My High Expectations Are Killing My Marriage

Perhaps my marriage isn’t dying per se, but the high expectations that I have placed upon my spouse are definitely not helping matters around here.

Aim for the stars.
Never settle for less than the best.
Set your sights high, girl.
These female empowerment mantras are slowly killing my marriage.
Allow me to back up just a titch here: Perhaps my marriage isn’t dying per say, but the high expectations that I have placed upon my spouse are definitely not helping matters around here.
You see, when it comes to domesticity, I am a champion. I can chop veggies, help with homework, pack lunches, and talk on the phone all at the same time. I swear I can fold laundry with my toes while hot gluing school projects together and breaking up a sister fight all at once. In the span of one hour, I can run approximately 12 errands on opposing sides of town.
Having four young kids and a mountain of household chores and daily tasks has forced me to become the ultimate multi-tasker. This here is my jam, my talent, and apparently my marital curse.
My husband, as good of a father as he may be, will never be the badass multi-tasking parent that I have become. And it annoys me. In turn, I annoy him. Somewhere down the line, I have created a beast.
The beast is me.
I expect myself to run ragged attending to daily life, and dammit, I expect the same of him. If I can do it why can’t he?
Because he simply can’t. And the why isn’t even relevant or important. What’s important is recognizing (once and for all) that he is who he is, and he is going to do things differently than me. When he cooks dinner, that is exactly what he is doing. In fact, that is what I asked of him:
Cook dinner.
He does what he is asked (told), so why am I perpetually pissed off all of the time? Well, when I cook dinner, 99 percent of the time I am alone with no adult assistance in sight. My dinner prep must always include homework help, packing for sports, doing dishes, wiping counters, and making school lunches. Basically, anything that might be done near or within the kitchen vicinity gets folded into dinner prep.
Then, once in a blue moon, my husband comes home in time to cook. Dirty pots get strewn about because, like most normal people, he plans to clean up the kitchen after dinner. Because my busy, multitasking mind does things in such an opposite manner, watching him take over makes me insane.
How is he not cleaning as he goes? Really…is he mental?
No, Kristin. You are.
The expectations I have set for myself and set upon my partner will always make him look like less. I have screwed him, and not in the way he would prefer to be screwed.
I ask him to pick up the playroom. He does just that. He doesn’t see the fight breaking out 12 feet away from him or the mess on the dining room table. Because he is picking up the damn playroom, just like I asked. All the while, I am miffed because he is only doing one thing.
Again, my expectations can’t be met. I have set the bar so incredibly high that he needs a damn rocket ship to reach it. These unattainable expectations make me look like a perpetual bitch to him and, to me, he looks like a sloth wading through peanut butter.
This is not good, folks. For years, I saw the problem as his problem.
He can’t…
He won’t…
He doesn’t…
Now I am starting to see things differently, shifting my perspective so that my marriage doesn’t end up in the gutter. The problem is not him (completely). The problem is me and those damn expectations. They have caused resentment on both sides – me never feeling like he is doing his half and him never feeling like he is good enough. Things certainly can’t continue on this way.
It’s time to lower my expectations.
Hopefully, good things will begin to fall into place. It starts with my gratefulness for what he is able to do at his 100 percent and accepting that his 100 percent looks different than my own. These shifts in my attitude and thinking might trigger a rise in his confidence and ability to feel like a more capable and appreciated contributor to the family.
Positivity breeds more positivity, right?
This is such simple thinking yet so hard to master. You read this and want to say, “Duh, Kristin.” Life doesn’t follow paper form though, does it? Emotions and exhaustion take over and we find ourselves just getting by. Irritation and negativity creep on in and, before we know it, we’re sitting at square one again, pissed off and disconnected.
Marriage is a ton of work. A healthy marriage with four small kids in constant tow sometimes borders on impossible. So here we are again, recognizing our faults and pulling ourselves out of life’s mud, because this family is the one thing we refuse to fail at.
Good luck, us.
Change is hard.

Four Ways to Be Allies With Your Kid's Teacher

What we can do as parents to promote a positive relationship with the teachers who invest in the lives of our children?

When “Parenting” magazine joined forces with the National Education Association to study the delicate bridge that unites parents and teachers, their 2012 study found that 68 percent of teachers report difficulty when dealing with parents. Meanwhile, 63 percent of parents indicated that they’d never had difficulty in dealing with teachers.

The question stemming from this research leads us to ask what we can do as parents to promote a positive relationship with the teachers who invest in the lives of our children. For elementary-age children, up to six hours of the day will be spent with one primary teacher. Even as our children emerge into upper grades and encounter dozens of different teachers, these adults will make a formidable impact on the lives of the students they teach. Parents are wise to facilitate positive relationships with the adults who will shape the lives of their children.

For seven years, I taught students with disabilities at a public high school. I experienced drastic extremes as I worked with a wide variety of parents. Some parents did all they could to build a positive relationship with me, while others seemed defensive and guarded from the beginning of the school year. The tone set at the beginning of the year generally indicated the direction of our relationship throughout the rest of the year. 

Fifteen years later, I find it interesting to explore this concept from the other side of the desk. I left the classroom as a teacher in 2011. I only enter the classroom as a parent in this season of life. My hope is to form a partnership with my children’s teachers and work together for the benefit of my children.

Here are a few simple strategies that any parent can implement to foster a positive relationship with their child’s teacher:

Start on a good note

Regardless of what you’ve heard about this teacher from friends and disgruntled community members, remember that this is only one side of the story. Do the best you can to dismiss any negative comments you’ve heard about and begin the year with a clean slate. 

