Tag Archives: communication

Keeping The Door Open On The Wonder Years

Teenagers. I gotta admit, I’m not a fan of them. I didn’t always care for them when I was a teenager and now that I’m grown, I find the ones in my neighborhood annoying. They clog my Panera and Starbucks, fester in my mall, and let’s not forget the string of stupid comments they spew during the movies.

Sheesh, I’m getting old and cranky.

My niece and nephew

But I’ve got a niece and nephew who are very, very close to me. My niece is the one we visited as she’s a freshman at the University of Missouri (M-I-Z!!!) and my nephew is 16 going on 17. Sure they have the same teenage traits as the other teens I don’t like, but to me, in them, it’s endearing. Maybe it’s because I love them so fiercely.

Each year we try to plan a trip for them to visit us in Chicago, now that they’re older, they’ve started to come separately and last weekend was my nephew’s first trip solo to Chi-city. I admit I was anxious because I really wanted him to have a fun time and it was important to me that we connect and have honest conversations because I always want them to know that they can come to me for whatever and I’ll be there for them.

But how do you reach out to a teen? Get them to trust you? For me, I’ve just tried to be there, which is hard hundreds of miles away. I talk about my frustrations, my hopes, my fears, my mistakes, thinking that in sharing more of myself with them, they will in turn do the same with me. Is that the right thing? I don’t know, but it’s what I’ve tried to do. And it’s so much easier just being me than trying to show that I’m “perfect.”

Besides, I can only imagine what it’s like being a teenager these days, the hypersexuality of everything, the constant cliques, which can only be exacerbated by Facebook and texting, the normalizing of drug and alcohol use, not to mention just general pressures of life. No way would I want to be a teen now.

One of my mommyfriends loves teenagers, finds their still-evolving minds interesting and their viewpoints of the world refreshing. Before my nephew came, I decided to try to see the world through teen-colored goggles.

While he was here, we had a blast. He spent a half a day at Shedd Aquarium’s Trainer for A Day program, where he worked with dolphins, sea otters, penguins and beluga whales. The worst part? He said it was handling the dead squid for the mammal’s lunch. Best part? Petting the dolphins. He also spent the day with Hubby at Northwestern’s homecoming, where at the alumni tailgating party he said it was interesting to hear all the guys talk about life at their jobs. We also took him out to Indian food, where he thought the food tasted good but the music was weird. 🙂

And for me the best part of the whole visit was that he opened up. We did talk like I had hoped and I felt so lucky to be let in. I’m already looking forward to next year’s trip.

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Staying Connected With Your Loved One? There’s an App For That

Email. Facebook. Twitter. Text message. Voicemail. These are all the ways Hubby and I stay connected. (Outside of talking to each other that is.) It often feels like with our schedules we’re ships passing in the night, but with a little help, we try to make it work.

I was thinking about our relationship earlier this week and was amazed at how much we use technology to communicate whereas years ago couples would *gasp!* speak with each other. We text every morning: “Have a good day!” Or “Good luck with <insert important event/task here>” or “Don’t forget the dry cleaning!”

There’s emails throughout the day, usually focused on scheduling. Someone has to work late, someone has impromptu drinks with an executive, updates on dates and times of doctor appointments, vacations, out-of-town guests, work functions, etc.

When I get off work, I always call him and inevitably get his voicemail, so I give him the update on my day and my plan for the evening. It’s gotten to the point that when he answers, it throws me for a loop. That’s an observation worth revisiting, it catches me off-guard to actually catch my husband on the phone. That can’t be normal, or can it?

We then text each other for the rest of the evening about when he’ll be home, what’s for dinner, how Logan’s doing. Also if one parent is enjoying fun time with Logan and the other one’s away, we text or post pictures on Facebook so the other person can be “there.”

I wonder how do parents make it work when one spouse travels a lot for work? I suppose Skype then comes to the rescue.

Technology can be a funny thing. Did you know there’s even an app for resolving a problem with your spouse? It’s called “Fix A Fight,” and it apparently walks you and your loved one through an eight-step process where you pass the smartphone between each other, answering questions and listening to narration from a marital therapist.

What’s next? Virtual sex? Oh wait, that already exists. But I do wonder what other technologies are yet-to-be developed that families will use to stay connected.

I’m glad we have the technology to help mend the gaps, I personally just wish we didn’t have as many gaps. But as long as the emails, texts, Tweets and apps are enhancing communication and not supplanting it, I think it’s OK.

