night at a friend’s home, the hostess came to the table and wiped bread crumbs away in front of an elderly woman who was still eating. The elderly woman turned to me and said, “Don’t you think it is rude to clean up before someone is finished eating?” I responded by stating that this had happened to me at another person’s home. Before I could finish my response, the hostess began shouting at me and using four-letter words about how rude I was to suggest that it was rude to clean up. Attempting to calm the situation, I said, “What would Emily Post say about this?” At this point, the hostess made a really terrible remark toward me that I won’t repeat. I decided at that point to leave. The elderly woman kept saying to the host that I hadn’t done anything wrong and that she was the one who made the original comment. Then the hostess said to me that I needed to apologize to her. We’ve been friends for 55 years, but I don’t think I need to apologize for anything. Am I really at fault? --NEED AN ANSWER

DEAR NEED AN ANSWER: The only one who should apologize for anything is the hostess to you for her foul mouth. Not only is it completely inappropriate to shout obscenities at someone during a dinner party, but also her over-the-top reaction is embarrassing. This isn’t about the crumbs. There has to be something deeper happening here. Either she isn’t feeling well physically or mentally and it’s being projected out in unhealthy ways, or she doesn’t like to be criticized. Either way, you said nothing wrong or out of line. She should never have yelled at you, shouted nasty language your way or demanded an apology from you. I would let this simmer down. Do not try to engage with her right now. Maybe once she comes to her senses, she will send you a note or give you a call to apologize. While I wouldn’t destroy a 55-year relationship over this, I wouldn’t apologize, either. Maybe the next time you see her, she will pretend this didn’t happen. Maybe she will gloss over it. Or maybe she will stew about it for months. It’s up to her to act. All you can do is to set up boundaries and decide what you are willing to put up with and what you aren’t. You don’t deserve to be berated by anyone --especially an old friend.

Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week: Strategize ahead of time. Why are you attending this particular networking event? What skills do you bring to the table, and how can you help others there? Think about your goals beforehand. That will set you up for success.

Please send your questions to Natalie Bencivenga to her email,; or through postal mail to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Dr., Pittsburgh, Pa., 15212. Follow her on Twitter at @NBSeen and on Instagram @NatalieBenci

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