09 May
Hands Off My Mother-In-Law, She’s Mine!

Dear Mouthy Housewives,

My sister, who is 45 and single, has developed a relationship with my 87-year-old mother-in-law that does not include me. She will drive to my MIL’s, go out to dinner and sleep over. She has also recently started to have my MIL over to her apartment for a couple of nights. My husband also thinks this is odd.

I am married and have two children, one of whom is disabled and I am also in nursing school full time. I can’t devote the amount of time to my mother-in-law that my sister does. My sister and I don’t have the best relationship. It’s okay, but not really close, so when I am mad at her, and I hear that she is at my mother-in-law’s, it kind of drives me nuts. I feel like she is overstepping her boundaries. Am I wrong to feel this way?

Signed,

Hands Off My Mother-In-Law

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Dear Hands Off,

Well, here’s an interesting twist on the ol’ Mother-In-Law issue!  She’s not mean or snoopy. She doesn’t poop while holding your baby. She doesn’t smell. She’s just hanging out with your sister. Is it wrong that I’ve already cast the movie version of this? “Shirley Maclaine and Cameron Diaz are the sassiest, bustiest twosome you’ve ever seen! And they’re hittin’ the streets this summer in The Mother In Law/Sister Boogaloo in 3-D! Don’t miss this one! Soundtrack by Snoop Dogg.”

OK, well now we know why I no longer work in Hollywood.

But I really fail to see what the problem is with these two forming a friendship. You’re too busy to spend much time with the MIL, so I would think you’d be happy that someone is watching out for her. (Gotta keep an eye on those older ladies or they’ll blow their life savings at the Bingo parlor, you know.) I suspect that both women are a little lonely, so it seems wonderful to me that they found each other and enjoy the same things. My younger sister was a great friend to my mother-in-law before she passed away and I loved that they had that special relationship.

You didn’t say anything about them gossiping about you or joining forces against you, but is that something you’re worried about? Or is it that you’re simply a little jealous and feel left out? Both the MIL and sister dynamic are fraught with issues and emotional landmines, so I think it’s normal to feel a bit weird about it all. But I’m sure if you ever wanted to join them for dinner or movie night, they’d be happy to have your company. Try it.

Friendship and family can take all shapes and forms, and it’s admirable that your sister opts to spend time with an 87-year-old. Maybe she’s getting some mothering from her or maybe she feels useful by giving her time. Whatever the reason, I say just let them have their fun.

Just not at the Bingo parlor.

Good luck,

Wendi, TMH

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28 Feb
This House is not an Equal Opportunity Employer

Dear Mouthy Housewives,

My 14 year old daughter does some cleaning jobs around the house to make extra money. My son (12) recently asked if he could do that too, and I agreed. Should he be paid the same as my daughter is even though he is younger and doesn’t do as good of a job as she does?

Signed,
EOE

___________________________________

Dear EOE,

Oh, how I envy you. At the moment, my kids are still only 3 and 5, and think “cleaning” means throwing things into a corner while simultaneously sobbing about their torment and petitioning the cats for amnesty from their wretched mother. (And that’s WITH bribery, unfortunately.)

But back to your situation. I firmly believe that there is no reason to pay both kids the same amount “just because.” Is this how the real world operates? Hell no! In fact, when one of them complains, tell them to just be happy they aren’t being TAXED! Or that the national gender wage gap doesn’t apply this fiscal year! OR THAT THEY AREN’T WORKING IN SWEATSHOPS, you ungrateful little–

Where was I?

I think the important thing to remember here is that, before you set up any type of allowance agreement, think about age-appropriate chores for each child. Also, be clear about what type of performance is expected from each one of them. For example, having the five year-old manage the electric bill will not “help him learn responsibility” as much as it will “show him how quickly his parents break with the power shut off for DAYS ON END.”

Not that I’m speaking from experience.

Especially since your kids are a little bit older, you don’t need to stress as much about being “fair.” But if you are worried about that,  I’d suggest going with a performance-based pay scale. If they’re both doing the exact same quality of work, then perhaps they should be paid the same amount. I’m guessing, however, that there will be a bit of  a lapse between the two, in which case, pay accordingly.

