DEAR AMY: My husband and I live frugally and have saved our money. The problem started when we pooled our resources to buy a nice hobby farm for rescue animals (a dream we both shared). Although we both work full-time jobs and do all the work on our farm ourselves, family and friends seem to think we are rich.
Amy, we have stopped going out with friends because we always end up picking up the tab for one reason or the other. We receive endless graduation and baby shower invitations from people I don't even know!
For the past 10 years, I dutifully sent a card with a check when we receive these announcements (of course we are never thanked, but that's another story). Honestly, I think most of these couples should stop having children if they can't afford them. Sometimes I think we are only another form of revenue for them!
I like to use the little spare money I have to buy things for our animals, not other people's kids. I know how this must come across to most people, but I don't care anymore. How should I handle this?
— Not Rich
DEAR NOT: You're already "handling" this. Badly, mind you, but you're handling.
The way you describe your problem, you are constantly sending checks to strangers just because they have graduated from something or given birth to someone. If that is the case, then give me your address, because I have a few life events I'd like you to help me celebrate.
You obviously prefer the animals you know to the people in your wider circle. All you have to do to lessen your load and stop the heinous burden of invitations from human beings is to stop attending these life events (and/or sending money). You've already stopped socializing with friends rather than ask them to split the check. Now a consistent "No" answer to these invitations should stop the flow.
DEAR AMY: My husband and I have been friends with another couple since our children were in day care. Each family has two children.
"Sandra" is very successful in the corporate world and is very image conscious. She is also very negative regarding the achievements of our kids. For example, Sandra consistently dismisses the overseas volunteer work both of our kids have done, even while her kids really haven't done much. It is the same story with academic achievements. They are a great couple otherwise. Should I mention how it bothers me that she implies that our kids are never good enough?
— Proud Mother/Good Friend
DEAR MOTHER: If this mom is a true friend, versus a preschool rival, then of course you should be honest about how her attitude affects you.
One nice thing about growing up alongside other families is that you can bask in the accomplishments of the kid collective and also offer a supportive shoulder if any of them are struggling.
This presents an opportunity to examine your own behavior. Are you talking about the kids too often? Do you frame every choice they make as a triumph? If your friend's children are underachieving — at least according to your standards — a negative reaction to your kids could be her (inappropriate) way of trying to change the subject.
DEAR AMY: The letter from "Heartbroken" in your column really spoke to me. I chose to have a "destination wedding" as a way to run away from and shun my dysfunctional family. I was a part of the problem, although I didn't realize or admit this at the time.
Perhaps Heartbroken's daughter will be the bride in one or two more weddings (like I was) before she figures it out.
— Finally Functioning
DEAR FINALLY: I have received an outpouring of responses to the question from "Heartbroken," who described the family's sadness over the planning of an over-the-top European destination wedding that many guests and family members could not afford to attend.
Prospective brides and grooms should be aware that these "fairy tale" events don't always work out for guests.
Send questions via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Amy Dickinson's memoir, The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter and the Town that Raised Them (Hyperion), is available in bookstores.