Dear Margo: Between a Rock and a Hard Place on the Holidays

How do I tell my boss I can’t work every holiday? Margo Howard’s advice

Between a Rock and a Hard Place on the Holidays

Dear Margo: I need advice. I work in a chain restaurant as a cook making minimum wage. My manager recently told me I have to work three of the four holidays coming up (Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas and New Year’s Day). I offered to work Christmas Eve and New Year’s, but not the other two.

I am a single parent with three small children, and I feel it is unfair that I would have to work a low-paying job on days when I should be spending time with my family. My parents have also said they really don’t want to babysit when they are busy hosting our large extended family in their home. They are loving grandparents who enjoy my children; they just would like to enjoy their holiday without the added stress and responsibility of keeping three kids happy and entertained.

Do I have any right to tell my employer I can’t work on holidays? It’s not right that the higher-paid employees in the company get to enjoy the day off with their families. — Working for a Scrooge

Dear Work: First, I would try reasoning with your boss, asking if someone without children could take the other two holidays. I would also tell him that four holidays is excessive and that you think your consenting to two is generous. I don’t know whether there are “rights” in this matter, but if he rejects your arguments, you must decide, in this rotten economy, whether the job or the holiday is more important. Perhaps check around first to see whether there’s another position for you. I wish you luck. — Margo, empathically

When the Time Has Come To Give Someone the Heave-Ho

Dear Margo: This soon-to-be empty nester is desperately seeking advice, or she may fly the coop! My husband of 20 years, a well-respected professional, is distant in every form of communication between husband and wife. When I try to have a conversation with him, the usual response is: “Can’t you see I’m doing…” or “I don’t want to talk about it now.” Then he gets angry when he hasn’t been brought up to date on family events.

I compliment him on the work he does around the house with his “handyman” skills, but I never receive any compliments whatsoever. It’s like he has built a huge fortress around himself. In the evening, while watching TV or reading the newspaper, he’ll be writing a “to-do” list. If I ask him about it, you’d think I was asking him to reveal a top government secret. If I ask what’s on his mind, the answer is “nothing.” If I ask what he plans on doing today, the answer is “I don’t know.” When I ask for an opinion about how we should fix something or handle a situation with our children, he tells me, “Quit nagging.” If he doesn’t get his way, he behaves like a toddler, storming off and then more of the silent treatment.

Our children are heading off to university very soon, and I don’t think I can tolerate this anti-social and “top secret” behavior anymore. I am faithful to this man, and I have kept my sanity by creating my own social network and activities with the children that do not involve him. Heeeelp. — Tired of Life Outside the Fortress

Dear tired: What are you sticking around for? If there is a redeeming feature to this uncommunicative and icy man, I couldn’t discern it between the lines. I think flying the coop sounds like the perfect response to this turkey, and the timing is superb. Something is eating him, but all right, already. I would do him the courtesy of announcing that you have had it with his peculiarities, and that unless he can give you a good reason not to, you are filing for divorce. — Margo, justifiably

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Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via e-mail to Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


Every Thursday and Friday, you can find “Dear Margo” and her latest words of wisdom on wowOwow

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206 comments so far.

  1. avatar Kordell says:

    LW#1: Unfortunately for you, with these type of jobs you won’t have a lot of flexibility in your work schedule. Also, you should not be looking for validation from Margo about this issue. Fact is the manager has to answer to higher ups in the corporate ladder and must have a skeleton crew ready for holidays. Also, Margo as a former manager of a chain of convenience stores, asking a manager to rework schedules to have those without children to work the holidays is a horrible idea. Remember everyone has a family, even if they do not have children. Childless workers complain all the time that they feel they get the short end of the stick all year round. People with children ask for “preferred” first dibs on the schedule to attend children’s recitals, sporting events, child doctor visits. If the child gets sick the childless workers have to cover extra shifts, and after this is done the worker with the child who still wants 40 hr a week paychecks ask me to talk to the childless workers to get some of their originally scheduled hours (Knowing that corporate only allows me to allocate so many hrs per week across all workers.) After doing all this, the worker with the child then wants the holidays too.

