DR. WALLACE: I'm 19, and my husband is 21, and we have a 3-month-old daughter who is the love of our lives. We're happily married and thrilled to be new parents. I'm a stay-at-home mom, and my husband works very hard six days a week so I can stay home to raise our daughter full time. On Sundays, we go to church in the morning and then stay home to relax with our daughter for the rest of the day so my husband can get some quality time with her and me.
My mother thinks we should spend more time at her house and that we are being anti-family because of this! We live 40 miles away from my parents, and at least once a month, we spend a Sunday evening at their house and do the same for my husband's parents. My mother still complains that we don't spend enough time with her and my father, and she even guilt trips me about it. Do you feel her perspective is reasonable or a bit over the top? I truly love and respect my parents, but there are only so many hours in a day, if you know what I mean. — New Mother, via email
NEW MOTHER: I would say that you are not being anti-family at all. Your husband and daughter are now the members of your own family, and your first responsibility is to them. The rest of your family, especially your parents, remains very important, but of course, your relationship with them has changed because your life has gone through new developments that involve new responsibilities. This is only natural. It may take a little time to work out a new routine that everyone feels comfortable with.
It's awfully hard to please everyone, so that shouldn't be your intent. The goal should be finding ways for extended family members to enjoy one another and express their love from time to time. Why not invite your parents over to your place once in a while, perhaps every other Saturday afternoon, to have lunch and enjoy their granddaughter? This could be a relaxing time and start a new tradition with your mom and dad — and, for them, with their treasured granddaughter!
WHY WON'T MY MOM GET A DIVORCE?
DR. WALLACE: I'm 17 and lived at home with my wonderful mother and my not-so-wonderful father. Why my parents ever got married is a total mystery to me. My mom is cultured and refined. She's hip, intelligent and dresses well. She has friends who are smart and trendy and who keep up with new social norms and traditions. My frumpy father, on the other hand, is a loudmouth slob who drinks way, way too much. And when he does, he gets louder and louder and more and more obnoxious! My father rarely has dinner with us kids and typically gets drunk with his friends and chases other women. I think he's gross to the max.
I've told my mother for years that she should divorce him, or at least get a legal separation. At times, my father has verbally talked down to her, but he has never become violent with my mom, with me or with any of my siblings. When he does say mean things, my mom usually has a sassy comment to say back to him that quickly puts him in his place, and he then just leaves her alone.
However, my father impacts my life negatively, too. Because of his personality and actions, I never bring any friends over. I don't want to take the risk that he will embarrass me in front of them by saying something stupid or wildly inappropriate.
What can I do to convince my mother to divorce my father? I think our whole family would be some much better off if they would just face reality and cut the cord. — Disgusted Daughter, via email
DISGUSTED DAUGHTER: Your father's behavior, based upon your insights, does appear to be beyond reconciliation. The decision to leave her marriage is entirely up to your mother, and by now, you have made your feelings well known to her. She is quite aware of his behavior, yet for some reason, she has not moved on. She likely has her reasons, and you should respect this. If, however, there was physical violence involved, then I would suggest you get another trusted adult or law enforcement to look into the situation. You have indicated this is not the case.
Leaving him is not an easy decision for her, or she would have done it by now. It could be that she's waiting for you and your siblings to graduate high school first. You and I don't actually know her reasons, and we should respect her actions as long as she and other family members are physically safe.
The best you can do is to continue to be encouraging and supportive to your mother. You are one of her best friends, and she needs your love. However, when you are ready to leave home once you are 18 or older, by all means, do so. Don't stay around because you feel sorry for your mom. It's her life, and she's going to live it her way.
Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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