One way to make a positive impression on a teacher who will spend large amounts of time with your child is to write a quick note about a week into the new school year. Make it short. Be friendly and upbeat. Thank the teacher for the work that went into preparing for the year, and end with something like, “We’re looking forward to a wonderful year!” 

Just as it sometimes seems like we’re sending our children into an unknown world of people without recognizable faces, peering into the home-life of a student can feel the same way for a teacher. Introducing yourself before any potential issues arise is a great way to start. If there is an academic or behavioral issue down the road, you will already have a positive foundation on which to build.

Send needed supplies

This might seem obvious enough, but it seems there is a misunderstanding among many parent communities in which every parent assumes that someone else will send in the requested hand sanitizer, snacks, paper towels, or other items. Assuming that another parent probably sent the requested items often leads to basic classroom needs that remain unmet.

According to a 2015 survey of teachers by SheerID and Agile Education Marketing, K-12 teachers spend an average of $490 on their classrooms annually. When parents lessen the teacher’s load by sending requested classroom items, they partner with teachers and show support in a very tangible way. 

Expect the best

In every profession, there are a wide array of personality types and individuals with different degrees of drivenness.Teaching is no different.Though our personalities – and even our personal philosophies on education – may differ drastically from those of our children’s teachers, we take a step in a positive direction when we believe the best.

Believe this teacher has your child’s best interests in mind. Believe you’re on the same team. Believe you both ultimately have the same goal: the educational success of your child.

Let go of the little things

Just as we “pick our battles” with our children, we can operate in a similar mindset when it comes to school. We are called to be our children’s biggest advocates, but there is room for considering when we need to take a stand and when it’s time to let go of something trivial. 

While it might be tempting to send an email on the second day of school to address the rule about using only the school-provided pencil boxes, we’re wise to let go of issues that won’t make a major educational or emotional impact on our children. 

A rule among teachers is to start the year on a positive note with parents. This way, if difficulty arises later, a positive relationship already exists. Parents who follow the same imperative take steps toward a constructive partnership that suits the best interests of their children.

Professional Potty Trainers and Two Other Early Parenting Coaches You Can Totally Hire

Though pricey, these services can make a world of difference for families struggling through early parenting milestones.

You’re two or three weeks postpartum and, despite all your good intentions and the mountain of breastfeeding literature you read during your pregnancy, your little one is not nursing well. Your pediatrician recommends a lactation consultant and after one visit and another week of practice he’s latching on with gusto.
That’s just one of the many ways a personal trainer can help parents through their most difficult moments. Although the prices are more than many families would initially feel comfortable with, these services can make a world of difference for families struggling through these milestones.

Professional potty trainer

If you’re a parent on social media, you probably don’t go a day without seeing a story about potty training. It might be the parent who is boasting about training junior at nine months. It might be the parent lamenting the child deliberately defecating on the furniture. Or it might be the so-crazy-it-might-just-work advice from parents with a sample size of one kid. There’s also the much saner adage that all kids will figure it out by kindergarten, but that often goes ignored due to preschool potty-training requirements.
Parents staring down a preschool start date might start with the over 2,000 potty-training titles available on Amazon. Those looking for more personalized help can choose from a range of options, from group classes to potty training camps to private online forums to phone consultations to live-in help. The most common approach is the one-hour phone consultation, during which the potty trainer and parent discuss the child’s potty training progress and work together to develop a comprehensive plan for success. Some consultation packages include e-mail or text follow-ups in case parents need help sticking to their plans.
These consultations aren’t cheap. An individualized plan plus 60-minute potty training phone consult with Oh Crap! Potty Training in Chicago will run you $180. A similar package at The Potty Whisperer runs $450. NYC Potty Training’s phone consult will set you back $600. Potty training companies charge thousands of dollars for two-day live-in sessions (roughly $40 per hour, considering that the trainer is effectively working 48 straight hours).
Before you write off the ridiculous things that monied people will buy, it’s worth considering who can benefit from these services. For parents of children with disabilities, professional potty training can be a lifesaver. Ashley Hickey of Successful Potty Training specializes in potty training children with Autism spectrum disorder, but has expanded her practice to work with children with disabilities. What can initially seem like a ridiculous business model built on parents’ laziness is actually an amazing service for parents of children with special needs. These coaches can give previously untrained kids a magical gift of independence.
Even if your child is developmentally typical, you might find that $250 for a single potty-training session is less money than you’re spending on various enticing toilet seats, potty training books, bribes, and cleaning supplies.

Certified sleep consultant

If your social media feeds aren’t full of parents complaining about potty training, that’s probably just because they’re crowded out by parents discussing their babies’ sleep schedules.
Parents struggling to sleep train their children have a range of options, among them e-mail and phone consultations, in-home visits, group parties, and even expectant parent workshops for parents trying to get a leg up on future sleep disturbances.
Like potty training coaches, sleep consultants charge high prices for their services. Quiet Nights in Phoenix charges $528 for an in-home consultation, video library access, and follow up phone calls and e-mails. Blissful Baby in Houston charges $590 for a two-hour home consultation plus phone and e-mail support. At Dream Team in New York, parents can choose from phone consultations and in-home round-the-clock help. A single overnight stay is $1,950 if you’re local and $2,300 if you’re more than 45 minutes away.
Those prices seem absolutely outrageous to parents. But considering how much the parenting landscape has changed in the past few decades, that may be money well spent.
Sleep training is not a difficult physical problem to solve. It is, however, a complex philosophical one, because parents often don’t see eye-to-eye about how to help their babies sleep. Parents have certainly disagreed about exactly how to parent before. But at least two large changes have made it more difficult to settle those disagreements. Today’s parents are confronted with tens of thousands of books and websites competing for our attention by fueling debates about the “right” way to raise children. All of that expertise makes it difficult to choose a sleep training method and stick to it.
Furthermore, as men are expected to be more equal co-parents, they may be offering more opinions about childrearing, increasing the opportunities for disagreement. If the parents are not completely in sync with their approach, or they apply their approach inconsistently, sleep training generally fails.
The key to sleep training – any kind of baby training, really – is in being a unified front. What you’re buying with a sleep coach is, first and foremost, time to talk with your partner about how you want to put your child to sleep.
Researchers have found that overall happiness levels drop after the birth of a child, perhaps in part because parents are so sleep-deprived. Paying for a baby sleep consultant could help those parents save their sleep and their sanity. A sleep-trained child might even help save the parents the cost of future marital counseling sessions.

