Carolyn Hax Live (Jan 17)

Jan 17, 2020

Advice columnist Carolyn Hax took your comments about her current advice column and questions about the strange train we call life. Her answers may appear online or in an upcoming column.

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Oh hi.

Is it possible they want to get lunch so they can apologize in person for flaking on you? That's what I would want to do, in their position.

Good point--worth holding fire to see. Thanks. (Original here: LINK)

I used to be fairly good at making small talk, and had to do it often in lots of settings. Since being a working parent of young kids, though, I find that I just absolutely cannot stand social events where I'm going to have to spend precious minutes asking questions of strangers about their work and what shows they're watching or whatever. I just feel the minutes ticking away and obsess over all the housework and other stuff I'm falling behind on, and can't bring myself to care at all what the other person is saying. Yet now that my kids are at the age of play dates and basketball games, I am in these small-talky situations a lot, and I feel like I must be the most unpleasant partner ever for it. I do have actual friends, and I find that I would rather spend my limited free time having real conversations with them about our deeper and more private feelings. Do you have any suggestions for making these encounters less brutal? They just feel like SUCH a waste of everyone's time.

Wait, no--no, they're not. Not unless you make them so by not caring.

These small talks are the runways to the "real conversations" about those "deeper and more private feelings." Sometimes you just get there right away, but most of the time, you and other people need to break each other in, and test for commonality.

You know this, no doubt.

What you're perhaps forgetting is that not everyone in these conversations with you is all set with "actual friends." Some people are going to be new to the school or neighborhood, some may have had friends move away, some may have friends who don't have kids so they're kind of in a different orbit, and want friends in this orbit so it isn't a lonely decade of pretending to be fascinated by elementary school basketball.

And you can certainly argue that it's not your responsibility to solve other people's social problems--but think for a second how easily you could be in that spot yourself. Maybe you suddenly have to move, maybe your kid transfers to a different school, maybe 2 or 3 of your closest people become unavailable to  you one by one over the course of a year or two. It happens. It's hard.

Plus, too, you could outgrow your friends, or your kids could outgrow *their* friends and put you in the regular company of a whole new set of parents.

So please think carefully before you demote small-talky situations to a priority below your laundry piles. If anything is SUCH a waste of everyone's time, it's worrying about falling behind on housework. Breathe in, breathe out, be in your moment. Especially if it involves people who want to connect. 

Even if you can't 100 percent get there right now, please at least see the value in it. That'll do a lot of the work for you, I suspect.

 

My spouse of 30 plus years stopped getting haircuts. His hair is over his shoulders now. He thinks it's funny when he runs into old friends who don't recognize him. I wouldn't care, and I fully accept that it's *his* hair, but I do have reason to object when it's dirty -- don't I? He used to be so handsome and take pride in his appearance. Now he looks like a homeless person. He works outdoors and wears a hat. I was raised that a gentleman removes his hat when in a building. I was very bummed out recently when we went out to lunch together, and he kept his hat on. I wanted to ask him to remove it, but the long, greasy, straggly hair underneath was better covered. I found myself enduring the lunch rather than enjoying it. This seems like such a stupid and petty problem, yet it quite ruins my pleasure in being with him, whether home or out with friends and family. How do I accept this hair without feeling so offended?

Have you said anything? If so, what?

Hygiene is fair game in the way, say, body shape or hair color is not.

What do you do when you have changed your mind about having kids? My husband and I previously agreed that we didn't want them, but we were young and immature and I now do want kids. My husband says he hasn't changed his mind but I'm not sure if he's really given the idea a chance to percolate in his mind. I really think he would be a great father and that if I got pregnant by "accident" he would recognize what a blessing it was. He has always left birth control up to me so I don't really think he has the right to complain if I "forget" to take it. Would it be wrong for me to "accidentally" get pregnant?

About 18 kinds of mind-bendingly wrong.

