We Are Both Right

Our Two Cents: Advice for a Mom Who Wants Her Fair Share

When you are finished using second-hand baby gear, should you return it? nerdluck©/stock.xchng

When you are finished using second-hand baby gear, should you return it? nerdluck©/stock.xchng

Dear Suzanne and Amanda:

Nearly two years ago, I gave a whole bunch of my baby gear to a friend who was about to give birth. Even though this was her fourth baby, it was a “surprise,” so she didn’t have much in the way of a stroller, high chair and other assorted equipment. I’m not planning on having any other children and the stuff was taking up room in my attic, so I was happy to pass it on and see someone else get use out of it (I told her as much). The stroller and high chair were two “big ticket” items, the rest of what I gave her included a nursing pillow, a whole bunch of clothing and some toys. Everything was in really good shape.

Fast forward to the present. My friend no longer has a baby girl, but a toddler and apparently doesn’t need the gear any longer. A few weeks ago I was surprised to see that she had posted a note on Facebook saying that her fourth was truly her family’s last baby and that she was selling off all of their gear. She included a list of all the items (with pictures), as well as a description and a price. I was horrified to see that a lot of the stuff on her list was what I had given her!

I was really mad that not only had she not asked me if I wanted my stuff back, but that she was selling it and hadn’t asked me if it was OK. I called her and asked her if she was planning on giving me a cut of the money she made off of my baby gear, and she point blank said, no, that I had given her everything not “loaned” it to her and she was well within her rights to sell it. Now we aren’t speaking.

What do I do? Honestly, if she had just told me her plans in advance, I probably wouldn’t have been mad, although I still would have wanted her to give me a portion of what she was selling it for. Also, there were some outfits that I wouldn’t have minded holding on to (for sentimental reasons) and now they are gone.

–I Should Have Just Had a Yard Sale

Amanda: I keep going back and forth on my answer. On the one hand, if you had given your friend a baby gift that was new, you wouldn’t expect it back. On the other hand, I agree that since she was selling the items and profiting off of your generosity, she probably should have run it past you first, if at the very least to find out if there was anything you wanted before it disappeared into another baby’s nursery. (And this would be true too if she was donating the items or passing them along to someone else.) So I guess the question is, was your baby gear a gift or a favor? Clearly, you and your friend have different opinions.

Since you’ve talked to her and she “disagrees” with you (part of me wonders if she’s embarrassed by the situation), I think I’d try one more time, maybe in a non-confrontational way. Write her a letter or an e-mail telling her how disappointed you are that she didn’t check with you first to find out if there was anything you wanted back, because there was. If she responds, then maybe you can once again try to discuss her giving you a portion of what she made from the sale of the gear.

If she doesn’t respond or is once again angry, I think letting it go is the best option. And in the future if you pass something along from your attic, be sure to let the recipient know if you want something back.

Suzanne: At this point I would just let it go. Sure you gave her things that maybe you could have used again, but if you didn’t mention that upfront as part of your agreement, then you really couldn’t expect her to comply.

When you give something away you just can’t expect to get it back. What if one of her older children accidentally stained the stroller seat with permanent marker — would you have expected a replacement?

Just last year I gave my sister-in-law whatever I had left of my children’s newborn clothes (being sure to keep a few of the outfits that were special to me) as well as a portable baby crib. When her twins outgrew everything she called to ask if I wanted it back. While it was very nice of her to ask, I replied that it was now hers to do with what she wished, whether that was pass it along to another mom who could use it, donate it, sell it, trash it, whatever.

She never told me what she ended up doing with the stuff and I have no reason to want to know. Because when I handed it over, I considered it her property.

And that’s why I think you might want to let this one go, in the interest of maintaining a friendship. But next time you decide to help a friend out, just be sure she knows what you mean when you loan something to her.

What do you think about what Yard Sale’s friend did? What do you do with used baby gear?

If you have a problem that needs two points of view, e-mail advice@wearebothright.com.

Our Two Cents: Is It OK to Skip School for Vacation?

©www.zazzle.co.uk

Maybe a postcard would smooth things over with your child's teacher? ©www.zazzle.co.uk

Dear Amanda and Suzanne:

From the looks of things, you are both used to traveling with your children. But I have to ask, do you ever let them miss school to go on a family vacation?

Next week (in 8 days to be exact, but who’s counting?) we are leaving for a cruise with our two children and my parents. For a number of reasons, including the fact that it was less expensive, we chose to do this the week before their school closes for spring break instead of during the actual week they are off.

