Archive for November, 2011

Tricky Foreign Affairs

Posted on November 28, 2011. Filed under: Couples, Family, Home, Parenting, Relationships |

Dear Lora,

I’ve got a great career along with a husband and a soon to be kindergartener.  I’ve been offered a career opportunity that would make me stand out in my field and double my income, however, my husband doesn’t want me to take the offer.  I would need to temporarily move to Tokyo for 9 months starting the beginning of next year.  I will have the option to come back to Miami when the 9 months is up.  My husband doesn’t want to go.   He says he could not take a leave and would have to resign instead, his family is here, and our son would be pulled out of school just a few months after starting.  My career is very important to me.  I’m already making more them him and when my bigger paycheck comes in, he can be the stay at home dad.  How can I get him to even consider the idea?

Bringing home the bacon

Dear Bacon,

Wow, this is just like that Enjoli perfume commercial from the 70’s – “I can bring home the bacon (da-dah-da) fry it up in the pan…”

First of all, congratulations on your super exciting offer, doesn’t if feel good to be wanted, appreciated and rewarded?  Lord knows, there are few places any of us can get that type of feeling.  It sure doesn’t happen after we do the dishes, fight with the kids to brush their teeth or wash our husband’s hockey stinky hockey gear, right?

Now, back to the big negative in all this excitement – your seemingly support-less spouse.

Let’s start with why he doesn’t want to quit his job and doesn’t want to move, it’s very simple – for the most part, people don’t like change.  Taking it a step further, men seem to like it far less than women.  You don’t have to look any further than their hair, most men have the same haircut they did in their senior pictures.  If they don’t, it’s likely because they’re now folically challenged and can’t recreate the look they sported when they won the state football championship.  They also don’t like changing their style of jeans, boxers or toothpaste.  So getting a man to move to another town is a real trick, especially if it isn’t for his job.

The interesting part in this equation is that you earn more money then he does and you’re now in a spot to earn even more.  I can tell you, without question, that my husband, Scooter, would move anywhere in the world if I was the breadwinner in the relationship.  Dare I say he’d even help pack!

Unfortunately, your mate seems to be doing a different kind of math, which is making for a very challenging problem.

Here are some things I’d circle back on:

1.) Does he know for sure he’d have to resign?  In these economic times, there are companies who would be thrilled to give unpaid leave.  I would encourage him to meet with his Human Resources department and see if he can get a list of the company’s position on this issue.  That’s something he can do without showing his cards and risking retaliation.

2.) It would be fantastic if you could live close to either of your extended families, but the reality is, over 75% of everyone I know has had to move at least once to make a living.  Unless your husband’s family wants to start paying your bills as well, I say go where you have the best chance to support your kid, put money away for retirement and your son’s college.  Heck, Scooter and I live in a city that isn’t our first choice because of his job.  Families have to make this decision all the time.

I’m perplexed as to why he’s playing that card anyway.  You, your husband and child are a family, that’s what you both most consider first, what’s best for your family.  If you have the luxury of considering extended family after that, then consider yourself lucky.

And 3.)  Kids are resilient, especially at your son’s age.  This could be a great learning and bonding experience for all of you.  Another plus, as a kindergartener, he could even pickup a second language fairly easy.  That way, when he hits middle school he can scream “leave me alone” in more than one language and you can honestly say that you didn’t understand him!

I think it sounds like a neat adventure.  The key to this offer is that you said you can always come back if it doesn’t work out.  We’re only talking 9 months – unlike having a baby, you can actually unwind this outcome.

As long as you are together as a family unit, that’s all that matters.  It’s not like you’re moving your son during his senior year of high school and forcing him to miss prom.

I think I’d skip suggesting to your spouse that he could then be a stay at home dad.  Whether they admit it or not, most guys are as excited about that idea as they are hitting the mall Saturday morning.  Instead, let him know this could be a chance for him to pursue a career he’s always wanted.  It could free him up to take a chance on creating his own business, being his own boss and not being beholden to a job where he has to ask for a leave.

I’m not saying that’s an easy sell, because it’s not.  It’s probably going to be harder than finding the matching lids to your kids sippy cups.  But starting with a different approach will definitely help.

You didn’t mention this, but I wonder how much it bothers your husband that you bring home more dinero, soon to be yen.  No matter what you call money, the idea is completely foreign to most men, forget that your offer is in Tokyo, it could be in Toledo and he’d likely be having the same reaction.  Your challenge is to get him to see you, him and your son as a “team” — that this opportunity is something to do together, rather than something that will make you more successful than he is.  Remember, his ego is a stake here as well.

