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Annie's Mailbox

Ask Amy column

Q. I recently got engaged to “Carol,” who will eventually be stepmother to my 9-year-old son. We are madly in love but want to take our time setting a date. We’re not in a rush, and no one is pushing us, except my ex-wife.

On Saturdays she insists on making herself at home in our kitchen when she drops off our son for the weekend. We’re friendly, but then she’ll start butting into my personal business. For instance, recently she insisted that we shouldn’t wait to get married.

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She stated her opinion several times, but bringing it up in our kitchen crossed the line! It was obvious that Carol was uncomfortable, but we let it go, knowing that my ex and I should be peaceful toward each other. How can I set a boundary around my personal life without upsetting my ex?

A. I’m stuck on the concept that you are worried about setting a boundary for fear of upsetting your ex-wife. Why should her feelings take precedence over your feelings or those of your fiancee?

If your ex-wife starts making suggestions about your romantic life, you should tell her, “This is really not a conversation we are willing to have with you. When we’re ready to discuss our marriage plans, we’ll let you know.”

Do not play this out in front of your son.

Q. I have a problem with a co-worker. We work in an industry that provides services to children.

I commit my life to the job, at work and at home. I go above and beyond to make sure that the services I provide are geared toward the individual and of high quality.

My co-worker, who sits next to me, does the bare minimum required to stay employed. She doesn’t give a single thought about work from Friday afternoon until Monday morning.

She comes in late, admits that she doesn’t care about the clients and chats on her cellphone all day. It upsets me that our superiors see us and treat us the same because what they see is the final product of our work, not the process behind it.

Since I can’t change my co-worker, I know that I have to change my own feelings and perspective, but my resentment is starting to interfere with my happiness. I’m really obsessing over the discrepancy between our efforts.

I like my job and I’m happy to be industrious. It’s difficult, however, when the bosses do not acknowledge the difference between those of us who devote our life to this job and those who are just in it for the paycheck. What can I do to get over it?

A. If your bosses see the results of your work and the work of your co-worker, and if these results are equivalent, then you should not expect them to treat you differently.

You know that you cannot change them or her. Because you work on behalf of children, you should tell yourself that their well-being is your reward. Undoubtedly, you build caring relationships with your clients that bring you satisfaction and joy.

Your compensation cannot be measured by a typical office yardstick. Write this down and stick it over your phone: “It’s all about the kids.” Post pictures (if possible) of your most memorable clients, and let their faces remind you of why you love what you do.

You must also take care of yourself. You should be willing to step away from this work to pace yourself for the long term.

Send questions via e-mail to or by mail to Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611.
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