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"Best Friends Column "

Source: Femina

Whose Baby Is She Anyway?
I want my best friend's ex boyfriend
My brother is undergoing a sexual awakening
Should I move in with my aunt?
My Boyfriend is getting very possessive
How do I adjust with my in-laws
My mother is bed-ridden
Is my boyfriend having commitment issues?
My husband is having an affair
How do I live with 'his' girlfriend?
My husband is a social flirt
A "Family" Vacation
Choosing between a better profession and motherhood
When is it the right time?
Study Or Work?
My Partner dislikes everything I do
My Husband has started drinking


Whose Baby Is She Anyway?
I go out to work every day, leaving my two-year-old baby in the care of my mother-in-law and an ayah. By the time I reach home every evening, I am dead tired, but I still manage to play with her and feed her her dinner. However, I’m beginning to worry that my baby is growing closer to my ma-in-law and the ayah, than to me. If she falls and hurts herself, she runs to my mother-in-law to make it better; if she’s scared about something, it’s to one of them that she appeals. I am very grateful to have this support system, and I have no choice but to go to work, but I would like my daughter to recognise that I am her mom. Am I being foolish in worrying? Friends tell me `ma tho ma hi hai’…
-- Priya Chanakya, Mumbai

Is your self-trust in gaining and retaining love so brittle, that only because your baby seeks solace from her grandmother and the maid when she's hurt or fearful, means that she loves you less? And anyway what parameters can we really use to gauge whether our child loves or doesn't love us at age two? 
Or maybe your understanding of  the concept of love is a bit fuzzy, so let me attempt to clear that. Remember we can love many people at the same time and many kinds of love coexist. Romantic love, friendly love, familial love, motherly love, daughterly love and so on. And they coexist simultaneously. Just because one possesses one kind of love does not mean that the intensity in the other kinds is any less. It seems very apparent that your daughter is expressing grand-daughterly love for her grand-mom and love for the maid -- the person who assists and takes care of her during your absence. To her, they are the one's who are around, and familiarity doesn't breed contempt, at least not at this age! For the young minds, out of sight is out of mind. Absence does not make the heart grow fonder! Her running to them and not you is not a sign of lack of love or her inability to recognize her mother, it is that she has simply gotten used to them to solve her problems. And this does not equate more love for them and less for you. If anything it equates dependency, which is to be expected at this age.
Check your appraisals Priya. And you will notice that the culprit for your distress is the peculiar way in which you're looking at her actions. The meaning you are attributing to your daughters behavior is causing you anxiety. 
And about your friends' saying of 'ma to ma hai', well let me say that if we can accept being disliked or loved less and sometimes even hated by our own children,  and we view that as only bad but not the end of the world, we'll never be desperate to be loved, not by them, not by anybody!
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I want my best friend's ex boyfriend
Let me qualify that - they broke up three years ago. She behaved awfully with him, and the guy and I certainly had nothing to do with each other when that relationship was on. Now, we've all grown three years older, she's been seeing someone else for the last one year, and I feel I can get into this romance with some hope that it will be `the one'. Should I be at all nervous about what my girlfriend's reaction will be?
-- Krutika Sharma, Mumbai

Even if you want your best friend's current boyfriend, there is nothing atrocious about that. For wants in life are not unethical. A question of ethics is, what you would do to get what you want! And since you mention ex boyfriend and that your friend had broken up three years ago, are you being 'unethical' at all? Forget about the reasons for their break-up, for what purpose would it serve. Moreover, each one would present their part of the story - surely he told you that she behaved 'awfully' with him! 
You seem to believe that having been in a relationship once  with your best friend (which is now over) he can't or shouldn't fall in love again. Or, that you would be a traitor of sorts should you be interested in him. Pray, but what is your understanding of 'friendship'? Suppose your friend had a job which she gave up, or suppose her services were terminated by her employer, would it be 'unethical' for you to apply for the same?
Even if your friend was not seeing someone else for the past year, and was by herself so to speak (the relationship with the ex boyfriend over) would it be 'immoral' or 'wrong' for you to befriend her ex? This would depend on what you believe about love, friendship, loyalty, etc. 
If you are concerned about your friend's reaction, the best would be to speak to her about the prospective liaison. If she has sensible ideas about love and friendship, she wouldn't have qualms accepting your relationship. And if she did react badly, it would only reflect her belief that loyalty equals slavery!
As for you believing that this romance could be 'the one' -- tread cautiously -- for when one is desperate, more often than not, we can make gross errors of judgement. Good luck!
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My brother is undergoing a sexual awakening
My brother, who has just got into graduate college, is obviously undergoing a sexual awakening. All the whispering and nudging among his male buddies points very clearly to some amount of fraternising with the opposite sex. We are just about polite with each other – I am eight years older than him – and while I’m not really into promiscuity, I would obviously like it to be responsible. And yes, I would like the girl(s) he is seeing to also be safeguarded. There is no question of any one else in the family bringing up the subject; in fact I don’t even dare bring it up with anyone else. And yes, at this juncture, when I really would like to embark on a closer relationship with my brother, how do I bring up such a delicate topic and yet not alienate him forever? Should I?
-- Mihika Kanpuri, Mumbai