Men are funny creatures, although they’re usually not very complex, they are experts at sending mixed messages.  For example, when my oldest daughter was 4 months old, my ex-husband demanded I go get a job, which I immediately did.  Here’s the kicker: he didn’t like it when my “job” started turning into a real career.  It became pretty clear, pretty fast that he wasn’t interested in my success.  I was completely confused…was I supposed to get a job that I hated and was awful at?

Pouring salt on the now open and bleeding wound, I was told by his accountant that I needed to watch what I made, so I didn’t mess up his tax bracket!  I changed his tax bracket all right — to single!

Turns out, this was a man who wouldn’t have moved next door, even if the house was free, let alone to another city for me.  I truly hope that’s NOT your husband.  If it is, you will have to make a tough decision either way.

For me it was simple decision, because our marriage was down right awful.  Truth be told, it was easier to go to work than it was to stay home and deal with him.  There was no “us”, or “our family”, so that made my choice easier.  He wanted someone to completely form to his life, his wishes and integrate into his family.  Toss in a couple of eggs and some flour and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

I hope that your spouse is more interested in creating something with you and your son as the focus, whether that’s staying where you are, or moving to a new city.

Final thought: If this was a career opportunity for your husband, I’ll bet there would be little to discuss, in fact, chances are, you would have already downloaded an app on how to learn Japanese in 30 days!

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Truth Hurts

Posted on November 14, 2011. Filed under: Couples, Relationships |

Dear Lora,

I think I hurt my friend’s feelings.  His marriage is on the rocks and I often serve as a sounding board for him, just listening with a friendly ear.  He bragged about how faithful he’s always been to his wife, as if that was an amazing feat.  I told him all that did was make him a husband – someone who simply did what he vowed to do!  How is that offensive?

Factual Friend

Dear Factual,

Let me start by saying you are 100% correct, no one gets credit for NOT cheating on their spouse.  I have the same visceral reaction you do when I hear anyone say something like that.  My reaction is usually paired with the rolling of my eyes and a not so under my breath: REALLY?

That’s like my husband, Scooter, wanting credit for watching the kids once in a blue moon and remembering our anniversary.  He can want it, but I’m not sure who, other than his hockey buddies, would give him credit for either.  Why?  Because those are both expected to happen, in fact, if they didn’t, I’d have good reason to be unhappy.  That’s like me wanting for credit for doing the laundry and cleaning the dogs ears out – they both have to occur and neither carry credit points.

Some of my other favorites: I’ve never been arrested….never been citied for drunk driving…never robbed a bank – guess what folks, you’re not supposed to do those things!  Here’s a little reminder from your childhood:  You can’t get credit for something you didn’t do, especially something you’re not supposed to do in the first place!

With that said, here comes the big HOWEVER moment – in my opinion, it is possible to be too honest.  When someone is going through a hard time, they rarely want to hear your opinion.  In fact, they only want to hear the truth if it paints them in a flattering light.  They usually want and need a sounding board…not a neutral one, but a bright flashing neon board that screams, “I’m in your corner and think you’re the best!”.

Your job as friend is to provide a friendly ear, not a dose of reality right now.  I know, I know, being a true friend is being able to be honest, but there are times when we all have to pull back on that.  Especially when the emotions are raw and accessible, like they are for you buddy.

Speaking of reality, while no one has ever received a medal for being faithful, in today’s reality TV world, — where unions last 72 days and couples are brought together by a casting director — it’s rare for anyone to be true blue, so I can see where your comrade might have picked up that idea.  Particularly, if his wife, or anyone, has ever cheated on him, either could be a big reason he’s highlighting his achievement of fidelity.

I’d make sure to focus on his strengths and stay away from his weaknesses for a little while.  Trust me, there will be plenty of time later for you to point out the ridiculousness of his comment.  But for now, make sure you circle back and let him know you could have been a little less in his face and more self-effacing.

I’ve made the same mistake with Scooter — once he came home from a tennis tournament, lamenting how bad he played.  All he wanted to hear was “Honey, I’m so sorry, I’m sure it wasn’t that bad you think.”  Instead, I took the opportunity to point out that had he not stayed up the night before watching all of the NCIS episodes he’d TiVo’d until 2am, perhaps he might have played better.  Well, if that’s wasn’t as bad as trying to blow-dry my hair without detangling gel!  The point is, I learned my lesson.

While it’s important to be a truthful friend, it’s just as important to be a loyal one.  At this point, that’s what he needs, someone who’s receptive to his feelings and needs…Lord knows, his wife isn’t right now.

