Dear Annie: My husband is a salesman and is constantly working, regardless of time of day or whether we’re on vacation. He wears a Bluetooth earpiece, so I can never tell whether he is on the phone. And regardless of whether he’s on a phone call, he is always engaged in his email. If I ask him a question, he will usually answer but rarely look up and make eye contact.
I worry this sets a bad precedent for our children. I wish he could disconnect and focus on our family when he is home. I’ve read many studies that discuss the importance of engaging directly with children, and I fear that’s he not able to effectively connect.
I also am skeptical he’s always working and think he may secretly be listening to music or podcasts, checking fantasy football results, etc. I understand we all need a distraction on occasion, but it is unacceptable to do this around our kids. And I would appreciate it if he didn’t do this around me.
When I ask him to limit his attachment to his phone and email around the kids, he tells me he has to work. Is there a better way for me to approach him? – Crackberry Wife
Dear Crackberry: Let’s start with a silver lining: If your husband is able to spend time with the kids during work, that’s a big plus. Many salesmen travel all week and rarely see their children.
Ask your husband to spend 30 or 60 minutes with the children every day, during which he unplugs and connects. He may eat a meal with them, help with homework or play a sport or a board game. You’re correct that children do best with undivided attention, but it’s also great that they can learn from your husband’s work ethic. A lot of time with work and a little time with the kids will go a long way for everyone and still allow your husband to peek at his fantasy football results on occasion.
Dear Annie: My sister “Clarabel” lives on the West Coast, and I live in the middle of the heartland about 10 minutes from our mom. My mom and Clarabel go back and forth between getting along and not speaking to each other.
The problem is they try to use me as a messenger. When I visit my mom, she’ll go on and on about why she is angry with Clarabel. I tell my mom that I want to spend our time visiting and talking about other things and she needs to talk to Clarabel on her own, that I am not relaying the message. Despite my repeated attempts to change the subject, my mother continues to rant. I cut my visits short.
When Clarabel calls, she wants to know what Mom said about her. I tell Clarabel that she needs to call Mom and talk to her. I feel that if I shared what the other says, I’d be adding to the drama and being used. Clarabel gets upset with me and says I should tell her. Annie, am I wrong for wanting to stay out of their fights? – In the Middle
Dear Middle: You are so smart to stay out of the middle of their fights, and they shouldn’t be trying to put you there in the first place. Point out to your mom that because of her ranting and complaining about your sister, you are cutting your visits short. Say that in effect, she is distancing herself from both of her children. No one wants to be around someone who is complaining about another person, especially when it comes to loved ones. Point out to them that the constant fighting is taking a toll on you and your whole family as a unit.
If they keep up their kvetching, at least try to distance yourself emotionally from it so it doesn’t bring you down.
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