Handling Family Situations


Sometimes good intensions go awry. You can plan till the cows come home, but often that’s not how things work out. In my column this month I discuss two family situations. 
First, a stay-at-home mom that didn’t quite picture her life turning out the way it has. 

Second column is about the old mother-in-law. What’s she done this time? Nothing really, except that she keeps track of every gift, every phone call, how much was spent and feels that’s the way she will reciprocate when it’s her turn. Annoying? Undoubtedly. Worth making a fuss over? Not sure, what do you think?

Dear Ella,

When I met my husband I was living on my own and had a promising career. I continued working after we got married. My husband runs a very successful business and after I got pregnant and we both decided we could afford for me to be a stay at home mom.

I now have 2 small children and things have really changed around here.

I feel like a slave, no longer an equal partner in this marriage. I cater to Stan’s every need and make sure everyone is well taken care of. What do I get in return? Not a whole lot. Sure I have a wonderful home, food on the table and a reliable car, but my emotional needs are not being met. Nothing is appreciated, everything is expected. I am unhappy and need to fix this.

It’s My Life Too

Dear It’s My Life Too

You’re already on the right track by having identified that your situation needs fixing. In the past you were rewarded for a job well done by a weekly paycheck which is a monetary acknowledgement for your hard work. Now that your job has changed you still need the recognition for a job well done. Stay at home moms make many sacrifices for their families and often put their own needs last.

Perhaps you are doing your job too well? You’ve made it very easy for everyone to live their lives comfortably and you ask for nothing in return. You are not doing anyone any good if you’re unhappy.

You and Stan have been able to discuss important matters as equals in the past, so why not now? Often the pressures of daily routines don’t allow a lot of time for discussion, but communication is too important to put on the back burner.

You need a plan. Make the necessary arrangements which will allow you to have the time and privacy to have this talk. You need to rein everyone including the kids back in. If you can afford it, hire help. Make a schedule that allows you to have some personal time, as well as time with your husband, even if it’s going out to dinner every couple of weeks. If it’s not part of a specific schedule it will be taken over by your everyday routine.

Don’t underestimate what your contentment brings to your family. It’s possible Stan doesn’t realize how you’re feeling. Time for him to be clued in.

scales_of_justice__cecigianDear Ella,

I hate exchanging gifts with my mother-in-law. This woman can tell you what I gave her for any occasion for the past 20 years!

She has this amazing bookkeeping system. She knows who gave what, how much they spent and she reciprocates with a gift of the same value. How am I supposed to give a gift from my heart if she puts this cold calculating agenda on every present?

She does the same with phone calls. Last year she was in the hospital for a week and she can tell you exactly who called, how many times, who sent flowers or an email.

She’s a lovely woman, but this part of her makes me crazy! Should I just come out and tell her how rude and ridiculous she is being?

Gift Tracker

Dear Gift Tracker

Your mother-in-law’s bookkeeping system is not so unique. Some people do this without consciously realizing it. There is a definite psychology to giving and receiving.

Usually a gifter gives to please the recipient. They are anxious to see the reaction as it’s an acknowledgment that the thought put into your gift is appreciated and it makes you as the giver feel good.

From the recipient’s perspective, although she may appreciate and enjoy the gift, she also sees it as an obligation and therefore has worked out this system. She thinks she is doing the right thing.

Your mother-in-law has been doing this for years, don’t expect to change her now. This doesn’t make her a bad person only an uncomfortable person to buy for as she is always calculating worth instead of appreciating the thought and effort.

Don’t let her ways change you. Continue giving in the way you are accustomed to. Gift giving is an action that makes you feel good. Giving out of obligation does not have the same rewards.

Try to look past this character flaw, it’s not worth making waves over.