Thursday, September 30, 2010

Husband Issues?

The Question:

So far I've only seen questions relating to kids, and I'm wondering if you'd be willing to tackle one about husbands?

My problem is I feel like I'm constantly cleaning up after my husband. He cooks and leaves a mess on the stove that I have to clean off. He leaves dishes all over the house. When he cooks, he also leaves wrappers on the counters. I try not to mind, because he's working full time and going to school, but at the same time, couldn't he at least rinse his plates? The other day I woke up and there was spaghetti sauce all over the stove. I mean, ALL over. when he woke up (he works graves) I asked him if he'd clean it up. He said, "I knew that would be the first thing you said to me today." (If you knew it was coming, why didn't you wipe it off?!) And then he never cleaned it.

I've talked with him about using paper plates, and he is SO opposed to them, but won't tell me why. I understand if you're eating a steak, you don't want to have to cut up your plate. But if you're microwaving a quesadilla, shouldn't it be worth it to eat off a paper plate so your wife doesn't have to scrape off the melted cheese?

Also, I feel like the only thing I regularly ask him to do is take out the garbage. It really is too heavy for me most of the time. Before I was married, I had a tiny garbage can that would fit under the sink, so it had to be taken out every day and never got heavy or stinky. As soon as we got married, he started campaigning for a bigger can, and I told him he could get it if he'd be the one taking out the trash. So I ask him VERY nicely, and he says he'll do it, then doesn't. And I'm not even asking him to make a special trip! I always say, "Baby, when you leave, would you take the trash out with you?" He says yes, then leaves without it. I remind him, and he says sure thing, then leaves again. This will go for several days before he gets frustrated with me asking and finally takes it out. I partly feel like I want to make a point and he SAID he'll take it out, so he SHOULD! But also, sometimes when I finally cave and do it myself, he says, "I said I'd take it out!"

So how do I talk to him about this without it turning into a big argument? I don't want to feel like a nag, but that's the only way to get things done. I feel so disrespected, and like he's taking advantage of me, even though I know that's not what it's about.

Please Help!

The Answer:

Dear Friend,

It sounds like maybe you and your husband are at a stand-off.  You're in a pattern that builds resentment and separation.   If you really want to strengthen your marriage and feel loved and cared for by your husband, you have the ability to turn things around.  But you are going to have to stop keeping score, stop looking for evidence of his neglect and stop making requests and then waiting for him to fail you again.   You need to step back and look at what he is giving you--working full time and going to school so he can take good care of you.

I'm a little old-fashioned, I know.  I'm still back there in the age where a man's role was to provide and a woman's role was to create a warm loving home for him to return to every night--rather than a frown and a pile of chores.   I think you should do all you can to support him with this difficult schedule.   Make it your goal to be the woman he can't wait to see and hates to leave.   Make it so that he loves and appreciates you so much that he wants to take your garbage out.  I know, I know.  It's his garbage just as much as it is yours.  But men like to feel like they're doing something for you and that you love them for it--not like naughty little children that you have to keep in line.   Express appreciation continually for the sacrifices he's making for you.  Doing this will invite him to lower his defenses and begin to appreciate you in return.

Of course, this will only work if it is deeply sincere.  Make up your mind that you are going to serve him without resentment.   It only takes a few seconds to wash a plate.  Don't make a big show of it.  When you feel like complaining, give him a smile and a big hug and tell him it's the least you can do considering all that he does for you.  I can almost guarantee that as he feels this love and support from you, you will not have to take out the garbage.  He'll see you doing it and say, "Hey little lady, I'll get that for you."  And you'll say, "Thanks."  And he'll just think you're the best thing ever made.  Your marriage will flourish.

Pray each day to know how to better serve and care for your husband and you will receive ideas and a softening of heart.  The love you have for each other is right at the bedrock of your successful home.  It's worth any effort.

