“My Sister is Losing Control”

My sister has two young children. When the first one came, she seemed overwhelmed but managed with a lot of help from our mother. Now that the second has arrived she seems to have completely lost control. Her husband is a great father who loves my sister and adores the children. However, he has some shortcomings. His job situation is unstable and, while he tries to help around the house, he sometimes is a bit clueless and ends up messing things up more than helping. My sister has her faults too. She has a short temper and can be pretty demanding.

Now, I know these things don’t seem that bad, but their relationship is broken and my sister seems ready to end it. She has told us that she’s very disappointed in him and she believes she deserves better. My mom, my other sister and I have all tried listening and giving advice, but their situation isn’t changing. They even tried therapy for a few months, and it didn’t really help except to make my sister see she needs to work on being patient and that my brother-in-law needs to do more around the house. I don’t really know how therapy works, but that doesn’t seem like a lot of progress. (I wonder if they need a different counselor). I know people can’t fix a relationship unless they really want to, and I don’t know if the desire is there in my sister.

My other sister and my mother told me that they each had another talk with her this week and they are both very concerned. My sister has started to get panic attacks. I’m afraid she might have depression but wouldn’t her counselor have noticed this? She’s exhausted, overwhelmed by all her responsibilities and ready to leave her husband. At first, we urged her to work it out for the kids’ sake, but now we just want her to be happy and at peace. I know that her husband is a good man and, when they got married, there was love there. I think if they got over some of these issues they could continue on to a happy life. Young children are a lot of work and a strain on a relationship, but, once they are in school, the really exhausting part is over. (It’s still a lot of work but not as bad as at the very beginning).

What can we do to help? I have offered to watch the kids, but she hasn’t asked for me to do so. My other sister and I both have our own families but are willing to do whatever it takes to help her out. We’re just not sure what would be most helpful. Taking over some of the housework? Giving her tough love and telling her that marriage is hard work and it won’t all be roses and sunshine? Supporting her in her maybe decision to divorce? Seriously asking her to see a doctor about her possible depression? I really don’t know. It breaks my heart to watch her family breaking up in slow motion, and I just want to stop it. Please let me know what you would do in my situation and how I can ease some of her pain and anxiety. — Worried About My Sister

Reading your letter it’s clear that you love your sister and are genuinely worried about her and want to help. But you aren’t helping. You’re making things worse. Those panic attacks she’s having? The anxiety? Feeling overwhelmed by her responsibilities? Those things aren’t eased by a pack of female relatives doling out “tough love,” encouraging her to work things out with her husband for the “kids’ sake,” and acting like they know what they’re talking about just because they have families of their own. The truth is, you don’t know what it’s like to be her. You don’t know what’s going on in her mind, her marriage, or her family. And the reason she hasn’t taken you up on your offer to help is because your help isn’t helping.

Please, for the sake of your relationship with your sister, as well as for her emotional well-being, back off. Give her some breathing room. Let her make her own decisions. She’s a grown woman. She’s a wife and a mother. Unless you have reason to believe she’s a risk to herself or her family, you need to let her figure her own shit out. Her solution may not be what you want for her and her family and it may not even be “right,” but it will absolutely be wrong if she starts making decisions based on pressure from her mother and two sisters.

I remember how overwhelmed I felt in my son’s first few months, and, while I sometimes wished I’d had family nearby to help, I can’t imagine how much more anxious I would have been with a mother and two sisters hovering about, feeling like they were judging my inadequacies and talking behind my back about the details of my therapy sessions and how much I’d lost control of my own life. Regardless how well-intentioned you are — and, again, I do think you mean well — to a woman who is feeling overwhelmed, you’re probably just one more measure of her shortcomings.

Back off. Your sister knows you care. She knows you’re available to help if she decides there’s something she could use your help with. But unless she’s reaching out to you or soliciting advice or showing signs that she’s truly unhinged and a risk to children or herself, it’s time for you to mind your own business. And if she does reach out to you, rather than tell her everything she should be doing or letting her know how easy she has it with an adoring husband and a helpful mother, just listen. And maybe share a story or two about a time you felt inadequate as a wife and mother so she at least doesn’t feel so alone in her perceived failures.


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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.


  1. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

    Wendy, I wish there was a thumbs up button for your response because this is perfect!

    Back off lady!! I’d be stressed if my mother and two sisters were all up in my business everyday and telling me about my husbands inadequacies. Let the woman be, she needs to figure out her life on her own.

  2. WWS—I know it’s easy to get emotionally involved, but you’ve got to dial back on your concern a bit. You aren’t there for the day-to-day, & really only know what your sister tells you. Maybe she is depressed and overwhelmed (that sure seems like the most likely possibility). With two young children, her feelings are pretty much on the normal side.

    Also, for what it’s worth… the way you’re describing her marriage doesn’t sound—to me—like they’re heading for Divorce City, unless your sister decides to make a rash decision. If her husband is trying to help, she should let him & not feel as though he’s “messing up”. Doing a chore differently doesn’t necessarily mean it’s wrong. My guess is that she’s overwhelmed because she won’t ~let~ anybody help her; she feels like she’s the only one who can do things “right.” This is a common issue, so I just thought I’d mention that.

    As for everything else, it’s among your sister, her husband, & the therapist to figure out.

    1. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

      One of the hardest lessons for me to learn in co-habitation with my fiance is “Doing a chore differently doesn’t necessarily mean it’s wrong.” Gah, it soooo hard because I really like to do things my particular way, but his way really is just as good even if it’s different. LWers sister might need to learn this lesson too.

      1. lets_be_honest says:

        When you figure out how to believe that, you let me know. I’m totally in the camp of There is 1 Right Way To Do It. haha. Now I just do those things by myself rather than get annoyed at him doing them wrong.

      2. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

        The only thing that semi-works for me is to split the chores (I have my list, he has his) and then don’t watch while he does his part. Like some times I leave the house so I’m not there to watch/pick. Also we’re finding things that are almost always on my list (washing dishes) and others that are almost always on his list (cleaning the toilet). That way the things I’m super picky about (scalding water while washing dishes) I have control over, and things I’m less compulsive about (toilets, ugh) he has control over.