Obviously for some reason/s you seem to have a very formal relation with your brother. Whether its the age gap -- many people errantly believe that a generation gap is due to chronological year differences rather than attitudinal differences! -- or just simply the fact that you were too involved in your activities to really have had a chance to develop some form of bonding, its never too late to get close. And what better way than to break the ice with a subject which unfortunately has been frowned upon by most. Sexuality - tagged by many as 'dirty', 'disgusting' and 'bad'. Condemned by society and considered taboo. Is it a wonder then that young adults 'hush' rather than talk openly or 'whisper' rather than be straightforward about their sexual awakenings?
The best way to broach the subject would be talk about yourself. About the time when you were in graduate school and the crush (crushes) you had for X, Y and Z. Let him see that you are no angel from heaven, that by being so open about your flirtations, romances, affinities, you yourself have sensible ideas about sex and sexuality. Disclosing your personal relations in itself will indicate that you're not ashamed of love and being in love. The best way to embark on a journey to get closer in relationships, (brotherly or romantic or any!) is to delve into deeper so far 'untouched' territories. Yes, it may mean some amount of disclosure, some risk. But then, its better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all! Or in your case, it's better to have tried and failed, than never to have tried at all!
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Should I move in with my aunt?
I am originally from Goa where I live with my family. I plan to come down to Mumbai to first study and then work in a few months' time. I will first be staying with my aunt in the city. However, a friend who did the same two years back is really in the throes of a family 'situation'. She came down to pursue a professional course in Delhi and again, stayed with her aunt, who has a huge house. When the course was done with, and she had found herself a job and enough money to move out, she finds that her aunt thinks of her leaving as a betrayal of sorts (my friend of course, thinks of it as liberation!). How do I avoid getting into the same quagmire? I honestly only need a bolthole till I find my feet, and I know I will not be able to take an indefinite number of years in cramped quarters – as Mumbai flats are. Help! I don't want this to be the cause of family fractures… and I don't want to seem ungrateful either.

-- Soniya Bhullar, Panjim

Since I don't have information about your age and what course you're intending to do here in Mumbai I'm making an attempt with two answers.
1) If you're of an age where you are going to Mumbai for post graduate studies, you are 'adult' enough to stay by yourself. However, are you foregoing this option because staying alone in crabby little holes or in not so nice hostel living conditions, is discomforting? And instead of tolerating the difficulties that will come with living alone, you prefer the cushier option of homing in with aunt? Liberation means much more than following your dream career and getting that coveted job. And it never comes without a price. You seem to appear to want the best of both worlds. A comfortable 'aunt's' home with no strings attached and the freedom to follow your line of calling. Great that you're intending to follow your line of calling but remember with that will also come the pains, the unpleasant conditions and the difficulties. Are you ready to pay that price for your dreams?
2) If you aren't of an 'adult' age where you can live alone (though living in hostels is very common for students) and are therefore opting for the security and comfort of your aunt's home until you find your feet, nothing wrong with it. Be aware that being grateful to your aunt for providing you 'security' doesn't mean being subservient to her for the rest of your life. Thanking her for her goodness and acknowledging the fact that she helped you when you needed it most is healthy and sensible. However, many a time people feel guilty because they believe that because they were once helped in times of need, the 'helpee' is God and that the 'helped' has to be his/her slave for life. I would hope your aunt and your family have sensible ideas about her assistance to you and see her good deeds as only wanting to have the best for her niece's development and growth. Even if they don't, I hope that you have sensible ideas about 'being grateful' and that you re-question your definition that gratefulness equals slavery!
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My Boyfriend is getting very possessive
I just married my four-year long boyfriend and we love each other a lot. We have always had a very open relationship where we talk about everything. I work with an event management company and sometimes end up having long days. However, he has always been very supportive of the work I do, since he has a very individualistic attitude. But off late he has been getting very possessive about me. I have a set of guy friends I grew up around and they are a part of my life. Until recently, he has never had a problem with me hanging around with them, with or without his company, but now suddenly he seems to have a problem with everything that I do and places that I go. I don't think its as much a trust issue as it's about being crazily possessive. He tries to ape their style, likes, dislikes etc thinking that it will impress me, and honestly it does end up looking quite silly at times. I love him for the way he is and don't want him to change. Even though we have talked about it, the problem still persists. What do I do?