With love,


Monday, September 27, 2010

A Letter From Jane: Creating Everyday Fun In Your Family

Dear Friends,
 I'd like to talk to you about a wonderful aspect of family life.....Fun!  There is nothing more bonding than laughing together.   It is truly leaven in the loaf and I'm sorry to pin one more thing on you, but you, the mother, control so much of the "fun level" in your home.  I confess that I'm a pretty productive person.  I'm happiest when I'm getting things done and if left unchecked, I would move the family from one serious endeavor to the next.  Maybe that's why the Lord sent me a houseful of fun people---and funny too. 
 Fun often means that you have to stop what you're doing and enjoy the moment.  Here's a story.  Long, long ago, I was making bread and someone--I'm not sure who---invented the dough game.  Each person in the immediate area is given a plastic cup with a little ball of dough inside.  Everyone stands in a circle---as wide as the room accomodates and on the count of three, they toss their ball to the right.  So of course, each person has to toss and catch within a second.  The goal of course, is to successfully catch all the dough balls.  Once we get a good rhythm going, we try for 20 catches in a row, or we add variations--like throwing all the dough up and then catching whatever we can and...ok, usually dough fights ensue.  To this day, I can never make bread or rolls without someone starting up the dough game. 
 Fun doesn't have to cost anything.  I'm always amazed at the money people spend on fun---and often, the activities aren't that fun.  I've found that when we set out on a free adventure, and I'm in a good mood, something surprising and memorable usually happens.  Like Riverfront Park.  It's a beautiful park here in Spokane with walkways and waterfalls.  There's a carousel and a tram and other ways to spend money.  But we rarely do those things.  We feed the ducks, we look at the falls, we bring a snack.   And always, always some good, unexpected thing is waiting for us.  One time, the boys caught 32 crayfish.  I know, I know.  Yuck!  But they loved it and they even cooked some and ate them when they got home.  Another time, a little colony of marmots popped up in some rocks on a hillside.  We were the only ones around and when the marmots discovered that we had crackers, they became very friendly. 
As the mother, you help your children to realize and appreciate the wonder and the joy of simple fun.  You can exclaim, "This is amazing!"  "Can you believe our good luck?"  "What could be more fun than this?" 
When a family experiences these unexpected, unplanned pleasures together, their love and appreciation for eachother flourishes.  When you, as the mother, pause and identify the moment, a memory is cemented.
I love humor and I've noticed that many families seem to have a sense of humor all their own.  Where does that come from?  I'm not sure.  But I love that aspect of family life.  We can encourage and develop our children's sense of humor by laughing with them and pointing out the funny moments in life.   One day, my grandson Jack called to say that they had woken up to find a chicken in their back yard.  He laughed and laughed as he told me about it.  In another household, the tone may have been different.  The parents might have been annoyed or nervous about this chicken, but Jack's parents saw the humor in the situation so Jack did to.  What a gift we give our children when we encourage them to see humor in everyday life.  My daughter Kristen had a habit of humming a little soundtrack to things she saw as we drove along.  For example, if a dog was trotting down the road, she would hum a perfect accompaniment to his gait.  I loved that!  And I still hear those little tunes in my head. 
Set a goal to laugh with your children at least two or three times a day.  Help them see humor.  When things start gettig heavy and intense, stop everything and shock them with a game of your own invention.  You know that old proverb "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine; but a broken spirit drieth the bones."  I know that "dry bones" burned out feeling.   I sometimes have it in the car when we're heading off on an outing.  I've cleaned the house, made the food, dressed the kids, loaded everything up and I'm completely shot.  So I've sat there in the passenger seat and prayed for a merry heart because I've learned that I'm the determining factor. My husband is always a great sport and kids just want to have fun.  As usual, the Lord comes through and softens me up and all is right with the world.    And that's good medicine for all of us.
Have a fun week.
Love you,

Friday, September 24, 2010

New Mom Isolation?

