Inside His Head: Mom hates playing bad cop to her husband’s good cop with the kids

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Dear Inside His Head,

Unfortunately, it seems I have become the “enforcer” in our family and my husband is the “fun dad”. I get tired of being the bad cop, while my husbands gets to play good cop all the time. I try to be fun, but it just doesn’t work and the kids see through my act. I really want to break out of this, but I need my husband to step up and tell the kids NO once in a while or to clean their rooms. Our kids are in school and we both work, so we’re with them about the same amount of time.

GRAY: I don’t think it’s uncommon for moms to be viewed as the enforcer. I mean, I’m a grown man and if my wife didn’t insist I get my hair cut or badger me to get the garbage together every week it’s entirely likely neither would get done.

So I think you have to start out with the understanding that your husband doesn’t have the same expectations of your children that you do.

Dressing properly and keeping rooms straightened are things I’d wager most men don’t see as a high priority and will unintentionally undermine your efforts. You and your husband are going to have different ideas of what’s important.

I’d suggest three things: talk about what each of you want your children to learn and then divide those lessons between the two of you, playing to your individual strengths. The third thing? Have each other’s back and don’t contradict each other.

goldfish in bowlYour husband can make sure the kids get the garbage together and you make sure they keep their dirty clothes off the floor. Maybe he makes sure the kids feed the pets and you make sure they do the dishes after the family gets fed.

For example, in my home I have to take my daughter to the dentist (which my daughter hates). You get the picture. If that’s no good then maybe you take different roles. You’re the enforcer and he’s responsible for discipline when they don’t get things done.

And remember, fun is what you bring to the table. Homework can be just as fun as a pillow fight (well, maybe not AS much fun) if you approach it with the right attitude. Sometimes we all feel put out and resort to yelling and badgering people instead of treating them with respect. That’s no fun for anyone. When you and your children have fun together, they’re less likely to be resentful when you ask them to be responsible. Respect isn’t earned by who can yell the loudest.

Finally, kids go through phases where they’re simply going to enjoy the company of one of you more than the other.

You and your husband can say the exact same thing, but get radically different results. Don’t turn yourself into a bad cop forever because it’s how you feel right now.

Instead of trying to be fun, ask your kids what’s fun for them and then be present and loving in their company. They’ll love you for the experience and keep you from pigeonholing yourself.

Inside His HeadMAVERICK: You don’t establish roles in a marriage or in parenting in a day and they’re not something that are easy to break.

Likely your husband is the fun one because he’s sorta fun, while you have become the heavy because, well, you like the trains to run on time.

You can’t go from the role of The Terminator to family funny person in one day. But with some cooperation from your husband maybe you can both move toward a more happy medium.

There are two parts to this:

1) The first part of the plan requires your husband to do some stuff.

yes or noTell your hubby that he’s getting the benefit of your tough stance but he’s not taking any of the heat for it. He likes it when the trains run on time but he doesn’t have to pay for the ticket.

Tell him he needs to say “No” more often. When he weasels out or acts like a wimp, point it out to him after the fact. Practice your new “fun” nature here. Be nice. Be supportive. Reward him with a passionate kiss later that night for each for every “No” he dishes out, or when he oversees homework or brings the heat for wet towels being tossed on the floor.

Be sure he benefits from the new “fun” you too.

If he refuses to act, well, congratulations, you married a load. I can’t help you there.

But being Mrs. Load doesn’t not mean you can’t be fun. Just don’t TRY to  be fun. Nothing is less fun than someone trying too hard to be fun. Don’t be Fozzy Bear. “Want to hear a funny joke: Wakka-Wakka-Wakka.”

2) Ease into the new you.

Try finding a TV show or some other activity you and the kids can share, laugh over, and joke about. Try forcing yourself to be less stiff and more spontaneous. Sure, this might impact some things like — fewer vegetables may be eaten, or bedtimes might be extended here and there — but usually these little acts of rebellion result in fun.

And remember, it’s not a contest, just because you’re trying to be fun doesn’t mean your  husband has to be less fun. Try both being fun.