      3. lets_be_honest says:

        Ok, actually, now that you have me thinking, he does clean the bathrooms because that’s just gross. He’ll start the laundry and I’ll finish it, and he carries the vacuum around for me, but I do the vacuuming. Everything else he does is not the way I like it and I end up re-doing it. He cooks and grocery shops though, so there’s that.

      4. Ha, I get him to clean the bathroom too! Isn’t that funny? I actively hate cleaning the bathroom, it’s so fiddly, so he cleans that room and I clean the rest. It’s not exactly fair but I’d prefer do the rest myself than listening to the moaning and at least I don’t have to clean the bathroom.

      5. lets_be_honest says:

        Yea, the bathroom is so gross to me that even if its done half assed (which it luckily isn’t), I’d be happier with a half assed cleaned bathroom than one I have to clean myself.

      6. Lemongrass says:

        My husband has cleaned our bathroom 5 times in the time we’ve been together, 4 of which were right after I had E. I had such a hard time not nitpicking when he’s been cleaning because its not my way. He has a sense of humour about. He’s shown me socks that his mom has folded and told me that’s the way he wants his folded.

      7. kerrycontrary says:

        One of my ex-boyfriends told me how he wanted his shirts and boxers folded. Forreal. Fold them yourself then, jerk!

      8. tbrucemom says:

        Why is it OK for all these other commenters to complain that their SO doesn’t do it their way so it’s the wrong way, but when your BF does the same to you he’s a jerk?

      9. Avatar photo bittergaymark says:

        Many women LOVE to give detailed, precise and often, yes, petty advice on how domestic duties simply MUST be done — yet often remain hilariously unwilling to take any such advice themselves…

      10. One time, along time ago, I was in a laundromat. You know those fitted sheets, with the curved corners and elastic? Well, I was doing them my usual way, which worked for me then and still does– basically I just need it to fit in the closet until I put it on the bed. Well, at the laundromat, a young man snatched my sheet away from me and pronounced “That is not how you do it” and then did some freaky magical origami and made my one fitted sheet into a flat square neat thing, then he looked at me triumphantly and walked away. Well, I will always remember that it happened, but I still have no idea how to do that. (I guess I’d google it if I cared very much?) It makes me laugh right now, so thanks!

      11. lets_be_honest says:

        tbrucemom, I think the “trick” is if you don’t like the way someone does something, then you just do it yourself. If you’re not willing to do it yourself, then don’t complain.

      12. its because the “marge simpson/homer simpson” epidemic of the 50s is still in alive and well in great numbers..

        for whatever reason, women are taught that only they understand and can do things properly, any other way is “not good enough” and men, of course, are bumbling idiots when they pick up a mop.

        its unfortunate, i even catch myself doing it sometimes, but its true.

      13. lets_be_honest says:

        I actually do think there is a better way of doing things. Well, I don’t “think” it, its a fact. If you don’t, for example, wring the mop out well enough, or use the cleanest water after rinsing or whatever, then someone who does wring the mop out well is doing a better job.
        However, things like not folding the “right” way, well that’s just preference.

  3. Sunshine Brite says:

    Wendy’s right, LW you sound very wrapped up in your sister’s family life. You don’t say how young the youngest is so there could be some sort of PPD or other depression, buuuuut it sounds like she’s just completely stressed out!

    You paint your brother-in-law in a very good light, which is well and good. But sometimes it may be helpful to see why your sister’s overwhelmed. I don’t know what you mean by an “unstable” job if that means he’s got no good job skills, facing layoffs, no security, no retirement, no benefits, variable income, etc. or what, but that’s super stressful. You don’t say if your sister’s working, but I’d think that would be a fair assumption with a partner who has an unstable job. Then he f’s up everything around the house, and unlike a sitcom, she can’t just shrug her shoulders and let it go, your sister has to fix it. Then she has to care for 2 preschool aged children along with someone who’s making her angry right now. He sounds like somewhat useless outside of his role as father. I’d be so pissed off at that situation. It’s really not you, your mom, or your other sisters’ places to tell your sister how she’s supposed to feel about that.

  4. anonymous says:

    Wow. Poor thing. I wonder how she thinks that divorce will EASE her burden, though? I mean, if the husband’s a basically good guy (although occasionally clueless), seems as though he’d overall be a net benefit. Maybe there are others who are more helpful, but it’s not like you go to Sears to buy a useful husband. It can take a long time to find said guy, and they don’t all want stepkids…

    How to help? I think it would depend on how close you live, your basic relationship with her, how she feels on a particular day. If you live close, why not suggest a walk? The exercise can be helpful with depression, intimate talks are sometimes easier and feel less intense if you’re side by side walking rather than facing each other for “a talk”, and it’s neutral. She can take young kids (you can offer to push a stroller!), and you can enjoy the spring weather together.

    Whatever you do, don’t try to make subtle comments. They’ll be as subtle as a sledgehammer to someone whose nerves are on edge. No comments about how hard it is to be a parent of young kids, how it gets easier, how you had a tough time at first. If she talks first, you can respond with those sorts of thoughts. But don’t bring it up. Just aim for a pleasant, positive, laid-back time with her. Sometimes we need just that — time AWAY from our problems with someone who cares rather than with someone who wants to remind us that we don’t have our stuff together.

    1. lets_be_honest says:

      I was thinking the same thing (re your 1st paragraph).

    2. kerrycontrary says:

      I agree. I believe that a lot of people run to divorce when the going gets tough. And it’s like, Ok….So you want to add MORE stress to the situation? As well as lose a shit-ton of your financial assets to pay for divorce? And then re-locate your children because you will probably need to sell your house? And then have NO support of a husband with parenting your children on a day-to-day basis? Sounds crazy to me.

      1. temperance says:

        On the flip side, if he really is completely useless (and this is RARE), it might be less work for her to be a single mother than have an extra child to deal with.

      2. kerrycontrary says:

        Yeh I doubt he’s actually useless. I mean he can probably manage to drive the children around, run errands, make dinner on random nights. Especially when kids get into school and activities, arranging transportation as a single parent is just a logistical nightmare.

