Ask Amy: Family farm raises crops and questions

Dear Amy: My little sister took over the family farm and has been running it (with my other sister) for two years. It is an incredible amount of work, and it keeps her busy from sunup to sundown.

A year and a half ago, she had a son. I offered to watch him.

I’m a stay-at-home mom for my own boys, so no problem.

We currently live with my parents, whose home sits right on the farm property. My sister offered money, but I said I was happy to watch him without payment.

I agreed to this without first discussing it with my husband.

But what started out as a few days a week quickly turned into six days, from breakfast to dinnertime.

This started to cut into my own family time. My husband refused to help me on his days off because he hadn’t agreed to it.

We both became increasingly fatigued and bitter.

We went to marriage counseling. Our counselor said it was unfair that I hadn’t discussed it with my husband from the beginning and that I should cut back on the babysitting commitment. I did, and we both felt better.

I had a baby in February, and told my sister that I would like a “maternity leave.”

But then I also told her that if she wanted to move into the empty lot next to us, I’d be willing to watch her child again during my baby’s infancy.

When I told my husband, he was distraught.

He said I did this without his consent again and that he would have said “no” if I had asked him first.

I understand why he’s upset. I should have communicated before offering.

But I also wonder why I need his permission to do something that I enjoy doing, that helps out a family member, and that blesses my own children.

My husband never has to watch this child at all. Can he tell me what I can and can’t do in this regard?

It seems a bit controlling to me. Or am I missing something?

— Whit

Dear Whit: I can’t figure out why you took your counselor’s good advice, things got better for both you and your husband, and then you proceeded to repeat the behavior you’d already agreed to change.

Your husband isn’t telling you what to do. He is telling you that you need to discuss decisions that have an impact on your family with him before committing. This is committing to a discussion, not an outcome.

And, of course, he needs to do the same!

You two have a new baby at home and now you are asking your sister to move closer to you so that you can commit further childcare. Your family is living in your parents’ house.

Your husband might feel overwhelmed and excluded because your immediate family is so enmeshed with your extended family.

The way around this is for you two to act like full partners, discussing major work and family decisions with one another before committing, and to discuss and agree on reasonable boundaries.

Dear Amy: One of my dear friends got engaged several years ago.

Over the course of her engagement, I had a custom gift made for her in anticipation of the wedding.

Then, 2020 happened, and in the subsequent upheaval brought on by the pandemic and passage of time, the engagement was called off.

The gift has no specific references to the couple or to marriage, but it is also noticeably more extravagant than the typical gifts we would give each other for birthdays or Christmas.

I would still like to give it to her; is there any way I can tactfully do this?

— Gifting

Dear Gifting: You should give it to her, along with an explanation of the gift’s provenance. Just be completely honest: “I had this made for you during your engagement, and I hope you’ll accept and enjoy it, now — in celebration of our long and enduring friendship.”

Dear Amy: “Cranky Before Noon” objected to being included on daily texts from two close friends that said “good morning,“ and nothing more.

The letter writer mentioned that both friends live alone and that the texts began during the pandemic.

It’s hard to tell from the information conveyed, but I wonder if the friends are texting simply to let the others know they’re alive, and that failing to text might be a signal that something is wrong.

— All Mornings are Good

Dear Good: You make a great point. Thank you.

(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

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