Dear Amy: My income is derived from Social Security and a small pension that has not increased one penny in 31 years. Because I have always managed to avoid debt, my life in retirement is quite rich: a European river cruise and two Caribbean cruises so far this year, and three more cruises scheduled for next year.

Recently, upon returning to a grocery store to pick up items that I had forgotten to purchase, a young lady in line behind me wanted to pay my tab to get a “blessing.” I refused the offer as being unnecessary. Was it wrong to reject the offer? Should I have tried to pay it forward?


Amy says: You seem to feel insulted by this generosity because you don’t actually need the money. But this was not about the money — it was about spreading a small kindness, which, hopefully, would inspire yet more kindness. Oops, you went another way.

The person behind might have left her house feeling fortunate and wanting to proactively spread her good fortune. Or perhaps she saw an older person in line and wanted to honor your seniority, the way she hoped someone else might honor her own parent or grandparent.

You can respond to this “mitzvah” by forgiving yourself for your reaction, and by doing a good deed now for someone else. You’ll feel better when you do.

Mom could use a helper

Dear Amy: To the reader who was overwhelmed with love for her new baby, but not feeling any love for her toddler: More than 50 years ago I gave birth to three girls within 2½ years. It was tough, even with two sets of loving grandparents nearby. There were days I never took off a flannel nightgown until dinnertime, when I was buried by mountains of diapers and baby clothes, stacks of dishes, a vacuum sitting in a corner and a load to put in the dryer downstairs.

My advice is this: If there are any young teenagers in your neighborhood and you can afford to pay them for an hour or two a day two afternoons a week, hire them immediately to come and watch your kids while you go for a walk, take a shower or a bath, get a manicure, go grocery shopping — whatever you need to give yourself a break. It will save your sanity, even your marriage.

If grandparents are nearby and are willing to help, take them up on their offers or ask for their help.

You do not have to go through this alone. No money? Even if you and a neighbor trade kids for an afternoon, figure out a way to get help.

Your babies will be better off for it, and so will you.


Amy says: Such sage advice! Many people who responded to this situation noted how expensive child care is, but I agree with you that a “mother’s helper” or a neighborly trade-off will help this overwhelmed mother immensely.


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