      3. tbrucemom says:

        I don’t think he’s really useless, he just doesn’t do things the way she wants. So what? Appreciate that he at least helps the best he can, it doesn’t need to be perfect. The LW admits that her sister is demanding and has a short temper so I’m sure she’s a doll to be around. I know having small children is a handful, but lots of women do it all the time probably without ANY help from their husband or family. And if she thinks being a single mom with two small kids will be easier, she’s wrong. Now if there’s more to the story and she’s just not happy with the marraige, they need to go to therapy and she may need to get checked out and make sure she doesn’t have PPD, etc.

    3. I have known a few people over the years who have gotten divorced over this kind of pressure. It would not make the financial situation better but it would give her One night a week and ever other weekend to herself. Divorce gives you space from your kids that isn’t work related. So you have a bunch of time to yourself which can be a very freeing thought.

      1. anonymous says:

        Wouldn’t it be cheaper & easier to loosen up on the dad (who supposedly loves his kids, based on the LW’s statement) and tell him to take them for 1 evening a week & then go out? Divorce is a serious financial hit for everyone…

      2. you are right. But most people are so deep in things emotionally that they can’t see things clearly. I stated that it didn’t make financial sense. But emotionally, I know women who get home and the house is a mess so what was the point in going out.

  5. lets_be_honest says:

    Wow, I had no idea what Wendy would say as I didn’t know what to say. Great advice on this one.

    1. Agreed. I read the letter and thought well…..ummmm….I got nothing. Then I read the advice and I thought this is why Wendy writes an advice column and I don’t!

  6. WWS. Everything.

    And LW, I know you have asked if you could help, but maybe instead of asking, you should just do. Like say “hey, I’m doing this (whatever this is) today and wondered if I could take the kids too.” Most of the time, when people to ask to help, the person they asked doesn’t want to feel more inadequate or like a burden, so that person doesn’t take you up on it. The better thing would be to act.

    Also, I’ve been to a couple really good therapists. They aren’t going to come up with a magical solution overnight. Your sister and her husband really have to want to change and work things out. And they really have to communicate to the therapist. There’s a good chance they aren’t opening up together.

  7. I kind of fail to see the “complete loss of control” on your sister’s side in your description. Unless you think anyone’s in danger, their situation may be a bit chaotic and the relationship rocky, but that doesn’t equal complete loss of control. I think that you & your family members should try to cool things down rather than freak out on your sister. Exude an air of stability, not panic. If you suspect she has a psychological illness, then that’s one thing, but remember that people can be sad, or anxious, as a reaction to their current circumstances and it doesn’t imply that they have an actual disorder.

    1. i really agree… i feel like this situation really doesnt need the extreme language of “complete loss of control”..

      shes have a tough time. it happens! this is really just a normal transition many, many people go through with babies.

      i really hope that the sisters/mother arent like stepford wives with pinterest perfect birthday parties and facebook messages about their love for their husbands. no one can live up to that…

      1. Avatar photo bittergaymark says:

        Actually, constantly bitching to your sister about how much you “deserve better” than your husband and routinely threatening divorce because… he is simply plain lousy at helping round the house? AFTER you have two fucking kids with him? Um, yeah, that very much sounds to be like somebody is LOSING it.

        Also — side note — though many on here seem to think the LW is being a busybody — it’s truly hard NOT to become involved and concerned when somebody is doing all they can to drag you into (what seems like here…) their rather petty problems… I’d be concerned if I was the LW. If the LW thinks she’s overwhelmed now… HAH! Just wait till she’s a single mother…

      2. Yea, it is a really sad commentary on our cultures parenting in general…

      3. BGM, that is exactly what struck me in this letter.

    2. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

      Yeah, I thought the title was a little extreme too. Adjusting to having two children and a husband who maybe isn’t the best at cooking or cleaning- it’s hard but not a complete loss of control in life. I would say the LW last week who’s brother took their kids to live in a camper with drug addicts has completely lost control, this is just growing pains.

    3. LuckySeven says:

      Yes, I definitely agree! There is “no loss of control,” no ACS calls to be made lol. Everyone gets anxious at times, and I am sure that this attitude is not helping.

      Wendy’s response was awesome. All the LW can do is provide her support, LISTEN and not offer any judgments on her and her marriage, and maybe offer to take her sister out to dinner, maybe babysit once in a while.

  8. temperance says:

    If you and your mother want to help your sister so much, get her a housecleaning service one per month or so and butt out of her marriage.

  9. WWS.

    “It breaks my heart to watch her family breaking up in slow motion” – welcome to adult life, LW. sometimes it sucks. we have to watch people we love go through really tough, horrible, nasty things. that is just life, however, and you, specifically, cannot do anything to stop it. maybe if you realize that and stop trying to play the hero (not in a bad way), this will become a little easier to deal with. maybe come up with a phrase, like “my sister is going through a tough time, but she is a fully capable adult and will be able to see this through” and whenever you feel the need to pick up her pieces, just tell yourself that, and ease out of the emotional ties you have given yourself in this situation…

    also, wow i just feel so bad for western mothers, and fathers too, to a degree. moms always have to do everything themselves, and then to think that a husband is “clueless” because he doesnt do housework correctly or whatever… ugh just so sad. its a sad world we have created.

  10. It’s never a good idea to make big decisions (divorce) in the middle of a crisis (two young children straining a marriage). But if your sister is doing that, it’s her bad decision to make. I think you’ve done right by her already by trying to reassure her that it won’t always be this way and that she should re-evaluate her marriage once things settle down a bit.

    With that said, I tend to think that a crisis often reveals the flaws in one’s life. Maybe the 2 young children have created a burden on an otherwise stable marriage. But more likely, the 2 young children inflamed preexisting problems.

    This is the problem with other people’s marriages –even the ones of our closest friends/families. We don’t REALLY know what is happening behind their scenes, in their minds, and in their hearts. One thing I have learned by having so many failed relationships before getting married —there are a LOT of relationships that are almost right. Relationships with obvious problems that we deem tolerable. However, those problems have a way of exploding once additional strain is added. Perhaps that’s what you are seeing here. Hidden problems rising to the surface rather than problems newly created by the circumstances.