--- Shreya Goyal, 28

This seems like an issue where your boyfriends 'definition' about 'wife' seems to be the reason for his changed behavior. Let me explain. When you were his girlfriend, his possible views/ideas about you was - 'she isn't mine. Her identity comes from being Shreya. I have in a way, no right to allow/disallow her anything.' Today however, after marriage his concepts could be, 'she's mine now, her identity is Mrs. Goyal (assuming that is your married surname), there is a certain decorum of sorts I would like her to abide by. She is no more the single, fancy-free 'girl' anymore. She's a woman who 'belongs' to me and her ways ought to be more appropriate to her status and she should be more  subtle, ladylike, and demure.' Now obviously if his views about a wife are anything like I've listed above, he's bound to be possessive and have difficulties accepting what in the past he had no problems with. You need to step back Shreya and examine what your husband possibly expects from a 'wife'.  Also pay attention to certain facets of your behavior. I'm not suggesting that one alters every aspect of oneself when one settles down in matrimony, but indeed some fine tuning may be required in our ways, methods and behaviors when one gets attached.
About his trying to ape your friends in their style, likes, etc. It could well be that he sees you appreciating and endorsing their ways and if he believes that that may be the only way he could get you to pay the same kind of attention to him, so he tries copying them. Somewhere I suspect he believes that he isn't getting intense attention from you. And to do so, he does silly things which he thinks may impress you. Your man seems like an attention craver - recognize that and with love, gently nudge him to be more self-reliant.
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How do I adjust with my in-laws
I got married a little over two years ago, and my husband and I have been living in Mumbai since then. My in-laws stay in Kolkata and I have met them only twice since we were married. However, they have come down to visit us and will be staying here for about eight months, along with travelling to other places in India. The problem is that I am very used to living my own life without having to make any major adjustments. With them around we need to make changes in our lifestyle and set certain routines based on their convenience. They are very accommodating and friendly by nature, but I cannot make myself see this change in a positive manner. I don't want our relationship turning sour because of a petty problem like this. And I still hate the fact that I need to alter things in my life. How best should I handle this?

-- Monoshi Banerjee, 33

Was yours a love or an arranged marriage? The reason I ask this is because the problem before you then takes on a different hue. I will attempt to answer this with both possibilities in mind. 
In case your relationship was a culmination of love, difficulties may well be less. One reason being that 'demands' from a daughter-in-law in that arrangement are often 'lesser'. Of course it isn't always necessarily so. In an arranged set-up the equation alters a bit because the belief in-laws usually have is, 'she's a girl from our culture and thus had better be aware of the norms, customs and 'duties' that are appropriate and expected. So, you may find adjusting easier in the former than in the latter, for the 'expectations' in those liaisons often differ.
I get the impression that first of all you're believing that you will have to make lifestyle adjustments. Why? What is so strange or peculiar about your style that will need altering? Suppose you're a working woman, is it your idea that when your in-laws are around the lifestyle adjustment would be giving up your job? And if that's what you really think, then wait a bit. You seem to have some questionable beliefs about 'adjustments' and about pleasing your in-laws and being in their good books! 
But suppose as a couple you partied every night and now with your in-laws in town you may well have to 'adjust' that and have a different routine for a while --  the attitude you take towards that alteration will determine how you'll react and more importantly how you will behave in response to that 'inconvenience'. If you believe, 'at no cost must I have to change anything for anybody', you don't have to be Einstein to guess how infuriated and upset you'd be with petty changes. But suppose your attitude is, 'they are with me for a short time and yes, even though I'm not used to altering schedules for other's, a bit of a compromise here and there on a trivial isn't going to harm anybody', you'd be accommodative without resentment and grudge.

