Reader Dilemma: What Do I Say…

file0002081091934This question came in from a reader (we’ll call her Lisa).

As I was picking up my son recently from a friend’s birthday party,  his mom stopped me and kindly invited me to her church group meeting sometime. I thanked her and kind of brushed it off and left with my son.

When I ran into her again a short time after, she quickly crossed the room to ask if my whole family wanted to join them for church services. We’re not religious people and don’t want to go to their church, but I don’t want to be rude or hurt her feelings.

My advice? I told Lisa that she should be honest and explain that her family attends the church of the NFL on Sundays from September-February (of course I’m kidding). But seriously, I think a polite “We’re not really church goers but appreciate the invitation” would be the best way to go. Of course she could always accept and give it a try but doesn’t that open up the gates to more invitations and pressure?

How would you tell Lisa to handle the situation?


Date Night: What Is There to Do?

That’s right people, here it is — my very first VLOG post. Check it out and please leave a comment. Let me know, what the heck do you do on date night?

P.S. This is also my very first post done entirely on my iPhone in the car. Technology rules!


Do Good Moms Make Bad Wives?

Every classroom has one. Maybe she’s even you. She’s the mom who lives and breathes all things motherhood, using every ounce of energy to provide the precious little ones with the ultimate childhood experience. She bakes from scratch, has dinner on the table every night at 5 pm sharp and can whip together homemade costumes for the entire 5th grade cast of Wizard of Oz faster than you can say “And your little dog, too.”

Don’t even get me started on her crafting skills. While I try to avoid eye contact when I see that my son’s teacher needs tiny fall trees cut out, that lady knows her way around a glue gun like nobody’s business. She’s like a cross between Martha Stewart and MacGyver, using pipe cleaner and a rock to create memorable holiday gifts.

Sure, most of us struggle with the simple task of juggling homework and soccer practice — there’s no shame in that, right? Nope, not her. She not only gets it all done but heads up the carnival committee and organizes the next class party at the same time. I want to scream at her “My God, woman, don’t you sleep?” But I’m starting to think that if you showed up at her house in the middle of the night, you’d see her put away on a shelf with the rest of the wind-up robots.

But for every other mom who thinks that she’s perfect, setting the bar the rest of us can’t even come close to, there’s a certain someone who’s anything but impressed… her husband. Because while she’s spending sleepless nights frosting cupcakes and sewing costumes, he’s feeling neglected and going to bed alone. Which brings me to my question…

Do Good Moms Make Bad Wives?

Getty_021113_DivorcePapersJessica is no stranger to the good mom, bad wife question. In a recent conversation, she revealed to me that she believes her dedication to the kids was a major contributing factor in the recent demise of her marriage, creating resentment, competition and feelings of neglect in her husband. “He hated that [I always volunteered] because it set into the time it should’ve been fed into him.”

But was he partially responsible for leading her to a life of extreme motherhood in the first place? Jessica admits that throughout her marriage, she’s often felt unappreciated and not supported emotionally, leaving her with unmet needs. Using her time with the kids to fill those needs was good for the kids and her. “Because I needed validation and emotional gratification that he wasn’t providing, the kid stuff was easy to take on. I always get a ‘thank you.’ Volunteering is very validating for me, it’s rewarding and fulfilling.”

I think almost anyone who’s walked into their young child’s classroom can relate. The feeling you get when your kid notices your arrival can be pretty intoxicating and knowing you’re making an impact is exhilarating. But what happens in a few years when your kid begs you not to come and refuses to be seen with you? After years letting your marriage run on auto pilot, I wouldn’t be so sure your spouse will be waiting with open arms.

The National Healthy Marriage Resource Center cites spending time together, showing respect and exploring common interests as a few of their 10 Tips to having a healthy marriage. I’m no therapist but I’ve got my own tips.