    1. Also, Wendy! I love that clutch on the Amazon picks. Did you just put that up there? Very summery and chic.

      1. Yes! I don’t own it (yet), but I love it. I often include things in the “Wendy’s Picks” as gift ideas for people like Drew or my parents. Hint-hint, Drew. Mother’s Day is fast-approaching!

      2. lets_be_honest says:

        Do you own the sunglasses yet?

  11. I don’t think there is anything wrong in reaching out to your sister if she is overwhelmed but be practical about it. Worrying about her marriage or the quality of her spouse isn’t going to help. Go over to her house and tell her you are taking the kids for ice cream – go have a bubble bath or tell her you have ordered the both of you Spring cleaning maid services or have your husband call hers to arrange for a couple of weekends worth of work at both your places (if your husband is down for helping). I know when my husband needs work done (putting up shed, re-organizing the garage) he grabs his brother or his friend or his brother-in-law and they make a day of it and then my husband goes and helps them with things they need. Maybe some family members in tool belts can get the big stuff done and the maid service can clean inside. Truthfully, when my space is organized – my life runs smoother and I don’t feel anxiety over the seemingly insurmountable amount of work before me. It’s amazing how a mess in your cabinets can seep into the rest of your life. Maintaining is definitely easier than attaining! And do it for all of you to keep it even and because you are family and that is what families do. And the last thing she needs is pity. I am assuming you live fairly close together since you seem to be all up in each other’s business. I think you sound like a lovely sister but don’t treat your grown sister with kid gloves. Treat her with work gloves – and spring is the perfect time for that!

  12. ReginaRey says:

    If you really want to help your sister, let her know that you’re there to listen to her and support her if she ever wants to discuss how she’s feeling. And then, if she takes you up on that offer, giver her as much space and non-judgment as possible by just listening to her, without inserting your own opinions. Validate how she’s feeling…it’s normal to feel stressed out and overwhelmed in her position, and it’s normal for that stress to take a negative toll on a marriage. It’s normal for those feelings to lead to a sense of apathy and disengagement in a romantic relationship.

    Personally, and from a professional standpoint, I think she could definitely use a new and improved emotional health expert to give her the space and guidance to sort through these feelings. And if she opens up to you, encourage that. But be there for what she decides she WANTS you to be there for. Help support her in figuring out her own agenda…not your agenda, and not your family’s. Give her some unconditional love.

    1. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

      Hi, RR! Do you miss red-head RR?

      1. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

        ^ Referring to your red-head pic from your advise on the original letter.

      2. ReginaRey says:

        Haha! Nope, not at all. Red was fun for a while, but I’m a blonde at heart.

  13. I agree with Wendy with one addition.

    Offering occasional sleepovers for the older kid might help a lot, especially if a sibling has one about the same age. If all the siblings’ kids are too old, sleepovers at gran’s could be fun. Then, when the younger one gets older, having them both sleep over would give the couple an even better break.

  14. Sue Jones says:

    Having one small child is very stressful. 2 extremely stressful. I have seen so many marriages end at this stage from the stress, and it is too bad, because it DOES get better. Many men do not know how to help. If you really want to help, I second getting extra help in the house. Nannies so Mom can take a nap, go exercise, get a house cleaner, get a food delivery system, etc. All this is $$$ but it is a pittance compared to the high cost of divorce financially and emotionally for the kids. So help by helping, not by nagging. And if your sister is suffering from PPD, then she really needs medical help. But you can only force the issue if she is a danger to herself or others.

  15. Avatar photo lemongrass says:

    There is nothing you can or SHOULD do for your sisters marriage. It is hers, and hers only to choose how she wants to proceed with her husband. My sister is in a very similar situation. I listen to help, its all I feel would be appropriate. We talk once every week or two (for an hour each time, the time flies!) and not at all about negative stuff. I let her vent without judging, except for when she told me she smacked her husband because that is not okay. Just listen, don’t give advice, just let her be heard.

    1. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

      I think this is a great point! Likely the sister is just venting because she thinks the LW is a “safe person” to vent to. Like I call my mom sometimes and vent about dirty socks being left around or about how he leaves the toilet seat up, but I don’t always call and rave about the good things (putting new sheets on the bed as a surprise when I’ve had a late night at work, oh I was a happy girl). People often remember to complain about the “bad” parts but not always share the “good” parts.

      And it’s nice to have a non-judgemental ear to vent to, because sometimes a girl has got to rant for an hour.

  16. Older and (hopefully) wiser says:

    For those of you who said cleaning the bathroom is gross, after having 2 baby boys with poop up to their necks half the time (do girls do that too?), it takes a lot more than that to gross me out.Lol.

    1. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

      See I can do a dirty diaper. It doesn’t bother me much, but getting on my hands and knees and really scrubbing a toilet (that possibly has any number of people’s excriments on it if we’ve had guests over…) no thank you.

      I also don’t mind cleaning the litter box, but a toilet just grosses me out.

      1. lets_be_honest says:

        I don’t do the litter box either. Equally gross.

      2. Avatar photo bittergaymark says:

        The number one reason why I will NEVER own a fucking cat… Just disgusting to have that IN the freaking house…

      3. lets_be_honest says:

        Just knowing I have to store a box of shit in my house is gross enough. At least I don’t have to clean it.

      4. ele4phant says:

        Eh, but to me nothing is more disgusting is having to pick up a steaming pile of poo with nothing but a thin layer of plastic between your hand and said poo. Gross gross gross gross! At least kitty litter clumps and odorsizes urine and poop. Besides, if you have an outside cat, they’ll prefer to go outside where they bury it and you never have to deal with it.

        Point is, all animals make waste and if you want the joys of their company, you’ll have to deal with their literal shit in one form or another.

      5. bittergaymark says:

        See, as a kid, I had a tiny dog (boston terrier) and a big yard and so only I had to pick up the poop every four or five days and even then most of it always dried out and my we used a shovel. Honestly, it’s the rank and foul smell of litterboxes that get me. And, — without fail — nobody’s house I’ve ever been to that has a cat smells great in every room. Sorry, folks. You’re all just used to that awful lingering stench. Gag. Vomit. Barf….

