Ask Amy: The new mom’s pampering of herself is out of control

Dear Amy: My niece from my husband’s side of the family has recently had a baby.

Amy Dickinson 

She has been seeing a counselor, due to the fact that the father of her child left her for another woman before the baby was born.

Her counselor has told her to do small things for herself like grab a coffee and write in a journal. However, she has not been taking care of her finances very well.

She still asks her mother for money each month, but she is getting her nails done, she recently got a tattoo, and she is charging things on credit cards that she obviously can’t afford.

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We have given her advice on her finances, but she is still not putting forth the effort to get her bills under control.

What can we do at this point?

Concerned Aunt

Dear Concerned: Your niece seems to have misunderstood the concept of “self-care.” But she doesn’t have to get her finances under control, because her mother is subsidizing and enabling her overspending. If her mother continues to do this, and the spending is truly out of control, your niece could sink her mother’s finances, as well as her own.

Many an enabling parent has protected their overspending offspring from the consequences of diving into heavy debt — until the debt swallows other family members.

When young parents are raising children on their own, the grandparents often feel compelled to help with expenses out of concern for the grandchildren. This is laudable, but grandparents who do this must be extremely careful not to do too much, thereby impeding the progress into maturity that all young parents need to make.

What you can do is to encourage the mother to be extremely careful with these financial bailouts. The young mom might be using her spending to try to self-medicate her sadness away; unfortunately, this will make things worse for her.

Dear Amy: I’m asking you to weigh in.

My husband thinks that it’s fair game to read my computer or phone screen over my shoulder, even when I’m clearly writing or viewing something private.

I’ve asked him many times over the years not to do this, but he refuses to stop reading my screens. He definitely doesn’t like it when I do it to him.

He is saying it’s OK because my activity is essentially out in the open.

Is it rude to read someone’s screens over their shoulder? Should I leave the room if I want privacy on my own devices?


Dear Invaded: Overall, I think it’s rude to continue to do something — almost anything — that your spouse has asked you repeatedly not to do, especially if this behavior is not a two-way street.

Your husband may be aggressively trying to send you a message that he doesn’t want you to use screens when you are around him.

If you take a close and objective look at your own screen usage and see that there is a genuine imbalance in the amount of time you and he spend on your screens, then this gives you an opportunity to perhaps change your own behavior to demonstrate that you have received his rudely delivered message.

Otherwise, yes, whenever he does this, you should take your work into another room.

I have seen so-called privacy filters for laptops, although I’ve never tried one (no one in my household has much interest in what I’m up to). These screens allegedly completely block a screen from view unless the user is directly in front of the screen. This would be very useful when working in a coffee shop or on public transportation — or in your kitchen.

Dear Amy: I appreciate the question in your column from “Concerned Sister” about discussing end-of-life wishes with loved ones. I am a doctor in the D.C. area.

Two resources that might be helpful are “Five Wishes”, a guided booklet that helps people talk about what they want at the end of their life. This is available in English and Spanish and can be obtained for free from most primary care doctors’ offices.

The second is The Conversation Project. Available at, it has many helpful tips and can help direct the discussion and try to overcome what is usually a fear of death.

Laura Quint, MD

Dear Laura: Thank you. The Conversation Project was founded by journalist Ellen Goodman, after her own mother’s death. It serves as an excellent guide to having these tough conversations. Thank you for the recommendations.

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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.