    To all remember, chance are childless workers already make more concessions on average than the worker with children. They make accommodations all year long for you. For goodness sakes, stop asking for all that and the holidays. Let them celebrate with their loved ones

  2. avatar Kordell says:

    LW2: Writing on the wall is that while you think you are just staying in the marriage to be faithful to him, he is thinking the same of you. You two have lost interest, more importantly from your letter (and I don’t mean to be harsh, just truthful) it appears that you have become something sort of an annoyance for your husband. From your choice of wording from your letter, I am making an assumption that you do not have a job or if you do it is a part-time thing that you do for fun. Also, from your word choices that your children are in high school and old enough to handle most tasks without parental supervision, influence or help (by this I mean wash themselves, make food when they are hungry. Heck they probably prefer to be at friends at this age and you see them sparingly).

    Your hubby is now devaluing your worth to the family unit. In the beginning you both brought something to table. One bought money, other brought domestic service. NOw your domestic services have diminished, however, he continues to have to bring in money and fix house. You need counseling or a divorce attorney

  3. avatar A R says:

    Well, let’s see.

    Single folks get tired of covering holidays for parents. Remember, single folks are *somebody’s* children too. Back in our college days, my mom and dad and my spouse’s mom and dad used to be so let down when we both had to cover all the family holidays at the restaurant we worked at. The boss’ reasoning was always the same, “We try to let the folks with kids have the holidays off.” Hm. All the holidays? Geez.

    The way I see it, the LW has to get over the holiday issue as long as she stays in the restaurant industry. That’s just how it is in that field of business: it’s the nature of that beast. Someone early in the comments questioned how many customers really show up on major holidays. Ha, ha—-you’d be amazed, truly amazed how many people eat out rather than cook—fast food included.

    People who are suggesting she get some education to improve her options—you are also right. Like it or not, crappy economy or not, it does tend to make you more employable. It’s not a magic bullet, but it opens doors to interviews that are closed to non-college graduates. At some point, one of those interviews will work out.

    Too, for those who bash college and complain about their debt, college is more than just a degree. You are supposed to come out with stronger thinking skills, greater communication and organization abilities, and the character to stick to a process. As my dad likes to say, “College proves you can see a committment through to the end. It proves you are trainable, and it proves you can learn”. Those are invaluable qualities to an employer.

  4. avatar TheTexasMom says:

    WOW, simply wow. My WOW is not for Women on the Web.   I’m truly taken back by some of the responses to LW1.  I think the question/concern of the writer was lost on a lot of the commentators.   A simple question of “Do I have to work all the holidays” became a question of her moral beliefs, does she spreads her legs for just about anyone,  continually makes a lot of bad choices by having 1, 2 or 3 baby daddies and she is probably uneducated.  To add to the mix there is name calling,  rude remarks flying, people writing 3 page dissertations and a whole lot of hate flying back and forth.  Really folks, y’all got all that from the letter?
    Whatever happened to Tis the season to be jolly and love for all mankind

    • avatar Sadie BB says:

      Texas – I know what you mean. I think it’s a sign of the tough times we’re in.
      Everyone’s desperately hanging on to what little they have and trying to justify their ( possibly necessary) hard-heartedness by demonizing the unfortunate.
      And the most unfortunate are the kids whose parents can’t support them.
      We may be forced to throw the baby to the wolves chasing our sled…but I still don’t think we get to feel good about it.

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      @ TexasMom: “…Whatever happened to Tis the season to be jolly and love for all mankind”

      Given the origins of the Season, and the bloody mindedness of the religions that gave it significance (from Attis and Kybele, to Mithras to Christ…all worshiped on the longest night of the year with wild, and sometimes decadent, rituals and celebrations), and the vulgar displays of conspicuous consumption, avarice and socio/economic competition that are the earmarks of the holidays in today’s Western society…are you truly surprised? The Longest Night of the Year, the Winter Solstice, the beginning of the worst of the winter months of deprivation, starvation, cold and death, was not a time of peace, harmony and rebirth. That is a modern convention. It was the last desperate hurrah before the the dark and certainty of mortality closed in for a full quarter of the year.