You will have to weigh what is important for you. What you view as 'un-comprisable', 'unalterable', 'unchangeable'. And then you'd better be consistent with those issues. Because those issues will then be 'unadjustable' with any person -- not your parents, not your in-laws! Most often it is noticed that inconsistency in values and principles -- altering them as it suits us -- is what gets us into trouble. And hey, adjustment isn't a bad word. You'll be doing a hell of it when you become a mother! You could view this period as your dress rehearsal! 
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My mother is bed-ridden
I am a working woman and I live alone with my aged mother. She is suffering from a chronic disease and is bed-ridden due to that. This hampers her mobility and the ability to do things on her own. I have hired a house nurse who takes care of her through the day, but this does not make up for the emotional support that she needs to help her get through the anguish. I cannot afford to lose my job since I am her only child and it is a steady source of income through which I fund her medication. I keep feeling very guilty about not being able to give her the required time and attention when she needs it most. Since I work in an advertising agency, my work hours are very erratic and I have long days. My company sends me on week long assignments away from home and those times, of being away from her, are the worst. The whole situation is very taxing — emotionally and physically. How best can I deal with this situation?

— Aneesha Pastakia, 32

It seems to me that your emotional and physical exhaustion is being compounded due to severe self-flagellation. You're beating yourself mercilessly, hating yourself, and thinking that you're the most 'ungrateful' and 'wretched' daughter for your inability to spend time and for what you consider as giving insufficient attention to your mum. Is it a wonder then that you suffer from pangs of guilt and feel 'taxed' constantly.
But it isn't surprising. Because years of believing in certain questionable ideas may well be your forte. I would even go as far as hypothesizing that you may have chosen to remain single (I assume you are!) and would have given up the pleasures of matrimony and of finding a life companion, only so that you'd be that 'dutiful daughter' who sacrificed her all for her dear mother. Don't get me wrong. I'm not in the least suggesting that we give up our parents (especially the aged one's) and leave them to their own devices and especially when they are infirm and ailing. But how do you define a 'good daughter'? And what are your views on emotional support? These definitions will go a long way in accentuating your guilt or if they are in the sensible domain, will help you feel healthily concerned about mum's well-being and comfort. Regretting the fact that you can't spend as much time as you'd possibly like is healthy, and it wont leave you feeling all wound up. But it seems that you believe that the only way 'good children' are 'good' is when they hover around their parents 24/7. Sorry to sound cliched, but it isn't the quantity of time that you will spend with her but the quality that will really matter. You could be around the house the entire day and have minimal or a very superficial interaction. Or you could spend a half hour and those minutes can be so special that the intensity of that encounter lingers in her memory and yours and means much more to the both of you. Your belief that emotional support has to come from external sources is also questionable. The best support is self-support. And to the extent I feel comfortable with me, with what I have and with where I am, outside support at best can be an appendage.
You'd possibly be surprised to know that your mum could well be thinking quite differently. (And if she unfortunately believes that 'good children' have to prove their 'goodness' by being at their parents' beck and call, well it only reveals her lack of self-reliance and her ideas need as much questioning as yours!)  As to how her daughter in spite of her hard schedules still manages to be around her. How proud she is of her daughter's ability in the real world. And if you honestly asked her, she'd possibly not want it any other way. She'd land up feeling more guilty than you, if she saw you give up your job for her sake (which for all practical purposes you can't). And then how would you like that?
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Is my boyfriend having commitment issues?
My boyfriend and I are having a live-in relationship — something we wanted to try out before we got married. It's almost been a year now and I think I am ready to take the next step. However, he does not look at it the same way and each time I bring up the conversation, he stalls it endlessly. Is he having commitment issues or is he getting too comfortable with the whole idea of a live-in relationship, and feels that marriage will be added responsibility? He won't talk to me about why he is not ready and it is starting to worry me. How do I find out what is on his mind?

