The Little Things
Caroline Manzo tackles questions on family time, teen troubles, and Greg's relationship status.
Susan from Nashville, TN says: Caroline - My husband is a very busy physician and works at least 80 hours a week. I don't see this changing anytime soon. While I am grateful that he is working (I know how things can change on a dime), I often feel lonely and disconnected. We have one young son and we live 2,000 miles away from both of our families. I want our family to be close, but my husband is hardly home. Any suggestions?
Caroline says: I know the feeling Susan, my husband works long hours as well, but this is something I knew and accepted as part of our relationship from the very beginning. I would imagine that the same holds true for a doctor's wife.
Your husband works in a demanding, high-pressure environment, and he's obligated to be available for his patients. I can understand how his job can be time consuming.
I'd suggest that you have a conversation with your husband and try to find a balance between his work and home life. It's important that you both are on the same page and see things the same way. Long hours certainly affect a marriage, so try to find a way to make it part of who you are as a couple and parents too.
What's your husband's home attitude like? Does he make an effort to spend time with you and your son? If so then good quality time goes a long way and makes up for minimal quantity time. In other words seize the moment, connect, and communicate in a positive manner. Show affection to one and other; children recognize this and feel the love between mom and dad. Take it further by interacting with your son -- laugh, hug, kiss, and tickle -- physical affection is an affirmation of family unity and love. These are feelings your son will remember and connect to.
When your husband is working, take a minute to call or send a text with a photo attached from you and your son to say hi, show him you're thinking of him. Leave a lipstick kiss on the bathroom mirror for when he comes home late. There are so many little things you can do to stay relevant in each other's thoughts. What may seem like a small gesture goes a long way.
As for yourself, you have to adjust your way of thinking. Your marriage is different than most, you have to put a little more effort into making it work. That's not a bad thing, it's just reality. Adapt to the hours and spend your time together wisely.
Be positive don't dwell on the negative. You both play a very important role in the family dynamic, and you should support each other in those roles. Remember, he may be feeling your absence and feel badly about missing time spent together too.
I'm sure you're feelings of loneliness are magnified with your families being so far away, and I can understand where you're coming from. Again, it is what it is… find something that interests you -- volunteer at the hospital or your child's school, join a gym, meet girlfriends for lunch/shopping, take classes at your local college, the possibilities are endless. Just DO SOMETHING, don't sit around feeling sorry for yourself. That will only get you nowhere fast.
Trust me, Susan, I've been in your shoes. I still am, attitude is everything. If you have a good man and your relationship is solid, you will find a way to make it work. Good luck! xo
Sophie from Houston TX says: Hi, Caroline! I have two teenage daughters. One is 15 and one just turned 14. I am very close with my younger daughter. We have a very healthy relationship and she cares about my advice. My older daughter barely talks to me. She will get home and stay in her room for the rest of the afternoon or night. At family dinners, she just rolls her eyes or stays completely quiet. Her 16th birthday is next month and does not want a family dinner or a party with her close friends. How do you suggest I speak with my daughter to create a healthy relationship? Thank you for your help!
Caroline says: I'm assuming you haven't had a conversation with your daughter yet, Sophie, and I absolutely believe you should do so. It's so important to communicate with your children, have an open dialogue, and discuss anything and everything. You don't want your daughter to think the only time you sit and talk with her is when there's a problem, which will only lead her to associate time spent with you to a negative feeling.
I would suggest that you take her on a shopping trip or out to lunch and have the conversation be less of an intervention and more of a mother/daughter outing. Be positive and supportive; LISTEN to what she has to say. Do not compare her to your other daughter! They are individuals and should be treated as such. Expect her to go on the defensive, remember she's still a child, and won't know how to put her thoughts into words. She may even assume that you are lecturing her --this is why I suggest a girls' day out type of atmosphere. Try to keep it relaxed and friendly, and if she opens up to you, sit and listen don't preach! Tell her you were her age once and can relate on some levels. Ask her questions and have patience; she may not be able to verbalize what she's feeling and become argumentative because she's frustrated.
She may feel threatened and a little hurt by your relationship with your younger daughter. This may be her way of getting attention. Try to understand where she's coming from and do not bring your younger daughter into the conversation. If she brings her sister up, listen to what she has to say and remember hurt may come out in a nasty delivery. Respond in a positive, nurturing manner. Show her the love.
Keep an eye on her. If she regresses into herself and is bringing home poor grades or starts hanging out with a bad crowd, then you need to seek professional help. Start with her school principal and guidance counselor. If they see what you do bring it a step further and talk to your doctor. Ask for advice.
The teenage years are tough. Kids don't feel like kids, but they know they don't fit into the adult world. They're kind of in limbo. Just show your daughter love and attention, she'll come around, give her time. Good luck!
Jake from Austin, TX says: What's the deal with Greg? Is he single?
Caroline says: Greg is taken! He is with a nice young man from Baltimore, who's studying to be a plastic surgeon!
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