Dear Ann Cannon • I’ve always been a person who believes it’s important to “give back,” which is why I volunteer at my kids’ schools and also devote a lot of time to my church callings. I also say yes whenever people ask for help. I spent the spring working at my son’s baseball league’s snack shack, for example, because no one else would. My problem is that I feel REALLY burned out right now — like I don’t have anything left to give. But I don’t want to disappoint people who count on me, and I’m afraid I’ll feel guilty if I quit doing the things I do. Any suggestions?

Overwhelmed Mom

Dear Overwhelmed Mom • When I was busy raising and tracking children (while also volunteering and working part time), an older friend told me that I was “in the thick of living.” That’s where you are now, and yes — it’s exhausting.

OK. I want you to look in the mirror and repeat the following three phrases to yourself:

  • I am valuable and my contributions matter, but I am not indispensible, because nobody is indispensible. There are other people who can take my place for the time being. And even if no one steps up immediately, we’ll probably all survive anyway.
  • No matter how worthy a cause is, I have the right to say “no.” Even though saying “no” is hard.
  • If I choose to cut back on some of my activities for now, that doesn’t mean I can’t resume them at a later date.

Now look in the mirror and repeat these sentences all over again.

You see where I’m going with this, right?

So here’s an idea. List all the things you’re doing. Then rank them in order of necessity and importance to you personally. When I do this, I’m surprised by how much of my time goes toward things that aren’t true priorities for me. You may discover the same holds true for you. Can any of those things be eliminated now that you’ve convinced yourself it’s OK to step back and say no?

What else? This is easy to say — and it does sound like a First World cliché — but try to build some time for yourself every day into your schedule. It doesn’t have to be much time — just enough to recharge your battery.

Hang in there.

Dear Ann Cannon • I read your advice to “Grandpa Plays Favorites” and thought it was right on — except in our case. The discussion was had, but the actions were denied and continue to happen. My boys are great and only have this one grandfather. I want them to have a great relationship, but the ongoing favoritism is hurtful for them and breaks my heart. What next?


Dear Perplexed • Unfortunately, as you indicate, airing things out doesn’t always have the desired effect. I’d be interested in hearing from Tribune readers who’ve found themselves in the situation you describe.

Meanwhile, it’s up to you to decide how much you’re willing to put up with from Granddad. If his presence in your boys’ lives still feels like a net positive to you and them, then find ways to stay connected. If his actions (or nonactions) become too hurtful, then maintain a polite distance while resisting the temptation to burn bridges in case something changes.

Dear Ann Cannon • How do you handle the situation when you are with your in-laws, playing a friendly card game, and you suspect your in-laws are cheating to win?

In a Pickle

Dear Pickle • Wait. Are you related to me?

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