20 Ways To Not Piss Off Your Parenting Partner

Being a parent is hard work. Being married to/living with a parent is also hard work. So here are a few handy tips based on my personal experience (and some from my friends) to help navigate the tough/busy/emotional times, balance out the domestic to-dos, and avoid frustrations, snark and general spousal pissed-off-ness. Note the below applies not just to husbands, but also to wives (like me). Read on, for marital and domestic bliss awaits you.

  1. Don’t make assumptions. About anything.
  2. When opening the fridge, take note of what’s not there, and add those items to a shopping list (physical or mental).
  3. When popping into the store, think about what’s on the physical/mental shopping list, and buy them. Heck, buy two.
  4. Do not question money or time spent at the hair or beauty salon. Budget for it in the family financial plan and tell her/him she/he looks lovely.
  5. Check with your partner before making purchases over a certain amount. Pre-agree what that amount should be.
  6. Don’t just talk about scheduling items; go ahead and put things on the family schedule. Physically or digitally. Just do it.
  7. Participate in meal planning (see items 1 & 2).
  8. Share homework checking and backpack management duties.
  9. Schedule regular alone time or time out with girl/man friends. Then do item 6.
  10. Don’t contribute to the general messiness and disorder of the house. Or at least try not to. And if/when you do, pick up after yourself. See item 16.
  11. Always be thinking/doing laundry. It’ll avoid those “I have no underpants” situations. It might even get you laid.
  12. Have assigned duties/roles (e.g. he handles finances/bill paying, she ensures kids has an adequate supply of clothes/shoes that fit even when they are growing like weeds which is like always.)
  13. Be united in your kid disciplining approaches. Kids can see through any weaknesses in a nanosecond and will use all and any leverage they can.
  14. Don’t make assumptions. I know, I know I said that before but, boy, it is everything.
  15. Tune in to each other’s work/stress load and proactively offer to take the kids out or handle a chore you don’t usually handle. Even better, take the initiative: book a babysitter, make a ressie and take him/her out for the evening.
  16. Just do it. Don’t wait to be asked. Like, if you see a mess.
  17. Listen. Put down your smartphone and listen.
  18. Watch/listen for unspoken cues. Like sighing, eye rolling or, you know, door slamming.
  19. Quash the temptation to snark about each other in public forums; instead celebrate each other on Facebook. (Snark about your kids instead. At least until they are old enough to read or use FB themselves. Cos then you are in trouble.)
  20. Never EVER assume (or state the words out loud) that time spent alone at the grocery store is the equivalent of real alone time.

(Am printing this off and putting on my bedside table to review on a regular basis.)

(Actually, am printing another one off and putting it on his bedside table too!)

 
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Will You Snuggle with Me, Mama?

Recently, my daughter – who is six – has started asking that I snuggle with her at bedtime. This is by no means unusual, many kids do it. It’s also not a distraction technique to put off the inevitable aloneness of going to sleep. She’s never had a problem with bed time. She knows when she is ready for sleep and welcomes it. In her threes, she was quick to dismiss me once we were done with reading. “Go. Door,” she’d command me. Unlike many kids – and unlike her brother – she likes to sleep in complete darkness with the door closed.

Truthfully, the whole evening routine, and especially the last five to ten minutes of it, have always been a challenge for me. As a working Mom, I am already exhausted and lacking the requisite zen for serenely supervising baths and PJs and teeth brushing and all of that. I just want the whole thing to be over – quickly. Fortunately, my kids are old enough that bath time is no longer about play – it’s all business. At least, that’s how I view it. I want them in, washed and out. But, for them, it’s how they unwind. I see how they drift off into the bubbles, into their imaginations. I find myself stuck between letting them immerse their bodies and brains – and hustling them out of the tub.

The next ten minutes, for me, are truly the most aggravating and patience-testing. The process of toweling off and PJ-putting on, following by the inevitable shenangans as they squabble over toothpaste and so on fairly drive me nuts. I admit that I often resort to threatening to remove everything that matters to them (him – 3DS, her – blankie) if they don’t just get on with it.

Then there’s the book reading. This is where I have always cheated, I confess. When they were toddlers and young’uns, I perfected the art of reading aloud – with feeling – while at the same time thinking about 74937 other things that needed my attention. Fortunately now, my six year-old reads to me and my nine year-old reads to himself.

But then come the words: “Will you snuggle with me, Mama?”

