Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

Ask Natalie: Daughter won’t speak to you because of her boyfriend? Not ready for a baby but older husband is pushing the issue?

DEAR NATALIE: My daughter is in her first year of college and she's been dating the same boy for three years now. They've been having issues: She calls and he doesn't respond; girls are leaving comments on his Instagram, etc... She confided in me. As her mother I gave her my honest advice. She's 18 and she should be focusing on school and herself. The last thing I want is for her to look back at her teenage years and regret she was stuck in a relationship and didn't enjoy herself. But now she’s mad at me. She’s not texting me like she usually does. We have a standing Zoom call every Thursday and she’s canceled the last three. Here's the best part! Her grandmother’s birthday was last week. She was supposed to surprise her by driving home to see her (safely from a distance) and she never showed or called. Finally, I get a text message at 2:38AM that night: "I got in late, wasn't gonna make it on time. Sry." I'm hurt, I'm offended, and feel as though she is choosing this boyfriend over her family. She didn’t like my advice, but I’ve never taught her to ice people out when you’re upset. I have no idea how to deal with her like this. It’s so out of character. —UPSET MOM

DEAR UPSET MOM: Let me start by acknowledging your feelings. You have every reason to feel hurt. Your daughter is acting selfish and immature.  She wanted to come to you with her problems, but she doesn’t want to hear what you have to say. Experience is the best teacher in times like these. She may feel stuck and not sure how to free herself. I would try to keep the lines of communication open with her while she struggles with what to do. You may want to text her and say something like: “I know you are going through a hard time. I only gave you my opinion because you asked me, but know that I’m here for you no matter what.” See what she says. If you do get a chance to speak with her, lead with love, but also let her know that cutting off communication is not how to deal with problems. It won’t make those problems go away, and instead, it will only add more stress to the situation. She is growing into her own person and this is a challenging time. Try to keep that in mind as you both navigate the waters, and recognize that there is only so much that you as her mother can do at this point. She is on her own path and sometimes the road can be a bumpy one. 

DEAR NATALIE: I am 24-years-old and have been married for about a year. My husband is older, he’s 35, and has a great job in finance. I just finished college last year and I am looking for work which has been challenging this year because of the pandemic. He keeps dropping hints that he really wants to have a baby, but I don’t think I’m ready. I’m still not sure what I want to do with my life. He got really upset the other night, saying, “I married a woman so we could start a family, not so she could ‘find herself.’” His comment really caught me off-guard. I feel like he isn’t hearing me, and he doesn’t care that I’m just not ready. How do I put off having kids with him for at least a few more years? I really wanted to just be married for a while and focus on my own path. But now I’m worried if I don’t get pregnant soon, he’s going to be upset. Suggestions? —NOT READY 

DEAR NOT READY: Having a baby is a life-altering experience. It is completely fair that at only 24-years-old, you aren’t ready. From reading your letter, it seems as though you have more you want to do before having a baby. It also seems as though you and your husband didn’t communicate clearly about this before you were married, and now there is some friction. Both of you will have to learn to adapt and compromise along the way. However, his comment really rubbed me the wrong way. If he didn’t want you to ‘find yourself’ maybe he shouldn’t have married such a young woman. It makes perfect sense that at your age you are discovering who you want to be and what you want to do. Also, spoiler alert: Even as you grow into yourself, and move forward into your 30s, 40s and beyond, you may still want to reinvent who you are and continue evolving. That is what makes us human. His remark was condescending and rude. I would stick to your guns on this. You are going to be the one to be pregnant. You will be the one to give birth. The baby will depend on you. Don’t downplay the sacredness of this decision, or the finality of it. Take another year or two for yourself. Discover what brings you joy and awakens your creativity. If he can’t handle your sense of autonomy, maybe he isn’t the best partner to have a baby with in the first place. You are his wife, not a baby machine. If he doesn’t know the difference, maybe he doesn’t deserve you. 

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