Rome wasn’t built in a day. It will take time. But do it. And have fun.

Have a question for our anonymous panel of husbands? Email it to mamasATnwamotherlodeDOTcom and we’ll get it to them ASAP!

Inside His Head: How can I convince my husband we should have another baby?

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Motherlode’s once-a-month feature, “Inside His Head” is written by an anonymous panel of husbands who give us the no-holds-barred truth about how guys really think. They’ve discussed gift-giving holidays, a few extra pounds (on their wives), asking for extra help with the kids, cheating and their most hated misconceptions.

If you’ve got a question for the husbands, just send it to mamas@nwaMotherlode.com and it may be featured in a future installment of Inside His Head. Now on to this month’s question:

Q: I would really like to have another baby, but my husband clams up when I try to talk about it. This is a huge decision and his input is obviously necessary.  What’s the best way to initiate the conversation that won’t make him shut down and will let me know how he really feels?

john.jpgMAVERICK: Okay, from the tone of this question it seems you expect him not to be thrilled by the concept of an additional child.

First, approach your husband when he’s relaxed but not too relaxed. Don’t bother him when he’s just sat down to watch his favorite show or he’s just gotten in from his favorite activity. If you don’t know what these are, you don’t need another kid, pay attention to your husband.

Look for a time when he’s had a decent day at work and bring up the subject after dinner when you know you’ll have some time to talk. Another great time is on a long drive or a walk. Men often converse better side to side and while performing an activity. That’s why we like stuff like golf and fishing.

For goodness sake don’t bait-and-switch him by getting a baby-sitter and going out to his favorite place to eat. He’ll be thinking it’s gonna be a sex night and you’re gonna talk reproduction – which are two totally different concepts to most men. Don’t make a big production of the discussion but if you think there are gonna be some sticking points, be ready to discuss them logically.

baby ducksIf money will be an issue, come up with ways to cut costs around the house that will actually work and that don’t involve the guy working a second or third job. If space is an issue, come up with some housing options. If child care is a problem, come up with a solution.

The worst thing you can do to your husband is to dump this idea on him and expect him to figure out how to make it work.The second worse thing you can do is “talk” to him about it without LISTENING to what he has to say.

Do you want to know how he feels or do you just want him to shut up and procreate? Look into his eyes. Do you see fear? Listen to him breathe. Does he sound like he’s just had a 747 placed squarely on his shoulders? Does he joke about dying at his desk or taking a third job or always wanting to forgo retirement for a career as a Wal-Mart greeter?

Approach the discussion carefully and cautiously. Listen and respond appropriately. And remember, you say you want to know how he feels so listen, even if it’s not what you want to hear.

jon.jpgJON: It seems as if you already know how he feels.  The question to me is why he feels this way.  Is it finances? A lack of time as a couple? An inability to do things he used to enjoy?  As per usual, communication is the key.

Communication is the main factor in a successful marriage. If a couple is able to talk to each other about everything that concerns them, they will get through just about anything.

Here are some tips to enable you to successfully communicate as a couple:

  • Respect each other in your communication. Agree on things such as no name calling, even while arguing. Don’t talk down to each other.
  • Don’t use terms such as “you always”, and “I never”.
  • Be a good listener. Use body language to let your spouse know you are truly listening. Rephrasing what has been said, to make sure you understand what is meant can help make sure there is no misunderstanding.
  • Make the tough subjects easier by bringing humor into it.
  • Don’t hesitate to tell each other what you like. Too often married couples only say what they don’t like. This can cause hurt feelings and make it seem like a hopeless situation. If you talk about the things that you enjoy and agree on, as much or more than the things you don’t like or agree on, it creates a positive atmosphere to communicate in.
  • When you notice things about your spouse that you would like to see change, remember that there are things about you that he would like to see change too. If you work on changing yourself, rather than on changing your spouse- you will see big changes in your perspective.
  • Touching, whether holding hands, or sitting against each other while talking, will keep you aware of how close you are to each other, and make it less likely that you will say things you will regret later.
  • Keep sarcasm and a mocking tone far from your conversation. These things can cause hurt, resentment, and make it harder to talk about important things.
  • When you feel distance growing, say so. There is nothing wrong with telling your spouse that you need some of his/her time. As a matter of fact, being open about such things is what will draw you closer to each other.
  • Make it easy for your spouse to begin to talk by being willing and making it clear that you are in this together. When both of you are working toward the same goal – a happy, healthy, lifelong marriage – being available to each other has to come first.
  • On things that are strictly opinion, don’t argue! Agree to disagree. If there are opinions you are not in agreement on…so what?
  • Don’t rehash the past. If something is in the past, has already been dealt with and resolved- leave it there. Bringing up the past is a communication killer. Don’t allow things that are in the past to ruin your future.