— Nupur Bakshi, 25

'Enjoy the best of both worlds', is the philosophy your boyfriend seems to believe in, at this moment. Marriage for anyone more often than not, leads to immense responsibilities, alters one's way of life, requires sacrifice and adjustments, and often restructures one's outlook to life. Something that your boy may not be willing to take on yet. And from his point of view, why should he? Your live-in relationship gives him the 'freedom' and yet satisfies his desires for emotional, sexual and possibly financial companionship. Is it a wonder that he balks and runs a mile when you utter the word 'marriage'!  Or refuses to discuss why he isn't ready yet. But never mind him. You have to ask yourself what do you want and how much more time you are willing to give this live-in relationship? It is usually found that if a man doesn't commit within a year he usually never will. And instead of looking for reasons to justify his delay, one had better see the reality (however unpleasant and difficult it is) and make decisions for oneself. You need to pin him down and tell him what you expect and will not accept beyond a reasonable point. And then see if he is willing to go with your contingencies. These contingencies that you place, will show him that you are concerned about your future and that you aren't so desperate a lover that you are willing to carry on the relationship to infinity. Maybe your hard talk will wake him up and make him realize that his woman means business. At present, he's getting a great deal with nothing at stake and nothing to lose! Good luck.
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My husband is having an affair
I think my husband is having an affair. I don't know for sure, but there are some tell tale signs. He often comes home late, is out on 'official' work during the weekends, and above all he is becoming very irritable. He snaps back at every little thing, almost as if he is guilty about something. If I question him about this, and it turns out to be false, I will lose his trust. If I don't question him, I will lose my sanity. It has been bothering me for a while now and there is no way to tell if he is cheating on me. Is this baseless doubt or something I am unaware of? What do I do? Should I risk it and confront him?

— Shivani Kabra, 27

The thing that gets people into trouble many a time is having unverified, intangible assumptions. I am not suggesting therefore that what you're thinking about your husband is baseless and has no measure of truth in it. But that you need to uncover the truth as soon as possible, so that you may save yourself from insanity and maybe the marriage from serious difficulty. Many a time we prefer to be like the ostrich and deny problems when they exist. Although some of us also have a great knack of exaggeration difficulties and making them mountainous. You will need to sit down and dialogue with your man. Tell him about his style of behavior. Of the way he has been relating (or not relating!) to you. How he snaps and is irritable more often than not. Ask him what he sees as the reasons for change. Of why there has been a shift in his work schedules over weekends. Let him do the explaining. You do not need to be accusatory or blaming but just very objective in bringing to his notice his changed ways. Who knows then? He may have very reasonable explanations and thus your suspicion of 'affair' can be laid to rest. Or he may realize that his explanations hold no ground and then may feel cornered to reveal the truth. How you talk, what you say, the way you say it, is a very important determiner in resolving this difficulty. I don't think any woman does not feel similarly at some point or the other in her life, the way to address this however, is not by confrontation but by gentle information seeking. And ignorance isn't bliss! Good luck!
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How do I live with 'his' girlfriend?
My roommate and I are great buddies and have been living together for almost a year. He is seeing a girl and they often spend time at our bachelor pad. Although she is really nice, I have a problem with her turning my home into hers, with scented candles, lace curtains and pretty pillow cases. I appreciate her cleaning the house and doing his laundry, but I don't like her going through mine. It has come to the point where she has started rearranging my cupboard! I cannot afford a house on my own and I don't want to lose a friend for such a petty problem. How do I ask him to keep his girlfriend out of my cupboard and my life without harming our friendship?