Parenting coach

Maybe you’re not worried about all of your parenting and not just a specific issue like potty training. You might feel overwhelmed by the messes in your home, discipline issues with your child, fighting among siblings, or a frayed relationship with your partner.
If you hire a potty trainer or baby sleep consultant, your child is likely to notice another person in the room. But many parenting coaches will never even meet your child. That’s by design, because in this case the coach is not helping your child reach a milestone. The coach is helping you reach your own parenting milestones.
Many parenting coaches offer phone or Skype consultations, as well as in-office meetings. Because many parents are looking to retool their entire approach to parenting, parent coaches often recommend 10-12 recurring sessions so that parents can learn and practice over the course of multiple months.
Parent coaching is predominantly charged like a therapist’s hour (50-minute sessions). Rates vary greatly depending on the expertise and/or certification of the coach. The Parenting Coach charges $225 for two sessions, while Positive Parenting Solutions charges $225 per session. Some parenting coaches receive credentials from organizations like the Parent Coaching Institute (PCI), which also features a list of certified coaches by state.
The PCI’s website insists that parenting coaching isn’t just for those who feel they’re doing it “wrong.” In fact, they argue, “people who hire coaches are already doing their best.” They group parents among musicians, athletes, and any talented people who “embrace opportunities to do better.” Parent coaching is for any parent who wants to be a better parent.
All of these coaches, whether they’re teaching potty training, sleep, or parenting in general, reflect a bigger phenomenon. When we read about how some kid potty trained at nine months, or how some other kid always sleeps for 12 hours, or how some parent is always feeling #blessed with her kids while we’re feeling terrorized by our own, we look at other parents and feel like we’re not measuring up.
On top of these stresses, we increasingly find ourselves moving for work and living apart from large family networks, making it harder for us to get help through the occasional daily drudgery of parenting. Professional potty trainers, sleep consultants, and parenting coaches can fill a role that was previously filled by siblings, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. Although that extra time can come at a price, it may in some cases be worth months of more relaxed and satisfying time with our families.

Please Withhold Your Husband Logic From This Wife's Irrational Whim. (On Second Thought…)

You’ve got to admit that nothing douses a spontaneity high like someone questioning your motives.

For me, the ultimate freedom is not having to explain myself to others. I love not needing to supply reasons for things. I relish the weightlessness of “it just feels right.” You’ve got to admit that nothing douses a spontaneity high like someone questioning your motives.
Growing up, there was a saying in my family perpetuated by my dad and his father before him, which they inevitably directed at their wives: “That’s your mother, children!” Dad would say this whenever Mom did something amusing or daft or inexplicable. I can picture my grandfather saying it whenever Grandmother did something eccentric or unapologetically forthright.
Another family saying, also mostly said by the fathers of the mothers: “Always positive. Always wrong.” In other words, so stubbornly resolute were these women in their perspectives at times that they refused to listen to reason. (This stubbornness could just as often apply to the fathers, of course, but the mothers seemed less inclined to drive their wins home with a verbal victory lap.)
While these expressions in writing may seem condescending, my impression as a child was that they were said with levity, in a spirit of reconciliation – to gently tease or deflate mounting tension. The words had a way of magically shifting conflict or discomfort into something we could all laugh about.
What I realize now is that these comments were often upside-down terms of endearment. In the silence afterwards, you could almost feel my father’s affection for my mom, as if in parentheses: “That’s your mother, children! (And I wouldn’t have it any other way.)”
These swatches of verbal history suggest that the husbands in my extended family have often been the grounded, pragmatic, sensible sorts, while the wives have been the playful, unpredictable, often impulsive sorts. Surprise, surprise…this apple has not fallen far from that woman tree.
Sometimes I wonder if my ambivalence to my partner’s measured sensibilities might ultimately drive him crazy. Other times, I am convinced he is lucky that I’m saving him from a life of predictability and boredom. Type A I am not. And neither is he, but he is by far the steady hand on the rudder of this spousal ship. There are times – oh so many times – when I’d be sunk without him.
Like the time he basically finished building our half-built house after our labor budget went up in (unbelievably inefficient general contractor) smoke. And the time he saved us a heap of money by contesting an erroneous property assessment. And all the times he deals with our car issues and our leaky plumbing issues and our dog-meets-porcupine issues, not to mention the never-ending trash and recycling.
There are times, however, when what’s needed is not logic or efficiency or even an unflappable work ethic. Sometimes you need to flat-out get crazy. Sometimes you need to shoot the moon. You need to head out into the downpour of your life without a jacket or shoes. You need to stay up all night writing (this) or read a couple more pages of “Moby Dick” with your nine-year-old even though it’s way past bedtime, because holy shit! “Moby Dick”!?
Sometimes you need to do things because they strike your flipping fancy and that is all there is to say about it. You might find yourself regressing to adolescence and answering every question with “up yer butt!” or “that’s what she said!” just to underscore the astonishing absurdity of everything.
You might even need to bust out into an air guitar solo in the kitchen at a totally inopportune moment because there is simply no other segue to the thing that’s just been said. Other than an awesome air guitar solo.
It’s about balancing the stark realities of life with the soft desirables – with laughter and music and get-aways and good friends. It’s about keeping each other guessing and yearning and being okay with a certain amount of chaos. Sometimes it’s about sitting with the discomfort before you can figure out how to pass through it. Maybe you don’t pass through it. Maybe it’s a part of you, and maybe that’s okay.
When things feel dark, we need to know a few tricks for finding the light. When the burden feels heavy, it helps to have a knack for lightness. I come up with cockamamie ideas that will never pan out because it’s fun to imagine the impossible panning out. If you get all serious talking to me about why it doesn’t make sense to go south to see a friend if, later, we have to go north for an appointment, how about a quick trip to Antarctica before lunch?
The thing is, though, I take after my dad as well. Scratch that. I try to take after my dad, not always successfully. I crave order and reason. I long to block out distractions, the temptations, the dizzying alternatives. I would trade a limb for the ability to make a sound decision and stick to it with no regrets. I would kill to be able to hold my shit together in situations when the holding together of shit eradicates, or at least dissipates, confusion, hurt, and misunderstanding.
I long for the absolutes, the clean lines of a “no, thank you,” the well-framed arguments that hold themselves together like bomb-proof scaffolding. And yes, I hang onto the steady hand of a partner who says with utmost certainty, “It’s going to be alright. We got this.”
Provided I can freely wail on my air guitar in the kitchen because, well, “That’s your mother, children!”