If a couple works together, agreeing on communicating effectively – the marriage can be happy, harmonious, and healthy – for life.

greg.jpgGRAY: The best approach it is to go to him with a big smile on your face and let him know you’ve just put an extra mortgage on the house and sold the car because you’re starting an ostrich farm.

Remind him that he’ll have to spend long hours after work tending to the ostriches for several thankless years if the two of you are to have hope of ever seeing any return on your investment. Make him understand the two of you will merely have fleeting minutes to spend with each other after the birds arrive and in those minutes you’ll both likely be exhausted, covered in mud and ostrich droppings, never to find each other attractive ever again.

Sound absurd? It’s not. While you may have maternal instinct to spare, a man’s first reaction may be to worry about the financial burden and time expenditure any child can represent, and already having one child doesn’t negate these fears. Even knowing the joy it is to be a father doesn’t counteract the threat another child may pose to the time he spends with the one you have, you or for himself. Often, these things feel like impassable blocks in the road and unless you can combat them he may continue to avoid the issue entirely.

What to do? Pin him down on the issue. Explain how serious the subject is to you and don’t let him belittle it as “hormonal” or equally trivializing banter. This conversation should be treated with the same respect buying a house, planning for retirement or as other big family decisions are. And make sure it doesn’t boil down to an “I want one/I don’t want one” issue.

Odds are, your husband knows you want one, but may genuinely believe it’s a passing feeling. Explain you didn’t just get the urge because your sister/your neighbor/Angelina Jolie just had one. While I don’t believe having a second child to keep the first one company is a good argument, showing the degree of thought you’ve put into the issue will lend credence to your opinions.

moneyBut what if he says we just can’t afford it? If it’s ultimately a money issue you might suggest starting a fund to offset the costs of childbirth. This may lead to a broader conversation about your own savings or how on earth you’re going to pay for college for even one, let alone two, but that’s a good conversation to have.

In the end, if we all waited until we could afford kids none of us would have them, but suggesting ideas about the financial side of things will almost assuredly let him know you’ve truly thought about the issue. And financial planning is rarely a waste of time as long as it’s kept in perspective.

And what about his claim about not having enough time to spend with the child you have? Well, I know people from large families and haven’t stumbled across one who felt unloved, but men can look at the issue and believe having a second child means the first one will get only half the love they do now. Silly? Maybe, but it’s how we think. And we also think about the time we won’t have for ourselves. Sure that’s selfish, but we all need time to be selfish, it’s just human nature.

The point is: two children don’t take twice the time it takes to raise one, love is something we have in limitless supply and millions of people have proven having multiple children doesn’t destroy the bond between a husband and wife.

Inside His Head: Wife frustrated by husband’s lack of friends, initiative

Dear Inside His Head,

My husband of 7 years looks to me when he’s home from work and weekends for all his companionship and company. He literally has no friends. His one and only boyhood friend lives 300 miles away and was his pot smoking buddy back in the day before he stopped.

He has no solo hobbies or buddy hobbies, likes no one at work and simply just has no life besides me and his video game addiction. His doting is annoying, and I’ve realized there’s nothing exciting about him. I feel like we never do anything unless I come up with an idea. Its like COME UP WITH YOUR OWN LIFE for crying out loud.

