Dear Amy: I am married to a man with three kids. The oldest is 18, and she lives in another state. She doesn’t have the best relationship with her dad (my husband).
When we first got together, my husband was still getting divorced, so it was a lot of drama. I am only 29 and have never been with a man who has children.
His oldest is angry that I never reached out to her.
In my defense, we were going to visit last year, and I thought we would meet then. But she wouldn’t meet because she was mad at us. Should I reach out now?
Dear Wondering: You are likely closer in age to your husband’s daughter than you are to him, and yet you seem to have completely forgotten what it was like to be a teenage girl.
From the timing you suggest, this girl’s formative teen years were consumed by her folks’ dramatic breakup. You and her father didn’t wait for his divorce to start dating (kids keep score, her mother has probably mentioned this a few hundred times, and these things matter to them).
Step-parenting always begins with friendship, and friendships are the result of bids for connection.
Yes, your efforts might be denied or dismissed, but the reason to reach out is so that later — when she is more mature and the situation is more stable — she can see that you’ve been trying all along.
Keep it simple: An email or DM saying, “I’m so sorry we haven’t met in person yet; we’d love for you to visit us if you are able. I’m sorry things have been so hard, but I’m really looking forward to getting to know you.”
Dear Amy: My husband and I have a seven-month-old baby.
My husband has never been a sympathetic person. I have always accepted this about him. However, now with the baby I find myself needing more emotional support than he can give me.
The long nights with a nursing and poorly sleeping baby have left me feeling exhausted and needing some reassurance and comfort from my husband.
Whenever I broach the subject, he tells me that he works so I can be home (I work too, but fewer hours and from home), and that he doesn’t feel bad for me because he has a long commute, and that I need to get a grip (although he doesn’t use those exact words).
How can I either talk to him, or find another outlet to get the support I can’t get from him?
Dear New Mama: You need immediate and caring support, and other moms are often very good at offering it. Do everything possible to get together with other parents (safely) in person or online (via Facebook parenting groups, or Reddit). Other parents can observe you and your baby and give both of you lots of positive attention and love.
You also need some respite, someone who can be with your baby while you take a nap, take a walk, or get a haircut. These small things are the essence of “self-care” when you have a baby at home. Obviously, the pandemic has complicated the process of bringing another individual into your household. If there is a way to safely do so for even three hours a week, you should.
Normally, I would suggest that your husband watch your baby, solo, for several hours during a weekend day (because the best way to understand what a full-time mom goes through is to experience a bit of it, yourself), but given his extreme limitations, this might not be the wisest course.
I assume that he might be modeling attitudes and behavior he experienced in his own household growing up, and one way to talk to him about your needs might be to ask him about his own parents’ attitudes about work and family.
Dear Amy: My husband and I have been very happily married for more than 40 years. He signs my birthday card “Love, John,” but that is about it for “out loud” I love yous.
However, he gets up every morning, boils the kettle and makes tea, bringing me a perfectly brewed cup.
I have told him and lots of other people that I consider this his “I love you.” I will settle for this for another 40 years.
L. Clark, in Ontario
Dear L: I am enjoying these sweet endorsements for nonverbal expressions of love.
You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.
Dan Carter was a reporter for nomad Labs, before becoming the lead editor. Dan has over forty bylines and has reported on countless stories concerning all things related to tech and science. Dan studied at CSUF.