Messy Marriage

Posted on July 31, 2012. Filed under: Couples, Family, Home, Parenting, Relationships | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Dear Lora,

My son has been married to a sweet gal for 7 years, although she’s nice, her mother is a different story.  Within a year of the wedding, her mom moved in.  A couple of years later, the mother-in-law took custody of one of her other grand-kids, that little girl currently lives with them as well (her parents are nowhere to be found).  They have two kids of their own and now, reluctantly, he has also taken on parenting the niece.  He doesn’t feel he ever has alone time with his children and feels obligated to include the niece.  I need to point out my son is the only one working in the house and they are financially strapped.  His wife says she can’t find a job, although she is a credentialed nurses assistant.  The mother-in-law has a bad back, but is not on disability, so I wonder about that.  I told him to kick the mom out, but that would mean the girl would have to go too.   I hate to see him struggle, what should I do?

Mom in the middle

Dear Middle Mom,

Good gravy Miss Mavey, there sure plenty of lumps in this batch!  The good news, with a little whisking, I think we can get this smoothed out.

I totally get that this situation seems incredibly overwhelming — for those in it, it must feel like there’s no way out.  Luckily, I’m sitting some distance away on another pew, which gives me the chance to see this a little differently.

I hate to sound like a preacher, but I’m a firm believer in that old saying “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle”.  (For those out there who aren’t big fans of God, you can insert “universe”.)

With that said, your son is going to have to man on up!  Especially since this is a girl we’re talking about.  Girls need father figures, whether it’s their own biological one or otherwise.

Remember:  just because some dude showed up and donated a few of his genes at the right time of one month, doesn’t always guarantee he will show up with his big boy jeans on and do the right thing for the rest of that child’s life.

It’s been proven, girls with positive male figures have a greater chance of doing better in life.  They have more self-worth, score higher in certain school subjects, are most likely to excel at a sport, and list goes on.  If that doesn’t get his attention, then mention what can happen without one: teenage pregnancy, ending up in an abusive relationship, even becoming a stripper.  Not that stripping is illegal or anything, but you know what I’m saying.   I have yet to meet anyone who would proudly announce their daughter works at Cheetah’s!  Or niece for that matter!

It’s simple — it’s NOT that little girls fault, but it could be your sons, if he doesn’t handle this properly.  Right or wrong, he’s been placed in her life as much as she’s been placed in his.  Honestly, it sounds like she’s got an angel looking out for her, without your son and daughter-in-law, she could end up in a foster home, if anything were ever happened to grandma.

As for his much-needed one on one time with his own children, he needs to plan dates.  Mark off time on the calendar to spend with each separately – that could be going to the park or just getting ice cream.  It doesn’t have to be an entire day and doesn’t need to cost anything.  Side note to all of us: you can’t put a price on time well spent.  However, there’s a catch — he must also makes dates with the niece.  Whether he likes it or not, his kids are watching and taking it all in…he’s not only showing the niece she’s important, but also showing his kids what a real man is.  A real man steps up and takes responsibility.

For example, my dad died when I was in the 6th grade.  Although my mom, Norma Jean, never remarried, I was blessed with a fantastic brother-in-law who always made sure he was around when it was time to learn how to drive, who made sure I still went snow skiing, taught me how to check the air in my tires, etc., you get my point.  Although I have 2 brothers, it was my sister’s husband who stepped up to the plate.  Now, I’ll be honest, I didn’t realize what he was doing at the time, but looking back, it’s super clear.  He never announced his actions, never said “since your dad can’t be around”, he just did them, those little things that a dad would have done, had he been there.  An important point to your son, I remember all of those nice things.

On to the mother-in-law.  I hear your frustration, but I’m not sure the best answer is to kick the mother-in-law out and it certainly isn’t what the niece needs.  He’s going have to sit his wife and her mother down with all the bills and explain he needs some financial help.   Basically, one of them needs to get a job.  It doesn’t matter which one, it just needs to happen to keep the family afloat.  This is pretty darn simple: you can’t keep rowing down the river with 6 people and only 1 oar.  Bottom line – one gets a job, the other can stay home and take care of the kids.  OR, they could both get part time jobs and split the child rearing, either way, he needs a life-preserver and fast!  If some of the financial burden is lifted off  your son, I think it will offer much smoother sailing.

I commend your son for taking on of this extended family.  Despite what we envision for our children, today, families take on many different forms.  There’s no set of rules as to what a home needs to look like.  It’s what ever you make it.  I truly believe if more families watched out for each other, our country wouldn’t be running the huge moral deficit it is right now.