      6. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

        Mark, please come to FL and come to my apartment so I can prove to you that a properly maintained litter box does not smell. Multiple, multiple people have been through our apartment and said it does not smell. Including our apartment complex manager who uses are apartment as the show one for the complex. It can not possibly smell like cat urine if they are using it to represent the entire community.

      7. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

        *our apartment. Whoops!

      8. Avatar photo theattack says:

        I wish I knew how to keep the litter box smelling good. Ours doesn’t stink horribly, but our bathroom hasn’t been as fresh since we got our kitty. We’re using Arm & Hammer litter and emptying the box twice a day, but I still can’t wait until the day we have a garage or something to put the thing in.

      9. ele4phant says:

        I like the multi cat ones, even though they I just have the one cat.

      10. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

        We use Arm & Hammer Double Duty and scoop daily. We also feed the cat all natural food, IDK how much of a difference that makes. We keep ours in the master closet and have little to no order issues. I do open the doors/windows when I can which I’m sure helps. Otherwise we don’t use a lot of scented sprays etc, sometimes we have an odor absorbing cone thing in there, but not always.

      11. Avatar photo theattack says:

        That’s the litter we use too. I’ve never heard of the cones, but our bathroom doesn’t have a window unfortunately. That would make a huge difference I’m sure.

      12. lets_be_honest says:

        I feel like the arm & hammer replaces cat shit smell with arm & hammer smell. I’m fond of neither.

      13. Avatar photo theattack says:

        ohh, one of THOSE cones. I thought you meant there was a cone specific for cat pee.

      14. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

        theattack- this is what we use if we have anything in there. You should be able to find it at the grocery store for a few bucks. I always put it up high so the cat doesn’t lick it or anything.

      15. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

        I think they do make pet urine absorbing odor nuetralizing things. Like this

        I think those Renuzit things come in a pet formula too.

      16. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

        Nope, not possible. All homes with a cat STINK, at least a little. It’s a fact.

      17. ele4phant says:

        Is there an odor? I guess (although if you keep on top of it and keep it clean it smells more like the deoderizer than feces – still that’s a distinct smell some people don’t like) but stink is a personal judgement I think.

        And it’s no worse than people who’s home just REEKS of dog. That smell bothers me to no end, but not them. They love their dog, and they don’t notice it (or accept it as a trade-off).

      18. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

        no you’re wrong. dogs do not smell, just cats do. and fish. it’s a verified fact!

      19. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

        Holy moly AP, some dogs SERIOUSLY smell BAD. Like the actual dog smells. My aunt had a Golden Retriver who was not fixed and she smelt so bad all of the time that I actually felt bad for the dog. My parents dog smells a lot of the time too, because he runs wild on a farm all day.

      20. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

        You’re wrong! (Meh, this is not the fight I want to pick. Let’s talk about something else. How about how I want to eat the shit out of a burger with blue cheese right now.)

      21. ele4phant says:

        Also it took my bf’s parents terrier 2 YEARS to learn that peeing on the carpet inside was not okay. Granted perhaps they were not great teachers, but you don’t have to teach cats a darn thing. They know what the box is for and they want to use it.

      22. bittergaymark says:

        Yeah, and ALL cat owners think that their home is lily-fresh. Keyword — THINK. “People tell us so ALL the time…” Really? Somehow, I doubt it. How would that casually come up in conversation? Oh, I know, you ask your guests point blank. Look, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been put on the spot with this. “Can you REALLY smell the cat, Mark?” Um, HELL yes I can it fucking reeks… But no, I never say that. Instead, I just smile politely and scan the room quickly for salvation.. “Hey! Look! Is that a scented candle!! I love candles! I know it’s the middle of the day — but do let’s light it! Here, I don’t smoke, but somehow I always have matches…”


        Cat owners. Newsflash. You are all just kidding yourselves… The Fresh Step hype is really just that…

      23. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

        Mark, you really do not know everything about everyone and how they live or how their apartment smells. Get over yourself.

      24. ele4phant says:

        I don’t think that the litter box has no odor, it does, and in the abstract poop sitting in a box is gross, but I like cats in general and I love my cat specifically, so it doesn’t bother me all that much. Sorry I’m not sorry if guests in my home don’t like that, but I have the cat because I like him.

        I don’t care for dogs, I think they can be smelly and I think having to pick up their hot poop or leaving it to sit in the yard for days is way grosser, but that’s just my opinion. If I visit your home and it reeks of dog, I don’t care I’m just happy you have a pet you adore. I understand your feelings about the dog snell are the same is as mine about the litter box. You don’t notice or you don’t mind. And I don’t begrudge your loving blindspot.

        Just don’t let the damn thing jump on me or lick me.

      25. lets_be_honest says:

        elephant, I’ve said before that I’d rather use one of the guest bathrooms for my cats litter box since the cat is there more than my guests.

      26. Avatar photo bittergaymark says:

        Ugh, nothing like innocently entering the guest bath only to immediately start skidding across the tile courtesy of shitty gravel / kitty litter…


      27. lets_be_honest says:

        haha, I have it cleaned thoroughly before guests come…the ones I like at least.

      28. Avatar photo bittergaymark says:

        LBH, it doesn’t matter. The minute you have a party, I swear, cats go to town not only stinking up the joint but strewing shitty little all over the floor turning it into a roller skating rink…

      29. Speaking as the voice of experience, the stink of dirty diapers is way WAY WAY worse that a litter box that gets emptied once a day. And even between the two, our home does not stink, like, at all. Unless I make fish for dinner.

      30. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

        Well, speaking as the voice with Z E R O experience, you’re wrong! Haha.

      31. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

        Wendy said so, it must be true!!

      32. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

        Wendy’s senses are immune to stinky stink, what with TWO CATS and a BABY who poops! Come on, I should be the authority on cats, no?

      33. ele4phant says:

        Eh, there are brands that are so deoderized that they smell more like febreeze than poop. And yeah, you get used to or don’t mind that smell, but it’s just the same as someone’s who’s house smells of dog but they don’t notice it anymore.

        Point is, animals do gross things but if you love your pet you’ll put up with it or you won’t mind. I find dogs grosser than cats because I’m not really a dog person, but rationally I recognize cats are totally disgusting too. I just don’t care because I like them more.

