Q: I have a 5-month-old son and my husband and I just found out we’re expecting again! While we had planned to have our children close together, we didn’t expect getting pregnant again would happen so quickly. And we didn’t want babies quite so close together – when the second one is born, they will be 13 months apart.
I’m fine with this, except I don’t feel nearly as excited about this second baby, and that worries me a little. I’m avoiding telling my family, whereas before I couldn’t wait to tell them. I think the reason is that I’m embarrassed this pregnancy was a surprise and so soon after the first one. I’m just imagining the looks and the questions.
And I just got back into the office a few months ago after maternity leave and I dread telling my boss I will need three months off again so soon.
My husband and I are fine financially and emotionally, so having two kids so close together is not going to be a burden. I guess what I’m asking is, how do I get over this embarrassment?
A: By not giving a dog’s butt what other people think.
Come on – you wanted kids who’d be close in age and, assuming your good fortune holds, you’re going to get them. Nickel-and-diming your joy for any reason is not the path to fulfillment, period, but when you reflect someday on this particular reason for holding yourself back? That you spaced your kids 13 months apart instead of, what, 18? You’re going to wonder why the heck you were so hard on yourself.
Assuming there’s nothing deeper to your excitement deficit, here’s my advice: Slide two feet to the left to get out of your own way. You’re in for more cuddles, burbles, smiles, total semi-planned chaos and, big whoop, the occasional raised bystanderly eyebrow: Open your arms to it all. And use simple declarative sentences when it’s time to talk to your boss.
Q: We have a blended family (for 27 years) of five adult children. All have married and have families.
Our son got married last year and invited only adults. My stepson chose not to come because their daughter wasn’t invited. This created quite uncomfortable circumstances.
It continued this year when there was a family birthday party for my 70th and they chose not to come for no apparent reason. Hurt feelings are created without reason.
These kids are not close in their ongoing lives, but have come to bat for big things like weddings. My stepson’s wife seems to be the one stopping things, and yet she seems to be overcompensating in other ways to make up for it. What do you believe are reasonable expectations for us as the elder generation, who wish only to enjoy times together?
A: One reasonable expectation is that your adult children will decide as they see fit how to handle family events. That means inviting adults only, or boycotting in a huff over a decision to invite adults only, or whatever else, and there’s not a darn thing you can do about it.
A reasonable expectation of yourself is to choose not to take any of this personally. Someone can’t/doesn’t come? “Oh, so sorry to hear that.” End of issue. “Hurt feelings are created” but they are also resisted, when the will and perspective are there.
You also can reasonably exercise your prerogative as heads of the family to speak up – and by that I mean ask, not accuse – on rare occasions when you suspect there are grudges at work. “We’ve missed you lately – just bad timing, or is there something going on here that we should know about?” You have parental capital as long as you use it sparingly, and with a completely open mind; one’s stepson’s wife’s influence, for example, is not automatically as it “seems.”
Q: We are hosting the family Thanksgiving at our home this year. A few members are vegetarian and we do provide an alternate menu. This has never been a problem.
One family member this year has messaged the family about animal cruelty in detail, and asked that we all eat vegetarian this holiday season. Does a guest have the right to determine what we serve, based on her own conscience?
A: Nope. We could gin up a good argument over whether a guest has a right to ask, and whether the standing of that guest matters – family vs. non-, immediate family vs. distant, etc. – but the last word on the menu goes to the host.
You can stop at being right, though, and skip feeling perturbed. Just explain to this family member that, while you read her message on animal cruelty and admire her compassion, you’ve decided to serve turkey as always. Say you hope she’ll still come and enjoy the vegetarian options you provide – but will respect her decision regardless.
Email Carolyn at email@example.com.