— Ashish Chauhan, 26

"Have something to say and say it in plain English" - is a reply a famous speaker gave to a question, "How do I talk effectively?" I guess the same would hold good for you too. But that can happen only if you perceive that asking for your 'space' doesn't equal the end of friendship. And if you believe that the expression of distasteful things has to be taken kindly and sportingly, it may be another reason you may not speak up. So, you need to rethink your assumptions. The usual thing is that whenever we receive negative feedback, most of us become defensive and are unable to take it objectively and end up blaming the person speaking his/her views. You will have to develop the idea that with your expression (asking his girl to keep out your cupboard)  you may create a discomfort between you and your buddy, but that this feeling of discomfort is not unbearable nor intolerable. Rather by NOT expressing yourself you will feel more upset at your 'weakness' and hate yourself for your submissiveness. You may well end up hating your friend also for not being more understanding -- thus causing an inadvertent rift in your friendship. Speaking about it, may in the short-run enegnder a feeling of discomfort but in the long-run will help you bond better with your friend. For he would see you having the courage of speaking your mind! I would hope that your roommate is a mature, sensible, reasonable chap, who believes that each of his friends have a right to their own 'room'. You also seem to be avoiding speaking up due to the belief that expression of small needs/desires is petty. But is your friendship so brittle that by speaking up the entire relationship is affected? And if your friendship sours, well then you had better re-look the way you were viewing this friendship in the first place!
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My husband is a social flirt
My husband is a social flirt and that is creating trouble in our relationship. He has a wide circle of friends we socialise with on a regular basis. However, off late, he has been having intense conversations with other women over the phone and has been making flirtatious moves at them, each time we go out together. The situation is getting out of hand and I think he might not be interested in me anymore. I have confronted him and he believes it is harmless. Obviously I am not of the same opinion and if it continues the same way, I might talk to him about separation. Either way I am on the losing front. Is there another way in which I can tackle the situation?

— Meera Bhatt, 32, Mumbai

Social flirting restricted to social occasions more often than not, is rarely harmful. However, from your description it seems that your husband is indulging in much more than just harmless flirting. The reason I say this is because of your description of 'intense phone conversations'. Flirting is nothing but light love-making without serious intention, but your man seems serious! Serious enough, that in spite of having his wife express her discomfort, he still doesn't stop. Why, though, I wonder, do the ladies he 'flirts' with, encourage his advances? But forget about them and lets concentrate on you. In any relationship, healthy possessiveness and jealousy is definitely expected and accepted. What is his idea about that? Suppose, you were to do what he does, how well would it go down with him, is a question I'd like you to ask? Its all very well for him to tag his advances as 'harmless'. But lets remember we're humans and the line between serious and harmless is often a  very fine one. And when we put ourselves in 'testing situations', to try and see how 'strong' we are, very often without a warning we slip, and slip hard.  And the fall then is sometimes difficult to recover from. Inadvertently 'harmless' then becomes 'serious'! I'd suggest you tell him so, in straight speak. He possibly senses that you believe that either way, you'll be the loser, and hence doesn't find it necessary to reconsider his ways. What I'd want him to see (and you to believe!) is that the loss will be entirely his!  Because, if for his 'flirtatious' ways, he'd rather give up a long term commitment, what is the possibility that any of his 'girlfriends' will be willing to take him in?
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A "Family" Vacation
My husband and I, both have corporate jobs that keep us very busy. After much planning we have managed to take time out for a peaceful vacation together. However, our family insists that they join us and as 'generous' as my husband is, he agreed upon it. Contrarily, I was hoping to have some quiet time with him, which does not seem to be possible. I wish to cancel all plans, but doing so would give rise to a wave of discomfort in the family. But if I don't cancel, we will end up wasting money and time on a vacation I will not enjoy. Is there any way out?

— Ayesha Kapur, Delhi

I can understand your predicament, for in our culture family is an integral part of married life. Not that it cant be a pleasurable part but with changing times where more and more couples have full time occupations, extended family intruding in busy lives or joining in private vacations, can make them a not so pleasant part! And unfortunately due to our own ideas that we'd be 'bad' sons or 'not nice' daughters if we take time out 'alone' or that we are 'ungrateful' children if we don't do as our family says, makes it very hard for us to express what we genuinely want and we feel 'pressured' into something that we'd rather not. I suspect this 'our' family whose going on vacation with you is 'his' family. And the 'generous' son cannot express what he truly desires - time out privately with his wife - because somewhere he's guilty. Guilt thats emanating from some questionable views -- that he owes it to them (figuratively) to spend time since he hardly sees them, that time out alone on vacation is not necessary since he's alone with you most of the time anyway and similar such views. I'm sure in his heart of heart he'd possibly also long for that quiet peace. But due to the above ideas is unable to say so. Understanding from where he's coming will help you negotiate a solution. Canceling your trip will leave you feeling resentful and him guilty (that he couldn't fulfill his wife's desire). Taking a few days off alone and then inviting the family to join in for rest of the holiday could well be worked out. But that can happen only if you don't believe that it either has to be you alone for the entire vacation or else complete cancellation. There can be an and/also solution, since that will leave both of you relatively satisfied, not resentful or guilty, and possibly only a very small wave of discord may surface in the family!
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Choosing between a better profession and motherhood
My company recently offered me a promotion, which will undoubtedly result in a better pay package, but it would also mean longer working hours. I am the single parent of a three-year-old and I want to be able to give her most of my time and attention. If I take up the offer at work, I know it will result in higher financial stability, which according to me is an important aspect of being a single parent. That will also leave me with very little time to take good care of her. My parents are readily willing to help me out and I can make arrangements for her to be with them during the day, but I still feel guilty about it. Is it wise to take up the promotion in office at the cost of my daughter's upbringing?

