If you have a problem, email Caroline at Caroline reads all your letters but regrets she cannot answer each one personally

If you have a problem, email Caroline at Caroline will read all of your correspondence but cannot reply to each one.

My mother keeps picking on my husband 

Q    My husband is in his mid-40s. We have three kids, ages nine through 15. Our careers had been part-time, with me working as a secretary. My husband was placed on furlough during lockdown and was eventually made redundant. This came as a huge blow to him because he’d enjoyed his job. He received a bit of a payoff – not a large sum but enough to cover the bills for a few months. Next I was offered. The possibility of working full-time. So he’s now taken over more of the domestic routine while looking for a new job. It’s not what either of us would choose ideally, but it’s OK for the time being. My husband’s line of work is quite specialised so we’ve agreed he should hold out for something that suits his experience and skills.

The problem is my mother, who grills him on whether he’s working whenever we see her. Although my husband seems polite, he is not able to give an accurate answer. I am aware that this frustrates and depresses him. After every visit, he says he’s just going to take any job, even if it’s a really junior role. It’s something she keeps asking me when we chat on the phone. She’s from a generation and background where it is assumed the man must be the primary breadwinner, and if he isn’t there must be something wrong with him. It is getting to a point where my husband is reluctant to come to see my mother with me and the children, and I’m beginning to resent her too. How can I help?



Her assumption is that the man should be the breadwinner 

  Redundancy is often a huge blow to the self-esteem, without the added pressure of someone constantly reminding you that you no longer have a job. Your mother is quite pushy. She also seems to hold values that are from another era. Many couples today have the man as the breadwinner. Your marriage sounds great because of the way you support one another in stressful times. Tell your mom to not ask your husband when you are going to find another job. Explain to her gently but firmly that he has had a difficult time and that her constant questioning isn’t helping. Explain to her that your husband is not working full-time at the moment and you don’t think less of him. He is doing an amazing job raising the kids and also looking for work. She should respect him. You can calmly explain to her that this is keeping you from seeing each other. Unfortunately, because she sounds very ‘old school’ you may find that she doesn’t respond well – and even if she learns to keep quiet, your husband may still feel silently judged. You should not let this get to you. You mention that her comments ‘depress’ him, so keep an eye on that. It’s important for your husband to know that his value in life does not just depend on how he earns money. See the website and search ‘coping with redundancy’ for more help. 



I am being asked by my ex to care for his child.  

Q   My boyfriend of three years left me for another woman – a girl really, she was only 19 – and within six months she became pregnant. He left me for another woman, which was devastating as I had hoped to have children with him. We’re both in our early 30s. However, my ex’s new girlfriend walked out on him and their baby, who is now five months old. The woman told my ex that they were not together anymore. could have full custody as she wasn’t ready to be a mum and couldn’t handle it. He begged for me to return him. He claims that he He made a horrible mistake. Now he wants us to raise our son together and have another child. Does he really believe me or are they afraid of becoming a single father?


 This is desperately sad – especially for the child who is not wanted by his mum. From your point of view, I really wouldn’t give your ex a second chance. He might genuinely feel he made a mistake – and I’m sure he did – but I fear that you are right and he is scared of being a single parent. As he dumped you for the baby’s mother, there is also a danger that you could come to resent your ex’s son if you took him back. It would be a noble act to try and save the child’s life. So please encourage your ex to contact the charity Home Start ( for support, and ask him to urge the baby’s mother to also get in touch with them. It may be that with help she could still be involved in her child’s life. Once you’ve done that, it is time to go. While it may be hard, this is what you should do.