The Question:
Dear Jane,
I know it has been a long time since you were just a mother of one, but as that is what I am, that is where my question comes from. My question isn't about my baby, it's about me.
Now, let me first set some things straight. I love being a mother. It is the most fulfilling thing that I have ever done. My daughter is seriously an angel baby. When she's having a rough day, other people don't understand because that is how their babies were on normal days. She is a great sleeper and is as cute as can be. I love her. She is great. I am doing everything I can to soak up these precious moments when I am her best friend and she lights up when she sees me. I know this time is going to go by fast.
My problem is the loneliness in my life. My husband is great, but he is working while also attending law school. Although he is the oldest in his family, he struggles with his schedule no longer being his own with the little one around, esp. since our time together is limited due to the demands on his time. We don't live anywhere near family; we don't feel like we fit in at all in our ward (which is amazing in a ward where there have already been something like 20 babies born this year, you would think we'd be perfect in that demographic.) I am tired of trying to make friends and failing, but 18 hours alone every day with a 3 month old gets to be a little isolating. I even have talked to my doctor about PPD, but she's fairly certain that that is not my issue.
When it is a chore just to get to the grocery store with my little one, how am I supposed to be motivated to get out  and do other things? How can I combat this new mom isolation and have a conversation where I can get a response that is a little more complex than ga ga goo?

Thank you,
The Answer:
Dear AJ,
I am reasonably certain that since you wrote this letter back in July, you have already solved this problem to some degree.  But because I've received several letters like yours, I'm going to offer some suggestions.
First let me refer you to a response from last March (March 8: Dealing with Loneliness)  In it, I give almost every idea I can think of for reaching out and connecting with others.  There are also several great comments from readers that might help you.
But besides "reaching out" ideas, I'd like to give you one other thought.  I've discovered over my lifetime, that there are some lonely seasons.  I've gone through them.  I've watched my children go through them.  I think they serve a purpose.  We really learn compassion when we experience that isolated feeling.  We don't like to see someone sitting alone.  We are motivated to teach our children how to notice and include people.   But more than even these valuable lessons, I think we really discover the reality of a Heavenly Father.  I've never felt closer to him than during those times when I've run out of places to turn.  The more lonely I've felt, the more open I've been to his love.  Maybe it's just that we have to be really empty before we recognize how it feels to be filled.  Certainly, those times of isolation and need have deepened my testimony more than the times of feast.
Because before long, life becomes full and busy and so we forget, to some degree, that most precious relationship and we lose, to some degree, that precious dependence. 
So my suggestion is that you try to form friendships, but also learn the lessons that your present life can teach you. 
All my love,

Monday, September 20, 2010

Coming Back...and a request.

Dear Readers,

After a short absence, I am back!  I’ve missed you and want to thank those of you who’ve hung on and continued to add great comments in my absence.  I have a pile of questions waiting for me and I’ll answer them one by one. 
I’m determined to keep this blog alive because, well, I love it.  I love that we are all trying together to be better parents, to love more purely and to connect more fully with our children.  That’s a big challenge, I know, and it takes all the encouragement we can get.   
My favorite aspect of parenting is the one I just mentioned—the forging of bonds.  As I’ve often told you, parenting for me reached a whole new level of fulfillment and excitement when I began to focus less on forced outcomes which required a rather heavy-handed approach.  The goal, instead, became the building of conscience and that happened for me as I changed my focus to loving and teaching—communicating my love while making sure that my expectations were clear and doable.
There are many, many methods of parenting out there.   That’s why I’m impressed that you’re still here!  This isn’t the easiest way.   Lasting results come slowly.  Grandparents raise their eyebrows.  Husbands resist.  But the thing that makes you persevere is success—small daily successes.   I want to hear about them.  I want you to be able to read one another’s success stories and be encouraged by them.  If you have a story, large or small in which a child has really responded to his/her conscience rather than force, tell us about it.  Tell us how it came about.   Send your success stories and we’ll post them here—with or without your name.  (askingjane at gmail dot com).
My plan is to write you a letter every Monday (we all need a little nudge forward on Mondays, right?)  and then to answer questions as I have time.  My reward will be your success stories!

I send all my love to you.  Remember Alma 36, “ by small and simple things are great things brought to pass”   I know there is nothing small or simple about your responsibilities.  But everything you are doing has meaning—every little act.   Remember that great analogy by Elder David Bednar about the little brush strokes.  They all add up to beauty--your little touches, moments of eye contact, stories read, cookies baked, laundry folded, legos picked up (again).  Your presence means security.  You are the sun—the center of their world   A lot of responsibility, I know—but a warm place to be.

Have a great week.  I’m glad to be with you again.

With Love,