— Kavita Rao, 34

Your question raises many significant concerns that possibly every working woman faces at some point or the other in her life. Fortunately or unfortunately (depends on the way you look at it!) God gifted us with intellect AND with the capacity to bear children, little realizing that we women would bemoan that fact and make ourselves miserable because of it! Jokes apart, you need to ask yourself (and nobody but you can answer that) what is important to you. What do you intensely VALUE? What would at the end of a day give you an inherently satisfying feeling? When going to bed how would you feel had you been on the playground, spent an evening at a kids birthday party, or generally accompanied your kid to her drawing class? versus having been at work, earning that extra packet that would no doubt make you and your child more financially secure and stable and aid in more material comforts? Whatever your answer is, believe and stand by it. For there is nothing more disturbing than compromising on your integrity. Yes, for that integrity we often have to pay a price -- sometimes heavy ones -- but as Emerson the great philosopher once said, 'nothing can give you peace and happiness but yourself and the triumph of your principles!'
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When is it the right time?
Starting a family is a big responsibility, and I don't think I'm mentally or emotionally ready to have a child. However, my husband thinks otherwise. We've discussed this issue at length, but cannot seem to reach a conclusion. He fears the medical complications that might arise at an older age, and I know he means well. But I need to give myself another year to get accustomed to a different lifestyle, which will set in once the baby is born — lesser work, restricted freedom and practically no personal time. If eventually we both want a child should I end this quarrel now or hold my ground and wait for a year?
— Shubhavi Roy, 30, Kolkatta

It is heartening to see you so honest with how and what you feel. Most women wouldn't accept let alone acknowledge that one needs to be ready - emotionally and otherwise - to become a mum. It is important for all of us to ask ourselves some pretty hard questions about becoming parents -- is our marriage a distinctly good and happy one? (The most common misleading notion that children will make the marriage work, needs to be relegated to the bin). Is my husband and me more mature emotionally than the average man and woman. Do we only want children in a sentimental sense, or are we eager to make parenthood a major enterprise for the next quarter of a century and realize that this means considerable hard study, work, and sacrifice of many satisfactions. Only if you can answer these questions in the positive go ahead and have a kid/s. The realization and acceptance of the demands of time, energy and devotion that kids need and that they usually disrupt patterns of satisfactions that a couple may have worked out between themselves, is important in effective ushering of the child into 'your space’. And if you aren't ready for that yet parenting will be resentfully borne rather than enjoyed. Holding your ground can be of benefit if you use the time to seriously prepare yourself for becoming a parent. Else your bundle of joy may well end up becoming your bundle of misery -- and that too for no fault of his/hers!
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Study Or Work?
I'm a 27-year-old from Mumbai and I work with an advertising agency. Although I don't have a professional certificate in advertising I took up this career because I enjoy the creative freedom. I have long been debating about whether it's time for me to quit work and study or whether I should save up for a few years and do a professional course from a good university. The chances of me landing a better job are higher once I obtain a professional degree, but I'm not sure if this is the right time. Any pointers on what I can do?
— Shikha Gupta, Mumbai

