DEAR AMY: I have been feeling irritable toward my husband lately. Small things bug me, even when I know they are not such a big deal. I noticed these feelings after the birth of our fourth child in June. Before she was born, we found out that my husband's father was in the hospital. We couldn't get much information about his condition, so my husband was rightly concerned. Our baby's due date came and went, and she was born 12 days late! I was scared for her, but my husband was more worried about his dad. Any attempts to talk about the baby were blocked. He changed the subject back to his dad. We later found out that his father has dementia and is currently hospitalized. My temper has been short. I try to be understanding, but I need my husband, too! Am I overreacting because of the post-pregnancy hormones? Do I need to just let it go?
Short Temper in Nevada
DEAR SHORT TEMPER: Yes, you might be coping with some post-partum hormonal issues, but most parents with four children (including a new baby) would find themselves irritable with no other contributing factors. In your case, you have a major additional stress (your father-in-law's illness and your husband's reaction to it).
This sort of emotional chaos and challenge characterizes the hard work of being in a family. You and your husband don't have the luxury of only worrying about and taking care of your children. You have to take care of yourselves, and each other, as a team of two. Do teams occasionally lose? Do they have bad days? Yes! But a team still exits the locker room together, determined to support one another.
I have a two-word solution for you: Be gentle. Gentleness starts with the way you treat yourself.
Here's an example: You try to talk about how the baby has started teething. Your husband looks at you blankly and changes the subject. Or he tries to talk to you about his dad while you are nursing (or running around after your other children).
You react with irritation.
The first thing you should do is to take a breath, acknowledge your own behavior (irritation), and forgive yourself ("I'm a little overwhelmed right now").
You take responsibility, and then turn the page.
Once you forgive yourself, you can approach him with more patience and compassion. His freak-out likely spans generations (worrying about both his children and his parents). That's a lot to handle. Hold hands and do your best to face your challenges together.
DEAR AMY: My husband and I are in our mid-70s. We are in good shape, are intellectually active, and we're well-dressed. When we are out together, young people often come up to us and say, "You guys are so cute" and, "You're so sharp," or "Look how adorable you are..." or many synonymous expressions. I know these are compliments, but it doesn't feel that way. To me it's akin to telling an African-American person they are "well-spoken," or telling me that I "don't look Jewish." I thank these people and tell them that I know they mean it as a compliment, but it doesn't feel that way. Are we being too sensitive? Should we just smile and say thanks?
DEAR ADORABLE??: The two examples you cite aren't patronizing as much as they are fundamentally racist, but otherwise ... what a cute question!
I'm making my own little joke, here, but I understand that you are trying to describe the particular annoyance of being condescended to by people who are half your age.
These young people think they are making your day by shining upon you a brief ray of their personal sunshine. Please understand that they do mean well. They are not deliberately trying to make you feel like cute little toddlers on the playground.
In response to these condescending compliments, you can give these people a knowing look and say, cryptically, "Well, aren't you sweet? We think of ourselves as mature and formidable, but it's so precious that you think we're adorable."
DEAR AMY: "Pressured Parenthood," a hairstylist, said about her customers, "Often they worry their significant other will leave them if they don't have kids." I agree with your endorsement of the statement that women shouldn't have children to please others. In particular, who is to say how long the significant other would be around, if the couple is not married?
DEAR READER: .... Or even if they are married?