Of course, this will be a bumpy road at first, as you’ll probably have to deal with some fallout regarding gender relations and glass ceilings and possibly a civil lawsuit that leads to parental emancipation, but these can all be learning opportunities, amirite?! Minor squabbles and doubts about the validity of your love as a mother are nothing when compared to the glimpse of the “real world” you’ll be giving them.

Warm regards,

Kristine, TMH

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08 Feb
Love Is In The Air! Just Not At My Daughter’s Preschool

Dear Mouthy Housewives,

My daughter goes to a Jewish preschool where they don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day. However, my older daughters will celebrate it at public school and I know my younger one will want to do it too. How should I handle this? Secretly give Valentine’s to all her preschool friends?

Signed,

I Didn’t Even Know Valentine’s Day Was A Religious Holiday

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Dear Didn’t Know V-Day Was Religious,

It’s possible that the school put that policy in place because they heard about my traumatic high school Valentine’s Day experience. Nothing says awkward teen moment like a boy showing up to your homeroom with a 4 ft card, balloons, and a huge, heart-shaped box of chocolates! Did I mention he looked NOTHING like Ryan Reynolds? And had all the grace and charm of Potsie from Happy Days. It was very hard to be me. It was also very hard to spell “Potsie” correctly.

Of course, it’s also possible that the school takes some issue with the Christian origins of the holiday. In 496 A.D. Pope Gelasius established the day to honor martyred Saints, like Saint Valentine. It has since become a day for the celebration of love or teen uncomfortableness, whichever. What the school might not realize is that in 1969 Pope Paul VI deleted the day from the General Roman Calendar of Saints. Still, its derivation remains one of Christianity, which for some Jewish schools may be a little problematic.

But even though your daughter isn’t able to give everyone in her class a Valentine, she can still get into the spirit of the day and make Valentines for her siblings, her parents, and other members of your family and neighborhood friends. Maybe even make one for Potsie? You can also get together as a family and make heart-shaped cookies! At the end of the day, the best part of this holiday is using glitter and eating sugar!

Good Luck,

Tonya, TMH

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15 Dec
When Will My 5 Year Old Have More Impulse Control Than Naomi Campbell?

Dear Mouthy Housewives,

I have bred two adorable little boys (a 5 year old and a 9 month old) , but it seems that my older one has grown quite the temper and attitude. He knows right from wrong but is very impulsive. If someone looks at him funny at school or, worse, makes a comment about his hair/clothes/artwork, it’s on like Donkey Kong!

We have had numerous parent-teacher meetings about his behavior. We have tried positive reinforcements (which sometimes work). The issue is that in that moment when he has a choice, he consistently makes the wrong one. As for the reason of these outbursts, he says (with prompting) it’s to garner my attention. I’m not sure if I buy this, as all of this behavior is at school, and I’m clearly not hanging out there snuggling with the baby.

I attempt to split my time with them equally but I’m breastfeeding the baby and my husband is in the military. Thankfully, there have been no threats of tossing him from the preschool…yet. So we basically have 8 months to get this behavior curbed before kindergarten. What do you suggest?

Signed,

Tired Of The Calls From Daycare

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Dear Tired Of The Calls From Daycare,

Does your son also yell disparaging remarks at those he believes to be beneath him? Does he fly into a rage if the paparazzi get too close? If so, he could be suffering from Christian Bale syndrome. I believe this can be cured with a few hugs and some humble pie. However, if your son does not meet the symptoms associated with this terrible thespianic affliction then it’s possible it could be a combination of things.

First, it seems your son may be having trouble adjusting to sharing you with his baby brother (totally natural). Perhaps, instead of your splitting time equally between them you could try and do things that involve everyone (easier said then done, I know). Focus on activities that will help him enjoy, and find pride in, being the older brother. As children get older, they find the idea of responsibility alluring.

