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Explaining nurse’s schedule to boyfriend’s family is like talking to a brick wall

January 15, 2019

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

I am a nurse, my boyfriend is a teacher. A lot of his family are teachers, too. My boyfriend and I get along great, he is really patient with my schedule and I am completely understanding that he gets extra time off in summers and holidays because he works such long hours during the school year.

The problem is his family. They are constantly doubtful that I have to work on holidays and weekends. They claim my nights/days alternate schedule is “too confusing” to understand. If I can’t attend something because of work, they suggest we form a union or I call in sick. One aunt texted me that “they” can’t legally make me work on a holiday. Actually, they can, and they do, and I have no real issue with this because it’s just the way my job is.

I’ve tried patiently explaining that health care is a 24/7 job, I’ve tried walking them through my schedule, I’ve tried explaining that none of this is personal at all. I do not expect them to change any plans for me, I never keep my boyfriend from attending solo.

I feel like I’m talking to a brick wall and it comes up every time I can’t make it to something. How can I get through to them?

— Nurse

Apparently they’re made of bricks — how that squares with pedagogy as their family business, I’d rather not dwell on — so stop trying to get through.

Don’t reply to anguished-aunt texts; don’t give tutorials on health-care shift work; don’t perform an interpretive dance to convey the nuances of your schedule in a way words can’t seem to. Just be where you can and say “Sorry to miss it” where you can’t.

They sound exhausting. Why hasn’t your boyfriend stepped in?

Re: Nurse:

Thank you, Mr./Ms. Nurse, for being there for the rest of us. My elderly father was in the hospital over Christmas and New Year’s last year. We were grateful for the care he received around the clock, knowing his nurses, doctors and aides were all missing holiday time with family.

— Anonymous

Seconded, and thanks for speaking up.

Dear Carolyn:

I worry that I lean on my mom too much, and sometimes wonder if I’m being a burden. We talk pretty much every day, and I like to visit with her once or twice a week. I have two preschool-age sons and a job that allows me to spend summers at home with them, so I get a little stir crazy from missing adult interaction.

My husband works 60-hour weeks, and my friends are all child-free and prefer to see me without my kids. I’ve tried making friends in the neighborhood, without much success; I’m hoping that might change when my oldest starts kindergarten. My mom and I enjoy our time together, and the kids love her — but am I too dependent? Where do you draw the line?

— Too Close to My Mom?

If you’re fine and she’s fine, then it’s fine.

So, ask her if she’s OK with the frequency of calls and visits — that is, if you’re worried she wouldn’t speak up if you were crowding her. Otherwise I say enjoy the close relationship. Your kids sound lucky, too.

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