He wont initiate any ‘man’ chores around the house on his own unless I create a list. The kicker is our sex life is so erratic and I think he may have fallen back on porn again. Better stop before my iPad runs out of ink.

- so over it

GRAY: I’d have to begin by asking if he’s always been this way or if he ever had friends or hobbies (not including his solitary boyhood friend)?

If he hasn’t then he may be very comfortable leaning on you, which is obviously demanding. And if you criticize him for having no friends and no life he’s going to run back to another video game, because that’s a comfortable place.

People say they’re content with surfing the internet or reading fiction or watching movies or playing video games, but it’s entertainment and not substance. They fill time and give us the illusion of accomplishment, but they’re hollow pursuits. They leave us empty and waste our lives. None of these are bad in moderation, but when they become habit they can kill years of our lives.

He may be depressed because he has no passion in his life and fills his idle hours with porn or video games to take his mind off of feeling bad. Entertainment will never replace substance because substantial activities fuel our sense of self – become how we define who we are.

I know it’s the obvious pick, but I’ve seen people break out of this pattern most often when they join groups. It could be church activities, it could be volunteering at the city animal shelter, just something to get him out in the real world and where he has responsibility and interaction with others. There’s no shortage of agencies that would love volunteers. You’ll know when you find the right venue.

You said he doesn’t like a single person at his work, which seems odd unless he works with a tiny group of people. Could it be he actually hates what he does for a living? People get new degrees and reenter the workplace much happier all the time. Instead of video games, he could get online credit in the evenings and eventually land a career that could change his outlook.

Be encouraging and positive especially if he has anxiety about trying new things. Be persistent if he fails or isn’t a good match for a group. Fear of failing keeps lots of people from ever trying, but – like the saying goes – you fail at 100 percent of the chances you don’t take. Force him out of the house to do something worth doing and hopefully it’ll start turning his complacency around.

MAVERICK: Well, sounds like you have a whole mountain of problems that seem to circle back your  near total lack of respect for your husband. So, barring writing a book here, I’m going to focus on the first part of the problems — his lack of friends.

The lack of friends thing seems to be becoming a pretty common complaint with women these days. I often wonder why in the world a woman would choose a man as a husband who didn’t have some sort of friend network. Friendships help us learn about relationships. It’s where we learn about give-and-take, loyalty, and commitment.

In the end, if a man, or woman has no friends, well, run for it.

So, let’s assume your husband, the human load as you describe him, never had any friends and it strangely has never bothered you over the last seven years till now. Somehow, he’s apparently become super-needy and a general, unattractive, friendless, clingy, pain in your butt.

You probably won’t like this advice but you’re going to have to get involved. He won’t make friends on his own. Left alone he’ll get more clingy and just play more video games.  He doesn’t know how or has no interest in making friends so you’re going to have to help.

First, take up some sort of activity together and make it one that men like. Shopping and going to garage sales is generally out. Try fishing, or biking or hiking or poker or sports.

Use this activity to drag him out of the house, make him more active and hopefully less of a total drag to be around. Take your time on this step. Let him ease back into real-life.

Then try to introduce other people to the activity. Invite some folks you know over to watch the game, or to meet you for a hike or to play some poker.

This serves two purposes: introducing him to new people and getting you out of all the one-on-one time with your husband that you seem to dislike so much.

Once you air him out and get him out of this deep, deep, deep rut he seems to be in, he might just become good company and your problem is solved. If that doesn’t work, with luck he’ll eventually find some males in the group he might like. If so, suggest that your husband hang out with them solo – grab a beer, watch some TV, that sort of thing.

This is going to take time. Don’t expect him to change overnight. Male friendships tend to grow slowly and center around some common interests and often shared hardships, even minor ones.

If he’s around other guys enough, eventually they’ll take on some shared task, maybe moving a gigantic wall unit, or fixing a mower, or painting a garage. Hopefully the guys will bond over said activity and have great war stories about hernias or nearly chopped off fingers or the time they almost died from paint fumes.

You simply have to keep introducing new possible friends in a somewhat natural setting and see what happens. In any case doing this should help you feel less stifled.