Get his consent or get a divorce. And do some serious work on your character, because you're breezily rationalizing the deceitful conception of a child who will impose a child on a father who doesn't want one, and a father who doesn't want to be a father on some poor child. 

People who make birth control entirely their partner's problem aren't exactly heroes, but turning them into parents as punishment is hardly the moral triumph you seem to believe.

I am now fresh out of wow.

 

I’m getting married this spring and my fiance and I are very happy and excited and have been working hard to plan a meaningful ceremony. Of course I’d always planned to have my dad walk me down the aisle but last year we all found out that he’d been cheating on my mom and they’re separated and in the process of divorcing. My mom has been trying hard to hold her head up and work through the betrayal but she is devastated and so am I. It was hard finding out that my father isn’t the man I thought he was. We made it clear to him that his affair partner was not coming to the wedding or the reception and after some painful discussions he accepted it. My fiance and I decided that after that betrayal of his own marriage vows, we don’t want my father to play any part in our wedding ceremony whatsoever, beyond attending, of course. I broke the news to my father and he was furious. He threatened to boycott our wedding so I was wavering but my fiance said this is non-negotiable for him. He suggested letting HIS father walk me down the aisle while my mom walks him down the aisle. I think that’s a good compromise since we started dating ten years ago in high school and love each other’s parents. My father is even unhappier with this compromise and said he’ll just come in after the procession is over and sit in the back of the church rather than in the pew we intended to reserve for him. We don’t want that but we also don’t want to give into his blackmail. Don’t you think after what he did my dad should just suck it up and cooperate with us?

What your dad "should" do is utterly moot. He's an adult who controls his own actions. (Apparently not well, but it's still his prerogative, even to screw things up.) Make your decisions about the ceremony and understand that it's up to him whether to show up, opt out, act up.

How you decide to conduct your ceremony is in your control, so limit your concern to that. To that end, I have two thoughts:

1. It's your father, not your fiance's, so his seeing something about your family as "non-negotiable" gives me hives. Please think hard about why your fiance thinks he's entitled to draw that line that way on your people.

2. I can see the "aww" value of the walk down the aisle--even though I've grown into a skeptic, I'll defend everyone's right to their preferences--but I think we can agree your dad blew that aww to bits. So instead of trying to glue together some facsimile of traditional nostalgia, why don't you just give yourselves to each other? You're adults. Reality just delivered a haymaker to traditional nostalgia. Why bother denying it.

Maybe that's just me.

My sister is expecting her first baby, due in March. The father is only marginally involved, though he lives nearby. Commitment issues. For the whole two years they've been together, including the time she's been pregnant, they have a routine going where 1. they share some blissful experience, leaving her sure they're going to get married; 2. then he chickens out and announces he isn't sure about the relationship and needs time to himself; 3. she starts moving on with her life and like clockwork he starts missing her, 4. repeat. We're somewhere between phases 2 and 3 right now, so I (veteran mom) am attending her birth classes with her. There is a good chance I will also be her birth partner when the day comes. It's madness; the daddy is local and perfectly capable. A couple of times now, he has reached out to me to shower me with gratitude for supporting her at these classes. No addressing why he did not come himself. No indication that he plans to try to come to the next one. Just lame, fake-seeming "thank you soooo much" nonsense, and an Amazon gift card. I am thisclose to telling him off, which I would have to do behind my sister's back and without her blessing. What's stopping me is how much harder it could make things for her. Am I correct about that--not worth it, right?

Next time he showers you with thanks and plastic, just say, calmly, "Showing up is not hard. I suggest you try it."

You don't have to tell him off, but you don't have to play along with anyone's BS, either.

