Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Baby Sitter Feels Uneasy Around Employers

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have been looking for a summer baby-sitting job, so I put an ad on an online community board and have gotten a couple of responses. One family is looking for a few days a week, which is perfect for me. I arranged to meet the mother and kids prior to my start date, which I thought was normal. When I got there, the mom seemed to be out of it and disinterested in me -- and even in her kids.

I didn’t get a good feeling about the parents, but the kids seem easy and adorable. Do you think I should take the job even if I don’t feel comfortable around the parents? -- Weird Parents, Philadelphia

DEAR WEIRD PARENTS: You should keep your eyes open, but go ahead and take the job. Pay attention when you work with the children to ensure that they feel safe and well cared for. Talk to the mom before she goes out to learn of any idiosyncrasies you should know about the children or their family rituals. Ask about the children’s habits and the parents' expectations.

It could be that the mom was having a bad day. It could be that there are deeper issues that will come up at some point. As the baby sitter, your job is to care for the children. You do not need to double as a psychologist or adviser. Watch, pay attention and assess whether it can become a good fit for a few days per week. If not, give your notice and say that you don’t think it’s working.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My boyfriend is very close with his family, which is one of the things I love about him. I am also very close with his parents and often have dinner at their house. One thing that is getting on my nerves lately is that his parents -- especially his mom -- do absolutely everything for him. His mom books his doctor appointments, makes his lunch and everything in between. He is 22 years old. I’m not sure why it bothers me so much. Maybe it’s because I am the total opposite of that, or that I think he should be doing this stuff himself. Is this normal? Will he ever grow out of having everything done for him? -- Dating a Mama's Boy, Jackson, Mississippi

DEAR DATING A MAMA’S BOY: This is a lot to observe, but realize that you can’t do anything about it. The relationship between mother and son is strong. You will do best to stay out of it. When you and your boyfriend are alone, tell him that you have noticed how much his mother tends to him. You can also point out that you hope that if you two decide to build a life together, you would like to share responsibilities, not assume the role that his mother has played. Nor would you want any children that you have to feel that they should rely on you to do everything for them. It’s good to plant these seeds now, since they will likely crop up again if you choose to stay together.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to askharriette@harriettecole.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)