Advice columnist Carolyn Hax: How to respond when friends say, “You can’t be that busy, you don’t have kids.”

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Dear Carolyn

DEAR CAROLYN: I am a childless woman. My husband and I work hard and we like the way things are in our life.

So how do I respond when my friends say, “You can’t be that busy, you don’t have kids”? I am on call 24 hours per day, seven days a week, and my husband works mid-shifts, so we are quite busy. We also run a small business from our home, and have pets and other hobbies. I am stunned when I hear this and always feel like I am being excluded on purpose. Do I just let these friends go or what?

— Still Really Busy

DEAR STILL REALLY BUSY: Tempting, I’m sure.

But you probably don’t have a human Pez dispenser loaded with new friends. Plus, we all harbor at least a few cockeyed biases, and ideally our friends will alert us to them before deciding to block our calls.

Since it also gets old to be the ambassador of the obvious, let’s take a middle path and say: Base your response on the friend who says it.

If it’s just a passing acquaintance — or longtime repeat offender — then feel free to brush off both comment and friend, or let absurdity do your dirty work. “Yes, I’m all naps and bonbons.” If they’re excluding you as you fear, then let them, because who wants that in a pal.

But when it’s someone you really enjoy and hope will understand you, please resist defensiveness and kindly challenge the underlying assumptions as if they were unwittingly made. “I know you didn’t mean to [implied: because you’re a good person], but you basically just said I can’t have many important things to do unless I have kids.”

Anyone with a reasonable clue endowment will apologize — at which point you can switch to assurance mode. “Thanks — it’s OK. You’d be surprised at how common a misconception that is.”

DEAR CAROLYN: My live-in boyfriend just got a great job offer that may make commuting from our place too difficult. His plan is to stay at his mother’s (who lives much closer) temporarily until we decide our next step — get married, buy a place, rent?

I’m very nervous about this transition and worry it will be bad for our relationship. Plus, I will miss him! Is this a terrible idea? Any tips on how to handle this transitional period?

— In Transition

DEAR IN TRANSITION: I don’t know whether you should marry, or buy versus rent.

I don’t know if these new arrangements will be bad for your relationship. If they are, I don’t know whether that will mean this new arrangement was a terrible idea for introducing problems where there weren’t any, or a great idea for exposing problems that needed your attention.

I don’t know if your missing him will complicate things, or bring decisive clarity to your feelings for each other.

Here’s what I do know. If you and he are going to work well as a couple, then you need to enjoy and trust each other enough, enjoy and trust yourselves enough, be flexible enough, and — when all the preceding assets fall short — be resilient enough to be able to withstand a few uncertainties, lonely nights and bad ideas.

So, one tip: Breathe, and remind yourself that truths aren’t something to fear, no matter what they turn out to be.