 

hi Carolyn, hoping you can give me a perspective about beneficiaries. It's time to update my will. To give you a picture, I am a widow, in my 70's, modest income, own my own (modest) home, never had my own kids, but have nieces and nephews. They were brought up in a different part of the country however I saw them for short periods during their childhood summers. We were affectionate then, but now that they are adults (30's and 40's) I rarely see or hear from them, with one exception, and I'll call her Mary.  Mary and I have a good connection partly because we had a chance to form a close relationship when she came to my city to go to college. I did not get the same chance with the others. Mary and her husband are the only ones with kids, and they have a disabled child who will likely always be a dependent. For this reason, and honestly, because we are close and I'd like to help with finances, I am thinking of naming her as my main beneficiary, I also plan to specify a charity, 2 close friends and my 2 siblings with more modest portions.  But family is family...should I include small portions to the 5 other cousins? I'm flummoxed. Friends I have consulted have said that I am not being fair to the others because we didn't have the same chance to form a close relationship, and that by only naming Mary I could cause interpersonal problems. The last thing I want to do is create problems.  Your advice is welcomed.

What you're proposing is indeed fair, it's just that you define fairness differently from your friends.

Mary and her husband are looking at a lifetime of medical and related expenses for their child. Is that "fair"? It just is--so earmarking money to help Mary with that financial obligation is just one way to help balance things out. Talk to your attorney about leaving money for the specific purpose of the child's care, and find out about any limits and restrictions, etc. But if you're able to do that, then it's hard to see how the other nieces and nephews could call that unfair without sounding selfish. (Assuming they would--not everyone is entitled or greedy.)

Dear Carolyn, how do you decide when someone has crossed the line from being badly behaved (unkind, angry, etc.) to being abusive? I guess another way of asking is, when is it time to stop seeking therapy and seek a restraining order instead?

Bad behavior "(unkind, angry, etc.)" from an intimate partner *is* abuse, unless you're talking about extremely rare occasions with a clear explanation (depression or other mental illness, and/or significant external stressors) AND an immediate acceptance of responsibility for crossing that line.

And when you're dealing with someone who is frequently mean to or angry with you, the answer isn't couples counseling (which is what you mean, yes?)--it's either just leaving the relationship on that basis alone, or going into solo counseling to sort out the reasons you feel you can't leave someone who mistreats you so often.

And finally, if you're asking about a restraining order, then it's time to go--but with extreme caution and with the guidance and, if needed, protection of experts--start here if you don't have something lined up yet, 1-800-799-SAFE, or here, 1-800-656-HOPE. That's because perpetrators of "unkind, angry" behavior often escalate when they realize they're losing control of their relationship. MOSAIC threat assessment (from Gavin de Becker's organization) can help you gauge your risk. Take good care of yourself, please. Make those calls. 

My husband and I live within a short drive of my family and see them often. We have had to ask my sister to please NOT try to discipline my 5-year-old twins, because her parenting/discipline styles differ so wildly from ours in so many ways. She is extremely firm with her own children and does not give them the space to be kids, whereas our parenting philosophy allows for our kids to make some of their own decisions (within reason). When we asked her to fall back, she agreed to do so. But now, she will barely so much as be in the same room with our kids. She says she feels too nervous about being accused of overstepping. This is getting in the way of the kids' relationship with their aunt, and it's also starting to strain my relationship with her. What should we do?

Consider letting her handle them the way she feels comfortable doing so?

I get your concern about the very different styles, but, unless you really think she's a terrible parent/person, or harming your kids, vs. just bring more of a disciplinarian than you are, your kids will be able to handle the fact of two different sets of expectations. It happens all the time regardless of family proximity and parenting style--home has X rules, grandpa's house has Y, day care/school has Z, and public places are all over the spectrum. Presumably they know library behavior and Chuck E Cheese behavior aren't the same? They're 5, plenty old enough to start understanding this extends to individuals, too, and adapting their behavior accordingly. You just need to be consistent in the way you address inconsistencies: "Remember, Auntie doesn't allow X." They'll manage.

Hi Carolyn, I accidentally got pregnant for a second time when my son was a little less than 3 months old. Now we have two boys in diapers and things are just awful. We have all the hired help we can afford, plus relatives who are occasionally willing to step in for two or three hours so we can go to a restaurant, but that doesn't really change the grinding reality of our daily life. For financial reasons we are contemplating the question of whether I should leave my job -- in some ways it would make things easier (less for me to juggle), but I am worried I'm going to drown in the tedium of daily life with small kids. If we can just make it a couple years until both kids are in school, I think we'll be okay, but what do we do until then?