Another option is to double-date with another couple you like. This can feel sorta forced but it could produce quicker results than the other method. It will also force your husband to shower and perhaps change out of sweats.

If your husband hits it off with any of the guys, keep hanging out with that particular couple and see what happens. It’s like the equivalent of a play-date for men.

In the end though, if you dislike your husband so much, it’s likely that others — who aren’t obligated to him though a little thing like marriage — won’t find him such great shakes either.

And that is the problem at the core: Somehow, your husband has become someone you don’t like. Someone you wish would go and play with someone else and give you some peace.

Instead of pushing him off on someone else, maybe you should think about who he was when you married him. What was appealing about him? What did you love? Why did you want to spend the rest of your life with him?

You remember that guy? Well, he’s now trapped on the couch with a video game controller stuck in his hand and Cheetos on his breath and he’s so deep in a rut he doesn’t know he’s even in one or how to get out.

Help him. It’s what any friend would do and you’re his wife for crying out loud. He does need a friend and you’re it. Go save him.

Inside His Head: Husband is not ‘romantic’ enough for wife

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Dear Inside His Head,

I’m married to a great man who’s also a great dad, but I feel frustrated by his lack of romance. He says he’s “not very romantic” but I remember that he was when we were first dating. I don’t expect roses every week or for him to cook me a candlelight dinner, but I would appreciate a little affectionate note every now and then or a special treat occasionally. I’ve dropped hints, but he doesn’t seem to be picking up on my bread crumbs. Should I just come right out and tell him some of the gestures I would like? Would it be annoying to you if your wife did that?

greg1.thumbnailGRAY: This shouldn’t come as too much of a shock, but men aren’t the best at picking up subtleties.

For that matter, most of us aren’t so good at delivering them either. It’s a good bet that the “affectionate note” or “special treat” are the furthest things from his mind. It’s not that he doesn’t care, but his way of caring doesn’t involve the little touches.

Sure, things were a lot different when you were dating. When I met my wife I didn’t have a fraction of the obligations I have now. To some extent, my life used to be able to revolve around hers. Now my attention goes to my daughter…who commands a good deal of it…and to some extent I feel like I show love to my wife by being a good dad.

And it’s true with so many other things: a love letter has become emptying the dishwasher, a bunch of flowers has become taking care of all those projects in the yard. Not very romantic? No, I suppose not, but there you have it.

Victorian VioletsWould it be annoying if my wife asked me to write her little notes? Yes it would and here’s why: it would be akin to saying what I do isn’t good enough, but somehow a “little note” is. I think it would trivialize my affection rather than make it stronger. These trivial little touches would suddenly be on equal footing with the really important stuff.

Everyone likes to be treated in a special manner every now and again, but at the end of the day you have to ask yourself if you’re blessed with what you have. I’m not saying to stop dropping the little hints, but try to appreciate what the two of you already give to each other.

Discovering he’s helped your child with all their homework so you can do things together during the weekend may not be the same as having a surprise bouquet delivered to you…it’s much better when you think about it.

john.thumbnailMAVERICK: The one problem with hinting is, if he’s paying attention it pretty much takes all the “romance” out of it, making the hint a demand he’s having to comply with to humor you.

And if he’s not paying attention, all the hints in the world won’t work.

First, when you say romance, I figure you mean a thoughtful or spontaneous display of affection. Something simple, like a love note or a more complex gesture, like dinner and a movie with him arranging child care. What we’re talking about here is pursuit – the guy making it clear he desires the object of his affection — namely you.

Lots of married women complain their husbands were really “romantic” while dating but it dried up after marriage. It’s pretty standard behavior. Typically this behavior is blamed on the guy. But if you think about it, the signals that triggered that pursuit behavior are likely missing as well. Men pursued their wives during courtship because they were both desirable and playful.

So, perhaps, if you like to be pursued and acknowledged, you might want to start the chase anew.

Do something surprising for him that he might enjoy — make him nachos while he’s watching a fight on TV or recommend you kick around that giant sporting goods warehouse store he loves on a slow Saturday afternoon. Offer a glass of iced tea after he comes in from mowing the yard and a back rub after he takes a shower. Arrange a dinner at his favorite place and surprise him afterward with a night that is worthy of a love note.

