Archive for July, 2011

Mr. Mom Misery

Posted on July 25, 2011. Filed under: Couples, Parenting, Relationships |

Dear Lora,

Now that my wife is working, most of the housework and parenting has fallen on me.  I still get to maintain the outside duties. Meanwhile, I’m not a full-time house-husband so it’s hard to keep up with all the stuff, and I don’t clean floors that well anyway. It’s beginning to bother my boys as they’re not interacting with their mom either.  Should I just pack her up and send her back to her mom or how do I approach her about this?  She gets very defensive so I usually just go along to get along. 

Dazed and confused

Dear Dazed and confused,

You’re basically “living the dream” the rest of us gals have been living for years!   Being a chick has its perks, but it also has it pitfalls, which you’re unfortunately experiencing first hand.  I realize, as a man, you’re not likely trained to “do it all,” and trust me, there’s no formal training for us gals either. It falls more under the “I don’t have a choice category.”

With that said, I do feel for you.  Honestly, if Scooter came home after working all day then had to tackle a sink full of dirty dishes, kids bugging him to put batteries in a toy and dinner wasn’t ready, he’d be like a match to gasoline!  Never mind that fact that I work, too, he just sees those as my duties.  We could go on and on about whether that is fair or not, but in my world it’s reality, it was my mom’s reality, my grandmothers and so on.  Scoot wouldn’t know what to do if he was straddled with those duties – he’s the first to admit that.  Bravo to you for even trying to hold it all together.  Scooter would just let it go until we ended up on one of those reality shows like Clean House.

I don’t think sending her back to her mom’s is a good idea, and I’ll bet her mom wouldn’t think it was a good idea either, so let’s nix that option.  You are her husband and she is your responsibility, just as you are hers.

Here’s the deal, you’re just not going to be able to get it all done.  So let me share a few tips from the old chick cheat-sheet.  Just accept that some things will have to be overlooked for now.  For example, you can skip dusting, but you can’t skip the laundry…kids need clean underwear, but rarely notice the dog hair on the couch, especially boys.  Don’t feel like you need to cook a real meal every night, you can pick up pizza, toss a frozen lasagna in the oven or give them a 3 decker PB & J, which is surprisingly healthy and hip at the same time.  Pack school lunches the night before or have them eat at school.  I know, it’s not cool to eat the hot lunch at school, but hey, life isn’t fair…when you weigh your sanity against a few days of your boys facing mystery meat, it’s a pretty easy decision.

Based on their age, assign your boys chores.  Keep in mind, when we were kids, our parents saw us as free labor, there’s nothing wrong with that.  As my mom Norma Jean always says, why do you think we had so many of you?

In your case, I think you’re lucky that you have boys and not girls.  Boys need their dads, especially if they’re in their teenage years.  I’m not saying mom isn’t important, but it would be much more difficult to navigate this new territory with girls in the house, although, it would probably be cleaner.  I’d try to look at this as a good learning experience for your boys, it will certainly help make them better husbands seeing you role model as a modern day dad.

Here’s something to noodle over: I have come to learn that relationships are rarely, if ever, 50/50.  There are times when I’m carrying 75 percent of the weight, then other times when Scooter is handling 80 percent.  A marriage is fluid and you have to be able to ride the roller coaster.  I still get queasy when the coaster goes upside down, but also know the section where you put your arms up in the air and scream “weeeee” is still coming!

One last thought: as her husband, you owe it to her to see what’s really going on.  Is she simply exhausted, or is it something else?  I’m not a doctor, but maybe a check up is in order for her.  Going back to work, especially if she had to for economic reasons and not because she wanted to, may have her depressed.

Bottom line, she’s lucky to have you, Scoot would have traded me in for a different model after two days of playing Mr. Mom.

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Gun Tote’n Grandpa

Posted on July 17, 2011. Filed under: Family, Parenting, Relationships |

Dear Lora,

My kids and I are going to visit my father this summer in rural Vermont.  My dad has a gun collection he has been passionate about since I was a child.  I found out from my boys, that he has bought a gun for each of them, ages 9 and 7, to shoot this summer.  I wish he had consulted me about this.  How do I handle this situation?  I like the idea that he is sharing an interest with my kids and that they will get to try something different – but I want to make sure it’s all safe.  Without insulting my dad.

Pistol Problems

Dear Pistol Problems,

In the words of Jed Clampett “Well doggies!”  Whether you’re a card carrying member of the NRA or not, this topic is touchy for many folks.

Let’s start on a positive note – it sounds like your dad is an experienced gunman, so I’m going to guess he’d make safety top priority.  Remember, to him, they’re not only your children, but also more importantly, his grandchildren.  It’s been my experience that my mom, Norma Jean, and my in-laws are way more careful with their grandchildren than they ever were with us.

