We Are Both Right

Best Of: How to Make Time for Your Spouse or Partner

Even if you are married with kids, a (quiet) candlelit dinner is possible! cynthiab ©/stock.xchng

Even if you are married with kids, a (quiet) candlelit dinner is possible! cynthiab ©/stock.xchng

Being married with kids can sometimes give you tunnel vision. Wake the kids, feed the kids, play with the kids, get the kids to school, get the kids from school, get the kids to afterschool activities, feed the kids dinner, put the kids to bed and everything else that the kids need in between.

All important of course, but it’s also necessary to make time for your partner in all this — your spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend — it doesn’t matter what they are called, but it does matter that you get some alone time together, or at least a few minutes to talk uninterrupted. But how? Certainly you could hire a babysitter for an evening, but that often comes with extra cost and not everyone has access to a person they trust.

Instead, consider ways to make time within the confines of your busy life to find time. Take advantage of the few quiet moments or carve out some time by making your own (some are better advised than others). Even if the kids are with you, it is possible! Here are our suggestions:

  • Tuck the kids into bed early, rent a movie or play a game and bring in take out for a late dinner
  • Consider taking a break from dinner time being family time for a night. Let the kids eat in the living room with a movie while you have a quiet dinner in the dining room (or vice versa)
  • Wake up early and eat breakfast together alone
  • Pack the kids in the car and go for a long drive. If your minivan or vehicle is equipped with DVD player, utilize it. If not, let the kids bring books or portable game systems that will keep them occupied. (Make an exception if you usually frown upon such devices.)
  • If you both work (or if one of you does) while the kids are in school or daycare, consider taking a “goof off” day
  • When the weather is nice, go for a walk as a family at a local high school on the running track. Let the kids run ahead (staying in sight of course) while you two talk.
  • Invite another couple with kids over for dinner. Let the children entertain each other while they play, giving the grown-ups a chance to socialize.
  • If there is another family you are friendly with, consider setting up a babysitter swap arrangement where you take their kids for a night and they take yours.

How do you make time for your marriage?

Best of: Reasons Why You’re the Meanest Mom

mean mom glanzerr©/stock.xchng

Sorry kid, if you want to go outside, you'll need to put your coat on. glanzerr©/stock.xchng

There’s an interesting little aspect of parenting that no one tells you about. Your kids may love you, but it doesn’t mean they have to like you. Especially when you are in “mean mom” mode — telling them not do something that they want to do or making them eat their vegetables or coming up with some other ridiculous “mom” rule that is completely unfair in the oh-so-silly interest of keeping them safe and healthy.

You know what we mean. One chilly morning last week (34 degrees fahrenheit), Amanda’s 11-year-old son stormed off to the school bus stop in a huff because she made him put on his coat. The horror! What’s next? A hat? Some gloves?

And that’s not all! Here are some more seemingly-obvious little rules that we’ve actually found ourselves uttering and, according to our kids, make us the meanest moms that ever lived. (Please save your phone calls to the authorities until you have reached the end of the list.)

  • No bare feet on the dinner table. (No feet on the table period.)
  • No using your little brother as a ball.
  • Your test is a week away? Great! Start studying now.
  • Jell-O is not a fruit.
  • Yes, you have to take a shower every day.
  • The ceiling fan is not the same as the monkey bars and should not be treated as such.
  • Please stop jumping on the trampoline, um, I mean couch.
  • The dog is not a horse.
  • No more slap shots with the hockey puck down the hallway.
  • You’re nine now, it’s time to use a fork.

We know we aren’t alone. Share your favorite “mean mom” moments in the comments section or on our Facebook page!

Our Two Cents: Advice for a Mom Who is Perplexed by Play

Is child's play second nature to you -- or not? ©melbia/stock.xchng

Dear Amanda and Suzanne:

This is going to come across the wrong way, but I don’t know how else to put it. So here goes: I don’t like playing with my kids.

Not that I don’t like being with them or I don’t want to take time for them. But I don’t enjoy playing with their toys or getting down on the floor pretending we’re frogs or anything like that. Board games make me jittery. I never had the patience for activities like that — not even when I was a child myself.

When I see other people get into play mode, my husband included, I start to feel like there’s something very wrong with me. Maybe I was deficient in whatever pregnancy hormone induces a desire to play? I don’t know.

Am I the only one who feels like this? How can I learn to like playing with my children?

–Not Into Toys

**********

Amanda:

As parents, there are many things that we need and have to do, but we don’t necessarily want to. Some are more dramatic than others of course — rolling out of bed at 3 a.m. because your 2-year-old is throwing up, for example, is a lot more difficult than sitting outside in a rainstorm while your son plays in a playoff baseball game. Of course, neither scenario is a day at the beach, but we’re parents, it’s what we signed up for.

