The mommy burden

Annie Lane

Dear Annie: My boyfriend and I are starting to get serious, and everything is going smoothly except for one constant bump in the road: his mother. His dad is out of the picture. She is single, and he is an only child and lives at home. She desperately wants him to be a mama’s boy, but he never has been and never will be, which frustrates her. She needs to know where he is, texts him constantly, becomes judgmental when he drinks any alcohol or is out late, and demands his constant attention. He used to be able to maintain a balance; he would choose his battles but also try to talk her down and explain to her that he is an adult and can make his own choices. However, she seems to get needier as he and I get closer.

I try my best to be friendly and kind when I interact with her, but I’ve overheard conversations between the two of them (I know; I shouldn’t eavesdrop) that basically come down to her accusing me of taking him away and being a bad influence. He is aware of how difficult she is and apologizes on her behalf, but I don’t know what to do or say. Annie, I don’t want to create conflict between my boyfriend and his mother, but I don’t want to have to fight over him. Though her behavior irritates me, I would still like to get along with her, but she so clearly dislikes me, and nothing I’ve tried so far has changed that. How do I ensure that she will back off a bit so that my relationship can continue to grow? — No More Tug of War

Dear No More Tug of War: It takes two to engage in tug of war, so step away from the rope and stay out of the mud. Meet any of her rudeness with kindness. But do talk to your boyfriend about how you’re feeling. It sounds as though his mom is overly dependent on him and he’s enabling this dynamic. Though moving out would certainly help give him space from his mom, he might bring guilt with him, and then the codependent pattern might continue. Encourage him to attend a few therapy sessions so he can get a clearer perspective of his own emotional needs. Until he establishes healthy boundaries with her, it will be impossible for him to have a healthy relationship with you.

Dear Annie: I reluctantly agree with your assertion that “anyone who can’t afford to leave a tip shouldn’t be eating out in the first place.” But you missed an opportunity to point out the absurdity of the modern tip system.

Tips are supposed to reward excellent service, not serve as mandatory wage supplements. Today service workers are being paid less than minimum wage in most places solely because the economic system has adapted to assume that standard levels of service will always be acknowledged by an “optional” payment, whose standard value has risen from 15 percent to 18 percent to 20 percent just over the past couple of decades.

This custom is silly. It’s the economic equivalent of “participation awards.”

Servers should be paid at least the same minimum wage as everyone else, and restaurants should adjust their prices accordingly. The custom of tipping should return to its roots as an optional gift for excellent service rather than an amount that the customer feels obligated to provide to support underpaid waitstaff. — Just a Tip for You

Dear Just a Tip for You: I agree with you. I’d love to see that system change here in the United States. Here’s hoping — though I’m not holding my breath.

Editor’s note: Send your questions for Annie Lane to dearannie@creators.com. To find out more about Annie Lane and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the website at www.creators.com.