Who doesn’t remember sitting in the front seat on the armrest?  We called it “the hump,” no seatbelt in sight.  In fact, I think they had been removed on purpose, because they “got in the way.”  Of course I had to call shotgun (no pun intended) for that coveted safety hazard of a seat. Hard to believe any of us made it this far, isn’t it?  However, when Norma Jean barrels down the highway with her grandkids they’re strapped in tighter than the plastic packaging on bacon.

The way I see it, buying your boys their “first gun” may be somewhat of a rite of passage for them and your dad – probably similar to your mom buying you your first bra.  Okay, not the same, but you get the point…bra’s are a chick thing, while guns, for the most part, are a guy thing.  I don’t necessary believe it’s going to lead them down the path of Davey Crockett or Rambo, anymore than those shoot’em up video games they play.

I think it’s pretty neat your dad wants to bond with your boys.  And it doesn’t hurt that he’s sharing a manly ritual with them, that’s super important for young men.  It not only helps to build their character, but their confidence as well.  How great is it that grandpa is stepping up to do that?  He wants to help make them “men,” to test their abilities and make sure they’re not wimps.  I’m not saying they have to pick up a gun to prove their manhood, but a little “dude” time would be better than another afternoon with their stinky feet on your coffee table.

Yes, this sounds nutty to you and me, because we are girly-girls, who are more concerned with how to fit into our skinny jeans by Friday.  That’s because, the only time you’ll catch us hunting is at a shoe sale!

Sometimes, as woman, I think we’re guilty of taking all the fun out of the stuff guys enjoy.  Let’s face it, just about everything they do is dangerous on one level or another.  They like to drive too fast, camp without the proper tetanus shots and drink things with worms in the bottom of the bottle.

In turn, they think that our hobbies are ridiculous – what dude likes scrapbooks?  There are some, but mainly us chicks who cut and craft old wedding photos into our rendition of the Eifel Tower.

I say, let them go to the shooting range with grandpa.  While they’re aiming at clay ducks, you can be aiming at more important Targets or Wal-Mart’s.

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No-win for Nana

Posted on July 11, 2011. Filed under: Family, Parenting, Relationships |

Dear Lora,

I feel like I have failed as a mom and don’t know what to do.  My 40-year-old daughter just moved to New York with her new husband and left her 8-year-old daughter here with her ex-husband.  My girlfriends keep talking about it and I feel like I am the “Gossip” in town.  How could I raise such a non-maternal daughter?  How do I stop the gossip?

Grapevine Granny

Dear Grapevine Granny,

When you, your gossipy girlfriends and I were young, if there was a divorce, it was a given that the kids went with their mom – period.  Nowadays, one parent can’t even put braces on their kids’ teeth without an approved court order from the other parent, let alone move them to another town.

It sure is easy for folks to pass judgment on others isn’t it?  Especially if those busy bodies feel like they would NEVER make that decision.  Who knows what your so-called girlfriends would have done had they been left in your daughter’s unfortunate situation.  In a perfect world, her new marriage would start with this music “Here’s the story of a lovely lady…” we’re all familiar with The Brady Bunch, they were so perfect they had a backyard full of faux grass, and trust me, that wasn’t the only fake thing about that union.  That kind of blended family can only exist on TV.   Nothing is perfect, no relationship, and no childhood.

Just ask my mom, Norma Jean who walked away from a terrible marriage with four young children in tow.  When she married the man who would someday be my father, her only son (and at that point the baby), refused to move.  He wasn’t much older than your granddaughter, but he had a voice and said I’m staying put.  So while the others headed to a new home, he headed to his dads.  No one gave her any grief, in fact, I think they felt for her – the decision was, (and still is) a tough one to make.  Economics drove my parents to a different town, I’m wondering if the same is true for your daughter and son-in-law.

In these difficult times, some families have to move, as you can’t just “find a job” anywhere.   I know this first hand, I currently live in a city I don’t really care for, but I had to move as well because that’s where my husband’s company is based.  Our oldest, Betsy doesn’t like it one bit.  When she comes home from college she has to make 2 flights, one to see us, and the other to see her father.  It would be great if things were different, but they just aren’t, we do the best we can.   With that said, if you look up neglected and deprived in the dictionary, I highly doubt you’ll find a picture of Miss Bets!

The good news about this day and age is that it’s easier than ever to stay connected, with video cameras on our computers and cell phones.  I suggest your granddaughter be given supervised access to both.  The “staying connected” burden will be on your daughter, to make sure she is still involved and bonding with her child and obviously visiting her as much as possible.  Sending care packages of her favorite food, toys, etc. is also something that will make her know she’s cared for, despite the current distance.

As for your concern about having raised a “non-maternal” daughter, I’m not so sure you did.  There are many unknowns to your question – how does your granddaughter feel about her new step-dad?  Is your ex-son-in-law remarried?  If so, does your granddaughter have other siblings from his new union that might cause her to want to stay in the city she’s familiar with?  Or perhaps the ex made it impossible for your daughter to take her little girl.  How far is New York from where you live?  Are we talking Nebraska or New Jersey?  The distance changes things immensely.  However, nothing is more than a plane ride away, no matter where they are.

