Stay-at-home mom ponders the wonder of work

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Chicago Tribune columnist Amy Dickinson and reporter Jenniffer Weigel help a caller deal with an unclear platonic relationship. Recorded live from the Chicago Tribune newsroom. March 7, 2013

Dear Amy: I have been a stay-at-home mom for the last 10 years. I'm facing the choice of returning to the workforce versus continuing to "work" at home.

Years ago, my husband and I made this decision after the birth of our children. I have entered the workforce a few times, but my being home full time works best for us.

My concern comes from my insecurities over possessing a college degree and not using my education. Some of my so-called "loving" family members make negative comments about our choices, and it makes me feel guilty.

If only these family members could see that I am using my education degree every day in raising my children!

In my defense, I do work — cut grass, haul firewood, clean house, prepare meals, do laundry, run errands and pass the football with my children in the front yard.

With the decision to have one working parent in our family, we have had to make adjustments in our lifestyle. At times, I do have to bite my tongue when conversing with my counterparts. They always ask me, "How can you possibly stay home and not work," while they're sitting in their new SUV, texting on their iPhone, drinking Starbucks, and showing off their manicure and highlighted hair.

I tend to let their words make me feel insecure and less of a contributing partner in my family. Should I let others dictate my life?

— To Work or Not to Work

Dear Work: Should you let others dictate your life? Um … no?

So. Why do you?

The minute you are able to alter your own attitude, your life will start to change. You need not render judgments about the lifestyles and life choices of others. You need only love your own.

I have spent time both as a mother in the workforce and at home. There are challenges to both choices, but — at least in my experience — my best day at work will never equal my best day at home with kids. (The worst days are another matter.) It's all about balance.

No one should ever question your credentials or choices. It's surprising that you should feel guilty and apologetic instead of mad as hell. You only need to say, "I accept your choices. There is no need to question mine."

Remember, the proof is in your family's (and your personal) satisfaction and happiness. If you've got that, you've got it made.

Dear Amy: You answered a letter from "Mr. B," who asked if someone should inform an aunt that she was adopted, when everyone in the family except the aunt knows the truth. You said that it was wrong to keep this secret.

What about an adult who doesn't know that his biological father is actually a family friend, when everyone else in the family knows the truth?

The family member is interested in family genealogy on the side of the family that he isn't related to. The man he knows as his father has passed away.

— Curious

Dear Curious: There is "family" and then there is biology. The two are not always the same thing. The man interested in genealogy from the family he was raised among should not be discouraged from pursuing it. Your statement that he is not "related" to this side of the family simply is not true.

Your query reveals how toxic family secrets are. Even when the truth is confusing or painful, if it is delivered thoughtfully and handled with compassion, it can be liberating.

In the case you cite, if this man's mother is still living, she should be encouraged to speak with her son about his biological parentage. Because the father who raised him is now gone, this reality should be revealed.

Dear Amy: "Long Distance Gal" worried that her boyfriend declared himself to be "single" on his Facebook page. You declared this a "petty" problem, but I believe it's a deal-breaker.

If he simply didn't list any status at all (the way I do), it wouldn't be a problem.

— No Status

Dear No Status: Both members of this long-distance relationship seemed immature and were demonstrating this in different ways.

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