Angst: Expert advice on your problems

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The Independent Culture
My elderly mother has become increasingly unable to look after herself and I feel that she should come to live with my family. My husband has agreed, but on the basis that it is my problem. My mother is quite a demanding person and can be thoroughly bloody-minded, but she is also a wonderfully loving, spirited person. I am not sure what sort of ground rules I need to make before she comes and I feel I need guidance so that I can be prepared for problems which crop up.

You do need to talk to your husband; it will affect his life and he needs to appreciate that. Having your mother living with you will have a huge impact and it needs to be discussed with all the family. As far as 'ground rules' go, can your mother cook for herself and climb the stairs? Will she need a wheelchair? If you discuss this and all decide it would work then it is something you can share. Otherwise it might be worth looking at having her live in a home nearby. Remember you need to maintain your marriage as well as care for your mother. Looking after a relative is a huge commitment.

Carers National Association helpline, Carersline, gives advice on benefits, local support groups and voluntary agencies to help with looking after elderly people. Tel: 071-490 8898.

We've been married six years and I very much want to start a family but my wife says she does not want to have children. We are both in our mid-30s and I feel that it will soon be too late. I have tried discussing the situation but we always seem to end up rowing, with her saying I only want a child for my ego and me telling her she is selfish. I don't know what to do.

When people get married there tends to be an implicit assumption by most people that they will have children sometime, yet few couples really discuss this honestly and openly before marrying. It is possible that your wife has a deep fear of what will happen to your relationship if you have a child; perhaps she fears no longer being central in your life. It is also often true that women 'lose' more than men, in terms of identity, career prospects and personal time, when they have children. Have you made it plain what role you would play if you have a child?

And have you examined your reasons for wanting a child? Is the imperative to create a sense of purpose and continuity in life or is it that you really enjoy children and want to experience your own? Or is it a way of testing your partner's love for you? It is vital that you both look clearly at this obstacle in your relationship and try to find a way through it. Certainly, putting pressure on your wife to have a child she really does not want is not a good idea, but if her refusal is based on fear of what she will lose perhaps you can reassure her.

Penny Mansfield, One Plus One (Marriage and Partnership Research Organisation). Tel: 081-453 2309.

I returned to work when my son was four months old. He is now 16 months. He spends the week with our live-in nanny. For the last month, when I arrive home, he runs to her and not to me, and at weekends he sometimes asks for her. He seems to be growing away from me. I am beginning to think that the nanny thinks she can handle him better than I can. I feel undermined and uncertain. Should I find a new nanny?

It is quite natural for children between one and two years old to form strong relationships with the people who are with them most. This is an important phase in a child's life and sets the foundation for making deep relationships in later life. It is understandable that you find it upsetting when he apparently prefers the nanny to you, and it is not uncommon for parents whose children behave in this way to feel tense and envious. Indeed some families turn these feelings against their child's carer. They may then fire them, but this can be upsetting for the child. It is important that you recognise that this is a stage in your child's development and that the balance will change in the future. Your son will grow to see you as the permanent central person in his life. It might help if you form a team with your nanny, letting her know that you appreciate how well she does her job. Perhaps you could share your feelings of rejection with her and that way she can help to make the transition from her to you easier. It is possible your son is picking up the tension and this may be confusing him. If he feels you are on the same side, he can feel uninhibitedly close to his nanny without sensing your disapproval. This should make it easier for him to express his pleasure at being with you.

Carolyn Douglas, Exploring Parenthood. Tel: 081-960 1678.

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