For you, playing with your kids is what has you wishing you were someplace else. And that’s fine. I’m not calling you out on admitting you don’t like to play. Good for you for being honest. But here’s a secret. I’m going to venture while some parents enjoy play more than others, none of us are intellectually stimulated after the fifth round of “Hi Ho Cherry -O” or racing Hot Wheels cars down the track for the umpteenth time (although I really do love to play Barbies and doll house with my daughter).

The thing is, play is important for kids. Sure, it’s a way for them to let off steam and have fun, but through play, children learn important social skills as well as develop physically and emotionally. It’s also a way for your child to spend some quality time with you. Sadly enough, as they get older, there will be less and less of that, so you need to take advantage of it while you still can. Forge a good relationship with your kids now, and it’s something that they’ll (hopefully) remember later during those torrential teen years.

My advice? Fake it. Grit your teeth, get down on the floor and roll those dice, push those cars across the floor and take the baby doll for a walk in the stroller. Right now, you are your child’s best friend. Relish in the joy that you are bringing to your kids and make some happy memories together. You won’t regret it.

Suzanne:

Amanda’s right, most of us are faking it most of the time! But it becomes bearable when you start to realize what your child is actually getting out of playtime with you. After watching you put together the 24-piece Winnie the Pooh puzzle for the 240th time, your preschooler is able to take the lead and is repeating your strategy no less — find the four corners and build the straight lines, then match up the like colors. (Soon enough, you’ll be watching from the couch.)

In the meantime, besides just grinning and bearing it, you might want to spend a few minutes thinking about what it is you like to do and how that can translate into fun playtime activities for your children.

You say you never liked games as a kid, but what did you do to keep busy? If it was arts and crafts, then I’m sure you wouldn’t mind breaking out the pipe cleaners and pom poms or putting a long roll of paper out in the yard for all of you to sponge and splatter with washable paints.

If sports are more your speed, you can set up a goal of some sort for a child of just about any age and see who gets the ball in first. Crawlers through school-age kids will be happy to have mom as a teammate.

And how about baking? If you’re game, then the kids sure will be. Nothing like a batch of warm chocolate chip cookies to cheer everyone up.

So give it some thought. Even if pretend isn’t your thing and board games make you shake, there are bound to be at least a few activities that will keep you and the children amused until they’re old enough to run and hide from you.

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How would you suggest this mom overcome her aversion to playtime? Have you ever felt this way?

Whether it’s playtime woes or relationship issues, drop us a line at advice@wearebothright.com if you could use a double dose.

Our Two Cents: Feeling Guilty About Hiring a Maid

©lusi /stock.xchng

Hiring a cleaning service should make you feel more relaxed, not hyper-stressed! ©lusi/stock.xchng

Dear Amanda and Suzanne:

Am I the only mom who would feel guilty hiring a maid? Just today another friend mentioned her cleaning lady in conversation and I started to think that I’m the only one still making myself crazy trying to keep up with the house and the kids and my job. Maybe it was my upbringing, because no woman in my family ever had a housekeeper. I can totally picture my grandmother and her sisters passing judgment on me if they even knew I was thinking about having someone else clean my house. But I’ve been tempted lately just to have someone come in every other week to clean the bathrooms and mop the floors. So tell me, am I really the only one having this issue? I’d love to know what your readers think.

–Messy Mommy

Suzanne:

We must be cousins. No really, check the family tree.

Maybe it’s just the generation we’re in — born to moms who could shoo us out of the house and spend the day scrubbing floors from the basement up while we roamed the neighborhood on our bikes. Now we’re lucky if we can manage a quick swipe of the kitchen counters in between soccer practice and gymnastics, scouts and piano lessons. And of course, we feel guilty because we’re not living up to standards of what a clean house should be (compared to what we grew up with).

Then just when you think you have found a solution, in the hopes that you can keep up both ends of the juggling act and most importantly be there for your kids, the guilt creeps in — again. Your mom or great-aunt or grandma or whomever catches wind of your plan, and asks you who you think you are to be living like a rock star.

I know how you feel.

And with that, I say go for it. If nothing else bothers you about getting some help with the cleaning (except maybe the cash you have to shell out) then you need to at least try it out. You will be able to decide if it works for you, in your specific situation. That way, whether or not anyone else understands, you can stand your ground.

And the matriarchs will get over it, especially when you invite them over for the homemade pasta you cut and cooked with all your extra time (just kidding).

