DEAR ABBY: Twenty years ago, my sister and I bought a business from our mother. We all love and respect one another and get along well. We will be finished paying off the business in two years.

Our problem: Mom, who is now 77, still draws a salary from us above and beyond the payment for the business. Her workload has lessened greatly, as it should. She could do all of her work in one day and lessen the burden of her salary. However, she says she’d “go crazy” if she retired. We don’t want that. She could still come in as often as she wants and do her personal paperwork, banking, letter-writing, reading, etc. These are all things she does at “work” – on the clock.

If we try to discuss this, Mom gets hurt and says, “Just let me know when I’m not worth the money.” We don’t want to do that. We would hope she would see the fairness of this and suggest it herself.

Business expenses are going through the roof, and there are updates we should make, but we can’t do it as long as we are paying Mom at the level we are, on top of the money for the buyout. – DAUGHTERS DEAREST

You do, indeed, have a problem. It’s one that should be handled with the utmost diplomacy.

Because your mother is an intelligent businesswoman, she must be a part of this decision. Schedule a business meeting between the three of you and put the budget on the table for discussion – along with the updates that need to be made. Ideally, she will recognize the dilemma and suggest the cutback herself.

If your mother fails to reduce her salary for the good of the company, begin “planting seeds” about how nice it would be to have time to devote to charity and how much she has to offer volunteerism. (It’s the truth.) Research volunteer opportunities in your area, and perhaps even talk to some volunteer organizations about recruiting your mother. When she realizes how interesting and fulfilling these activities can be, encourage her to reduce her hours at work to enable her to contribute to the community. Good luck.

DEAR ABBY: My mother-in-law is coming soon for her annual two-week visit, and my nightmares about it have already begun. She is 78 years young, sweet and nonjudgmental. The problem is, she talks nonstop about people we have never met.

When we introduce her to friends, she continues story after story about people who are of interest only to her. She knows what she’s doing because she’ll say, “Poor thing
I’ve gabbed your ear off,” but she keeps talking.

My mother-in-law lives alone. So do a lot of people, including my own mother, but no one talks as incessantly as she does. She’s monopolized conversations for years, so it can’t be her age.

My husband says I should just walk away, but his mother is easily offended, and I don’t want to be rude. When I go to the market or wherever, she wants to accompany me, so there is never any respite! I tell myself it’s only two weeks a year, but a day with her feels like an eternity. Why does she do this, and what can I do? Help! – TALKED TO DEATH IN EUGENE, ORE.

DEAR TALKED TO DEATH: Compulsive talking can be a nervous habit, a sign of insecurity or an attempt to control. In your mother-in-law’s case, it could also be because for two weeks a year, she has someone to talk to. You’re right about one thing: At this late date, she’s not going to change.

Because her visits are so stressful, ask your doctor for advice on how to alleviate the stress.

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 or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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