Learning to Properly Season Your Meats Leads to a Healthy Marriage

Marriage is both the short answer and the process by which I traveled to a more respectable place in the kitchen.

How did I get from there to here?

It’s a question I’ve asked myself a lot since traveling down the strange but trippy path of parenting and marriage, and it’s become a special point of irony when it often pops into my grey matter while working in the kitchen. It’s ironic because I hate cooking.

Once upon a time, my idea of a meal was that it could easily be obtained from any fine eatery, like a supermarket or convenience store, but usually a restaurant. For me, spending time in the kitchen was, and arguably still is, frustrating, often rage-inducing, and mostly a guaranteed disaster.

A few years ago, before a family gathering, my wife’s grandmother salaciously admitted to us that she “didn’t like cooking at all.” It’s a fact apparently not commonly known amongst her progeny, but I found validation in her confession.

Fuck cooking.

In my heart of hearts, I’d prefer that we, the kitchen and I, remain strangers. The Cosmos, though, being the master of good luck and misfortune, also has a mean sense of humor. No matter where I run and hide, the kitchen comes to find me.

It’s true. Before this perpetual cat-and-mouse game, I’d cooked meals before, but my earliest masterpiece consisted of overcooked chicken, an assortment of veggies, and al dente pasta that often came out fused together. My pasta was mostly edible and would feed you, without pleasure, for days.

Now, however, there’s a rhythm to my presence in the kitchen. I clean it and even know where shit is. More importantly, I use it for its primary purpose: to cook. (The other purpose being a place where family congregates, no matter the size of the space.)

Our tiny apartment kitchen is my transformation chamber where I do something the me from years ago thought impossible. I use handheld juicers, zesters, and even a mandolin correctly.

What’s a mandolin? If your immediate answer is that it’s some kind of musical instrument, you’d be correct, but it’s also a kitchen utensil. The revelation is quite mind-blowing to the uninitiated, but it’s true. You can get even, thin slices of any fruit or vegetable with it. I don’t answer this question pedantically so as to impress you, but to impress upon you my continued shock that someone like me answered this rhetorical question without the aide of Google.

So, how did I get from there to here? Marriage is both the short answer and the process by which I traveled to a more respectable place in the kitchen.

Necessity may be the mother of all invention, but it should also be said that it’s the father of all learning, too. Or mother. Or whatever metaphorical gender non-specific guide you need on the path of knowledge.

The point is that without me learning some cooking skills my wife would’ve kicked me out ages ago.

That’s hyperbole, but it also says something about the nature of relationships: you can win someone over with a prepared meal. I realize this may sound overly simplistic, but search whatever that thing is you call a soul and tell me it’s not true. Even bitter arguments have a difficult time surviving the gesture of offered food – especially when you’re hungry and don’t have to prepare it.

“You’re an asshole!”

“Dinner’s done, sweetheart.”

“I love you.”

See? It’s simple and it happens like that every time. Who wouldn’t strive to learn a modicum of this skill and understand its power? Fools and madmen, that’s who.

I am a fool and a madman, but I’ve realized that unknown life skills remain that way to recalcitrant wanderers, such as myself, for good reason. An innate proclivity to procrastination and the ease of convenience always diverted me from the time-consuming, trial-and-error reality of cooking. (That’s what meal prep is to anyone with no cooking skills or hates it or both.)

My first real foray into cooking was a joint venture with a new ally, my wife, but our communication strategy failed and there was much we had to learn about working together. We spent long hours in the kitchen with me sweating profusely over the fine details of simply seasoning various meats while my wife stood on a step ladder, megaphone and whip in hand. Sometimes our daughter helped by washing dishes, butchering vegetables with a plastic knife, or reiterating my wife’s instructions as if they were her own original ideas.