Actions like this make him feel valued, cherished, desired and are much more likely to get him to return the gesture, than nagging and guilt.

I’m not saying maintaining the energy and vigor in the relationship is all your responsibility, I’m just suggesting reminding the guy how lucky he is to have you with deeds not words. If you want to be chased, remind him how much fun it is to catch you.

To read more Inside His Head posts, click here.

Inside His Head: Husband and wife disagree on when daughter can wear make-up

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Dear Inside His Head,

My husband and I totally disagree about when our daughter can wear makeup or the types of events she can attend with her friends (NOT dating). He wants her to stay his “little girl” and thinks that we should make sure she’s not growing up too fast. The thing is, he’s just pushing her away.

She just turned 14 and I don’t think a little mascara and lip gloss will hurt, but I’m trying to maintain the “united front” with my husband. On the other hand, I think he’s being unreasonable. I don’t want her to grow up too fast either (believe me), but there are ways to negotiate some of her smaller requests. I don’t want her to rebel because we were too strict. Whew!

Any ideas about how I might handle this with my husband?

GRAY: The reality is that at 14 years old your daughter already isn’t anyone’s “little girl” anymore. She’s only two years shy of being able to drive on her own. I think you need to ask your husband how can she be expected to handle that kind of responsibility if he won’t let her learn how to handle lipstick.

And I get where he’s coming from. I don’t want my daughter to grow up faster than she has to, but there’s a point where that sentiment is harmful. And, really, if he stays that strict she’s going to do it anyway and then start lying about it to both of you.

makeup itemsThe other option is to show him that he can have a lot more control over her choices if he agrees to let her buy makeup. It puts him in a position to be involved, limit choices he considers too wild. Probably more important is you’re giving her the trust to wear it responsibly – not to mention simply learning how to use all that stuff. (We guys probably don’t know how easy we have it by just running a razor across our face before we face the public.)

Ask him what he would have done if the tables were turned – all his teen friends doing something and him being the odd man out. Being a teen can be hard enough without unrealistic limits being pushed on you.

A little makeup is probably a huge deal to her even though we have to recognize it’s pretty small potatoes in the grand scheme of things. Find more important battles to draw a line on, such as curfews and rules for those date nights that are sure to be around the corner.

MAVERICK: The thing here is at least you have a clear idea of his motivation – that he doesn’t want her to grow up too fast — which most dads can relate to.

Most guys also don’t have a whole lot of experience with makeup. Most of us know it exists, and we like it’s impact, but we don’t really know how it functions, like sunlight, or light beer.

Explain that makeup is a basic rite of passage for most girls. And let him know you can start slow, with a little bit there and a little bit there. If he’s resistant, give him some time to get used to the idea by saying she can start, say, next week, or next month.

And you can consult with him and set some basic guidelines on how much makeup and when and where your daughter can wear it and then allow those rules to be expanded as your she matures.

It sounds like his heart is in the right place. He just needs some education and some patience and I bet he’ll come around.

generichead-1MICHAEL: Men and women sometimes view makeup differently.

As guys, we think girls wear makeup to attract the attention of boys. The reason they want the attention of boys is so that they can date and they want to date because they want to have sex. Just how our mind works.

Nice logical steps. Makes perfect sense to us. Unfortunately life and especially teenage girls do not always function logically.

My guess is your daughter is more concerned about what other girls think about her looks than what the boys think about them. I think if you could talk to your daughter about the reasons behind why she wants to wear makeup or go places and frame it in logical arguments, you’ll have a better chance or making headway.

Remember, most males are rational creatures and when presented with good arguments eventually concede.

There’s so much estrogen here on nwaMotherlode, we love hearing what the guys have to say from time to time. We’re always wondering, “What was he thinking???” and our anonymous panel of husbands fills us in. If you have a question for the dads, email us and we’ll send it to them. Then look for your answer here. Email to: mamas@nwamotherlode.com