Life Advice



Ask Amy: Single mom wrestles with tough choices

Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Amy: I am a 32-year-old woman with a 6-year-old son.

I am in a relationship with “Larry,” who is 48. He is not my child's father.

Before meeting Larry, I lived alone and raised my son by myself.

After losing my job, my son and I moved in with my folks. We were financially dependent on them. Over the course of a year I looked for work, but couldn’t find a decent-paying job that conformed with my son’s school hours.

I felt I became a burden to my parents financially. They scrambled to get my son from school while I was at work.

During that time, I was dating Larry and decided to move in with him.

I knew it was a mistake fairly quickly. We just aren’t compatible.

I feel like I’ve become stuck.

Now I'm working at a good job, and I know I can afford to be on my own. I hate to seem selfish and leave, but I'm not happy.

I don't blame Larry. I know I have personal issues to work on, but I know being on my own would be best for me and my child.

The only thing is that I would need my family to help with some childcare (my child’s father isn’t around). At times it seems my family gets tired of helping out.

I know that if I stay with Larry, he will help with my son’s school drop-off and pickup, and with other miscellaneous things.

Do I leave Larry, suck it up, and ask for my family’s help again, or should I stay in this relationship?

I'm really torn. I just want to do what's best for my son.

– Confused in Texas

Dear Confused: Your question illustrates how childcare lies at the heart of concerns for all single parents.

You mention two things about “Larry”: His age, and his ability to help with your son. He likely deserves to have a partner who genuinely wants to be with him.

I can’t speak for your parents, but I do believe that most parents, given the option, would rather provide some childcare for their grandson than have their daughter dependent on her much-older partner to do it.

You should check with your son’s school and enroll him in after-school care, if at all possible. This sort of lower-cost program has been a Godsend for hard-working parents.

Talk with your parents very frankly about your needs. You should do everything possible to lessen any imposition on them.


I can speak for all parents here: We want for our children to demonstrate that they are moving forward. A good job, decent housing, stable schooling for your son: these are all signs that you are making progress. Keep going.

Dear Amy: When I was a teenager, I self-harmed and as a result have visible marks on one of my arms. These are left over from that time when I deliberately cut myself.

I often forget that these scars are there, and most people don't say anything about them, except for children.

On several occasions, young kids have asked me what's on my arm (the skin is raised and looks odd).

Over the years I have alternated between outright lies (I had an accident!), saying it's personal, or evading/changing the subject.

It just makes me feel so awkward. Is there a better way to handle this?

– L

Dear L: I’m so glad you are healing from that very tough time in your life.

I say – own your scars. They are tangible evidence of your growth and survival.

You can tell a child, truthfully, “Those are scars. That’s what your body does when it heals over a cut. The skin comes together and sometimes it leaves a mark. And those marks are there because I hurt myself when I was younger, but now it doesn’t hurt at all.”

If a child probes further, you can say, “Well, that’s sort of personal, and I don’t really want to talk about it, but I’m just glad I’m not hurt anymore.”

Dear Amy: Your response to “Snacked” bordered on insulting. Because a grandfather was giving his grandchild cookies, you suggested he might steer the child "...toward less benign choices.” Like what? No car seat, foul language, drugs!

Most of us grandparents are able to make the distinction between cookies, and much more dangerous choices. How dare you! Your contemptuous, suspicious tone toward this Grandpa was obvious and offensive.

– Upset

Dear Upset: I was exaggerating for effect. Unfortunately, it seems to have worked.


(You can email Amy Dickinson at or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

©2022 Amy Dickinson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.



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