Over the years, this painful learning process has yielded results. I no longer burn everything I cook and my wife no longer requires the whip and megaphone. Our cooking strategy and seamless communication has evolved, as well. We take turns, share duties, and imbibe too much wine and beer while we cook together.

Our marriage is better off too. Within the formerly shunned domain of the kitchen, I’ve learned valuable life and relationship skills, and my wife has learned to eat my mistakes.

It’s all quite beautiful and meaningful, like an after school special, but it’s real.

(The child is a lost cause, though, as she still pawns our ideas and instructions off as her own. She’s also found my wife’s megaphone but prefers a light saber to the whip.)

Am I missing some greater theme here? Perhaps. But that’s how we got from there to here.

Bon appétit.

How to Parent on the Same Wavelength Even When You Disagree

Even when partners both agree on important values for their kids, they might not agree on the most effective method to get there.

Parenting is filled with disagreements: how long kids should be on screens, how much candy they can have, how many extracurricular activities they need to be involved in, should they be paid for tasks or not, and so on.
How we were raised has a great impact on our parenting beliefs. We either want to parent like our parents did, or want to do the exact opposite of what they did. Whether we like it not, our cultural, social, and historical background largely impacts how we perceive our roles as mothers and fathers, and how we believe kids should be raised.
Problem is, those beliefs aren’t always in line with our partner’s beliefs, and even when partners both agree on important values for their kids, they might not agree on the most effective method to get there. Parenting from the same page is not always easy.
 
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Although parenting on different wavelengths doesn’t necessarily mean that your relationship is in trouble or that your partner is a “terrible parent,” it can send confusing messages to kids and can cause friction in your relationship

How to parent on the same page

Parenting on the same page doesn’t mean trying to erase all differences in parenting styles. In any event, minor differences will always exist and can even be positive. Here are five ways to parent on the same page:

1 | Find out why things bother you

Sometimes a deep reflection on the things that bother us can reveal interesting things. Sometimes, our values are guided by others’ perceptions of the type of parents we should be. Sometimes they’re guided by misinformation. Knowing what drives our parenting beliefs and getting informed on the things that bug us can help us better identify what really matters.

2 | Get vocal about what really matters to you

Although your partner might know that something about your different parenting values bothers you, he might not know the extent to which it really bothers you if you don’t voice it. Speaking about the values that really count makes it easier for your partner to see things from your perspective. It might also reveal that you’re not as opposed to one another as you think.
Let your partner know if you feel really strongly about something and ask for support. You might say something like, “I know you don’t feel the same way about this but it really bothers me. I’d really appreciate your support.”

3 | Negotiate over major differences

Major differences in parenting can be frustrating and can put a strain on your relationship. Learning to see things from your partner’s perspective and explaining why you feel the way you do can help you reach a compromise.
To negotiate successfully, you have to be clear about the issue at hand. What are your hot buttons? What are your partner’s hot buttons? What are your non-negotiables? Can you find common ground?
Be sincere and choose the right timing. Negotiations undertaken when you’re angry, tired, or anxious are unlikely to lead to the results you seek.
As with all negotiations, when we attack our partners’ views, they are likely to respond by protecting themselves and attacking right back. Rather than challenge you partner’s views, focus on your own. Use “I feel” and “I think” statements.

4 | Treat minor differences with respect

It’s normal to have differences in parenting styles. Minor differences can even provide a positive experience for kids because they can teach them that people do not have to share the same opinion to get along. Treating each other’s differences with respect also helps kids learn to appreciate differences in other people.

5 | Make a pact to support each other

Unless your partner’s view of parenting involves actions that may be detrimental to your kid, putting up a united front can help you parent on the same page. For example, make a pact to always support the first parent that disciplines a kid, even if it’s against your values.
The thing to remember when you’re on different wavelengths is that the only way to find common ground is to talk and listen.

Why She Falls to Pieces When She Watches Those Awful Romances

She wants you to pursue her. Remember that old-fashioned word “courting?” That’s what she wants. Not sure what that means in this day and age?

Men of the world, you are probably familiar with the following scenario: Somehow or another, you have been suckered into watching a movie you regard as the most grueling two hours of nonsense imaginable (read: romance movie), next to a woman you want to impress. Maybe it’s a first date, a steady girlfriend, or your wife. Regardless, she chose the film, and now you are in it until the closing credits.
Despite your prayers for a swift and uneventful viewing, the woman beside you – who only an hour or so ago seemed a perfectly sensible human being – is now blubbering at some cheesy train wreck on the screen.
We all know how the rest of the evening will play out. Accusing glares. The cold shoulder, maybe? And when you try to ask what’s wrong (or worse, leave her to her misery), the wrath ensues.
She won’t articulate exactly what your crime was. She doesn’t want to. If she has to spell it out for you, the whole point would be missed. The only thing you have to work with for the time being is that she is disgusted with you and you have no idea where in the world you went wrong.
It doesn’t seem fair, does it?
 
