We Are Both Right

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

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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: Advice for a Mom Who Wants Family Time (Alone)

Dear Suzanne and Amanda:

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How much say should grandparents get in how often they see their grandchildren? ©greyman/ stock.xchng

My husband and I just got married a year ago and ever since our honeymoon baby arrived two months ago, we’ve been struggling with how often we need to be visiting with the grandparents. Before the baby, we’d meet once every few weeks and have dinner together. Now  things are a lot more hectic (and we aren’t brave enough to sit through a restaurant meal with a baby yet), but his parents have kind of hinted around that they would like to see us more often. So that means either we drive forty minutes to their house or have to entertain them at our place. I’m not up for such frequent visits, and none of my friends seem to be doing this with their parents and in-laws. My parents have hinted that they would like to see us more than once a month, but they aren’t being as pushy as my in-laws. Should I take a stand and set some limits now?

–Tired and Overwhelmed and Not in the Mood for Guests

Amanda:

When my firstborn son C. was born, I got one of the best pieces of advice I had ever heard (even though I hadn’t realized it at the time) from one of the nurses on the maternity floor.

My husband T. and I were talking about trying to figure out when we were going to be able to bring C. home (he was in the NICU, but it had more to do with complications on my end during delivery rather than anything to do with him) and when would be a good time for the extended family to visit. The nurse must have overheard us and suggested that rather than have everyone over on C.’s first day home, to wait 24 hours.

“Give yourself a chance to get used to one another,” I remember her saying. “Just go home, the three of you, and sort yourselves out. And then, when you are ready, and a bit more comfortable, let the chaos in.”

At first we were aghast. How on earth could we do that? How could we tell our parents — first-time grandparents on both sides — that they couldn’t see their precious new grandson immediately? (Especially since they hadn’t been allowed to hold him thanks to his sojourn in the NICU?)

Still, her words kept ringing in our ears and we ended up taking her advice. It was hard. Very hard. People were not happy. But it was one of the best things we ever did. And we liked “our” first day home so much, with our two subsequent children, we did the same exact thing.

I think what I’m trying to get at here, is that you need to do what you think works for you and your new family, even if it’s an unpopular decision. It isn’t easy caring for a newborn, especially if you’ve never done it before. And with a two-month old, I’m imagining that you are probably still in the throws of middle-of-the-night feedings, not-taking-regular-showers, trying-to-figure-it-all out stage. Cut yourself some slack and do with what you feel comfortable with.

Having said all that, understand that grandparents wanting to see a new baby isn’t exactly the stuff surprises are made of. Your husband’s parents (and your own) want to see their grandbaby. Not a shocker. Now I’m not sure what’s bothering you more — the request itself, or the manner in which it is being asked — but it doesn’t sound like what your in-laws are looking for (a visit once or twice a month) is too unreasonable. Would it be so terrible to set aside one or two days so they can visit with you and your little one? I don’t think so. Even just penciling in a date might do the trick, knowing they have some scheduled face time to look forward to.

If you aren’t up for the ride to and from their home (and then a lengthy visit on top of it), ask them to come to you. (I totally get the newborn in a restaurant thing). And before you start in that your house is a disaster, you don’t feel like cooking, you look a mess, etc., take a deep breath and relax. I promise, one or twice a month (or more) isn’t going to kill you. And no offense, but my guess is that your in-laws and your parents could not care less about the state of you and your life — they are there for the baby, not for you. (And if your family is anything like mine, you’ll probably end up with extra food and a house that’s cleaner than when they arrived.)

If it turns out that these visits are too much for you, then try a different location. Or consider sending your husband with your baby to their home so you can take a break.

I get that you are feeling overwhelmed right now, but I think staying away from family isn’t the answer — instead, it might be the solution.

Suzanne:

Maybe you’ve been watching too much Bethenny Ever After. It was pretty brazen of that Housewives star to think that she could call all the shots about who’s visiting whom for how long after her daughter was born — at the risk of alienating the only family she has. So if you have any plans of maintaining a healthy relationship with your child’s grandparents, my advice is that you accept the fact that you will be tired and overwhelmed for many years to come, and still find some way to fit in more frequent visits with the family.

Because if your child’s grandparents are within commutable distance, then it’s bound to be in everyone’s best interest to get together more than every once in a while. Even yours. Think about it for a minute — these are the same people who will babysit for you on an hour’s notice, who will be thrilled when you decide to institute a weekly date night with your hubby, or even when you need to go holiday shopping for gifts to surprise your child with. And maybe someday, if you decide to plan a couple’s only vacation, they will be your ticket to paradise.

Besides, to deny them this special time to bond with your baby — their grandchild — would be unfair to them and your baby at the same time.  Limiting visits to a few hours 12 to 15 times a year (including holidays) means that your child might as well adopt your neighbors, who they will see more often, as grandparents instead.

So give it some more thought, and see if you might — just on a trial basis — allow yourself to let the relationship (and visits) flourish. You might get a lot more out of it than you expected.

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Hmmm. Are we being too hard on “Tired” or is she making a fair point? How often do your kids see their grandparents?

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