        It’s cool if you feel the same way for dogs, but lets be real, one is not grosser than the other just different. They’re both mammals and have bodily functions that require care on the part of the owners, so nobody gets the moral high ground here.

      34. ele4phant says:

        An speaking personally, leaving poop out in the yard for 4 or 5 days (dried or not)? Wouldn’t be my preference. Could you even use the yard? I use my outdoor space whenever it’s nice (granted not often in seattle). I wouldn’t want to be navigating turds while I’m out there. At least the litter box is hidden away in the utility room, and is scooped out a minimum of once a day.

      35. bittergaymark says:

        Yeah, our dog discreetly pooped in one area and it was a HUGE yard.

      36. ele4phant says:

        What about when it rains?

      37. Avatar photo bittergaymark says:

        Eh, I don’t recall that ever being an issue. In the winter though — it always was easier to pick up as it was frozen and thus hard as a rock… Honestly, it was tiny little poops. And it was always done with a shovel… It just didn’t phase me. And — more importantly — the house ALWAYS smelled great. No guest bathroom of doom for our guests, no. 😉

      38. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

        Eh, it’s no worse then having a Diaper Genie full of poopy diapers. We clean litter box almost immediately after he uses it, or at the minimum every morning. So it’s really never dirty dirty.

      39. Avatar photo theattack says:

        Same here. We clean it out twice a day, immediately after she uses it. It’s stinkier than a toilet, but it’s really not gross unless you let it sit there for days on end.

      40. ele4phant says:

        Does your cat use it immediately after you clean it? Mine does, it doesn’t matter if he just went before I scooped it out, the instant it comes back clean he wants to use it.

      41. Avatar photo theattack says:

        Yup, mine does this too. That’s why we have to empty it out twice a day. I’m convinced that she holds it in until we get home from work and clean out the litterbox.

      42. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

        Yeah, mine does too. Even if he just goes in and scrathes around. It’s weird but what ever. I don’t mind a little pee sitting for a few hours, but the stink bombs have got to go asap.

      43. Mine, too.
        They love a clean box!

      44. My brother has a self-cleaning cat box. It’s called the Cat Genie and its just connected to the washing machine drain. He says it’s totally awesome, he never has to clean up nasty litter. I’m definitely going to get one.

      45. I have a Litter Robot since I don’t have a drain for the other one. You use regular litter and regular garbage bags (so no buying special stuff) and it works really well! I recommend it. I’m gone for long periods of time during the day and often go out of town on weekends so it’s a lifesaver.

      46. I don’t mind the litter box. If you scoop it every day it never gets gross.

    2. lets_be_honest says:

      Girls do that too, but bathrooms still gross me out 🙂

      1. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

        Toilets I can clean all day long. But unloading the dishwasher and putting clean clothes away? Those chores I cannot stand.

      2. lets_be_honest says:

        Ugh, laundry. The worst.

  17. Wendy: This is a great answer.

    LW, I have found that the general “Let me know I how I can help” is not helpful. Time and time again, we see people drowning but we say, “Any time you need a life jacket, just let me know.” I have found a much better way to offer help is by saying, “This Saturday, I am taking my kids to xyz event or we are doing this craft project. Why don’t I pick up both your kids for the day and give you a break.” This way, you aren’t making her ask you for help. You are just giving her help.

    If you are a SAHM, then pick a day during the week so she can run errands kid free and you can bring the kids to free story time at the Library for example. There are always community events that are free that are fun for kids. My town just had “Touch a Truck” for kids to get near the police cars and fire engines and some construction vehicles.

    I remember once I invited myself over to my BFF’s house one day. I got there and the kitchen was a mess and it was clear she and the baby had been crying. I knew her son had collic but found out that her husband had strep throat and couldn’t hold the baby or help for days. I asked her why she didn’t call me and she had a million reasons. So at that moment I put on that baby harness, and told her to go take a shower which was clearly needed. She at first didn’t want to then I insisted. I then took that screaming baby and we did the dishes and wiped down the counters. When she got done she came down stairs looking better already then sheepishly asked if she could quickly take the dogs for a walk. I said sure and her mood lifted instantly. She would have never called me. Moms think they can handle things or it is more of a hassle to ask for help then to just do things themselves.

    1. yes. this.

      my sort-of SIL said that when she was a single mom for the first time (before she married my boyfriend’s brother) her best friend actually drugged her. literally gave her tylenol PM or something and told her it was a pain killer. she took her baby away and let her sleep for the whole day. SIL said it was the nicest thing anyone had done for her.

      1. Right, it is doing something without someone asking.

    2. lets_be_honest says:

      Yup, that’s the way to do it. Just start helping, don’t ask.

    3. Plus you feel like an incompetent loser ass for needing help. It’s all supposed to be pinterest and yoga and organic homemade baby food in mini mason jars labelled with silver pen.

      1. Right, it is just too many expectations. It is much easier to say. I wanted to have a fun Aunt day with the kids on Sunday. If the LW makes it about herself rather about helping her sister, I think she will get a better response.

    4. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

      I’ve been pondering this for a little and I think for me, I would be more comfortable offer to do specific tasks, rather than just walk into the house and start doing something. If you set up a visit and when you get there say “I’d really like take care of vaccuming for you.” or “Is cool if I load the dishwasher, I’d like to lend you a hand.” I would be more comfortable making those kinds of offers (even if you have to offer 5 times in a row) and I’m pretty sure if I was in the sister’s shoes, I would be more comfortable with receiving help that way- then just barging in and cleaning. That would probably be hurtful (to me) and insinuating that I’m not doing a good enough job if a friend just walked in and demanded/or just started to clean up.

      1. You are totally right about boundaries. That is why so many people want to ask the person in need, “Let me know if there is anything I can do.” People have good intentions when they do that but it leaves the overwhelmed person to delegate. However, with my friend, she was clearly in a bad state. So I emptied the dish washer the best I could.

