Dear Mouthy Housewives,
Am I crazy or is this inappropriate behavior? We visit my mother-in-law at an ocean-side community where she spends her summers. We have 3 kids, ages 9, 7, and 3. Her camper is not in any way child proofed. She feels the children should just not touch things. This is a woman who once set her table with beautiful china for a special occasion and put a china place setting where my then-2-year old was sitting.
The kids (being kids) are curious about everything in her camper. But all they hear is “Don’t touch. Don’t put your feet on the couch. Don’t play with that.” Since we’ve had kids old enough to walk, visits have been uncomfortable as we have such extreme differences in parenting. Luckily, my husband and I are on the same page. And we have great kids (polite and well-behaved) who on occasion, make noise and touch things.
Most visits end up with me walking the kids in the yard while she asks my husband to fix her computer. Last night after supper she pulled out her last will and testament and asked my husband to read it over carefully in case he had questions. Read it over carefully? In a small enclosed space with 3 kids, 2 cats and a dog? Huh? Is there not a better, more appropriate time for such a thing? If my husband says anything, her standard response is, “I’m sorry I’m so awful and that your childhood was so terrible.”
During the school year she is 4 hours away and we do not visit, but now she is spending summers less than 45 minutes from our house and expects us to visit often. I know she is a lonely old lady who loves her grandchildren, but what can we do to make visits easier and less stressful for everyone?
I’d Rather Take My Kids to a China Shop Than My Mother-in-Law’s
Dear I’d Rather Take My Kids to a China Shop,
I was thinking about your problem while my 2-year-old twins sipped apple juice from their Tiffany English fine bone china flora teacups. And frankly, the situation sounds miserable.
Relationships with in-laws can get complicated. You mention that you and your husband are on the same page but isn’t it time for him to stand up to his mother? I understand she’s old and means well but what exactly does she expect your kids to do at her house? Play mah jongg?! (Although I think that’s what Marinka’s kids do.)
I’ve noticed that as people get older, they sort of forget what children are like. Who can blame them? They are probably blocking out some traumatic event like the time their toddler pooped in her pants during the middle of dinner at a restaurant and they had no spare clothes. (This may or may not have happened to me in the past week.)
But your husband needs to refresh your mother-in-law’s memory because children – even well behaved ones – need some leeway. He should say to him mom, “We love you and we enjoy seeing you but it’s unrealistic to expect young kids to sit in your camper and not touch anything. So until they are a little older, why don’t we meet at a playground or at the beach so they can run around while we visit together.” Or maybe you can take her out to dinner when you visit. Anything to avoid that camper!
If she’s not able to get around, then bring a bag of stuff for the kids to do (drawing, board games, books, etc) and then grab ice cream for them afterwards for suffering through another visit to grandma’s where the only thing they are apparently allowed to do is look at her adoringly.
Remember – you are not required to visit her constantly and if she has any documents for your husband to look over, he should take them home and do it there.
Good luck and remember the summer usually flies by!
Dear Mouthy Housewives,
My children have a paid carpool to school in the morning and travel by bus back home in the afternoon. They are 11 and 19. They travel with a neighbor just around the corner from my home. My kids have now been complaining for a while about this women using foul language on them and telling them that they are “F-ed up.” I really want to approach her and give her a bit of my mind as she has issues and is now taking it out on my kids. What should I do?
Everybody Out of the Car Pool
Dear Everybody Out of the Car Pool,
So let me get this straight. Someone you’re paying with your money is telling your kids that they’re “f-ed up” and you’re wondering what to do? You’re obviously not from the Mouthy Housewife states of Texas or New York, my friend. Oh, no no no no no. If you were, you’d be asking us for bail money instead of asking us for advice. But luckily, we can still help you out because it is our duty as unpaid Internets writers.
Now listen closely: the next time your neighbor comes to pick up your kids, I want you to follow these instructions to the letter:
1. Slowly remove your earrings and hand them to your children while staring intensely at the carpool driver.
2. Repeat above, but with any and all hair extensions. Say something menacing like, “Hold momma’s wig for me, baby, I’s got work ta do” if you like.
3. Take your right hand and curl in all of your fingers until you form a nice, hard fist. (Note: Be sure you’re wearing every fake diamond ring you own.)
