Life Advice



Annie's Mailbox: Fighting for My Family

Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar on

Dear Annie: I've been a stepmother to two lovely girls, now 12 and 17, since they were very young. My husband gladly pays child support on time without fail. The girls have different mothers who raise their children in opposite ways, yet in both cases, it's rare that the child support actually reaches the child.

The amount of child support each mother receives is fair, but is being used incorrectly. The girls continuously need clothes, shoes, haircuts, coats, money for school activities, you name it. It's like my husband is paying child support twice for each child.

My question is this: If the conversation falls on deaf ears with both mothers, is it OK to explain the financial situation to the girls? My husband doesn't want to talk money with them, and I don't want to badmouth their mothers, but I'm tired of being broke. What's my role? -- North Carolina Stepmom

Dear Stepmom: To be supportive. Do not involve the children in your dispute over child support. This is not their fault, and they shouldn't be put in the middle of unhappy parents. If your husband feels the support payments are not being used to cover the girls' necessities, he needs to document what he spends for these things and then talk to his lawyer and ask that the support payments be reduced.

Dear Annie: I am a 28-year-old mother of two beautiful children. I have an aunt who suffers from various conditions, and over the years, she has been put on several medications. Three years ago, her oldest son died in a car accident. Her middle child recently had a bout with cancer. Things have not been easy. I have watched her physical and mental health spiral downward. Some days she's fine, and other days she never leaves her bed.

My kids have a hard time understanding what she says, and sometimes she babbles on about nonsense and odd things. How do I get my family some help? -- Fighting for My Family

Dear Family: Please tell your children that "Aunt Bee" is not well, and teach them how to be tolerant and compassionate. If she is taking a variety of medications and is babbling and talking nonsense, it is very possible that she is overmedicated or needs to check the dosages and interactions. Whoever is in charge of her medical care should address this with her doctor. If no one is in charge, please offer to make an appointment and accompany her, and ask whether it's OK to speak to the doctor on her behalf. She also sounds like she could benefit from grief therapy. Bless you for caring enough to handle this.


Dear Annie: I think you missed a major point in the letter from "Bride-To- Be," whose future mother-in-law wanted her to ask a cousin to be a bridesmaid.

Bridesmaids are the bride's decision. If she lets her future mother-in-law get her way now, think what she could do in the future. The mother-in-law was rude to make the suggestion in the first place, and she should apologize. The fiance ought to put his foot down now and not let his mother dictate what his future wife should do. I say nip it in the bud. -- Omaha, Neb.

Dear Omaha: A lot of readers agree with you, but we don't. A wedding is a time to blend families together. A considerate bride will include members of her future husband's family in her wedding party, especially if both her fiance and his mother would like it. Mom may turn out to be a bully -- it's too early to say -- but the bride's default position should not be "no" to every single request simply because she is afraid Mom will overstep. When Mom doesn't respect boundaries, it's fine to say so. But otherwise, there is nothing wrong with occasionally accommodating someone your spouse loves. It shows maturity and grace.


"Annie's Mailbox" is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar. This column was originally published in 2017. To find out more about Classic Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit Creators Syndicate at




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