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Well, I’m about to spill your sweetheart’s secret. The one she hoped you would figure out on your own.
She wants you to pursue her. Remember that old-fashioned word “courting?” That’s what she wants. Not sure what that means in this day and age? Here are some examples from the cheesy romance movies your lady has likely forced you to watch:
1 | The time in “Say Anything” when Lloyd Dobler holds up the boom box outside Diane’s house. (This one is the gold standard, by the way.)
2 | The way Ryan Gosling looks at any woman his character has a romantic interest in.
3 | When Billy Crystal crashes the New Year’s Eve party in “When Harry Met Sally” and explains why she is so perfect for him because of her imperfections.
4 | The scene in “Love Actually” when Jamie surprises Aurelia at work to propose in her native Portuguese, surrounded by the entire village.
5 | The scene in “Sixteen Candles” when the cars pull away and there stands Jake Ryan, ready to whisk Samantha away to give her the birthday attention she has been pining for.
Alright, I have clearly aged myself with the examples above, but I’m willing to bet that those scenes would reduce a woman of any generation to a hot mess. There is a very specific reason why. In each of the aforementioned scenarios, the man goes out of his way, casts his pride aside, and shows without any chance of misunderstanding that the woman he desires is the most captivating, illuminating, full-fleshed embodiment of his every want and need that he has ever encountered.
Maybe you are turned off by this. Maybe you don’t quite feel that intensely about your partner. If that’s the case, you’re in a whole other situation that we don’t have time for today.
Let’s say you do truly love your woman. She’s the one for you. But, this is not how you roll and no thank you.
Let’s dive into that, shall we?
What your woman wants, what she craves, is your effort. Your lady wants the satisfaction of knowing that she is someone worth working for. This may seem like an archaic notion, but I am not referring to the stereotypical male-provider-and-breadwinner model of thought.
It is the effort of pursuit, of seeking to know your woman intimately. What are her fears, her dreams, her secrets, and her flaws? What are her idiosyncratic aspects that cannot be found in another person ever? What is her siren call?
Too fluffy for you? Well, you did choose her after all. There is something about her that drew you to her in the beginning that separates her from the pack. Build from that.
Maybe you worry you can’t live up to her expectations of romance. If that’s the case, here is the basic guideline:
Your romantic gesture needs to be genuine, unexpected, unsolicited, and you should deliver it when she needs it the most.
If that seems like a Herculean task, fear not. My husband, who is a wonderful human being with countless admirable qualities, could never be accused of being 100 percent in tune with the female psyche. He is a jock, a man’s man through and through. Candle light dinner? Forget it. Serenade in public? Not in this lifetime.
But despite his romantic disinclinations, he did manage to pull off one of the most authentic pursuits of my heart I have ever experienced.
It was my first day back at work after our daughter was born. She was four months old, and my heart hurt from dropping her off at daycare. All I longed for was more time home with her. I was in full on survival mode as I braced myself for my first day back in the trenches in a classroom full of other peoples’ children when all I could think of was my own.
The tears welled up in my eyes but I managed to keep them hidden as I muscled through the routine and distractions. There was a knock at the door. Our school secretary was holding an arrangement of flowers with a beaming smile on her face. When I opened the attached card, it read, “I know these flowers aren’t as beautiful as our baby girl. But I hope they bring a smile to your face. I love you.”
My husband meant those words. I was not expecting to receive anything from him that day. I didn’t ask for it. But I really needed it.
That’s the punch that delivers. Understand who she is and what she wants. Wait for the right moment, and shock the hell out of her.
You don’t have to do it that often. It may even be inadvisable, as it may become exhausting to all involved. But I promise, if you sneak one in every so often, dividends will be paid. Not only will you earn the adoration and loyalty of a lady who feels cherished, you will come to learn how plentifully she can repay the favor in kind.

Facing The U.S. Teacher Shortage: Tips for Choosing an Effective School and Teacher for Your Child

The number of college students pursuing degrees in teaching has dropped 50 percent in five years, and the national teacher shortage is now at crisis levels.

All parents want the best education for their children, and news of teacher shortages is cause for concern. The number of college students pursuing degrees in teaching has dropped 50 percent in five years, and the national teacher shortage is now at crisis levels in some states in which unfilled positions are in the tens of thousands.
In response to extreme teacher shortages, some state legislatures are making teaching certifications easier to obtain, only requiring applicants to exhibit competence in academic content and have prior professional experience, but not formal training or experience in education.
Please take a minute to put this into perspective: The average U.S. classroom has over 30 kids in a room. One teacher is expected to provide an equal amount of attention to each student, many who, although in the same grade, vary in ability by at least two grade levels.
So an adult with strong content knowledge and previous professional experience (let’s say prowess in mathematics and the professional experience of an engineer, a profession that tends to work alone or in small teams of adults) gets hired as an eighth-grade math teacher, in charge of 32 children with academic abilities and behavioral maturity ranging from sixth to tenth grade.  Although an expert in mathematics, this teacher might struggle with classroom management and lack an understanding of how to guide the cognitive development of 32 separate individuals – let alone do it in 60 minutes.
How much does having an effective teacher matter to your child’s success? It matters a lot. Research shows that of all of the variables that influence student achievement, teacher effectiveness makes the biggest difference. Your child might be one of thousands of students receiving instruction from an adult who knows the academic content but is still learning how to teach.
 
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Before we criticize these teachers, let’s acknowledge that people who leave other (often more financially lucrative) professions to teach are admirable, and their passion for teaching might make a lasting impression on children, especially once they can add pedagogy to their areas of expertise. However, effective teaching skills and strategies grow over time, and these new teachers will need substantial support from school and district personnel as well as from parents. Parental involvement is critical.
What can parents do to ensure their children get the best education possible in the current educational environment? First, do your research. Meet with the principal to discuss three important factors:
1 | Opportunities for teachers to work together
2 | The teacher evaluation system
3 | Access to professional development.