4. Now politely ask the driver to get out of the car. Perhaps in the genteel NYPD style. Example: GET YOUR MOTHAFOKKIN ASS OUT OF THE MOTHAFOKKIN CAR BEFORE I DO IT FOR YOU, YOU MOTHAFOKKIN UNDERWEAR STAIN. Then roll your neck and snort a few times.
5. Take that asshole all the way down to Chinatown.
If you don’t know what that last step means, well, then you’re either a nun or someone who skips around a daisy field singing country songs all day. But if you do understand it, then there’s no reason why you should let your children be treated that way by anyone ever. And I do mean ever. There’s really no confrontation needed, just get busy and find another way to get them to school.
And if you don’t, then that’s really f-ed up.
Dear Mouthy Housewives,
I’m 25, the mother of 3 boys, and I’m a tired mom…and not the usual “tired” like every mom is. I’m talking about the kind of tired that leads me to sleep all the time, not want to clean, or even go too far out of my way to create a magical day for my kids. Don’t get me wrong: I love them with every ounce of my being, I just cant do what I used to anymore. I’ve been a house wife/stay at home mom for 6 years now. Additionally, my husband is in the military, so in the past 6.5 years we have lived in 5 different houses. I used to be able to do all the cooking, all the cleaning, all the laundry, and my boys (I’m proud to say) are most of the time extremely well behaved.
I’ve been on anti-depressants for over a year now, due to suicidal thoughts, which of course I’m not proud of (and if I don’t delete that line before I click the “submit” button, I’ll be surprised.) They keep me well balanced; however, my husband wants me off of them asap because its not “normal” to need a pill to be happy. (That’s a whole other email, in and of itself).
Nothing seems to help me “recharge”. I go out with friends every once in a while (though child care is really too expensive) and I don’t even want to go home. My husband doesn’t understand why I can’t do what I did the first 5 years (his words exactly), and no matter how many times I explain I’m burned out, it doesn’t change anything.
What are some (actual) helpful tips to help get back to being “happy mommy”? A hot bath and a glass of wine aren’t cutting it. Child care is not in our budget, and my husband is not a reliable source for helping me get out of the house alone.
Burned Out Mom
Dear Burned Out Mom,
Oh, girl, where do I begin?
I suppose the obvious would be best: you should know first and foremost that you are not alone in this. Motherhood is often like trying to tame wildebeests while the rest of the world watches and reminds you to “enjoy this precious time.” Meanwhile, you’re all, “Enjoy? THAT THING JUST BIT MY ARM.”
Secondly, I’m worried that your husband’s inability to support you emotionally and physically is not helping your situation. As you said, that is another situation in and of itself, but it’s not one to be taken lightly. His lack of empathy or concern for your experience is alarming and is something you need to address with him as soon as you feel confident and strong enough to do so. Couples counseling is great for this. As a fellow military wife, I can say for certain that it saved my little wildebeest family.
So let’s get to your question, then: how can you get back to being a happy mommy? The answer is so obvious that it eluded me, even, for years. You need to ask yourself (and then answer honestly and fully): what makes you happy? Don’t think yet about practicality. Just answer the question. For instance, I needed to realize that accomplishments, achievements, and intellectual stimulation make me happy. (All of which, it seems important to note here, are very difficult to seek while in the company of a drooling human that poos itself on the regular.)
Eventually, I was able to find this with part-time work, exercise, and a closer, more fulfilling relationship with my husband and family. Like you, money for childcare was an issue, but there are ways to make things happen. Reach out to neighbors and friends for childcare. Find a gym that comes with free child watch. Look for an exciting job you can do from home. Sure, the laundry will continue to pile up, but the most important point I can make to you–and I cannot emphasize this enough–is that you mustmustMUST take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else. Live a life you enjoy, and suddenly finding new ways to cook chicken breast, the ongoing drone of Little Bill, and bathrooms that perpetually smell of urine are no longer so utterly oppressive.
Good luck, momma. Find some friends, talk to your therapist, and be confident in yourself. There’s nothing here to be ashamed of. Take it from me: I’m awesome at murdering chicken breast.