Also, your daughter is remarried, which means she has an obligation to support her husband.  I supposed if she didn’t, your friends would be saying, “Wow, can you believe so-in-so’s daughter let her husband move to a new city and didn’t go with him?  I’ll bet that marriage is doomed!”

It seems like a no-win situation for your daughter and I feel for her.

Your friends need to get a life.  In fact, I’m not really sure they are friends if they are gossiping about you.  Remember, the ones passing the most judgment usually have the most to hide.  I don’t know a soul who has made it to age 40 without making an incredibly difficult, life changing decision.  Life is complicated and tough, no matter who you are.  If this is the worst thing that happens to your daughter and granddaughter, they will be lucky and so will you.

Hang in there, I can tell you are a great mom and grandmother, otherwise you wouldn’t have written to me.  As Norma Jean always says, “this too shall pass”.

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Gift Guilt

Posted on July 5, 2011. Filed under: Couples, Family, Relationships |

Dear Lora,

Is it customary once you get married to have to take over buying gifts for birthdays, anniversaries, etc. for the members of your husband’s family?  My husband made that assumption the moment he said, “I do”.  I have enough on my plate with my own family.  It’s aggravating.

Burdened with birthdays

Dear Burdened with birthdays,

I feel your pain, the minute I married my husband, Scooter, I found myself adding his family’s events to my calendar, but I can’t say that he did the same.  Now, I find myself scrambling and spending a crazy amount of money on last minute postage, because I just can’t keep track.  These days I worry more about missing my mother-in- law’s birthday than I do my own mother’s!

Although it really bugs me too, I have to say, your husband is correct, there is an unspoken rule that the wife has to take on the burden of keeping track of both sides of the family tree.  However, that does not make it right.  Especially in a home where you are both working full time, kids are running around with jelly on their face and your dog just ate another drink coaster.  I am right there with you sister!

My mom, Norma Jean has always said, “When a man gets divorced or loses his wife, he has a job opening.”  She’s not talking about the romance department; she’s talking about cooking, cleaning, laundry, buying gifts, cards, etc…you get the picture.  These are things that guys, for the most part, don’t want anything to do with.  I suppose that might explain why she never remarried after my dad died, but that’s a whole other column!

My beloved husband has no idea how his clothes get from the hamper to his dresser drawers.  If I told him oompa-loompa’s did the laundry, he couldn’t argue against that, because he’s never been around to witness it.  As you might imagine, the idea of putting a card in the mail, let alone a gift, isn’t even on his list.  Unfortunately, when it comes to the burden of buying gifts, he doesn’t understand “what the big deal is”.  He thinks it should only take a second to handle a simple card, or pick up a gift.

If your husband is anything like Scooter (and I’m guessing his is), he’ll never listen while you explain what it takes to pick out the right gift, but letting him know how difficult the process of picking out a card is, might help get his attention.  Feel free to cut and tape this on your refrigerator:

First, you must get to the store and hope you remember to put “card” on your shopping list.  Picking one out with two screaming kids in tow is a real pleasure.  Never mind you accidently picked up the wrong envelope, which you won’t discover until you get home.  At that point, you will also learn, what looked like a mother’s day card is actually a sympathy card.  Once you’ve figured out a way to “make it work”, you have to get the entire family to sign the card.  It will then wait by the car keys, on the kitchen counter, for approximately three days before FINALLY being signed by your husband.  This simple card has now been on your to-do list for a week.  By the time the last team member has signed it, you find yourself paying for express mail, hoping it arrives on time.  After it’s in the mail and received, there will be radio silence from the other end, and you’re left wondering if it ever arrived.  Which leads me to this conclusion, if it did, it must not have not meant very much.

If, after reading the above, your husband still says, “it’s not that hard“, then I’d say, “It’s all yours”.  That’s what I did this past mother’s day, Scooter found himself scrambling at the last minute, picking up a two dollar card and spending $45. to mail it overnight.

Since men don’t usually communicate, unless they need a ride to the emergency room, I figured he forgot and I panicked!  Breaking my own, self-imposed rule, the day before the big event, I picked up the phone, called my mother-in-law’s local grocery store and ordered pink roses to be delivered.  I then let a complete stranger sign a two-inch card “with love, from your beloved son and his sidekicks”.  The entire order took less than five minutes and cost 40 bucks, cheaper than the overnight mailer.  Once I ran the cost of my stress, plus the life minutes spent in previous years on a simple card, I decided this is the way I’m going from now on.  And guess what, my mother-in-law not only received the flowers before the card, but she called.

I should have just trusted he’d do it, but the fear of the having his mom think I didn’t care, won out, so that’s my fault.  Although I learned I should had more faith in Scoot, we still don’t know if his card ever made it, guess we’ll never know.  However, at nearly 50 years old, he finally figured out what day mother’s day falls on…which is good for both his mother and me.

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