Questions for the principal

A school that offers adequate support for teachers will provide time for peer collaboration. Peer collaboration can be in the form of a mentoring program, in which effective veteran teachers mentor novice teachers, or peer coaching, in which teachers work with one another on improving their craft, usually by focusing on one or two important skills and areas for improvement.
Ask your principal when teachers have time to work together, what the school’s mentoring program looks like, and what peer coaching, if any, is provided to all teachers. If you don’t get specific and knowledgeable answers, you might want to consider another school or make sure your child is in a class lead by an experienced and respected teacher.
Another point of discussion with the principal is the teacher evaluation system. Many schools will have a formal teacher evaluation system in place, with a timeline of when it occurs as well as the documents used. Ask the principal if you can see the school’s teacher evaluation instrument. This will most likely be a list of items of what administrators want their teachers to be doing, as well as a rubric used to score the teachers. By knowing the criteria for teacher evaluation and how often it takes place, you will have a better understanding of what the teacher is expected to exhibit in your child’s classroom.
The last item to ask the principal is what kind of continuous job training (also called professional development) is offered to teachers. The school should have a clear professional development plan that connects to the items on the teacher evaluation form. Continued training should be provided to teachers in the areas in which they are expected to excel.
Many schools have early release days so teachers have time to attend professional development. These early release days can be a burden on parents, but if the time is being used to make your child’s teacher more effective, the inconvenience is worth it.
If you are not satisfied with the answers you receive after questioning the principal, you might want to consider finding another school for your child. If you are satisfied with your principal’s plans for teacher collaboration, evaluation, and professional development, then it’s time for phase two: getting to know your child’s teacher and letting the teacher get to know you.

Questions for the teacher

Teachers welcome parent participation in their children’s education. In fact, showing evidence of involving and communicating with parents is probably a part of teachers’ evaluations. Taking the initiative to form a partnership with your child’s teacher – especially when the teacher might be overwhelmed at the beginning of the school year and might not have much time to reach out to you – is a positive, provided you schedule meetings with the teacher in advance and communicate appropriately. (It is not appropriate to just “drop in” during class time.)
Schedule a time to formally meet your child’s teacher without your child being present. Your introductory meeting with the teacher might include these discussion items:

  • The teacher’s background and experience
  • The grade-level academic standards being taught
  • Volunteer opportunities and ways you can help reinforce learning at home
  • How you can follow your child’s progress and monitor grades and attendance.

Conclude your first meeting by letting the teacher know you would like to meet at least quarterly throughout the year, but also on an as-needed basis, and identify times for these meetings that work for you both.
Showing that you are involved in your child’s education does not make you an overbearing “helicopter parent,” as long as you respect the teacher’s boundaries and behave as an ally rather than an adversary. It is also important that you follow through; avoid scheduling meetings only to end up cancelling them at the last minute.

Your role

Finally, remember that a child’s education is more than a single person’s job. Parents are teachers, too. Even if you cannot provide subject-area guidance (how many of us can actually remember geometry formulas?!), you can create expectations for homework completion and identify areas where your child is struggling to help your child to communicate needs for remediation to the teacher.
You can also regularly ask questions about whether or not your child feels safe, respected, and supported at school. The earlier a problem is noticed and addressed, the better for everyone. Again, in most cases, the teacher wants the best for your child. But due to today’s climate, he or she could lack the time, resources, and even training to singlehandedly provide all that your child needs.

Who’s the Spender and Who’s the Saver In Your Relationship? 5 Ways to Make It Work

Ten years worth of personal experience as a spender being married to a saver. It’s not easy. But we make it work.

I worked with two women who used to buy clothes and have them shipped to the office so their husbands wouldn’t know how much they were spending.
I’m not judging. Heck, I’m the spender in my marriage. Right now, I have several hundred dollars’ worth of stuff I can’t wait to get – a banjo, a workout bench…the normal stuff.
But there’s a problem. While I’m very much a spender, my wife is very much not a spender. In fact, she loves saving money. So when we first got married and our two money-spending inclinations collided, there were a few…sparks.

That time I really wanted that book

Early on in our marriage, our budget was tight – so tight that we both agreed we’d stick to our budget, come hell or high water. That is, until we were going to the beach and I had no good book to read. (Fellow book nerds, you know what I’m talking about.)
When we walked by a bookstand the day before our trip, this book – the book – sat aloft a golden book throne and had the most majestic light shining down on it. It was the one. It was my beach book.
But when I inquired as to our status on our budget that week (an answer I already knew, but was in denial about) I was gently reminded about our pact to keep to our budget.
Well, I pitched a full-on toddler fit over the book. And, in the end, I got it. But during the whole beach trip as I read that stupid book, I felt guilty about acting like a toddler and breaking our pact. I look back with embarrassment on that moment.
Fast forward nearly 10 years and we’ve both learned not only how we each work, but also how to best work with each other, and best love each other.
 
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Here’s how we make it work

1 | Admit the benefits of the other side

I am extraordinarily thankful that my wife is a saver. If it weren’t for her, I’d have a pile of toys around me and nothing in the bank. But for my fellow spenders in the house, it ain’t always easy to appreciate your spouse’s inclination to save when that means you have to use a spender’s two-letter curse word: “no.”
I know my wife would say the same about me. I’ve helped her to see the benefits of a good dinner out and an upgrade on a vacation. The sooner you can admit that the other side brings much needed benefits, the better off you will be.

2 | No secrets

Fellow spenders, don’t make secret purchases. I’m not talking about buying shady stuff. I mean, don’t buy anything that you will be tempted to hide from your spouse. It just makes everything worse and prolongs the real conversation you need to have about why you might need that thing, or whether it’s worth saving up for it.
Secret purchases are toxic for a relationship. Just don’t do it.

