Sense & Sensitivity

DEAR HARRIETTE: My next-door neighbor had a baby about a year ago. She is a sweet baby, and I am happy for the family. What I don’t like is how the mother will knock on my door with the baby on her hip and ask me to watch the baby while she runs off to do whatever. She is often gone for hours, and she never plans these outings. She basically dumps the baby on me. I get that she doesn’t have family here, but I do not like the way that she uses me with no regard for my schedule. How can I get her to be more organized and respectful of my time? -- Not Your Baby Sitter

DEAR NOT YOUR BABY SITTER: You may need to stop answering the door for a while. When you have time, ring her bell and sit down for a heart-to-heart. Tell her how much you love her baby and want to support her young family, but you do not appreciate the haphazard way in which she asks for your help. Make it clear to her that you are happy to be supportive when you can, but you need fair warning. Make it clear that you can no longer be the one who has to drop everything to watch the baby because her mom hasn’t figured out her plan in advance. Be firm. That’s the only way she will realize that you mean business.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I always enjoy reading your column, but I would like to comment on the Jan. 11 letter from "Down and Out," the person feeling overwhelmed by his station in life.

Underpaying workers is a fundamental economic problem in America today. Capitalism devours itself if it doesn’t ensure that both management and labor receive a proper percentage of the profits they create together in business. This fact is disputed by modern economic theory, but, nevertheless, it is true. Learning to live on less and accepting the situation is a disservice to everyone.

Over the past several decades, worker productivity has increased by about 40 percent, but wages have remained essentially unchanged when inflation is taken into account. This practice has been covered up by the fact that cheap credit has been available, which made it possible for workers to appear to maintain an increasing standard of living by borrowing money to cover the shortfall. Thus, the economic mess we find ourselves in today lets the rich get richer and the poor stay poor. Capitalism is like a machine; if things get out of balance, it eventually grinds itself into dust. -- Fair Wages

DEAR FAIR WAGES: The fight for fair wages has been a front-line issue for generations, and you are correct in pointing out that there is a lot of work still to be done. I believe that to create fundamental change requires engagement with Congress and possibly the Supreme Court.

As many know, the fight for equal pay for women has been waged for generations. The Equal Rights Amendment has yet to be passed. President Obama’s Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 was created to right the wage disparities between men and women. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. For those who are willing to fight the big fight, it certainly remains an issue across the board. Thank you for the reminder.

(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.)

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