My husband and I didn’t think it would be a big deal for them to miss five days (at least not in first and third grade). So I was surprised when one of my friends told me that she couldn’t believe I was doing this. She happens to be a teacher and so I guess she has more insight on it than I do. But are they really going to fall that far behind by missing a few days of school? Would you ever pull your kids out of school for a vacation?

–Totally Truant

Suzanne: I’m probably the wrong one to ask, because in my mind an ideal education is the biggest, longest vacation you could imagine. If I had my choice (and the funds to back it up) I would take my two children on a trip around the world, teaching them about history and different cultures first hand. We would learn math in miles and time zones. All that foreign vocabulary would mean something. We might even meet a nice monk who could teach them meditation and then they would become zen little children. But enough about my fantasies.

What you are asking is a valid question, and one which deserves an entirely realistic answer. By taking your children out of school for a few days and bringing them on a family vacation, you are just exposing them to a different type of learning experience. And you shouldn’t feel guilty in the least (even if your vacation is more about portholes than rose windows).

The last time we took a vacation — and took the kids out of school — my son filled 16 pages in his journal without being asked. He wrote furiously as we drove up the southern Californian coast. He sketched his own versions of the 18th century European paintings we saw at the Getty Museum. In the back of the San Diego Mission, the architectural ruins captivated him. We even fit in his first college tour — to USC — as if that wasn’t inspiration enough to keep getting good grades. And in the end, he returned to school with great stories to share with his teacher and the class (but it still didn’t get him out of all of the class work and homework he had missed).

If I were you, I would reassure your teacher friend that of course you have the best interest of your children at heart and that nowhere does it say that the only way a child can learn is within the four walls of a school building. There are endless benefits to a change of scenery, not to mention in spending time with those who are closest to them. Tell her how much you are looking forward to them trying out new things and creating memories with their siblings, parents and grandparents — something that doesn’t get much priority during the school year when there’s homework to do and a full slate of activities. And if she’s still not convinced, you can always invite her to come along.

Amanda: Whatever you do, please don’t pass my contact info on to your friend because she’d probably give me a hard time too — in a few short weeks my family is going on a week-long vacation to DisneyWorld and  like you, we are taking our two older kids out of school for the duration (don’t tell them though — it’s a surprise!).

So obviously I don’t have a problem with it. This upcoming trip is the longest our kids will miss school for reasons other than illness, but we’ve done it before, with little to no repercussions. Maybe their teachers would beg to differ, but my position is, my kids (in the second and fifth grades) are doing just fine in school and although they will miss quite a bit, I’m confident in the abilities of myself and (mostly) my husband to catch them up.

What we’ll do this time (and it’s worked well in the past) is to ask the teachers ahead of time for any missed assignments. We’ll dedicate an hour or so each day to doing what we can to get done — the remainder will be completed on our return. We also try to keep a daily journal and incorporate learning into our activities. For example, the car ride from the airport to the resort may be spent observing and talking about the area we are visiting. Is the city bigger or smaller than where we live? Where do the people work? Where are the schools? What are the similarities and differences between where we currently are and where we come from (things like weather, forms of transportation, etc.)?

Having said all this, in booking our trip we were pretty cognizant of what was going on academically (as it sounds like you were too). The two weeks before we leave my elder boy has standardized tests — I wouldn’t pull him out during that time, nor in the weeks leading up to it. The same would stand if we were looking at a science project that was due or some other important assignment.

What it boils down to for me is knowing what your kids are capable of. If you are comfortable with letting them miss, by all means, sit back in your lounge chair and relax!

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Have you ever had your kids miss school in favor of a vacation? How did the teacher react?

If you’ve got a problem that needs twice the opinion, drop us a line at advice@wearebothright.com

Our Two Cents: Just Who is Mother’s Day for Anyway?

©simmbarb/stock.xchng

How will you spend Mother's Day this year? ©simmbarb/stock.xchng

Dear Amanda and Suzanne:

Mother’s Day is supposed to be a day for mothers right? I’m supposed to relax, put my feet up and be pampered, correct? What I say goes? Well apparently someone didn’t get the memo — my husband. We go through the same thing every year. He wants to spend Mother’s Day with his mother. Which I understand. Truly I do. But there are a couple of issues here.

