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Keep It Simple

Caroline Manzo tackles questions on gift giving, going back to school, and having a child in the military.

By Caroline Manzo

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Courtney from Boston, MA says: I am visiting my boyfriend's family's house for the weekend. He is one of ten kids, ranging from 12 to 28 years old. My mother taught me to never show up empty-handed, but how do I bring something that appeals to everyone? Do I bring a separate hostess gift for his mother? What gifts have you most appreciated in the past? 

Caroline says: I agree with your mom, Courtney, but I think you're taking it to an unnecessary level. You are in no way obligated to bring gifts for the entire family, and I'd be willing to bet that no expects you to either. 

A bouquet of flowers, a favorite cake, or cookies is more than adequate to bring as a hostess gift. Anything more than that would probably make your boyfriend's family uncomfortable; keep it simple. I'm sure both your boyfriend and his family will appreciate the gesture.

Debbie from Suwanee, GA says: Hi Caroline - My question is this: I'm a first time mom. My daughter is nine-months-old, and I'm at home with her. I recently came to the decision to go back to school to get my masters. I'm feeling a little guilty about that because she's so young. I'll only be gone four hours one morning a week and five hours one evening a week. She will be with daddy and her older stepsister, who is more like a daughter to me than a stepdaughter. Anyway, I just feel some guilt over this. I hope I'm making the right decision. Thanks for reading!

Caroline says: Good for you, Debbie! Don't feel guilty, your daughter is in good hands and won't even know you're gone. What you're feeling is normal. It''s called the mommy guilt button -- we all have it, but we need to shut it off now and again. 

Look at the big picture; you're doing something to better yourself, which in turn will provide better employment opportunities if you decide to enter the work force. Even if you don't use it for work, if it makes you happy, go for it.

I love that your husband and stepdaughter are filling in for you. It will give your husband some one-on-one time with his baby girl and allows your stepdaughter to bond with her as well.

Being a mother is probably one of the most important roles in your life, but it's important to take time for yourself and keep your identity as an individual. 

TJ from Columbus, OH says: First of all I want to say that I really love you and the show! Well here it goes: My one and only child (son) has decided to join the army. I am so shocked! It came as such a surprise and now all I do is cry. My whole life has revolved around him, and it is like a piece of my heart is torn out. I really don't know what I am going to do. I am very grateful for the men and women that fight for our country, but I don't want my son to be one of them. I honestly don't know how I am going to handle this. Any thoughts or advice?

Caroline says: I commend all the service men and women who serve to protect our country, but we often forget about the families and friends they leave behind.

Joining the military takes courage and character, be proud of your son and support him in his decision. Don't let him leave with a heavy heart, show him how proud you are of him. It's probably going to be the hardest moment of your life, but you have to put your best mom face on and send him off with love and a smile. (A teary smile is fine.)

Throw yourself into something positive; there are numerous organizations throughout the country that support our troops. Here's an example: 

Support Our Troops - An index of US Military Support Web Sites

Get involved, by doing so you will feel connected to your son and you'll meet people in the same position as you are. It helps to talk to someone who understands your concerns and feels your pain. 

Good luck to you and God bless your son and all those who serve to protect our country. xoxo

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