Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.
DEAR AMY: I’ve been married for five years to a wonderful, funny and very hardworking man. We have one child, who just turned a year old. We live 10 hours away from my family/friends and five hours away from my in-laws. My husband travels for his job, so most of the time it’s just me and our son at home — sometimes for weeks at a time. When my husband is home, he isn’t helpful with our son. I brushed it off when our baby was a newborn, thinking he was nervous about hurting the baby, or simply didn’t know what to do. But after a year of doing everything by myself I’m getting frustrated! Even when my son is napping and I want to run to get groceries, my husband will ask me to wait until he wakes up and take him with me. The very few times I left him with our son (never for more than an hour) I will return and smell poop and ask if he changed his diaper. He’ll shrug and say, “You didn’t tell me to.” He gives me the same answer if I ask if he fed him, gave him a bottle, etc. At bedtime when I ask for a hand, he suddenly has to run to the store. He does play, chase him around and read him books, but I still need a hand for the day-to-day care, especially because we are so far away from our family. How can I encourage him to step up? How can I get help without begging/nagging?
DEAR OVERWHELMED: It is not unusual to feel uncomfortable doing hands-on baby care, if you aren’t home often enough for these things to become second nature.
Because he isn’t in the home consistently, you will have to basically train him in basic baby care and proactively promote bonding. Celebrate their special relationship and keep your own expectations realistic.
When you two go out together with your baby, find another task to do and ask your husband to get the baby dressed. Don’t criticize any choices he makes and, if he asks for help, answer his questions, but don’t jump in.
Post a very simple “baby schedule” on your fridge and leave your husband with his son for longer than an hour. He can (and will) figure this out to some extent, but because he is away and working very hard, you will have to understand that he is already performing a very important parental function, which is to support his family.
DEAR AMY: My fiance and I have been together for four years. We got engaged last fall and are planning a September wedding. We are both in our 30s and have put major thought into planning and saving for our special day. We don’t expect our parents to chip in. We are adults and will pay for our own wedding. Suddenly, my stepbrother proposed to his girlfriend of three months. I have quite a few concerns. He’s 30 and has been married twice before. She’s only 21. They are deciding on a July wedding and my father and stepmother are rallying around this joyous occasion. They are cleaning up their farm for the wedding (they had already told us it wouldn’t be ready for us). My father is also paying for my stepbrother’s various family members from other states to attend. I’m having a tough time being genuinely happy for them when I feel that they are “stealing my thunder.” I expressed these concerns. My father said they knew I would be upset, but there’s nothing that they could’ve done about it. Is it wrong to say I can’t attend their showers, help with decorations or go to the actual event, due to my own plans?
Trying Not to Be Bitter
DEAR TRYING: You are an adult, so act like one. Yes, you should attend your stepbrother’s wedding. Pretend you are happy for him and his young bride — even if you’re not. If the farm is already cleaned up for your stepbrother’s summer wedding, you might want to also use the venue in the fall.
DEAR AMY: I’m weighing in on the impact of grandparents “playing favorites” with their grandchildren. My kids all knew that their grandmother favored their cousins. It was completely obvious. As they grew older, they cared less and less — and that’s the worst part, in a way. Their grandmother is now older and needier and could use some attention.
Sad but True
DEAR SAD: Extreme favoritism hurts all parties.