  1. We spend every Mother’s Day with his mother. Not my mother. His mother. I would love to spend a year (or, if I may be so bold) every year, with my family — my mother sure, but more importantly with my husband and my children, doing an activity of my choosing.
  2. When it comes to Father’s Day, my husband does what he wants. Sometimes he’ll go fishing, sometimes it’s a baseball game, but it’s always what he wants to do with no input from everyone else.

I hate to sound like a five-year-old, but it’s not fair! I’ve pointed out the disparity, but he never really gives me a straight answer, other than he wants to spend Mother’s Day with his mom.

Help!

– I’ll Show Him Mommy Dearest

Amanda: Holidays are tough aren’t they? Because there is a very limited amount of time in which to celebrate with what sometimes seems like an unlimited amount of relatives. Add some heightened emotions, a bunch of hurt feelings, a touch of passive-aggressiveness and your grandmother’s ambrosia salad, and you’ve got the makings for a family get-together for the ages.

Mother’s Day especially is a tough one, because if you are fortunate, there are a lot of mothers in the family to celebrate, all of whom have a different idea of how they’d like to spend “their” designated holiday. It sounds to me like you’d prefer a day with just your immediate family (and maybe a trip to see your mom too). And that’s great — for myriad reasons, that’s generally how me and my family spend the day too.

So how to do it?

First, come up with a plan of what you’d like to do that day. From brunch to a trip to a playground, to getting your nails painted, map it all out. Then try talking to your husband one more time. Don’t be confrontational, don’t yell. Explain what you had in mind for Mother’s Day and why it’s so important that you spend your special day together as a family. If your agenda doesn’t involve visiting his mom (and as far as I’m concerned, that’s O.K.), offer to have her over another day — perhaps the Saturday before for a meal or fun activity — as a compromise. Reassure your husband that spending Mother’s Day without his mom has nothing to do with her, rather, more to do with you wanting to bask in the glow of your own precious family.

If he’s still a no-go, then you have a decision to make.

  1. You can go with your husband to see your mother-in-law. I suspect if you go that route, you won’t be happy and will be quite resentful, but maybe not. You need to be honest with yourself here.
  2. You can do what you had planned without him. Take the kids and off you go to the beach or the mall or whatever it is you had in mind. Put the ball in his court. Say something like, “If you want to visit your mom, that’s fine, but the kids and I are going to xyz. I really hope you’ll join us.”

No matter what you decide, follow through and stick with it. And then relax and enjoy your Mother’s Day! Good luck!

Suzanne: Amanda makes some great suggestions about how to divide and conquer. But I’m heading in a completely different direction (are you surprised?) so keep an open mind, because this might not be exactly what you wanted to hear.

I think that instead of bailing on the extracurricular Mother’s Day and (Mother-in-Law Day) festivities, you take the position of “the more, the merrier.”  You say that you wish you could spend time with your mom on Mother’s Day too, so why not invite the whole gang to your place for the afternoon?

Now I’m not suggesting that you spend the entire morning cooking up a storm and cleaning the house in preparation for your company. To pull this off, you have to have the buy-in of the guys (namely your husband whose idea [read: fault] this was anyway). He has to step up and BBQ or order pizza or whatever it is that gets the family fed without any of the moms having to lift a finger. Make this a late lunch or early dinner and you will still have time for breakfast in bed, served up sticky-hand style by your own young chef. You could probably even fit in a leisurely walk to the park with your children and even your husband, if he’s not too busy prepping for later.

But in the end, no matter how you choose to celebrate this day of honor, just don’t let yourself be so disappointed if it doesn’t meet your ideal image of Mother’s Day. Besides it gives you the excuse to make up for it later. You can cash in on a “special” day with the kids or even on your own — for a day of beauty if that is more your speed – any day you choose.

Because that’s really the best thing about being a mom. You can celebrate your status any and every day of the year. And when your kids are young and always around, that makes it even easier. So maybe the official day in May should be left to celebrate with our own mothers — whether it means splitting the day or sharing the place of honor with an equally wonderful group of moms.

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What do you think? Should Mommy Dearest’s husband be spending Mother’s Day with his mother or his wife (or both)? Or is there a way to compromise?

If you’ve got a question that needs more than one answer, send it to advice@wearebothright.com.

Our Two Cents: How Far Should This Mom Go to “Save” a Friend?

