DEAR ABBY: I am a new mom who works in a high-tech start-up company that does not provide a mother's room. I'm the first employee here to have a baby. The corporate plaza in which my office is located also doesn't provide one. Therefore, I must resort to using the restroom to pump my breast milk, which must be done every few hours.
Some of the women using the restroom have wondered aloud about the "weird noise" they hear, while others walk back and forth searching for the source of the "sound."
How should I respond to them? Using the restroom is not my choice, but it is the only option I have because I plan to breast-feed my baby for as long as I can.
— PRIVACY PLEASE IN SANTA CLARA, CALIF.
DEAR PRIVACY PLEASE: You're reacting as if pumping breast milk is something to be ashamed of. It isn't. While you may be the first woman at the company to have given birth, I guarantee you won't be the last. So start communicating with the other female co-workers. It might be in all of your best interests to bring this to the attention of your supervisor or your boss.
And as to the "pacers" and "wonderers" in the restroom — try to understand that they are merely curious. Consider printing a sign you can tape to the door of the stall you occupy that reads: "Breast Pumping Station." It will stop the questions and save you from yelling out, "It's my breast pump!"
DEAR ABBY: I was a stay-at-home mom for many years and enrolled in college when my youngest entered kindergarten. I held various part-time (and later full-time) dead-end jobs to supplement my husband's income. It took 15 years, but I finally graduated with a B.A. in history, although I have since discovered there isn't much I can do with my degree.
After almost 30 years of marriage, my husband decided he wanted a divorce. I am now on my own and struggling to survive. I have no marketable skills, can't afford to attend school full-time because I must work in order to have benefits, and don't have the money to pay for more training without going into further debt. I don't know how I'll ever be self-supporting.
My current job pays $10 an hour, the benefits are good, but I don't really like my job or see myself ever earning a higher hourly wage. If it wasn't for alimony, I'd be even worse off, but that won't last forever. (I have three years left.)
I'm thankful that my kids are on their own and don't need my support, but they can't help me either. What options are there for someone in my situation?
— FRUSTRATED IN NORTH CAROLINA
DEAR FRUSTRATED: You are an educated, literate, mature college graduate. You could make some executive an excellent, competent personal assistant. Depending upon what the requirements are in your state, you might also be able to be a teacher's assistant in one of the schools.
Contact an employment agency and ask if it can give you a skill assessment. I am sure you could find a job where your attributes would be appreciated if you start looking.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.