      As for those “…3 page dissertations…” (I do think that is just a bit of an exaggeration), there were once a number of excellent, lyrical, prolific writers on WoW, readers whose posts were a pleasure and joy to read, even if too long for the *average* reader. It’s such a pity that most of these brilliant, awe-inspiring women have been driven away by those whose typical format is probably based in the brevity of text-speak, and whose comprehension is limited by literacy reluctantly acquired by barely attained public high school educations, and currently devolved by reading gossip rags and watching reality TV.

      Yes, I attended public school, by the way. We own over 2500 books. My son has his personal library. Only ONE of all of the women I know actually reads anything other than magazines and The Bible (I don’t mean Archaeological Digest, Wired, or literary digests…and I do think that news 1500-6000 years old is very archaic news indeed). They do talk endlessly on their cell phones that they “can’t live without” and keep up with Dancing with the Stars and Reality TV.

      Yes, I’m making a point. I love some of these people dearly, but I’m baffled as to how they exist. And the slow demise of this once decent and intelligent website is a sad and slovenly thing.

      No, I AM NOT speaking of you, TexasMom (and you have gone on at length a few times yourself, if I do so recall). But this site is hardly what it used to be.

      • avatar TheTexasMom says:

        Briana, I find it amusing and rather telling you felt as if my 3 page dissertation comment was directed towards you.  If I’m wrong I stand correct.  And I don’t think I’ve gone on at length on any topic as I’m too busy keeping up with Dancing with the Stars.
        And when you were in public school (and what does that have to do with anything?) did you not learn the term “rhetorical question”?  But thanks for the history lesson/lecture anyway. 
        Between this post and reading the grand jury report on Sandusky, I’m done for the day.  Good day and be well.

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        Well, guess you missed the part in which is stated that I wasn’t referring to you. So it goes.
        And I only mentioned that I attended public school because I HAD mentioned that a lot of the current crop of mumblers seem to have barely succeeded in matriculating from our fair public schools, and didn’t want the typical sort of garbage about having been sent to a private institution.

        I’ve had a lot of readers whine endlessly because my posts are just sooo long. My idea of a lengthy read would be “Don Quixote”, and I’ve never made it more than 100 pages into that massive tome, because it is, in my opinion, beyond boring. “War and Peace” comes to mind, as does Joyce’s “Ulysses”, and the entire “Twilight” saga (I’d sooner slog through “Ulysses” again). I enjoy writing. I spent years in silence. I am used to the uglies. I do find it a shame that so many brilliant women left WoW.

        As for the “History Lesson”, that wasn’t my aim. Atavistically, humans react as a species poorly to the coming winter months. In modern society, the holidays are times of pressure, social and personal, desperation, competition and anxiety. That’s why I’m not surprised by the rancor.

      • avatar TheTexasMom says:

        Briana – I must have missed your prior public school reference.  Got it!

  5. avatar kjharrison says:

    Wow, Margo is way off base with “ask if someone without children could take the other two holidays.”  Why do those of us who do not have children have to cover for those who do?

    • avatar Sadie BB says:

      Kj- the word was ‘ask’. No harm in asking for what you want. Although if management is ‘asking’ it does have a coercive feel…lw1 needs to do the asking.

  6. avatar Anne M says:

    LW#1 sorry you have to work the holidays ~ I have spent many holidays without my sons. That is because 1 son was serving his country in a war zone. Another son works in law enforcement, nope criminals don’t take a holiday. So while you are complaining about not spending it with your family my son was on patrol hoping today would be a good day. Currently he is being medically discharged from the military due to injuries he sustained in combat, those disabilities will be his forever. If you have a roof over your head, food in the cupboard and a network of friends and families who care for you please do not complain. Holidays are really trumped up garbage spewed forth by the Hallmark Company. Any day you can gather your family and share a meal is a holiday in my book. Trust me things could be much worse. A women who has spent many a holiday praying for a phone just to let me know he is alive.