©mummau55/stock.xchng

Can a mom and child ever spend too much time together? ©mummau55/stock.xchng

Dear Amanda and Suzanne: 

My dear, dear friend “Jennifer” and I have babies who were born seven months apart. How excited we both are to have children who will grow up together! 

Jennifer’s son “John” is a sweet boy with what I perceive to be a bit of an issue: He is 14 months old and won’t sleep through the night. You read that correctly…WON’T sleep through the night. 

Now, Jennifer is still breastfeeding him but John is also eating solid foods as well. Not to say that breastfeeding is causing the sleep interruption, but can it be part of the issue? Jennifer won’t try the ‘cry it out’ method and on average, John is up every 3 to 4 hours every night. 

I mean, I would go mental. I have wanted to gently broach the subject but I don’t want to seem like a know it all. 

And also, is it normal for moms not want to hang out without the kids? We haven’t been out to lunch alone since the babies were born. She “can’t” leave him. I feel like the worst Mom sometimes because I like to go out with my lady friends once in awhile. Anyway, that’s my issue and any feedback would be greatly appreciated. 

Signed,
A Concerned Friend
 

Suzanne: 

I could see where you would be concerned! Just the thought of not sleeping for longer than four hours for fourteen months straight makes me tired. And to envision your good friend suffering in silence, having been there yourself for however short a period of time, makes you want to jump through her bedroom window and save her.

But before you pull out your old Wonder Woman costume, maybe you could casually bring up the subject in conversation, without making your friend feel self-conscious about something she may or may not perceive as a problem herself.

Next time you talk, you might say in passing that your little one continues to sleep through the night and *fingers crossed* you hope it’s not just a phase. When she gives you the update on John (presuming they’re still in the same boat) ask in response whether her pediatrician has offered any advice as to whether she should try to stretch his feedings further apart. If she appears to not be looking for a “solution” you should just leave it at that — and maybe commend her for being stronger than you would be with so little sleep.

As for her not wanting to leave baby behind for a little girls-only time, you will just have to wait her out on that one. All moms find their comfort zone at different points in their child’s development. Some are ready to go immediately, knowing that baby is in good hands with daddy or grandma for an hour or two, while others might never leave their child’s sight until the drive to college.

For me, justifying time spent alone with friends took a few years and that was a direct result of my self-imposed guilt. I thought I was shortchanging my babies while I was at work, so I wanted to give them all of my free time otherwise. But now — well, I totally see the value in just hanging with friends for an hour or two and recharging in a way that ultimately makes me a more patient and well-rounded mom. Your friend should come around too — maybe after she starts getting some sleep! 

Amanda: 

I could be way off base here, but it sounds to me like Jennifer is practicing attachment parenting, whether she’s made the conscious decision to do so or not. Now this is just a guess based on what you are saying and from my own experiences as someone who did it as well (and sort of stumbled into the method).

If she is attachment parenting, I think everything you describe is actually pretty normal. The night waking, the extended breastfeeding, even the not wanting to leave the baby at all. I actually went through all of that myself — except for the extended breastfeeding part, which I had to stop at 13 months with S. because of my surgery. And while my husband T. and I did let our babies “cry it out,” at bedtime, if they woke in the middle of the night to nurse, I did let them and then they co-slept with us for the remainder of the evening.

Crazy? Perhaps. But it was the most natural thing for me, and I suspect, your friend. I’ve always felt that attachment parenting is inherent. Not to get all new-agey on you, but you don’t choose to attachment parent, it comes from inside of you.

And I promise, it’s no reflection on you if she doesn’t want to hang out. It’s just part of the attachment parenting style. Not that they dictate that, but it’s more like, moms who practice attachment parenting tend to not want to be separated from their babies. I knew that leaving the baby was fine and good to do, but it was just really hard for me emotionally. I have no way to explain it other than I just didn’t want to be away from them. I didn’t judge others that could leave their babies, I just couldn’t. Not for a while.

And that’s the thing about attachment parenting, you either get it and love it and do it, or you don’t do it and you think those who do are a bit looney. Which is fine!

If you miss your friend (and it sounds like you do) for now, maybe it’s best to schedule outings that incorporate all four of you — trips to the playground, walks, even a quick meal or coffee at a family-friendly place. Be supportive and patient — the good friend that you’ve been all along.

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What do you think? Does Concerned Friend have cause to be concerned? Should she talk to Jennifer or leave it alone? And if you are looking for a second (and third) opinion, ask us! Send an e-mail to advice@wearebothright.com.

