QUESTION: We have an interesting situation. I’ve often heard when a new baby comes into the family help is not readily available, which is not the case with us. My mother and mother-in-law are vying for time to help us with our firstborn. As if that isn’t enough, my wife’s sister wants to come and live with us for a few months “to help out.”
We both took parenting classes before our beautiful little son was born, and would like to get to know our little guy without family interference.
We believe there will be plenty of time during his growing up years for our family to interact with him. My friends tell me we should be glad for the offers of help. We love our family and wonder how we can resolve this without creating a family feud?
~ New Dad
Dear New Dad,
Congratulations on your new baby! As the saying goes, “To thine own self be true.” You said in your letter that you and your wife would like “to get to know our little guy without family interference.” What I hear is that you both are clear about what you want, but also don’t want to hurt the feelings of your family members. Help with a newborn can be a blessing. In fact there are probably plenty of couples out there that would jump at the chance to have some help with their babies! My sense is that it’s not that you don’t want any help, but the degree of help that is being offered is of concern.
It’s wonderful that your families are so excited to spend time with your son and to help out. As with any relationship, the key is about communication and establishing boundaries. There is a fine line between expressing our own wants and needs and acquiescing to others. This is the time to let your family know what is most beneficial for you and your family. Remember, this is a learning time for your family members as well. In their exuberance to be involved with your son, or as they see it, with their new grandson/nephew, they may not realize that their offers are overwhelming to you and your wife, as in the case with your sister-in-law offering to come and live with you for a few months.
I heard a delightful term used to define the time parents need just after a baby is born – a babymoon! Just like a honeymoon after a marriage that gives a couple time to be secluded to focus on their relationship, a couple needs time to experience their new baby and their new life as parents together. This is an important opportunity to for both the parents and baby to bond. Let your family members know that they are loved and appreciated, and that one of dearest ways they can love and appreciate you both as new parents is to respect your wishes to have this special, new babymoon time.
In Religious Science we believe that once we get clear on “what” we desire and set that intention, “how” it manifests is up to God. The law of attraction is always working – where we put our attention tends to be what we attract. Give your family some suggestions of ways that they can help out. Expressing what you do need (as opposed to what you don’t need) makes it clear to your family what will make your lives most comfortable. That way, they can provide help in a meaningful way instead of being interference.
The most important ingredient in all our relationships is love. Acknowledge the love that you have for your family – your new family, your parents and relatives. Realize the good intentions of your family are based on a desire to bring and share love and happiness. The rest will fall into place if we keep our mind focused on love.
I wish you many blessings and years of happiness as you begin the new adventures of parenting!
Rev. Mary Morgan
Dear New Dad,
What a joyous time in your life – congratulations! The heart, desires, assistance and expectations of family members in a family with a newborn are exciting, welcomed, appreciated, enduring and challenging. Each family has its own unique combination of contributors and non-contributors. Often the navigation of thoughts, feelings and actions can be understood easier when all involved know what the newborn’s mother and father desire for everyone.
You and your wife should consider graciously thanking everyone for all they have and will do for the baby while giving them clear expectations of how you want to parent your child, including your desire to create a family nucleus with just the three of you. Asking family members to partner with you in your plan, which gives guidance in your expectations for everyone, can create a sense of value and contribution for all involved.
Now, depending on how well your family communicates and respects appropriate boundaries, some involved may read other things into what you are asking but at least you and your wife will have lovingly, graciously shared you desire to create your own new family nucleus. In addition, you and your wife will have hopefully communicated how important it is for everyone to be involved in your newborn’s life. Most important is that you and your wife come to an agreement on how, when and to whom you will communicate your desires. This should be done the best way that you determine they will most likely receive it.
Bless you and your new family!
QUESTION: I have to give my husband credit. He tries to fix things around the house because he doesn’t want to pay a handyman. To tell the truth, his repairs seldom last and are often shoddy. We can afford to pay a handyman, but he refuses. Our house has become a jungle of “spit and bubblegum” repairs. I don’t want to hurt his feelings, so I’ve said nothing. This has gone on for eight years and is getting on my nerves.
How can I approach him in a way that he’ll listen and let other, better qualified people take over our home repairs?
~ Frustrated Spouse
Dear Frustrated Spouse,
As I read your question, I wonder how well do the two of you communicate with one another? Are you able to have healthy debates about important questions such as what you will do in case one or the other is on life support? Have you been able to negotiate well with one another on day-to-day decisions like who empties the trash? I would hope that you can have this baseline ability to communicate well and to work through conflict to healthy resolutions. If not, perhaps a class or workshop on how to communicate with one another is a good option. I find so many issues can be worked through if you can really listen and understand one another.
I am wondering if you are at all concerned about damaging your relationship if you bring up the issue that concerns you. I would work on articulating what really is at stake. Talking to fire officials or attending a home safety workshop, or even obtaining a check list from your homeowner’s insurance carrier, can help assess safety of repairs to electrical, structural, or plumbing because it is true that unsafe repairs can lead to dangerous conditions for your well being. If this is a financial concern, perhaps setting up a fund for needed repairs will be helpful. That way when repairs are needed you both can feel okay about calling in a professional.
Lastly, I know I often work through what I expect of myself to provide for my family. It is hard to admit I need help at times.
Without knowing more about your situation, I would urge you to present your point in a non-defensive way to elicit discussion about the situation and for decisions in the future. Sometimes you can do that on your own; other times you need the right resources to help.
I hope you will write and let us know what worked so others can learn from you!
Dear Frustrated Spouse,
Perhaps your husband was raised to think a man should be a jack of all trades. Or he could be concerned about an uncertain economy and not want to “waste” money the family might need in the future. Figuring out what motivates his behavior is the key to determining the best way to approach the subject. I would be mindful of his self-esteem. You could try talking to him about how he could help economic recovery by hiring out the home repairs. Income earned by a handyman will get circulated in the community, giving revenue to retailers and service providers. It will also raise some much-needed taxes for local governments. You could mention that it’s patriotic to create jobs here in the USA.
I think you are wise not to confront him with his shoddy workmanship. Rather, suggest his time could be better spent on something more important. Leverage his strong points. Does he have a hobby or talent that might lead to more income than the cost of professional repairs? Another strategy might be to find a charity or volunteer group that needs help with something your husband is good at. Find something that he’s better qualified to do and ask him to do it instead of mundane home repairs “anyone” can do.
If these ideas don’t work, I hope you can let go of your frustration. Marriage is a series of compromises and as long as the less than stellar repairs that turn out to be temporary aren’t life threatening, you may just have to learn to live with them.