We do have to remember to aggressively steal away time not only for the big talks, but the chit-chat too because staying connected is what it’s all about.

Finding a Balance in Juggling Demanding Careers

As a journalist, my job is demanding. The hours can be long and are often inflexible, but I love it. I was bit by the bug when I was 16 and haven’t turned back. Hubby’s job is no cake walk either. He works at least 60 hours a week, the past few months it’s been closer to 70. What do you do when both parents have demanding jobs?

I find myself struggling with this a bit, looking for ideas and inspiration, but have found in many couples, one parent has a demanding job and the other’s is either part-time, very flexible or not too stressful. If both parents are operating at a breakneck pace, they’re usually in a tax bracket higher than ours and can afford paying for more help around the house or have family members that can mend the gap.

We haven’t figured out a good formula on how to make this work, because we’re constantly revising our approach, but some of the mainstays have been compromise, communication and courage.

Compromise. What that means depends on the situation. Hubby often works late and in return I get spare time on the weekends to sleep in and catch up on my snooze deficit. This week he’s gone at a conference and I am a single parent all week long. Next weekend I’m staying in the city with a high school friend who’s in town. There’s yin and yang. We don’t have formal agreements of who gets what and I’m sure it’s not always 50/50, but that’s OK. We talk about it, understand and respect each other’s priorities to make it work. Both have to give a bit so that one isn’t resentful of the other. The resentment can easily pop up, but you have to talk about it to squash it out and move on.

Communicate. Not only talk to your spouse, but talk to your employer about what’s going on in your life. I know, moms, we often feel bad about pulling the “child card” (i.e. “Sorry I can’t stay late, I have to pick up my kid from daycare.”) But remember it’s not an excuse, it’s an explanation. Often your back is up against the wall and there really isn’t anything else you can do. Until someone invents a machine that can create two of you, all of us, moms and dads, have to realize that your employer is going to have to accept you saying “No.” You’re never going to be on your death bed wishing you spent just one more day in the office.

Courage. If the situation really isn’t working out for you and your family, and you find it’s tearing your home apart, have the courage to change. Whether that means a new role in the office, a new job entirely, even accepting a pay cut, give it serious thought. In this economy especially, it’s hard to walk away but honestly, Americans (me included) overspend tons, so take a hard look at those finances and take a look at what life would be like with less: less work, less cushion, less juggling, but will it mean more happiness? You decide.

Lying To Your Partner About Your Purchases

Ever told your hubby that your new killer boots were on clearance and by “on clearance” you meant on the way to the clearance rack you stumbled upon the store’s hottest items? Or what about you guys, did you secretly wait in line, procure the iPhone4 and try to pass it off as your old iPhone?

Lying to your spouse about what you spend happens. Actually according to one survey, it happens a lot. The one done recently by credit debt management firm CESI Debt Solutions says 80 percent of married respondents lie to their partners about spending.

Why is that? Some say it’s because their partner needn’t know everything. Marriage is full of compromises and it’s a lot of hard work. On some things people don’t feel like ceding ground, so they shop in secret, or at least delay the truth until the bill arrives.

Hubby and I have a different set up. We don’t have joint accounts, mostly because we never got around to setting one up after we got married. And now, eight years later, this is our normal. Thankfully he takes care of all of the bill-paying, so I just give him a sizable amount of my check for the household and the rest is my play money.

Most of my “extraneous” purchases are clothes and usually I’m so stoked about them, I show him my latest finds. Poor guy, he just patiently nods and smiles. The biggest purchase he’s made that I didn’t know about was when he got the car chipped (to make it drive faster.) But that was also a sort of surprise “gift” for me since I’m such a speed demon.

Another example is when friends of ours were climbing their way out of debt and the husband began squirreling away money. Instead of putting it toward old credit card bills, he spent thousands on new golf clubs. Ouch.

If you’re keeping money secrets because you’re embarrassed about bad spending habits, try to get your partner to help you make better decisions without judgment or condemnations. Also, get a financial planner, we’ve used one and it was helpful.

If it’s about wanting to feel free to make your own decisions, if you can afford to, create a small discretionary fund. It can be all yours, but keep it small, and be open and honest about the purchases.

“They” always say communication is key to a successful marriage and a good chunk of marriages end in divorce over money troubles, so stop lying about your spending people.

Conversations about money are hard, but they’re essential in a relationship. Besides, no one said marriage was a cake walk, they just said you could get cake at the wedding.