Our Two Cents: Advice for a Misunderstood Stay-at-Home-Mom

Dear Amanda and Suzanne:

I’m a stay-at-home mom and my husband thinks just because I’m home all day with the kids that the housework should be done by the time he walks in the door and dinner should be on the table. How do I get him to understand that it’s not that easy?

 ©MCA Television

We can't all be like June! ©MCA Television

Sincerely, Mommy Not Maid

Amanda:

So you aren’t spending your days on the metaphorical couch, eating the metaphorical bon bons that everyone seems so fond of associating stay-at-home moms with?

It sounds like a conversation with your husband is overdue. And before you talk, try to see it from his perspective. I’m not saying he’s right, but think back to before you were a SAHM. What were the visions of your days filled with? For me it meant that every day we were going to have playtime and craft time and music time — after we reviewed the alphabet and numbers and maybe some beginner’s French. If the weather cooperated we’d go to the park. If not, we’d find something to do inside — making a fort out of the couch cushions or decoupaging. Then lunch and a nap for my darlings during which time I’d clean up (which wouldn’t take long because my house would be sparkling and completely organized). I’d do laundry and iron all of our clothes — even the baby’s. Then I’d make a gourmet dinner with recipes culled from my assorted cookbooks.

The reality? I’m home all day and I have no idea what I do. Certainly I’m not hunting down absinthe for Oysters Rockefeller. And I’m not tending to my cluttered, not neat house either. I’m wiping sticky faces and hands and cleaning Play Doh out of the grout in the kitchen tile. I’m handing out snacks and then finding them in the couch cushions. I’m folding clean laundry and then putting it back in the washer because my toddler dumped a cup of milk on it. And the older two haven’t even gotten home yet.

Being a SAHM means being ready for the next thing — which could be playing cars or cleaning up an entire bottle of spilled orange juice. It’s like being lost in the forest, wandering around in circles. You think you’ve made progress, but as it turns out, you’re just passing the same tree over and over again.

So explain to him that you get it. You understand that cleaning the bathroom doesn’t mean dumping bleach in the toilet and hoping for the best. And that changing the sheets on the beds should be done more than once a year. But those household chores aren’t the reason you’re a stay-at-home mom, the kids are. And they come first. And if you’ve spent the day doing nothing but read “Goodnight Moon” 54 times and building a block tower over and over again so your 2-year-old can repeatedly knock it down, well, then life is good.

And much more rewarding than eating something other than cold cereal for dinner.

Suzanne:

If that doesn’t work, find a “business” trip to go on and quick.  Maybe your sister is having triplets in New Zealand — sounds like a great time to visit.  Plan a stay-at-home-mom convention.  Anything that will get you out of the house for a few hours or a long while, whatever amount of time it takes for your husband to walk a day or more in your shoes until he gets it.

Luckily I never had to take these drastic measures, because my husband got it before I did. 

I was the full-time working mom who thought maternity leave (both the first and second time around) would be everything Amanda described.  A blissful vacation — with a darling baby along for the ride.  While I did master Beef Wellington for our anniversary dinner during my first week home from the hospital, it was far from a Martha Stewart marathon on most days. 

And that was OK, because my husband had already spent his fair share of time home with our oldest and was the first one in our family to discover the time warp that is a day home alone with the kids.  I remember walking in the door from work on one of those days (kind of looking forward to a hot meal on the table) only to be greeted by my harried husband, announcing that he had a newfound appreciation for stay-at-home-parents and would never expect his wife to actually be able to keep the house in order and have dinner on the table after spending a whole day with the kids.  Then we ordered pizza and he fell asleep.

That’s where your husband needs to be.  He needs to get through a day of chasing a naked toddler around with a diaper while the dog is eating Legos and the endless snacks, meals, and put-my-toy-together requests that leave you chasing your own tail.  If he dares to venture out for some much-needed distraction, he’ll know the joys of trying to find that magic window of time between lunch, naps, and afternoon meltdowns. 

If there is some way you could coordinate a few hours away (like six or seven) on a day when he’s the only person fit for the job (as in your mom is laid up in bed with a broken leg and his mom is in China), you might be able to make your point without even saying “I told you so.” 

Good luck.

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We said our piece, now it’s time for you to weigh in. What would you tell Mommy Not Maid? And if you’ve got a burning question that needs answering, drop us a line at advice@wearebothright.com.