DEAR HARRIETTE: Whenever I baby-sit for this family, the mom works from home. I understand that she can’t cater to her children and work at the same time, but it makes me uncomfortable. It's strange: I will be in the kitchen making the kids lunch, she will be in there making herself lunch, and then we will all sit together. Or the kids and I will be playing, and she will come and watch for 20 minutes. I know it shouldn’t bother me, but it does. When the kids have a problem, they will ask her instead of me, even though she is doing work and doesn’t want to be distracted. It’s just hard that she’s home when I’m there. Is it weird that I get irritated by this? -- Annoyed Baby Sitter, Reston, Virginia
DEAR ANNOYED BABY SITTER: It is understandable that you feel some awkwardness in trying to establish a rhythm and a sense of authority when the mom of the children you are baby-sitting is right there. Naturally, they go to their mother when decisions have to be made or when problems arise. You will never be able to compete with that, nor should you want to. Instead, you need to develop ground rules with the mother about your role and her expectations. Whatever she wants the children to do, she has to agree on with you and reinforce with them. If there are times when she is going to be unavailable, that needs to be made clear to everyone. Perhaps she can put a sign on her door saying, “PRIVACY PLEASE.” During that period, the children must learn that they have to follow your direction entirely. Partner with the mom on a plan that works for everyone.