Dear Barb—Going Meta

Dear Barb:

I always read advice columns in newspapers and magazines.  I enjoy reading about other people’s dilemmas and problems.  I know that may sound weird, but also I learn a lot.  Advice columns show me ways of looking at a situation from a different perspective.  Anyway, the reason I am writing is that I think my sister-in-law sent a letter about me to one of the advice columnists I read.  She knows I read this column faithfully, so I think she was trying to get a point across to me. 

Here is the scenario, we are both young married mothers, and she is married to my brother.  They have two children and I have one.  Every time they go out for an evening, I am expected to babysit their children.  If I am not doing something I will babysit for them, but when I ask them to babysit my daughter, they always seem to have something going on.  Recently I have begun saying no to babysitting their children and I know my sister-in-law is not happy about it.  She has been kind of short with me lately.  I read this exact situation in an advice column that I read daily, and the writer was asking whether she should stop babysitting for her sister-in-law.  The story was just too similar.  Should I show the column to my sister and confront her, or should I just ignore it?  I don’t want to cause a lot of problems between us.  Looking forward to your reply, Sherry.

Hi Sherry:

My suggestion would be to casually bring up the subject of the column.  Or you could tell your sister-in-law that you read this column this morning and you would be interested in her response to it.  At that point, you should be able to tell by her reaction whether she wrote it or not.  In any event, it will bring up the topic for you to discuss.  If you are interested in my opinion, I do not think that saying no to your sister-in-law is a good thing, it will only cause problems between you two.  I would suggest that you discuss the babysitting and decide how many evenings or days a week you would be willing to babysit her children, and vice versa.  Babysitting nieces and nephews provides an opportunity for you to get to know them better and for your children to get to know their cousins.  It can be a win/win situation, as long as it’s fair and not abused.  I would be interested to know what the other advice columnist said lol.  Thanks for your mail Sherry.

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