  • Call each other names There’s nothing worse than hearing a couple call each other “mommy” and “daddy” when there are no kids in a 100 yard radius. Referring to each other by name is a tiny, yet effective, way to recall the person you loved pre-kids.
  • Just say NO Say it with me… “I can’t volunteer to run the bake sale this time.” Say it, own it, live it. I promise you, if you utter those words, you will not die.
  • Just say YES Rumor has it, men often lose interest in alone time after hitting a certain age. Turn him down time after time and I guarantee he’ll lose it with you much earlier. Just sayin’.
  • Prioritize Listen, I’m not saying you shouldn’t be involved with the kids. Volunteering and running the activities show is a positive thing and helps connect you with the kids. But do you really think Groundhog Day requires individually-wrapped holiday gift bags filled with pencils and Punxsutawney Phil-shaped erasers?
  • Forsake all others That’s right, it’s in the vows. Somewhere between sickness and health and richer/poorer, you agreed to forsake all others. While we think about staying faithful to our partner in the biblical sense, vows were about putting each other first. I’m not saying to neglect the kids but they won’t exactly suffer by seeing their parents put each other at the top of the list, instead serving as relationship role models.
  • Stop making excuses I know I can be the first to suggest skipping date night in order to save a little cash. But the price of dinner and a sitter is nothing compared to the cost of divorce. So put on some lipstick and get your butt out the door.
  • Skip the crayons Here’s a date night rule to live by: If there’s a play area in the restaurant, find somewhere else to eat. Chain restaurants are packed with screaming kids and stressed-out parents, not the atmosphere to encourage kid-free conversation and romance. I know you love your never-ending breadsticks, but save Olive Garden for family night, OK?

Are you a better mom or wife? Share your tips to a healthy marriage and how you balance both in the comments below!


10 Ways to Pay it Forward

It was a tough week. I had a flu/strep throat combo that kicked my butt and forced me to rearrange carpool, postpone important meetings and cancel previously scheduled play dates, leaving my kids stir-crazy and frustrated. My daughter was also sick and my house was a wreck, with laundry taking on a life of its own and dirty dishes piling up on the counter (no longer fitting in the sink). I couldn’t even make dinner, never mind actually meet a deadline. I was exhausted and overwhelmed and needed a sign that it would all be okay… or at least a life-preserver.

Then I saw it.

The envelope sat in my mailbox like many had before, with just a name — no address — evidence it had been dropped in and not actually mailed. I grabbed it along with the rest and tore it open as I walked up the driveway. Was it an invitation to something in the neighborhood? Maybe pictures from a recent party that someone dropped off? I didn’t give it much thought. But then I opened it. Inside, it said…

“Jackie takes care of everyone! Time to take care of Jackie!”

payitforwardAs I read the words, it was like time stood still. Could it be there’s someone out there who understands? Does she know about my never-ending list of things to do? My unpaid bills? Can she relate to the chaos that accompanies my feeble attempt at being a good working mom? Tears immediately filled my eyes. There was someone out there who “got” me.

Then I noticed another envelope inside. I tore it open with my thin, broken nails wondering what could be inside. There, with my name written in black ink at the top, was a gift certificate for a pedicure. I swear I heard my chipped toes giggle with excitement! But I couldn’t help wonder “why me?” I mean, come on, isn’t every mom’s life jam-packed with constant insanity? Am I such a mess that this person thought I, above all others, could use this pick-me-up?

And who is this anonymous do-gooder, making such a kind, thoughtful, supportive gesture without sharing her identity (at least I assumed it was a “her”)? My mind began to race, quickly making a list of possible benefactors. But I found most interesting while I was wracking my brain, was that I wasn’t puzzled over which of my girlfriends is that generous (I’m so lucky in the friend category), it’s that I just couldn’t figure out who would do it without adding her name to the card.

It made me wonder: how many of us could go above and beyond for someone else and be okay with not getting the credit?

While some queried said they often do kind things and don’t want anything in return, others admitted that one of the main reasons to do something nice is to let the recipient know you care and value their friendship, something that can’t be done anonymously.

Whether it’s out loud or in private, my experience with the secret Santa was a great motivator. In fact, I felt so good during the days that followed that surprise in my mailbox that I noticed myself needing to pay it forward as much as I could. And the more I did, the more I noticed it coming right back, not necessarily in gifts and grand gestures, but little random acts of kindness that can enhance an ordinary day. (Here’s a special shout out to the woman at Toys R Us who moved shopping carts when she saw I was trying to pull into a parking space!)

I never did find out who was responsible for the generosity that day. But I hope she’s reading this and knows that not only did she give me the gift of pretty nails, she inspired me to pass on her message and pay it forward, something I hope I can inspire in those who read this.

What’s one way you can pay it forward? Share in the comments!