Dear Mouthy Housewives,
My son invited a friend over (they’re 10) and the mom called me to confirm that I’ll pick both boys after school and to “make sure there won’t be any screen time” when they are here. I was so taken aback by her question, I didn’t quite have a response, except “of course not!” which was obviously the response she wanted.
Usually, I let the boys decide what they want to do (within reason) and I certainly don’t forbid their using the computer or the TV or video games (again, within reason.) Should I call her back and give the more honest answer? Or just forbid use of any and all electronics when the kid is over here?
Stop Screening the Screen Time
I always wanted to be one of those mothers who called ahead of a playdate to make sure that my child was going to have a wholesome experience, with lots of brain-boosting activities and organic cruelty-free snacks. Ideally when I picked up my kid, she’s be fluent in a new language and brimming with self-esteem and be on her way to getting an athletic scholarship or three.
And it could happen. If only the hosting parent applied themselves a bit instead of sitting back with a cup of that very special something and the newspaper, happy that their kid has someone over so that they can get a few minutes of peace already.
But I admit it– the other reason that I didn’t call is because when I start to think about all the questions that I would want to ask – do you have guns in the house? Anyone on the Sex Offender Registry? Anyone who you think should be on the Sex Offender Registry? Do you allow violent video games in the house? Do you allow people who have played violent video games in the house? Do you have any books by Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh in the house? Do you say the Lord’s prayer at mealtime? Where are you on the whole Lean In phenomenon? Who was your favorite Brady?
As you can see, there are endless questions that you can ask, all important and all offering insight into the family who will be hosting your child. Some parents worry when their child goes on a playdate. And of course, if the parent feels that there are one or two questions that are at the top of the list, then by all means. Ask.
But I I don’t like how this mom handled the situation. The way she asked about screen time did not lend itself to a discussion, but more or less demanded an “of course!” answer. The fact that she did it badly; however, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t call her to talk about it.
So give her a call and be honest. Tell her that you weren’t expecting her question and after giving it some more thought, you wanted to let her know that no, screen time is not off-limits at your house during playdates, but that it is usually for a limited time. That way you are being honest and she can make the decision that she needs to make.
At the end of the day, we all have to parent the best we can. For most of us, that includes trusting the parenting community we belong to to take care of our children. And us returning the favor.
Dear Mouthy Housewives,
I live with my boyfriend who has two girls, ages 8 and 10. I have older kids (18 and 20) who are in college. I like his girls a great deal but the younger one will straddle him on the couch when we are sitting together. It really bothers me and makes me uncomfortable. I don’t think it’s a sexual thing but she is very needy sometimes. She has also climbed in bed with us in the mornings a couple of times. I don’t like that either. I know I need to say something to my boyfriend…but what?
I don’t want to sound jealous of an 8-year-old but maybe I am?
Am I Really Jealous of a Tween?
Dear Am I Really Jealous of a Tween?
Here’s the thing about kids. They are extremely needy. Since your children are grown, you might not remember just how needy because parenthood is about suppressing the past. It’s a natural defense mechanism so we don’t become completely insane.
But let me remind you… needy is what kids do. It’s their top skill. They want food. They want attention. They want help with their homework. 16 extra hugs at bedtime. 47 books. More food. Now they are thirsty. Now they have to go to the bathroom. Now they want to be tucked back in. And on and on and on.
Your boyfriend’s 8-year-old sounds pretty normal. She’s still a little kid and wanting to climb on top of her dad and hug with him shouldn’t be cause for alarm. Many fathers and daughters have a special relationship and she wants to be close to him. It’s also quite common for kids to want to climb into bed with their parents in the morning. In fact, as long as it’s after 7 am, I love snuggling with my children in bed…until they start screaming at each other because someone has 3 extra inches of space and well, then it’s time for breakfast.
I think you need to figure out where your jealous feeling are coming from. Do you feel like you don’t get enough attention from your boyfriend? If yes, you need to talk to him. If you constantly see him being affectionate with his kids and not you, that will understandably lead to feelings of envy and resentment for you.
If you want to be with this guy, it comes with a package deal. I would try to embrace and bond with his children, instead of seeing them as a threat. Because if you want to be with him in the long run, you are building a family, not just a relationship.