By this point, it’s usually 8.30pm and I’ve barely got an hour left of consciousness left in me during which to converse with my husband, catch up on work emails or watch TV. By 9.30pm, I’m toast. I want this hour of me-time. I need it. I struggle.

But snuggling with her is so … delicious. There in the dark we lie, nose to nose, our breath and warmth meshing. I stroke her hair. She touches my cheek. We whisper. Gradually, her breathing slows and deepens as she drifts off to the land of nod. It’s an honor to witness this up close. That’s if I don’t fall asleep myself. More often than not, I wake up a few hours later and tiptoe out, foggily, my hair askew … and head straight to my own bed. (Note to parents suffering insomnia: go snuggle with your kid and you’ll soon be cocooned back to sleep.)

Admittedly there are nights when I decline her request. After all, there are new episodes of House of Cards to be binged. But I never regret it when I do snuggle with her. Emails can wait. Discussing the family schedule with my husband can wait. Even Frank Underwood can wait.

She won’t be six forever, she won’t want to snuggle forever. Now are the snuggle with me years and I intend to make the most of them.

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The Incompetent Chef & the Legendary Hippo Cake

Last night, I cooked meat and I didn’t kill anyone.

The truth is that every time I cook with meat of any kind, I’m convinced that I am endangering someone’s life. When it comes to cooking, I am insecure, unconfident and a generally a klutz. It’s as if my hands turn into giant lumps, unable to coordinate, cut or stir with precision. Timing several items to be ready simultaneously causes me to break out in hives.

The fact that I am married to a professionally trained chef just makes matters worse. “Just make a roux,” he’ll suggest. Like I know how to make a roux and what you do with one? “That’s the wrong knife!” is a common complaint. Scuse me, it’s metal, it’s sharp, it cuts – so what is wrong with that? Also, I need to improve my stirring technique, apparently.

Unlike my husband who is very patient with me and who can whip up a gourmet meal in a jiffy without breaking a sweat, I need the following conditions in place to even attempt cuisine success:

  • A recipe to follow, preferably with 4 or less ingredients and steps
  • A timer – and plenty of time for mistakes and do-overs
  • No husband within 10 metres
  • Plenty of space for things to spill, get dropped, messed up
  • No children within 5 metres
  • Alcohol
  • Clorox wipes

Many of my cooking miss-haps are now the stuff of legends among family and friends. This one, for example, has become fondly known as the Hippo cake. (It was supposed to be a honey cake.)

The Hippo Cake

I guess only practice can make perfect, right? As long as I don’t kill anyone in the process.

Coffee or Wine?

Your dental hygienist knows a lot about you, I’ve discovered. During my first few years here in the US, when I was either single and partying, or dating my soon-to-be-fiance, or enjoying the life-before-kids times, my dental hygenist would often remark about the red wine stains on my teeth. “Hey, I’m young (ish) and having fun,” I’d retort. And yes, I’ll brush more thoroughly, I’d promise as she hacked away at the stains with her evil implements.

(On a side note, may I just say that dental hygiene here in the US has been a real revelation to me. Y’all are way more serious about having sparkly whites that we were/are back home in the UK. I now feel it a necessary part of my acceptance into American society to have remarkably white teeth. But I digress.)

Dental visits over the last eight years have painted a different story. In large part, because the red wine stains on my teeth have mostly been replaced with coffee stains. Strong, black coffee stains. My dental hygienist always points this out and then, with an almost nonchalant non-sequitur, asks “So, how old are the kids now?” She knows, she gets it.

The thing is, my relationship with red wine has changed. Flash back to 1997-2000, three glorious years living in France when the wine was abundant, cheap and good. I became more knowledgable about wine regions and my preferences but, quite frankly, if it was red and in my glass, I’d drink it. Lots of it. No matter how much it cost or where it came from. And then I went and married someone in the wine industry. My supply of good wine became perpetual! Hoorah! And I became better educated and much more picky and wines I like and wines I don’t.

And then I had kids.

