Dear Ann Cannon • Let me start by saying that my new roommates seem like nice people. I’ve had many roommates in the past, so I’ve seen a lot of different roommate quirks. Usually, I find the little quirks fun and even endearing, but lately my roommates have been speaking mostly in baby talk. Yes, these are grown women talking to each other in baby talk, and it’s starting to drive me up the wall. They don’t talk to me in baby talk. But just the fact that they speak baby talk to one another (often!) is getting on my nerves. I’m fairly sure if I asked them to stop, they’d continue. Mostly I’ve been trying to avoid the situation by spending minimal time at home, but is that the best solution? Do you have any advice?
— Reluctant Roommate
Dear Reluctant • Wait a minute. Are you saying you don’t wuv baby talk?
Honestly, I think your instincts are spot on here. Your new roommates probably won’t stop talking baby talk just because you tell them to. Also, they might see you as a stick-in-the-mud (#nofunatall, #willnotjoininanyreindeergames), which could make things even worse for you. I’m sorry.
Spending minimal time at home is certainly one option. Wearing headphones when you are there is another. So is sticking your fingers in your ears and going “lalalalalala,” but I don’t recommend it.
You indicate that the baby-talking thing is a recent development. Hopefully, for your sake, this is just a phase your roommates are going through. Meanwhile, good luck.
Dear Ann Cannon • What’s the difference between a “collector” and a “hoarder”? My wife and I hope you can settle this argument.
Dear Curious • If it’s your stuff, you’re collecting. If it’s other people’s stuff, they’re hoarding. Hope this clears up the matter for you.
Dear Ann Cannon • Why is it that one particular adult child always seems to end up with providing the most care and support for an elderly parent(s)? And it’s usually the females doing the work. Is there any effective way to get my disengaged sibling involved short of breaking his kneecaps?
— Exhausted Daughter
Dear Exhausted • Sadly, your experience as a caretaker is not uncommon. A recent episode (and by “recent” I mean any episode that could have aired in the past three years) of “Madam Secretary” addresses the same issue. The responsibility for taking care of an aging parent often lands primarily on one sibling’s shoulders — the one who lives closest, especially if she or he has a flexible schedule.
This doesn’t always mean the rest of the adult siblings are indifferent or don’t contribute at some level. But that isn’t much consolation for the sibling who’s doing the heavy lifting.
I don’t know if I can offer any suggestions that you haven’t already thought of yourself. I would keep bringing your brother into the conversation directly (as in “Here’s what I need you to do”) and indirectly (as in texting him regular updates). Don’t back off. Even if his heart is in the right place, out of sight is out of mind. Keep your mother in his line of vision.
If none of this works, then fine. Go ahead and break his kneecaps. Joking!
Which brings me to you. While you’re taking care of your mother, you need to take care of yourself. This sounds like a cliché, but it’s true. Get enough sleep (ha!). Exercise. See friends. Talk to people who are dealing with the same issues you are. Plan time away from your mother. Use your mother as an excuse to say no to stuff you don’t want to do anyway. Meditate. Do yoga. Escape into that stack of books by your bedside. Eat gelato. Lots of it.
It occurs to me that there’s one (tiny) bright side here. There are situations where all the adult children are equally engaged as caretakers, which is great — but also complicated if everyone has a different idea about what should happen. There are some advantages to being a committee of one.
A final thought: When your mother does pass, you will find comfort in knowing you did right by her.
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