DEAR HARRIETTE: I got a new job this year, and it has me traveling more than ever. I like it, but it is taking a toll on my husband. He is so dependent upon me, I don’t think he eats when I am away. I do my best to make food for him that he can warm up, but sometimes I just can’t do it. My schedule is full, and I find it challenging to do everything. My husband does know how to cook, but he doesn’t like to.
I don’t want my job to disrupt my marriage, but I do need him to chip in a bit. Before I took this job, he had been out of work for more than a year and we needed me to find something. I feel like he resents the fact that I got a job. I’m trying to do what’s right for my family. I need my husband to participate and stop making me feel bad for not being able to do everything. -- Stretched Too Thin
DEAR STRETCHED TOO THIN: It’s time for a family meeting. Check in with your husband to find out how he thinks he is managing since you took this job. Point out the obvious: You are on the road a lot, and you feel it is taking a toll on both of you. Tell him that you cannot do all of the things you used to do for the family and that you need his help. Don’t talk about him not having a job. Instead, paint a picture of today and what the needs are, and invite him to step up. At the same time, give yourself permission to stop trying to do everything. If you don’t cook for him every day, he will eventually remember to take care of himself.
DEAR HARRIETTE: When I hear about all of the cool things that some of my kids’ friends are doing for summer, I feel like I haven’t done enough for mine. When I was growing up, summer was a time for kids to play with their friends and chill until school. We didn’t go to camp for sports or academics.
These days, if your kids don’t sign up for some of these extracurricular activities, the assumption is that they are poor or that you don’t care about them. I care a lot. I think there is value in not having every second of their lives scheduled. They are doing well in school, and they seem happy -- until they compare themselves to some of the kids who are, in my opinion, oversubscribed.
How can I get my kids to believe that the way they spend their summer is adequate -- especially when I’m beginning to doubt it myself? -- Summertime
DEAR SUMMERTIME: It is dangerous to even try to keep up with the Joneses. There will always be someone out there who is doing more than you or something different than you. Resist the temptation to compare experiences.
At the same time, look around your city for free or affordable extracurricular activities designed for students. Most cities offer enrichment programs at the local museum or community center. Some colleges offer classes for younger students to get a taste of what’s to come. Utilize the library. Get your children to read and talk about the books they are reading. Many students have at least one required summer reading book. Expand the requirement to several over the summer.
You can engage your children to get them a bit more motivated. You can also remind them -- and yourself -- that some downtime in the summer is valuable as a respite before the school year starts up again.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)