Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Reader Criticizes Harriette's Advice

DEAR HARRIETTE: Your advice to “Who’s Watching My Baby?” was certainly not "Sense and Sensitivity." This is exactly why there are so many problems with our next generation.

Any male can contribute to the creation of a human being. It takes a real man to be a parent. You should have advised that young mother that it is time for her boyfriend to learn how to “adult” and leave his Peter Pan years behind.

I’m incredibly disappointed that you would give that boyfriend a free pass and put all the burden of raising the young child on the mother and the grandmother. The message you sent was terrible, and you should retract it. As a member of our local school board, I can speak from experience -- these are exactly the situations that are creating the problems that local school districts, communities and law enforcement have to undo. They're problems created when adults don’t want to parent their own children. -- Take Responsibility

DEAR TAKE RESPONSIBILITY: Thank you for your letter and clear concern about how I addressed a sensitive matter. The question was about a young woman with a baby whose boyfriend is supposed to watch their child on occasion. When it is his turn, he typically gives the child to his mother, who watches the baby. The young mother was upset about this. My response suggested that it may be a blessing that the grandmother is stepping up and caring for the child.

You make an important point here: The young man does need to learn how to care for his child. My intention was not to give him a pass. It was to make sure that the baby is properly cared for. I remember that as responsible as my husband attempted to be in the early days, I was sometimes legitimately worried that he was not as safe as I thought the moment called for. Quite frankly, when my daughter was an infant, I was worried to leave them alone together. I definitely needed help -- including from him -- but it took time before I felt that he was capable of handling her on his own. It was from that perspective that I considered that Grandma watching this baby could be a blessing.

What I didn’t take into account in response to this young woman was that the man does need to figure it out. I recommend that the learning curve would best occur if the couple is together and the new mom can teach him what she wants him to learn about caring for their child. If that is at all possible, it may lead to a healthier engagement on his part and relief on hers -- over time.

Even if they are not together as a couple, given that they both created this child, hopefully he will agree to be an active participant and learn how to care for the baby. If the two can spend some time together each week, he will grow confident enough to watch his child successfully. The new mom can also talk to his mother to ask her to help her son to participate in child care when the baby is there.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to askharriette@harriettecole.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)