Child birth will do strange things to your palette (among other things.) After kid #1 was born, I went off red wine altogether, much to the chagrin of the husband. Fortunately, after kid #2 “popped out” (hahahaha) my desire for wine slowly returned and, in the almost six consequential years, has remained. But with new terms and conditions, namely:

  • I only drink the wines I like
  • I can only drink when eating
  • No more than a glass and a half or I get heartburn and/or an upset stomach
  • There will be wine on Friday evenings when I crave it most—or else
  • Cheese = wine

On the flip side, my relationship with coffee has remained consistent. While red wine is a select pleasure, enhancing specific moments, coffee is my lifeline. I cannot start the day without coffee. It is the very first thing I think of the moment I awake. I cannot exist without a large steaming cup of strong black coffee within approx 10 mins of my neurones firing up.

I was pondering my absolute and profound need for coffee the other morning and comparing it to my relationship with red wine. If I had to, I wondered, which would I give up? The answer was quite simple. But, just to be sure, I thought I’d conduct a brief poll with a few of my Twitter and Facebook pals. So I lobbed the seemingly innocuous question out there. Within nanoseconds—maybe even less—I was met with a barrage of visceral reactions! Before I share them, here was the final count:

  • Votes to keep coffee: 5
  • Votes to keep wine: 7
  • Undecided: 4

But it was the comments that cracked me up the most, including:

Are you kidding?

Is nothing sacred?

What am I being threatened with?

If my world no longer included those things, it wouldn’t be much of a world 😉

I feel like this is a trick question somehow.

I don’t know this Samantha but I don’t trust her 😉

I plan on giving up both…shortly after I give up oxygen.

So, you, yes you over there sipping your Sunday morning coffee – which would you give up, if you had to: coffee or wine?

P.S. Get your teeth cleaned.

A Month of Gratitude: Part Two

Last week, I started the process of taking stock of everything for which I am grateful. It’s an important exercise, stepping back from the daily grind and considering all that is good in your life. We should all do this much more often. It’s both sobering and uplifting.

Where did the last week go? Somehow, among the hustle and bustle, I was able to stop each day, if only for a few minutes, and mentally note the moment or moments that resounded in my heart and head. During the last seven days, these were the things for which I am truly grateful:

  • The teachers who taught my son to read. We spent five hours this weekend at Boston’s Museum of Science and my son’s new-found skill opened the experience up to him like I’d never imagined. It was fantastic to watch.
  • My husband. Because he’s away on business and of course, it’s when he’s gone, I truly appreciate all that he does for me. Warms my cold feet in bed. Brings me coffee in the morning. Puts the trash out. Cooks dinner. Makes me laugh. Most of all, I love to step back and watch him interact with our kids in his unique, special way and miss that most when he’s away.
  • My Mom friends. Thank heavens for other Moms. They just get it. Once a month, I get to hang out with a bunch of them and it’s like the best medicine for the soul.
  • Humor: I was sent this video this week and it actually made me cry with laughter. Everyone needs a tear-inducing laugh every so often. Watch this and you’ll get yours for the week.
  • Charity: This week I read about all the good works being done by so many to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy. When the rest of the world and news media had moved on, these people were still knee-deep in the collections and clean-ups. We should all be grateful for the work they are doing and the compassion in their hearts.
  • Words and writing: this blog started out as an experiment, a fancy and has turned into a much more powerful vehicle for me. Somewhere I can write for me (as opposed to my writing for clients) and share my thoughts and words with you. This week I published my 100th blog post and crossed the threshold of 11,000 views, just shy of my one year blogging anniversary. Wow! Thank you all for indulging me.

How Marriage is Like a Presidential Debate

As I watched President Obama and Governor Romney duke it out again in last night’s third debate, it struck me that there are a lot of similarities in the way husbands and wives often interact – minus a Candy Crowley or Bob Shieffer to moderate. After all, aren’t we always trying to be heard, get our argument across, point out injustices, fact check and fix the deficit? And much like in presidential debates, we also enjoy  talking over each other, rebutting and trying to get the last word.

In my marriage, however, my husband always gets the last word. It’s “yes dear.”

Here are some other ways the recent debates can be akin to marital dialog:

We need to do a better job of balancing the budget.

That’s a lot of malarkey. I think if you did the math, you’ll find that I actually took the trash out 208 times over the last four years.

Why is your 401k bigger than mine?

Honey, can you bring me those binders full of healthcare bills?

Not tonight, sweetheart, unless you support planned parenthood.

Can we outsource the children to your parents this weekend?

And while I am at it, I’d like to offer the candidates these words of wisdom that my father offered my husband on our wedding day. It goes like this. “If you’re wrong, admit it. And if you’re right, shut up.”

Wordless Wednesday: New Husband Edition

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