Dear Amy, I am a people pleaser and volunteer at a non-profit organization that helps Afghan refugee women. We provide fabric and a space with sewing machines where they can come to work. Lately, these women are making items that they may be able to sell.
“Kara” recently contacted us and asked us to create a copy of a dress she owned.
He told me that if we figured out how to do this, we could let Afghan women make and sell them. She provided fabric for the copy.
I spent six hours figuring out how to make the item and documenting it with photos and instructions. So I did a sample.
I’ve been a professional seamstress, but I’m also soft to the touch. I never charge as much as the job is worth.
In this case, I had intended to ask Kara to donate to charity so we could buy more fabric. A hundred dollars didn’t seem out of place.
As it turned out, Kara loved what I made and wore the sample out the door.
I gave her the instructions and pattern pieces, and she gave me $20 to donate to charity.
She also told me that she and a friend could make these dresses and sell them.
(I told her that I thought the project would not work for Afghan women.)
After she left, I felt used, so I called her and told her that she had to pay me for my time if she was going to sell this dress design for a profit.
However, now I feel guilty! I hate myself for calling her.
Was I wrong to call her? Or am I wrong to feel guilty?
– With points
Dear In Stitches: People often ask if they are “wrong” for feeling a particular way. And my answer is always the same: Your feelings are your feelings. They are neither good nor bad. They just are. Your job is to let your feelings guide you toward understanding and (possibly) change.
Your initial choices prevented you, and the organization you support, from receiving justified compensation.
I suggest that your chronically low position is more a reflection of your confidence in the value of your work than your desire to please.
“Kara” walked out the door wearing a custom made dress (as well as pattern and instructions) for $20.
If you don’t set your price and state it clearly before doing the job, then you leave the buyer guessing at a fair compensation, or gently rip you off.
I give her option to stick with Kara a “five star” rating.
I hope you take this episode as an opportunity to adjust your business model.
Dear Amy, Over the years my brother and I have stopped communicating. He is toxic, bossy and creates problems among family members. As a result, the brothers do not really communicate with him.
We are all old now, he being the eldest.
I guess I’ll survive it since I’m the youngest. As we get older, I often wonder what I will do when I pass away. Should I go to the funeral of an estranged brother if I have good memories of our relationship from my childhood and still have a good relationship with his son? (She also has a daughter who has withdrawn from all family communication. No one knows why, but our niece’s silence occurred long before we stopped communicating with our brother.)
I’d like to do right by my nephew by supporting him, but I also wouldn’t want to create any trouble within my brother’s family.
My other siblings and I and all of our children stay on good terms with family gatherings and communications. I think I’m the only one trying to keep in touch with my nephew.
Dear Advance: Unless you strongly suspect that your presence would make things more difficult for your brother’s family and other survivors, then yes, you should attend his funeral. Be discreet, express your condolences to him and do your best to read the room.
Dear Amy, I thought it was too easy to answer the question from “Worried,” the waitress whose partner smoked cigarettes and marijuana while pregnant. This is child abuse!
Dear Discomfort, While this is definitely not healthy for both mother and child, I stand by my advice for this coworker to be non-judgmental and try to influence this pregnant woman to make better decisions.
(You can email Amy Dickinson at email@example.com or send a letter to Ask Amy, PO Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @asking either Facebook.)