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When friend pipes in, grab a cliche

Hi, Carolyn: My friend has children. I don’t. Whenever I mention having done something that costs even a medium amount of money, like splurging on a piece of jewelry, her martyr complex comes out: “You’re so lucky you get to do things like that!”

Maybe I’m projecting, but this dialogue really irritates me (it happens with other mommy friends, too). Do you think these comments are intended as digs, or are they innocent insights into how moms of small kids actually feel? Do they think I would rather have disposable income than a family? – Philly

No doubt some people take the “Must be nice having (something I don’t)” tone of snarktastic self-validation – but what you describe sounds more like reflexive fatigue from people who rarely sleep.

Try replacing the kids/no kids topic with one that isn’t your hot button – imagine working two jobs to cover your student loans, say, when your friend says, “We’re spending Christmas in St. Bart’s.” You just might blurt, “You’re so lucky you get to do things like that!”

It wouldn’t be your proudest moment, but your lament also would be more insight-into-true-feelings than dig, right?

So respond to your mom friends accordingly. Cliches are your friend in (only) these instances – “Grass is always greener, eh?” – as is life-affirmation: “Thanks, I do feel lucky.” When you’re inclined to make a point, there’s always, “… but it’s never as easy as that.”

By the way – some people do choose disposable income over kids. No shame there.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at www.washington post.com.


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