If you think two kids in diapers = "things are just awful," then please do not become a stay-at-home parent. Not everyone has the temperament for it, and no one who doesn't have it should attempt the home grind if it's at all avoidable.

Is your spouse/co-parent better suited?

If not, then please ... ugh, I don't know what to say here, because it's so personal (what helps and doesn't help) and there's not enough info here. Like, are you just tired and run down--in which case, the answer might just be to hold on till things get easier, which they certainly will--or are you to the point where you're unable to be loving and affectionate with your kids? In that case, heavier and more immediate intervention is essential.

It might be somewhere in between, too, where you and your partner rethink where you work and live, since the level of kid- and family-friendliness can vary wildly from place to place, career to career. Or you might need more help at home and creativity in affording it, like a nanny share or au pair. 

I'm going to dust off Hax Philes for this so you can get a range of suggestions.

 

 

According to your column, I'm a big, fat lying wife. My husband is an only child and very close with his parents. When he and his ex split, he told his parents every bad thing she ever said about them. So even if he agrees privately that his parents stink, I know better than to say anything. Yes, there have been so many times I wanted to say something about his mom's intrusiveness, but I knew if I did, he'd probably tell them, and then I'm the one who has to live with the awkwardness. It's pretty clear the three of them are a group, and I'm not part of it so it's okay for him to complain. That's okay, but your suggestion to be open is easy for you to say. You don't have to live with the consequences.

I wish you could see the first draft of that column, which had a graf or two about leaving well enough alone. 

I took them out after a discussion with Nick about the weight of the Unsaid Thing(s) on a marriage. 

Yes, you'd have to "live with the awkwardness" if your verbally incontinent husband blabbed things you said to him in confidence. Is that worse, though, than the awkwardness now of not saying certain things to your intimate partner, out of fear that he won't protect you?

If you really have thought it through, and you really have chosen your preferred course, then so be it. I won't presume to second-guess your emotional math. But if you're only thinking of the potential awkwardness of future exposure, then please do yourself the favor of assessing your current level of awkwardness, too, and then doing a cost-benefit analysis of the two.

And no, I'm not calling you a liar. My point was just that it's important to weigh the costs carefully of holding back, and not just the costs of speaking up.

If you get pregnant "on your own" (i.e., w/o husband's consent to be a parent) you may as well prepare to be a parent alone. That's massively wrong. If you desire to be a parent more than you desire to be a partner to your husband, divorce so you can both move on.

If you want someone to walk you down the aisle, why not your mom?

Estate planning lawyer here - make sure you mention Mary's child's disability to your estate planning attorney before you leave everything to Mary. You will want to be sure that, in case something happens to Mary, that your gift doesn't disqualify the child from any federal benefits or programs he/she may be entitled to by virtue of the disability.

My MIL is 75 and in great shape, yay. She's also a fat shamer, harping endlessly on diet and exercise (at least once a day everyday when we visit) and saying things like fat kids are better off dead than living with their health problems. Her brother died and at his funeral she marveled out loud at the weight gain of his SIL. At our last visit we were told to pack workout clothes because forced gym workouts on their guest pass are a thing now. My husband writes all of this off as harmless because she never insults anyone directly to their face. I am at a loss of what to do, I can't even leave the room when she does this because I just know she's inwardly criticizing the size of my butt as I walk away. Any advice?

We could have an "awful-off" with this one. Which is worse:

1. "saying things like fat kids are better off dead than living with their health problems"?! 

or 

2. "My husband writes all of this off as harmless because she never insults anyone directly to their face. "

Please, please tell your husband it is not harmless *to you*: It upsets and disgusts you every time you hear it, because it's pathologically cruel.

Then opt out of visits to this hydra. Please, for your own well-being. 