There is no perfect time for anything and in hindsight we all wish that we had. . . A better way of looking at your predicament would be with an attitude 'Today this seems the best option/decision for me'. It is important that we understand and accept that decisions that were good at a particular time, may not be so at a later date. But that is life. Another common belief that gets us into trouble is the idea 'We must never regret our decisions!' Now if you subscribe to that, whatever you choose will not be with a composed and thoughtful mind and the likely-hood of your choice backfiring will be higher.  It seems that you've done your homework that by getting a degree, better job prospects will emerge. A question -- is there a possibility of you working and studying? It would mean of course tremendous discipline, some amount of sacrifice -- but the long term goal of arming yourself with a degree attained. And that too with income steadily flowing in. An 'and/also' attitude will help you look for solutions to optimize your resources. And let not the idea that 'It should not be so difficult', sabotage your enthusiasm. For if anything is worth doing, it is worth striving for! Good Luck.
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My Partner dislikes everything I do
My partner and I have been living in together for about three years. We've been dating for a very long time, and living together seemed like the next logical step before making any long-term commitment. In the beginning, things were fine — we both work and we have our own set of friends we hang out with. Recently, he has grown to dislike everything I do — right from my job as a dance instructor, to my friends coming over to our house and even my traveling abroad to attend various dance shows. I feel stifled and don't really know what is causing this. Is it distrust or possessiveness? If things go on this way, it will be very difficult for me to settle down with him, and I don't want things to go sour. What should I do?

— Ayesha Dhar, 25, Mumbai

Let's not try and be mind readers and guess what's going on in your boyfriends mind. Let's instead ask and hear what he has to say about his changed attitude. Even though you don't have that wedding band around your finger or the registered piece of paper, for all practical purposes you are living as man and wife. And does he feel that his expectations in the relationship are not being fulfilled, as a result of which he's showing disgruntlement? It's very strange that all of a sudden he's disliking your primary activity-- your job -- because he surely would have known of it when you started living in. Is this dislike a camouflage for something that he is unable to voice? Possibly. And men not being the best expressers somehow expect us to guess what bothers them. Maybe he doesn't like you devoting time with your set of friends and would rather prefer that both of you hang out with each others. But if he believes that he can't demand that of you - since you're not married or maybe because you may not take to it too kindly -- he targets something else. I get the impression that he feels alienated. Alienated form what you do, who you socialize with, etc. And being a man believes that it's 'unmanly' to express so. I'd like you to step back and ask yourself if there is anything in your behavior which may be contributing to his building frustration. Because remember, man never does anything without a reason and the sooner you can comprehend his motives, the sooner the issues can be addressed and resolved. Good luck!
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My Husband has started drinking
I am a 33-year-old, self-employed professional and have been happily married for the last 10 years. Ours was a love marriage, and my husband has always been cooperative and supportive of everything right from the beginning. Off late, he has taken to the habit of drinking and I am starting to get worried about his health, especially since he has been diagnosed with hypertension, and has a sedentary job that involves no exercise. No amount of cajoling or arguing will make him stop, and this is affecting our relationship since this is the only thing we fight over. I don't want to lose him to alcohol and neither do I want to drive him to a divorce. How do I get him to stop?
— Pushpanjali, Delhi

'A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still!' And by trying to convince him to see the ill's of his habit you're only driving him further and further into it. No, am not in the least suggesting that you do nothing, but your ways seem to be going nowhere and is having exactly the opposite influence. You will need to ask yourself some questions about his habit. Obviously he didn't have it when you first met. What made him develop it? Was it his need to conform socially? Was he bored of the regular life and just to 'spice' it up took up to drinks? Was your relationship not progressing in the way he had hoped and instead of addressing issues took to drown his sorrows, little realizing that even sorrows learn how to float! Enquiries such as these will help you unearth the motives for his drinking. Of course by now he possibly enjoys it, but instead of blaming and condemning him, go a notch deeper and try and comprehend the pleasure he derives that he unfortunately believes he cannot get from any other source. Many people use smoking, drinking, gambling as ways of settling scores with people they dislike. They believe that these are the only objects within their control (a glass / a cigarette). That these are the only things which will not take an attitude towards them, judge them or condemn them. And thus get driven more and more towards it. If you can be less anxious and understand that beyond a point a person does and will do what he/she wants to, you'll see that all the conversations which probably are now only centered around on how 'bad' and 'irresponsible' he is, can become more enjoyable and 'light'. A condition which he now believes that he can get only through his drink! Good Luck.
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