        But I think coming up with specific ideas is a big help. So, another example is that My aunt in law was the caretaker for my Husband’s ailing grandfather. People always asked to help and she never asked. Then she flipped one day after all the pressure and resentment built up. A counselor said that by making her ask made her feel like we thought it was really her job and also for her to admit that she was weak and couldn’t handle it. It would be better to say, “this wednesday night, I am free. I would love to spend time with Grandpa and you can go out.” By giving something very specific to say yes or no to.

      2. Avatar photo theattack says:

        Totally agree with you. Plus sometimes people really do suck at doing certain things, and it just doubles the workload for the person who has to go back and redo it. I have an aunt who I would never trust with cooking or doing the dishes because I know she never washes her own hands. If she touched my dishes, I would have to pull out every one of them and rewash them. It’s best to ask “Can I help with the dishes, or would you rather me watch the kids this evening?”

      3. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

        I totally agree with both of you, the vague “let me know if I can help” is a statement that can be easily glossed over. But clearly saying “Can I do X, Y or Z?” for you is clear and direct. It’s harder to turn down a specific thing then reply/ask for help when the offer is so vague.

        Wouldn’t the Aunt’s hands get clean while washing the dishes? I could see putting away clean stuff, but if she’s washing them her hands are covered in soap! But I don’t like letting other people wash my dishes either.

      4. Avatar photo theattack says:

        I guess they probably would if she washed them well enough, but her technique isn’t even involved enough to get anything clean anyway. I’m just too grossed out by her to let her do anything in the kitchen, reasonable or not. I would totally accept help with laundry or vacuuming or something though. I like specific offers for help but with options.

      5. I would seriously HATE if someone just came into my house and started F-ing with my Sh.

      6. You might be right. But if you had screaming children and were at your whits end, I think you might appreciate the help.

      7. lets_be_honest says:

        But you’re capable of doing your own Sh. I think you might feel differently if you weren’t.

    5. I like this idea, but I think it’s also important to give an unobtrusive option. Like cleaning someone’s house for them might be a little off-putting and would require that you see the house in disarray. But if you say something like, “I’ll be dropping off a meal for you every Thursday.” Then you don’t have to come in the house and she doesn’t feel pressure to host you, but you are providing help. Or say, I’m free on Wednesday evenings. Is it all right if I take the kids for a few hours once a week?” People can be very funny about others seeing their mess, but you can still help in other ways. But I agree that vague, “Let me know if I can help” is usually as far as it goes.

      1. great answer!

  18. “And LW, I know you have asked if you could help, but maybe instead of asking, you should just do.”

    I totally agree. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, figuring out how somebody can help you is just one more burden to deal with. It’s easier to say nothing rather than to try to think. Offer her options, but be willing to take no for an answer.

    Sunlight and walks and talks are nice. She might be having a lot of trouble getting out the door with two little kids, so help her with that.

    If there’s no improvement, you’re right that she may need a more medical approach. She may need the talk-talk approach, but also need happy pills.

    Watch out for post-partum psychosis.


  19. Sophronisba says:

    I think postpartum depression may well be playing a role here, feeling anxious and out of control is not uncommon and it can take years to come out of it. Before she does anything else, your sister should see her OB or someone who specializes in this for an assessment. I feel bad for her, and for her husband, who is probably perfectly capable of doing things around the house but has been snapped at too many times for not “doing it right” and now is afraid to do anything..
    LW, I disagree with the rather strident advice to back off. Help your sister by getting her to her medical doctor for an assessment. She doesn’t need to be suffering this much (no matter what the cause) and neither does her small family.

    1. But it might not be chemical. It might be having two little kids and not enough household income. That is enought to crumble a marriage.

  20. I agree with everyone else that asking what you can do is sort of useless. A lot of people aren’t uncomfortable asking for help at all, and requesting your help a month after you offer it is still going to feel like an unsolicited request. So, make specific offers like taking the kids to the park for an afternoon or saying, “You seem so stressed. How about I come do on Saturday?” Also, when saying you want to take the kids for a bit, don’t frame it as “I think you’re losing your mind and need my help”; just say you want to spend time with your nieces and nephews (or whatever, I didn’t pay attention to the genders).

    On one hand, you do seem kind of meddling, and on the other, you seem to be implying that she might have serious problems with depression and anxiety, which especially as a mother to young children, need to be addressed. So, cut out the stuff where you think it’s your job to tell her how to handle her marriage or give “tough love” regarding what she should or shouldn’t feel overwhelmed by. Her marriage is not your business. Also, people get stressed and it doesn’t make them crazy.

    But in terms of her mental health, if you think she has serious issues, then I think it’s fine to talk to her about it. I feel like the underlying thought is that you’re worried she might hurt her kids? (I’m sure she’s a good mom, but I know that sometimes people with anger issues coupled with being super overwhelmed do things they wouldn’t otherwise.) Anyway, instead of gossiping with your mom and other sister, talk to her about what she’s ACTUALLY going through.

    1. I wouldn’t even say. “your so stressed.” I think that would make anyone defensive. I would love quality time with the kids.”

      1. True, but I was referring to if she volunteered to help with chores. I’m not sure how to spin that.

  21. Bittergaymark says:

    Um… Your sister sounds really immature. And — to be blunt. a bit dim. If you want to raise children with a “Martin” Stewart — don’t make them instead with a Homer Simpson…

    1. Temperance says:

      People tell you who they are. It’s on you if you don’t listen.

  22. I can see this a few different ways. My second husband was “clueless” and had an “unsteady” job. Gods was he annoying as all hell. Underfoot, and more childish than any man with children had a right to be. He refused counseling because he didn’t want “pills” (which he thought they would automatically give him because he thought that counselors had an agenda), and the way he was raised, he thought he was doing what he was supposed to do – men did NOT do housework. *snort* Not when the woman works more than the man, makes more than the man, and takes care of the kids, no sirreebob!
    It was easier to be away from him because it was one less “kid” to take care of. One less person to step over, someone I didn’t have to worry about setting a bad example for the kids, etc. Yes, he did grow out of it (for the most part), but it took him having to move back in with his parents, living on his own with a buddy who flat out said “with everything else, I see why she didn’t want you back”, and him realizing that he was too embarassed to bring women back to his place.

    Of course, I’m also seeing the potential post-partum issues here.

