DEAR ABBY: I have never written to you before, but I have a problem that I hope you can help me with. I have been married to the same man for almost 25 years. We are very happy and have a good life. My problem is my family. They constantly use the word "overburdened" when they describe me and intimate that it is my husband's fault.
I work full time, which they see as a problem. Quite honestly, I'd prefer to be a stay-at-home mom, but in today's world it takes two paychecks. My family knows the statistics, but believe that I'm forced to work because my husband is not a good enough provider. It doesn't help that my sister does not work and they think her husband is wonderful.
My husband works full time and helps around the house. I can't have a direct confrontation with my parents because of their declining health. I also realize it will probably be impossible to change their opinion, but I'd like to know how to handle their degrading remarks. -- HURT IN TULSA
DEAR HURT: The next time a disparaging remark is made about the fact that you are a working wife, say, "My husband is the light of my life. I have never been happier than I have been during the years of our marriage. I can't imagine why you think I am overburdened. And it hurts me when you make disparaging remarks about my life and the man I love."
DEAR ABBY: My situation was similar to that of "Single Dad in San Diego," whose drug-addicted former girlfriend neglected their son. Sadly, a child can be seriously affected by the neglect or emotional abuse of an unhealthy parent. Children who grow up with a chemically dependent parent carry lasting scars into adulthood, resulting in problems with intimacy, low self-esteem, depression, drug or alcohol abuse and more.
Rather than waste time complaining about my wife's behavior and the unfairness of the situation, I put my energies into helping myself and my son. I attended meetings of Al-Anon Family Groups and learned that I didn't have to be a victim, even if I was powerless to change her behavior. Her shame and denial prevented her from acknowledging how her son was being hurt, and she resisted my efforts to get help for him. Fortunately, I didn't give up.
I took my son to Alateen, where he received powerful and positive messages about his own self-worth, which helped to counteract the negative messages he was receiving as a result of his mother's inattentiveness. I also sought professional counseling for him which dealt with the specific problems that children of chemically dependent or emotionally unstable parents face.
It wasn't easy to find an affordable counselor who was willing to see a client on weekends (the only time my son was with me), but my persistence paid off. I was able to find someone who was of invaluable help to my son. He has learned to love his mother while disliking the symptoms of her illness, and he's much better off today than he would have been had I wasted my energy pointing the finger at her and bemoaning my fate. -- GRATEFUL IN SYRACUSE, N.Y.
DEAR GRATEFUL: Your son is fortunate to have a father as committed to him as you are. Your letter could serve as a road map for other noncustodial fathers who are struggling with this not uncommon problem.
Abby shares more of her favorite, easy-to-prepare recipes. To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, More Favorite Recipes, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)
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