Second, communication is key. When he feels angry, sad, upset, frustrated, etc, it’s important for him to have both the vocabulary and safe space to express these negative feelings. Encourage him to stamp his foot (this allows him some physical release) and say what is on his mind, even seek out a teacher and express this to her/him if he feels like his peers are not listening (they’re 4 and 5 so most likely they aren’t). Most violent outbursts happen because a child doesn’t know how to correctly express himself/herself or they don’t feel as if they are being heard. To help this along, read a few child-centric books about self-expression and anger with him. This will also give you both another opportunity to bond and open up a discussion. A few books I can think of: Mean Soup by Betsy Everitt and When Sophie Gets Angry – Really, Really Angry…by Molly Bang.

Third, be involved and be there. It seems that you have this already, and in spades. And, honestly, this can be the hardest one for some parents. Don’t give up on the positive reinforcement you have started. It’s important to keep in mind, though, that it doesn’t work overnight. I know it’s rough but keep with it and it will get better, I promise. Also, remind yourself you are not alone; all parents will face some type of developmental issue that seems insurmountable.

If he does start to show signs of diva drama and method acting madness then it’s time to call Christian Bale’s PR rep STAT!

Good luck,

Tonya, TMH

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05 Oct
Wonder Twin Powers Activate!

Dear Mouthy Housewives,

I’m having a problem with my wife’s twin sister. She used to live 90 miles away but has recently moved within 20 miles of us. The problem is that she drops her three kids off at our house 5-6 days a week from 3pm-1am! This has been going on for over a year! She used to live with us, but I made her move out. I got her a car and helped put her kids into their own school system. But my wife still watches them all the time. I want to tell her that she can’t do it anymore and I feel like we are being taken advantage of. Help!

Signed,

2 Against 1

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Dear 2 Against 1,

First off, Shhhhhhhh! I’m pretty sure her twin can hear you. Don’t most twins have that superpower where they know exactly what is going on in the other twin’s life?  Also, aren’t they able to change themselves into various forms of precipitation? I’m pretty sure that cartoon was based on real scientific evidence. So I would be very careful how you proceed.

Image source

An aside: Do you know how hard it is to find a picture of the cartoon characters when you put “Wonder Twin Powers” in Google? Most of the images are of breasts. Why?

Secondly, you and your wife have obviously established yourselves as the “stable, responsible” ones in the family. This is always a huge mistake. I make sure that when my husband’s or my families are around, we listen to gangsta rap as loud as possible. I also like to flash random, pretend gang signs (they are pretend because, really, who am I to do all that research and figure out some real ones?) whenever I’m speaking and I make sure to throw in phrases like: “Biiiiaaatch, please!” and “Watcha looking at mofo?” while at the dinner table. Plus, nothing says “Don’t leave your kids with me” more than giving my own 3-year-old an eyebrow piercing and his first “MOM” tattoo! Needless to say, the spouse and I have never ever been asked for any babysitting services.

But, if this tactic isn’t up your alley, perhaps it’s time you sat down with your wife and her sister and talked all of this out? The fact that you have purchased your sister-in-law a car and assisted in her kids’ school arrangements is commendable. And while I do agree that 5-6 days a week from 3pm to 1am is quite a lot of free childcare, it’s important to understand how your wife feels about all of this, first and foremost. It’s possible that she enjoys watching her sister’s children. Or, at the very least, wants to do whatever she can to help her sister and the children. I’m guessing here that the father/husband is no longer in the picture? Or is not an active participant? If this is also the case, perhaps it means even more to your wife to be a helping hand to her sister right now?

One of my best friends is a twin and I can tell you that it is a very special relationship even if superpowers aren’t involved. Aside from having the usual pressures of family obligation, you also have to take into account the uniqueness of a twin relationship. You must remember that your wife and her sister are not merely siblings (which, in itself is quite a bond) but they have shared their lives together in ways that most of us could never understand.   So while I do believe you have a right to be upset by the amount of responsibility that you and your wife have inadvertently been given, it’s up to your wife to decide how she wants to handle this matter. And as her husband it’s important for you to support whatever decision she comes to even if that means that you both may have to spend some more quality time with your nieces and nephews.

Good Luck,

Tonya, TMH

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