    Sister, you, your other sister and your mother need to set some healthy boundaries. This sister of yours shouldn’t be burdening her troubles on you. That’s what her therapist is for. When she complains to any of you, the three of you get together and gossip and try to “fix” it. That’s not your job. She needs to fix her issues herself. She can’t depend on the three of you, especially since you admit that at least two of you have full lives outside of her anyways.

    1. bittergaymark says:

      And yet… YOU married him… Just saying.

      1. Avatar photo theattack says:

        Was it ever in question that AKchic married her ex husband? Was she asking for advice on how she ended up in that situation?

      2. Avatar photo bittergaymark says:

        I’m just saying it amuses me how often people marry people that are just so obviously WRONG for them in retrospect.

      3. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

        Retrospect is the key word. You can’t always see it until it’s behind you.

      4. lets_be_honest says:

        What’s it called? Monday Morning Quarterbacking?

      5. Avatar photo theattack says:

        Yeah, we’ve all done things that weren’t the best ideas. I don’t think AKChic was denying that or anything, so it just seemed a little harsh to say that.

      6. Avatar photo bittergaymark says:

        I dunno. Well, with most of my friends who married jerks… well, none of US bystanders were exactly surprised. Hell, we spoke up about said jerkiness many a time. (Guys and girls…) But few listen. However, the minute the bloom is off the rose one must suddenly endure hours upon hours (as a supportive) friend listening to someone drone on and one about what a surprising jerk so and so turned out to be. I once caught hell for absentmindedly quipping — “In other surprising news, the sun is rumoured to rise in the east tomorrow…”

      7. tbrucemom says:

        I agree with you and Temperance. I also like your bluntness. Rarely someone does turn out to be someone different than you thought they were, but most of the time people are too blinded by looks, sex, money, whatever to see what kind of PERSON they are.

      8. You’re right – I did. I was 19, freshly divorced and he was the father of my 3rd (his 1st) son. We know I’m a fuck-up. I have no trouble admitting this. Hell, that issue is 10 years past. What I can do is offer perspective and attempt to help someone else in similar-appearing situations. That is the only real service I can offer for my experiences. I am nothing more than a teachable moment when it comes to my past. Otherwise, what good were my mistakes?

        Well… besides giving you something to bitch and complain about on Mondays?

  23. LW, I agree with many others on here that you sound a little meddling in this letter, but also that your intentions are very, very good. As someone who has struggled with anxiety, I can say that Wendy is right: having a bunch of family breathing down your neck about it just makes it worse. It’s one thing to know they are looking out for you and another to even have a suspicion that they are talking about *your* counseling sessions amongst each other. I think it might be helpful to go on one of the walks others have suggested and let your sister know that you have maybe over-stepped your role but that you will work to be a non-judgmental ear in the future. Then really do that. If you suspect something like PPD, as others have suggested, then it is within your role to try and intervene, but you efforts may be hurt by what’s happened up till now.

    1. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

      i like that your name is pants. i have a friend named cortney that i call cortneypants. if she reads this my cover will be blown!

    2. bittergaymark says:

      Okay, the meddling issue, I totally don’t get… The LW’s sister is constantly threatening to blow up her marriage… How is the LW somehow supposed to NOT have an opinion on this? Especially if the nature of the complaints is very, well, shockingly juvenile and trivial?

      1. ele4phant says:

        I think the issue is not her having an opinion and expressing it, but not laying off once she’s done that already. I think we can, and should, let our loved ones know that they are making poor decisions, but once that’s been done? You’ve gotta step off and let them make their own choices, even if they continue to make bad ones. Contiuning to nag someone once you’ve already made your opinion known will only serve to drive then away, and that’s not ultimately going to help them get their act together.

      2. Avatar photo bittergaymark says:

        Again, it’s hard NOT to comment when you listen to somebody about to do something REALLY fucking stupid… (i.e. end your marriage because your husband can’t clean to your own exacting standards…) PS — if people REALLY don’t want advice then they would do well to keep their dreary problems to themselves. Newsflash: of you are going to VENT to somebody… well, then you have to expect that the person who has to listen to you go on and on and on might every once in a while call you on your fucking bullshit.

      3. ele4phant says:

        I understand what you are saying – it is difficult to listen to people’s self made problems after you’ve already given them advice.

        HOWEVER my point to you was that at a certain point it is no longer useful – in fact it can even be damaging to the relationship – for you to keep in nagging them to do something (no matter how warranted your advice is). If they don’t hear you the first few times, they’ll never hear you. They’ll either figure it out on their own, or they won’t. It sucks to watch, but all you’re doing at a certain point is destroying your relationship with them. Not to say that’s a bad thing if it means preserving your own mental health.

        Bottom line if you’ve given someone advice a few times and they won’t listen stop trying. Stop letting them vent to you, or stop having a relationship with them, but don’t try to continue to tell them what the should do. It’s just a futile use of your energy

      4. Actually BGM brings up a damn good point here. Many years ago I realized that I needed to stop talking to people about my frustrations with various situations because either they were going to stick their noses in rather than just listen, OR they’d be upset I wasn’t following their advice (because you know, giving it means I need to follow it?). So I started shutting the hell up. At first I was pouty and resentful. But then something else happened…

        I was no longer so pissed off about everything. I shrugged things off since my new motto was to stop venting/complaining/whining/kvetching. At first I felt this meant my relationships with friends were no longer “deep.” Nope. We still talked deep shit. Just not about my relationship.

        Today I have *one* friend I kvetch too. I make it quick, less than 5 minutes, and then I move on with my day. It’s frankly made me a much more positive person. And I’m not an anomaly, science backs me up:

      5. lets_be_honest says:

        Its funny how sometimes all it takes to change is to just tell yourself to stop being that way. Like, DUH, so simple! Positive thoughts make such a difference sometimes.

      6. im glad that science backs you up on this, because i totally do it too and i think its a good thing.

        i dont talk about “deep” bad things either, expect with my boyfriend i guess. sure, ill complain/vent about stupid things, but not if me and jake are having an issue, you know? i think its a good way to go about life.

  24. lets_be_honest says:

    You guys hear what’s happening in Boston?

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