You can also just leave the room, too, by the way. Anything she says about your butt only proves she is one herself.

 

I am a professional Celebrant and I see fewer brides being "walked" by their fathers and more walking on their own, just like the grooms. This is a remnant of an outmoded tradition of the bride as her father's property (chattel) being handed over to her husband. Just stop it.

Thanks for mentioning again that it does and will get better. I'm drowning in the tedium of keeping all the plates spinning while other things (like friendships, the specific problem of this week) suffer on the back burner. It's just a stage of life... it will get better...

We always found that everyone shifted to a new stage about a week/monthish after we started to think we couldn't possibly go on like this anymore. It's like we saw things started to shift and that gave us permission to think some other way was possible. 

Estates paralegal here. Be sure to actually consult with an estate planning attorney about this one and not just fill out an online form. The inclusion of a disabled child in the mix makes it worth the effort.

The LW said, "I don't really think he has the right to complain if I "forget" to take it" But, he does have a right to complain if you remember to take it but willfully choose not to without telling him. That's what the quotes around "forget" mean, right?

Why is it that people are all of a sudden righteous when it comes to this things. People do horrible stuff all the time and this person can have a baby if she wants to.

I'm now on negative wow supply. Sweet holy hell.

There's no way that question from the wife about "accidentally" forcing her husband to become a father is real? Right?? Dear lord.

Now we need the everybody-does-it follow up to be fake, too.

A friend is dating someone whose wife died less than a year ago (10 months). She is quite taken with him, thinks he treats her great and she's really happy but concerned how this looks to friends of the now deceased wife who have commented that he's dating too soon. My mantra is "If you're happy, consenting adults, it's all good" but she keeps asking me about it and honestly I think he's really clingy really fast and it gives me pause. I should just keep my mouth shut right?

"You're asking me this a lot. Any reason? Are you concerned?"

Just wanted to toss out a gut check - evaluating their behavior with as much of an objective eye as possible, could it be that giving the 5 year olds "space to be kids" has made them difficult to be around? We have friends with kids with this parenting philosophy, and the kids have gotten to be so disruptive and unruly that it has become hard to spend time with them.

Hang in there, mom. Being home with two small babies is exhausting and so I am not sure quitting work will help if you are overwhelmed. I love my son a ton but dropping him off at daycare and getting to quietly sip my coffee while planning my day is a huge reset. Childcare tends to get cheaper as babies get older, so if you can hang on for a bit longer, the costs should go down. Whereas leaving your job can make it a lot harder to find employment again, so don't forget to factor that into your cost calculations. It is okay to feel overwhelmed, that is a lot. You are not a bad mom for feeling overwhelmed.

i remember this coming up before on a chat. might not be the same situation, but depending on the husband's age, could it be mental health / decline? totally agree that asking about it is the first step, but if husband is no longer maintaining hygiene could it be the early stages of something more...?

Please remember that your sister is reacting in the only way left to her to honor your request. If she is not allowed to try to alter or curb the behavior of small children when it is annoying her, the adult thing to do is to remove herself from their presence. Which she does. Which you are complaining about. She is respecting your wishes and now you are disappointed in her about this, too. You don't get to have it both ways.

Just a thought from the daughter of a dad that cheated too - it is not unreasonable to be mad at him, or for your loyalty to be with your mother. But also keep in mind that it was his vow to your mom that he broke, not his vow to you. And you never know what is really going on in a marriage, even your own parents'. It is easy, especially when you are young and starting out in a marriage, to have very rigid ideas. Those rigid ideas may be tested and change over time. Be wary of destroying your relationship with him out of a sense of outrage on your mother's behalf. (And Carolyn's right about the aisle walk - it's 2020, you guys are adults - no one needs to "give away" someone else.)

I agree with Carolyn as long as sis isn't trying to discipline your kids in your home. Her home, her rules. Your home, yours. It wasn't clear from the original post whether she was overstepping in your home or not.