Anyone with a relationship on the rocks has already been shaken and stirred enough – they don’t need anyone, especially a friend to come toss them in the blender and hit the purée button.  At this point, just be there for him while he tries to figure out how to defrost his icy marriage.

 

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Passive vs. Pushy Parenting

Posted on November 7, 2011. Filed under: Family, Parenting, Relationships |

Dear Lora,

My son’s birthday is coming up and we are planning his party.  He is inviting every member on his football team except one.  He isn’t exactly friends with the boy who isn’t invited, they’ve never had a play date, don’t hang out at school, etc. but I feel awful that he will be the only guy left out, and of course, he’ll hear all about it.  Should I force the invitation on my son or allow him to choose his friends on his own?

Perplexed Parent

Dear Perplexed,

You’re singing a familiar tune and I totally get it.  You’d like to be the rock-star parent, the one who takes center stage as a friend, while viewing the role of disciplinarian as more of a back-up singer.  However, in the songbook of a life, kids need a little ditty dedicated solely to the topic of guidance, and this sister, is your moment to take the microphone and let your son know who the lead singer in this band is.

Striking a cord between being a pushy parent versus a passive one can be tricky – luckily, this time, there’s no need to fret, you just need to be direct.  Tell your little running back that every kid on the team is getting an invite, period.  To me, leaving someone out in a situation like this, especially when the common thread here is a team sport, could be very alienating for this boy – although we’ve all heard it, here it is again: there is no “I” in the word team.

Let’s flash back to our own childhoods — remember in grade school when the P.E. teacher would pick two kids and let them each take turns choosing kickball teams?  You’d get that feeling of “please don’t pick me last”, and then relief when you weren’t the final kid standing, right?  Now imagine that your son’s classmate when he realizes he isn’t getting called at all!  Can you imagine what it would feel like to be the only kid in the posse not invited to a party?  My stomach hurts just thinking about it.

I get that you’re trying to look like you’re hip and want your son to think you’re ultra cool, who doesn’t wish their kids would look at them and think “superstar”?  The reality is, they usually don’t, no matter what you do.  We don’t get brownie points from our kids like we do our co-workers and friends.

Believe me, I know what it’s like to be the uncool mom…it’s way easier to be the “no problem” parent and pass the buck.  But trust me, if you pass the buck now, you and your son will be paying the price for a long time.

One of my most unpopular moments as a mom was actually sparked by a superstar.  When Britney Spears pierced her belly button, everyone in my oldest daughter’s world was begging their mom for a little bling around their mid-section, my Betsy was no exception.  Just like your son, Bets needed stern direction on this issue, something I discovered only after trying to handle it passively.

I thought for sure the old “no mother in their right mind” line would work, but I was wrong.  Much to my surprise, a few of the mom’s not only said yes, but paid good money for a complete stranger to stick what looks like an illegal fishing lure through the pristine bellies of their barely teenage girls.  In my opinion the piercing artist should have poked a hole in the heads of the parents who said yes to make sure they actually had a brain!  Who says yes to that, and at that age?  I didn’t and Betsy was bummed, to say the least.  She thought I was an out of touch prude.

I tried all the lines, from attempting to scare the bejesus out of her with infection stories, to what if that thing gets caught in the zipper of your jeans?!?  None of them worked, so I had to revert to my original line, which is “I’m the parent and that’s just the way it is”.  She then asked “how bad do you think it would hurt if I just went ahead and did it on my own?”  My answer:  “Not as bad as it will when I rip it out!”  Harsh?  Debatable.  Effective?  Absolutely!

Now, years later, she’s relieved she only has holes for 2 rings on her body, earrings that is.  It ended up being just another battle that came and went.  And yours will too.

If I had I let Bets put a hole in her stomach, she’d be carrying that physical scar with her the rest of her life.  If your son doesn’t invite his teammate, I’m afraid the other boy might carry around an emotional one.

This is a learning opportunity for your son and you should approach it as such.  Just making sure he’s aware of someone else’s feelings is huge and a lesson everyone needs.

He may not understand your decision today and will likely say every kids favorite line: “you just don’t get it, mom” and that’s okay.  They’re only words and someday he will understand.

Send the invite and make sure the other teammates include this boy in on the fun.  Don’t let him be ignored or left alone, he is a part of the team and should be treated as such.

Going forward, your boy will have plenty of time to pick his own friends.  I’m not saying he and the other kid have to become B-F-F’s, they just need to be friendly and able to get alone – if for nothing else, they need to do it for the sake of the team.

In the grand scheme of things this will only be a few hours your son has to suck something up.  This is fabulous practice for the game of life, where he’ll learn soon enough, he’ll have to suck up a lot more than this when he lands his first job.

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