3 | Agree that you need “spend money”

To all the savers: everyone needs some spend money. Yes, yes, we don’t actually “need” spending money. Anything above paying the bills is just extra. That being said, us spenders will eventually go crazy if we can’t have an occasional treat, even if that treat is inexpensive.

4 | Define “spend money”

Is going out to lunch considered spend money? What if that lunch out is a steakhouse?
My wife and I agreed a long time ago to tell each other before we spent over a certain dollar amount. We also agreed to tell each other about those “little,” “inexpensive” habits that actually add up to a lot over time – like that $4 Starbucks five days a week.

5 | Work together to save up for awesome spending times

Do you know what many of my best childhood memories come from? Vacation. Vacations utilize the best of both of your strengths. You have to save in order to go on vacation, and you get to spend once you’re there.
At the end of the day, it’s all about letting go of control, whether your inclination is to control spending or control getting what you want. Instead, let love and submission (the good kind) rule the day in your relationship and you won’t look back with any regrets.

A Family Without Neat and Tidy Edges is Still a Family

When I’d envisioned my life and future family it lacked any mess or complications. What I, in fact, produced, has been quite the opposite.

We sat around our well-worn kitchen table bearing deep scars from long forgotten but most certainly forbidden, hours of playtime fun, fingernail polish covering almost an entire end, leisurely discussing our day, when some unidentifiable provocation caused my five-year-old daughter to interject:
“I just have one question. Who even is your Dad?”
I shot a pleading glance across the table at my husband. What was the five-year-old appropriate answer to this question? My husband offered no backup. Instead he shrugged compliantly, as if to say, “There’s only the truth.”
My daughter plunged onward. “I mean, I know Nana is your mom, but I’ve never heard you talk about your dad, so I’m just wondering, like, do you even have a dad?”
 
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All eyes at the table stared at me expectantly. “Eh-hem. I want to preface this by saying your Daddy will never, ever not want to be your Daddy anymore. He loves you very much. That will never change, okay?”
My daughter shook her head knowingly and said, “So your dad decided he didn’t want to be your dad, and so then you just kind of got a new dad?”
I pondered. “Actually, yes. That’s exactly what happened.”
“But you don’t see the new dad very often. That’s why I don’t know him?”
“Right.”
“Okay. That’s what I thought. I just wanted to make sure.”
Before I knew it, she was back to discussing which toy she’d most prefer on her next birthday or at Christmas, and I was reeling over how complex this life we lived was, and over what a freaking genius I was raising. How could such complex, layered issues be laid out so simply for her?
My husband and I are blessed with three children to love: his daughter from his first marriage, my son from my first marriage, and our wildly inquisitive daughter together.
When I’d envisioned my life and future family – as one does, perhaps, in the eighth grade, while Mrs. Robertson drones on about an algebraic equation that might as well be Egyptian hieroglyphics – it contained neat and tidy edges, lacking any mess or complications. What I, in fact, produced, has been quite the opposite.
It seems I may be quite prone to “Who’s your Daddy” sort of complications.
In the early days of the blending of our family, I often wondered what in the world we’d done. I watched our older children pack little bags like tiny vagrants and wander back and forth from home to home. I cried myself to sleep thinking surely we’d ruined their lives forever.
It wasn’t that this shuffle wasn’t already occurring, from Mom’s house, now to Dad’s or vice versa. It was all the new players in the game. It was the new normal we’d given them to adjust to right when they had adjusted to the old one. It was the two new homes and families forming with different sets of rules and cultures. I couldn’t fathom how disorienting it all must be.
I knew my husband and I had chosen this. But our children had simply been plunged into yet another new landscape without a map to guide them. It seemed so cruel. How would we ever create a tiny universe within our home where everyone felt safe, valued, loved, seen, and yet still free to love the people within their other home with the fullness of their hearts? How would we ever help facilitate and support those relationships while also nurturing the ones within our own home?
When I got pregnant with my daughter, I kept myself up at night wondering how I would one day explain to her that her brother and sister had different parents than she did. How would I explain why her brother and sister sometimes went to live at other homes while she stayed behind? What would this teach her about the permanence and stability of homes, parents, and family units?
Within 48 hours of delivering my daughter, my son’s father came to pick him up for the week. At that moment, I realized how much of their lives my son and daughter would spend apart. I cried until my tears intermingled with the honey mustard dressing on my salad and the two became indistinguishable.
Along the way, the questions have come.
“Who is my sister’s Mom?”
“Why do I not have another Dad?”
“Why did you decide to marry Daddy?”
Oddly, the answers that came to me in these moments surprised me: “Because, baby, there is life after divorce.”
These words were spoken to me when life was still little more than rubble and ash in the freshly new ruin of divorce. I clung to them, believing they would hold true for me. There would be life for me again.
Divorce was never the ending I envisioned for myself. Nor, was trading out my own dad as a grown woman. Life is complex and imperfect. We don’t always find ourselves at the ending we’d anticipated or hoped for.
And yet, there is life after the first act.
I’ve come to realize there is goodness in my daughter learning this now. While it sometimes makes for tricky dinnertime conversation (and I confess to cringing when she explains the intricate details of our “Who’s your Daddy” set-up to random cashiers), I can assure you there is life, and life abundant, albeit a bit complex.
Who is your Daddy? Not sure? Is the answer tricky to pin down? Who is your baby-Daddy? Is that complicated, as well?
Good news: Life is complex regardless. Perhaps, yes, your five-year-old will spill all of your business at the grocery store. But if this is the worst that happens to any of us, I’d say we’re doing pretty well after all.