Amanda:

After our son C. was born, my husband and I hired a maid for a few weeks, just to give us some time to focus on our new son. We didn’t know what we would be in for with a newborn and thought it would be a nice luxury. It was. Too nice. I think it spoiled me. It was so wonderful to walk through the house when they were finished — everything sparkled and shined. And the smell — it smelled like hotel (which I love). I was so sad when we decided that I was OK to start the house upkeep once more.

We never went that route again — not because we didn’t want it, but because from a financial standpoint it just wasn’t practical. But if I ever came into any kind of serious money, the first people I’d call would be a cleaning service. (Then the travel agent. And a chocolate delivery service that will import me all the Cadbury I could possibly eat.)

I remember feeling such relief that the house was one less thing I had to worry about. That I could “indulge” in sitting and holding our newborn rather than feel like I had to get up and mop the floor. I was able to relax. These days I don’t have an infant to hold, but I do have a toddler to play with and kids to read to and practices to attend and dinner to make and laundry to fold and — well, you know what I’m talking about. We’re parents. We’re busy. Help would be nice. And if we muggles aren’t going to get house elves anytime soon (Harry Potter! Woo hoo!) then it’s going to  have to come in another form.

So I have no guilt — none at all — about asking for and hiring help in that department. Although at the time, I do remember feeling funny about it and wondering what certain relatives would say, but now, a decade and three kids later, worrying about what other people think about how my house gets clean is not even on my radar.

I say, if you have the financial resources, hire the maid and buy yourself a good pair of earplugs to drown out the protests of your envious relatives.

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Would you ever consider hiring a maid or a cleaning service? If you use one, how do people react when they find out?

Got a question you need more than one answer to? Send us a note at advice@wearebothright.com.

Mommy and Daddy Will Be Right Back — From Vacation

It took a while for me to be convinced that going on a parents-only vacation was a good idea. Seven and a half years to be exact. Plus some arm-twisting. And a visit with an attorney.

Yes, this is the same mom who has brought her children to day care since they were newborns. I can justify being away from them for work. To leave them behind so I can go on vacation, purely for my own enjoyment and indulgence — nope, that’s just plain selfish.

Or so I thought.

Now don’t get me wrong. I have always valued spending quality time with my husband. Going on a couples-only vacation is a glorious idea. Uninterrupted conversations. Eating wherever and whenever we want without considering the 8 o’clock witching hour and spills on white tablecloths. Wandering through a museum at our own pace. Sitting on a beach without chasing after Crocs being pulled out by the tide.

And then my mind would jump right to thoughts of my kids wondering why mommy and daddy have been gone for so long. I didn’t want to have to explain that we were ditching them for a weekend. I didn’t want them to miss the fun things we would do while exploring a new city.

I felt guilty — so guilty that I allowed the idea of a fun vacation with my husband to be cancelled out by the imagined disappointment of my children.

This had been tugging and pulling at me for years, until last December my husband made the decision for us. We were going away for a long weekend. Without the kids. By plane. Hours away. His surprise Christmas present to me. Non-refundable.

Behind my smile, my breath was caught in my throat. My mind was racing. We needed to make an appointment with an attorney. Sad to say, but that was my first thought — before thinking about what I would pack, where would be staying, when were we going.

I couldn’t get excited about the trip until we had each signed a Last Will and Testament, appointing guardians for our children. It’s something we should have done seven years earlier, but the thought of both of us getting on the same plane without them finally got me to the point where I had to make the difficult decision about who would care for our children in our (permanent) absence.

And then I joined the ranks of parents who go on vacation without children — and actually have fun. The kids didn’t seem to mind the idea of staying at grandma and grandpa’s house for a few days. We promised to bring home gifts, and call every day (and night).

©Fran Marie I. Flores/stock.xchng

The trip itself was great — and I expected nothing less. It was also nice to discover that my husband and I were naturally in sync about the balance between missing the kids and finding something else to talk about. We enjoyed a self-guided tour of historic homes; lingered over twenty-five cent martinis during a two-hour lunch; and stayed out late taking in the nightlife. In between were calls made to the kids, and talking about how we’d love to return with them to enjoy some of the area’s family-oriented activities.

The experience was so great in fact that we’re doing it again this winter. It’s about to be booked — a parents-only vacation to a warm beach destination with another couple who have buried enough of their guilt to leave their children for a few days.

Now if I could just come up with a good answer for my son who keeps asking: “Can I go wherever you’re going?”

Amanda’s always been right about the benefits of parents-only vacations — I just wish I had listened sooner.