Coming late so I might be too late but... The LW should also give some thought to whether they might have some kind of anxiety. I am/was kind of like that, and started seeing a therapist because I thought that when my kids left the "little kid" stage and entered the era of playdates, my anxiety about time and housework and everything would decrease, but it didn't. The way she described it was that I had been on high alert for so long (at one point I had 3 kids under 2, so things were a bit stressful) that my brain had trouble turning crisis mode off. It has taken some conscious work but I'm learning to be less ruthlessly efficient.

What you are teaching your child is that you are the only one who can have expectations of them. YOU are getting in the way. A parent who wants to be the only one who 'disciplines' their child, as I have seen, sometimes has some issues. Others *can* discipline and/or have expectations of your child. You cannot control every interaction they have with others. Nor should you want to. You see how it is already putting a strain on the relationship.

Yesss. thank you.

It wasn’t clear in Carolyn’s response. Give whatever you bequest directly to the child with the disability (in trust). Anyone who objects to that is a total glass bowl. That makes it clear that while Mary may have been closest to you, the “fairness” is in supporting a person who cannot support themselves.

Well, my answer was to consult with an attorney on a trust. There could be restrictions involved with that, so ask first, explore options. I agree on the rest, thanks.

Just learned Hax Philes is not accessible right now for technical reasons. Instead I will post a bunch of comments after I sign off, if they're there to post. Sorry for the bait-and-switch.

Or the "everybody does it" follow up could be the original poster doubling down.

Which would be half as depressing, thanks.

"this person can have a baby if she wants to."..yes, either with a partner willing to do so or on her own through artificial insemination after a divorce from her husband.

We initially thought the compromise of "switching" the parents would make it less obvious my father was being excluded. Our original plan was to have my fiance's mom walk him down the aisle and I'm not going to say no to that or my mom whichever he wants. I may very well end up going it alone. And my mom was a lifesaver to his family when his mom had cancer so emotions are running high about what my dad did, which is understandable

All the more reason, then, to take all the parents out of the aisle, no? To establish yourselves as a loving entity going forward, without making any statements or declaring any allegiances or carrying over any grievances? 

It's a two-step plan: 1."Wow." 2. Walk away. P.S. Your butt looks great.

Thanks!

 

Oh wait.

I would also say that the art of small talk is what leads to little nuggets of information that I later use. It wasn't that interesting to me to hear that a friend of mine's husband took a bus across the George Washington Bridge to work in NYC, but one day I needed to get from NY to NJ and remembered that there was a bus route that could just take me over the bridge. Info like that comes to me all the time and I've learned to be able to mine those nuggets for help when I need it.

Great attitude to end on, thank you.

That's it for today. Thanks everybody, have a great weekend.

As promised, I'll post whatever I have for the overwhelmed two-in-diapers parent. Faux-Philes.

I have three kids under four. My husband and I each get a free half day every weekend. I may go to yoga on Saturday morning and then meet friends for brunch. On Sunday, he usually meets up for football. It's so restorative and without it, I feel so much gloomier. Also I find the $9.99 for weekly grocery delivery is a big investment in my sanity. I hate shopping with little kids.

What part do you find awful, because that could lead you on a better path? Is it that you don't have enough time with the kids, or time when your not exhausted? Is it the always changing diapers? Is it racing from work to daycare to feed kids to bedtime? At one point, I worked 4 days a week which was life changing for my family. I got more time with my kids and more time by myself + got some life stuff done, which allowed me to be more generous to my partner on the weekends.

I remember being at a point when I was in the small kids grind thinking I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Then it dawned on me how little sleep I was getting, and I made sure I went to bed an hour earlier every night. Within a week I didn't feel on the verge of a nervous breakdown anymore. Sure it was still a lot to deal with and a real grind at times, but I had more energy to take it on and I could enjoy my kids again. So please make it a priority to get some sleep and eat well, etc. I believe today they call it self-care :-) Good luck!

