By Carolyn Hax
While I’m away, readers give the advice.
On being shocked by (or terrified of) the life changes that come with having kids:
Everyone having children needs to realistic. Forget maintaining the same level of intimacy and freedom you had with your spouse when you were childless and both working. Children get in the way of these things, and whether they are worth it or not depends on the individuals and a lot of circumstances that can’t be foreseen.
At this point in my life, with my husband dying at a young age and our child being responsible and supportive, I’m really glad I have my child. But nothing guarantees that you end up with an adult son or daughter who truly likes and cares about you. I know many who wouldn’t lift a finger, let alone be a friend, with one or more of their parents. And don’t automatically think that what you give up now will be made up in the future. It might; it might not.
As a dad who was the primary parent for an infant in his early stages, I can certainly sympathize with new parents who wish they could take a vacation. It can be mind-numbing to be trapped in a house 24/7.
For these new parents, I would suggest a “paradigm shift.” That is, not look at their children as an acquisition on their “to do” list, but as a marvelous part of them. Yes, an infant can be boring in the beginning, but if you pay attention, they are constantly learning and interacting with their environment, and the parents are a big part of it. The rewards are not obvious, and in fact, may not come until decades later when they have their own offspring, but children are the quintessential teachers of patience.
On forgiving a less than gushing tribute:
At our rehearsal dinner, my soon-to-be mother-in-law made this toast:
“I have three other daughter-in-laws and I have learned to love them. I’m sure I can learn to love B. too.”
She never became my best friend, but I never mentioned it to anyone other than my husband, and we got along fine after.
On “venting” vs. bad-mouthing:
My husband and I have been married for 28 years. One thing we agreed on from the start was that each of us help the other to look good to the rest of the world. No bad-mouthing to Mom, no cheap shots at parties, no snarky jokes at the other’s expense.
If an issue about your spouse is bothering you, talk it over— non-confrontationally, when you both are calm and have time to discuss it rationally. If it isn’t worth bringing it up with your spouse, it isn’t worth bitching about to your friends.
This of course assumes that both of you are in the relationship to help each other and not just to take from each other. Everybody has annoying habits; if you truly care about your partner, you figure out how to deal with (or ignore) the small stuff. If it’s really big stuff, your friends aren’t experts. Call a professional.
Washington Post Writers Group