Take pride in the way you raised your son, he’s clearly been putting up with more than most husbands would be willing to.  I really believe there is a special place in heaven for him, at the least there will be special place in his niece’s heart if he handles this opportunity correctly.

Ps.  While I am skeptical of most government handouts, I believe there are those who truly need financial help, and it sounds like this little girl does.  I am not well versed on this subject, but I think it’s worth a call to the local Social Security office.  Since neither the girl’s father nor mother are able to contribute, there may be some assistant available to her.

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Showered With Demands

Posted on April 11, 2012. Filed under: Family, Relationships | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Dear Lora,

I am the maid of honor for my sister’s wedding.  While I’m thrilled to be part of her special day, she’s treating me like dirt!  On top of that, she expects me to plan AND pay for the entire bridal shower!  She also wants to tell me who, what, when and where it’s going to be.  She keeps talking about having 50 friends meet for cocktails at a super expensive bar, where drinks can cost $15 each.  I keep telling her that’s what bachelorette parties are for, not showers, but she won’t listen. 

Showered with grief

Dear  Showered with grief,

Whoa!  Sounds like your sister may have a black eye to go with that white dress if she keeps this up!

I totally feel for you, there are few things more upsetting than feeling like you’re being taken advantage of.  Instead of being showered with kindness and gratitude, you find yourself showered with demands as the maid of honor (MOH).

In the back of your mind, you try to keep the sound track of life tuned into something positive like the old Lou Rawls song “Love is in the air, everywhere I look around…”, but the needle keeps skipping on the record and all you seem to hear is “this is so unfair, what does she keep making that hissing sound???”  Right?

We’ve all heard of the term bridezilla, but seeing one in action is like seeing Linda Blair’s head spin around in that gawd awful movie The Exorcist.  It’s upsetting and leaves you with the same gut wrenching feeling – it seems nothing short of divine intervention can stop the madness.  In fact, you’re pretty sure you’ll need to call the priest to conduct a different type of mass before the wedding, IF she makes it that far!

What makes a bride turn into a big hot mess anyway?  We could blame it on Disney for making all of those princess movies about how we’re all going to get our day in a glass carriage and marry a man who’s not only perfect, but also a Prince!  Going through the process of planning a wedding makes one realize, this isn’t an animated fairytale with talking animals after all, in fact, it actually seems more like a bad dream full of creepy clowns.

Let’s start out with her side of the story, or at least what I imagine to be her side:

The pressure on a bride is huge!  She’s usually surviving on celery sticks and watermelon in an attempt to fit into a dress she ordered 2 sizes smaller than what she really wears.  At the same time she’s trying to figure out a way to keep her future mother-in-law from going with her to Bed, Bath and Beyond to register because she doesn’t want a gnocchi maker or her grief!  On top of all that, she’s constantly worried her husband’s bachelor party, which is taking place in Vegas (as they always do) will end with him falling madly in love with a stripper named Sable, which also happened to be the make of his first car.

Now that we understand why your sister is such a flipp’n mess, let’s focus on how to handle all the “noise” as I call it.  Taking the lead from the country’s leading wedding experts, I’ve boiled their advice down to 4 main points you may want to share with her.

First, let me point out that it’s actually a major faux pas for a family member to host or pay for a shower, because is can appear the family is trying to better it’s status or being greedy by requesting more gifts.  This may be old and antiquated, but that’s the way it is.  The only time it’s okay to bend this rule is when the relative is part of the wedding party, such as yourself.  Basically, you already need to treed lightly.

Second, the MOH is allowed (if desired) to do the bulk of the planning, i.e.: location, decorations, etc.  However, the entire bridal party should help with the costs, which should be determined based on everyone’s budget.  For example, one person isn’t allowed to plan an event the others can’t afford, unless, of course, they want to foot the bill themselves.

Third, showers are considered an intimate event, with no more than 35 guests, so bridezilla’s idea of  happy hour at a bar with four dozen friends it out!

Fourth, but most importantly, the bride is NOT to weigh in.  Like her crock-pot and blender, this is a GIFT.  Tell her to consider it a surprise party where she knows the place, time and who’s coming – that’s it!

Cut her a little slack, and then cut off all communication about the shower!

Keep in mind, there’s a reason the wedding march goes: dum-dum-de-dum…that’s because, given the stress they are under, brides aren’t always the brightest crayons in the box!

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