  7. avatar Island_Doc_to_KS_Doc says:

    An excellent education doesn’t guarantee a perfect working schedule. In fact, I find that sometimes the longer you’re in school and the greater investment you make, the more you’ll be called to work nights, weekends, and holidays. Going into medical school I knew that I’d already be losing lots of special moments with my family so I made the conscious and deliberate choice not to have children so I’d never be totally torn. I realize the option of not having children isn’t for everyone but at least when I’m in the ER at 5am on Christmas morning with someone else’s children, I’m not wishing I was home with my own.

    When I do get stuck working a shift where I’d rather be at home I always ask myself whose life I am having opportunity to touch and, even better, who will be touching my life with some wisdom and grace. Those of you who work minimum wage jobs on holidays, you have no idea how grateful I am that you’re there to pump my gas because I was standing in one place for 10 hours with a critically injured person or how much I appreciate your smile and good nature when I get a cup of tea at 3am after I’ve pulled 36 hours of being up because my replacement’s mother died.

    I hope that for those of you who ARE stuck working a job like waitstaff on Christmas day, you can find a way to realize that everyone who walks into your place of business has a story they’d like to share and they’re so glad you’re there to keep them from being lonely on such a special holiday.

    None of you have any idea how many lives you enrich by knowing their names at the gas station or what kind of coffee someone drinks or how they like their meats sliced in the deli. You make lives better every day and those who are ungrateful I hope learn to never take you for granted when the gas station is out of fuel, the grocery store is closed when you need a birthday cake or the internet goes out while you’re trying to talk to your husband in Iraq.

    I know that all of us–educated or not, childless or with a house full will always have to do something we don’t want to do when there is something else we’d rather be doing. It’s just part of life. But I hope that, after thinking about it, you realize there is going to be one person that day who touches your life and makes it better and you’ll do the same.

  8. avatar Shirley T says:

    LW2-can you say “Narcissist?” Margo gave excellent advice. My only question is why did you stay with this jerk so long? Kick him to the curb and don’t look back. Good luck sweetie!

  9. avatar A R says:

    Sadie, I thought we were having a conversation about a woman not having more kids than she could handle. My only point (which actually was rooted in agreeing with a previous poster) was that women ultimately have the final say-so as to how many babies they wish to produce (no matter what their male partner(s) wishes).

    Therefore, it’s not such a bad thing for women to consider a limit on how many children they feel they could handle. In other words, women aren’t just destined to have child after child—they have a choice.

    • avatar Sadie BB says:

      Ar – you & the other poster were trying to assign exclusive responsibility for reproduction to women. I’m not letting you.
      Men have complete control over how many children they produce no matter what the wily seductive man-trapper may desire, they can always c hoose to ignore her. It’s not a bad thing for men to limit the number of children they produce to what they can afford.

    • avatar Sadie BB says:

      Ar – here’s another helpful example. Can you detect what is wrong with the following completely true statement?

      Fat ugly boring guys should not have more children than they can afford.

  10. avatar Lym BO says:

    LW1: I’m not sure where some of these other folks worked but as an RN we worked 3 out of the 6 holidays. Now let’s clarify that. Christmas Eve & New Year’s Eve are not holidays unless you are working the night (3rd) shift. Requests were made & time given off. It seems totally unfair to me that the holidays are not equally split. Your employer is sticking it to you because he know you have no other choice. Personally, if he doesn’t concede to your request I would call in sick . OR better yet since you intend to show up the next shift call in with a sick child.

    LW2: I would certainly ask to go to counseling. Something is eating at the old goat. He either hates, you, himself or his life overall. If this is a personality change then a doctor’s visit is in store. If he treats the kids this way I’m sure they will soon ask why you didn’t dump him sooner.

  11. avatar Morgan H says:

    To LW1, you’re a cook making minimum wage; I see dozens of such jobs posted on Craigslist every day. Quit and get a job cooking for a restaurant that is closed on the holidays.