If all the LW needs is a light at the end of the tunnel, she should know that I LOVE my close in age elementary schoolers. Everyone plays together pretty well, is interested in the same things, and Paw Patrol is firmly in my rearview mirror.

I disagree that if "things are just awful" with two in diapers, that LW shouldn't quit work. Maybe she shouldn't--maybe she isn't suited to be a SAHM. But it wasn't clear to me how much of the awfulness may have been due to trying to manage a commute and a job on top of the toddlers and diapers. If your life is get the kids up and wrangle them changed, dressed, fed, and out the door to daycare and then when you get off work you have to pick them up, get them home, feed them, change them, put them to bed, that's grueling. The fun aspects of parenting are hard to find because you are getting them not at their best times of day and also not at your best times of day. So if that is the case, being home with them can be your better bet. You have more relaxed time to enjoy them when they and you are not exhausted. Your weekends don't have to be packed with everything that you can't do when both parents are working full time. So does the idea of that fill you with dread? Don't quit. Or does it seem like something you would like? There's your answer

Has this mom been screened for postpartum depression?

There was definitely a worst year for us with 2 little kids. It's still tough, but not as tough as. Partly because most nights we get enough sleep now.

consider teaming with another parent or two on rotating play dates - where you double team the work. Then enjoy sitting and chatting over tea or the like as a break.

I know this isn't really what you asked about and sometimes it's unavoidable and sometimes the money REALLY doesn't work out, but keep in mind 1) how difficult it can be to get back into the workforce and 2) how much money you potentially lose out on when you do dip out - both because you may not come back at the same salary and because you potentially miss out on raises. Unfair and discouraging, but worth a thought?

First of all, 2 kids in diapers is exhausting and I can only imagine what your daily grind is like. So sending you virtual love/high five/support. Second, could you see if your or your spouse's job would offer a flexible work schedule to help with the daily grind? For example, a friend works 6 1/2 hours so she can drop off and pick up her kids from day care on time, and then catches up on work in the evening/weekends. Another friend works 4 days a week so things can get done on that 5th day, like dr's appointments, grocery shopping, etc. Everyone's work is different so this may not be feasible for you and/or your spouse, but wanted to suggest it. Good luck!

I know it feels like this is your life right now and it's always going to be this level of awful, but I promise it won't. When my youngest got to be about 2.5, all of a sudden it felt like my brain came back on line. Suddenly, everybody was sleeping through the night and I wasn't cleaning up potty accidents all the time, and people fed themselves at dinner. My kids are now 5 and 7 and my husband said to me about a year ago, "Boy, it seems like you're in so much of a better mood than you used to be," and I was like, "Yeah, no kidding, buddy." At this point, bedtime only takes a few minutes and in the morning they know how to make their own breakfast and they can dress themselves and put on their own winter gear. After dinner, they even clear their own plates. I'm enjoying parenthood in a way that I never thought I would when I was in that little baby stage. For now, let as much stuff as you can go (the living room isn't picked up? Oh well!) and make sure that your spouse has things that they manage all by themselves. Like, my husband manages all the kid's doctor/dentist/etc. appointments. I don't check to make sure he's taking care of it, just like I don't check to make sure that he goes to work every day, because those are HIS responsibilities. And then know that it will get better (and then sometimes worse and then better again and then different in a way that's neither better nor worse and... such is life). Solidarity, sister. You will make it through.

"If you think two kids in diapers = "things are just awful," then please do not become a stay-at-home parent." is just too harsh. Even the sweetest most perfect SAHM has moments when two very small kids in diapers is just awful.

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Carolyn Hax
Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997 as a weekly feature for The Washington Post, accompanied by the work of "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis. The column has since gone daily and into syndication, where it appears in over 200 newspapers. Carolyn joined The Post in 1992 as a copy editor in Style, and became a news editor before turning to writing full-time. She is the author of "Tell Me About It" (Miramax, 2001), and the host of a live online discussion on Fridays at noon on washingtonpost.com. She lives in New England with her husband and their three boys.
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