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Greener Pastures

Caroline Manzo tackles questions on divorce, privacy, and even her son, Albie.

By Caroline Manzo

Got a question for Caroline? Send it.

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Bobbie from Greenville, NC says: I have two beautiful young daughters and a wonderful husband. I am juggling family, work, and running a household. I have gained almost twenty pounds in five years. My health is suffering. I find myself grabbing sweet tea for breakfast and Pop-Tarts for dinner. How can I find the time to keep my house clean, do my job, keep my children and husband happy, and still remain in good health? After work I can’t even go to the gym because I’m too tired and it’s too expensive. I am happy, but feel that I’ve lost the pizzazz I had before marriage and babies. Please help me feel beautiful again!

Caroline says: You sound like you’re in a rut, Bobbie. It’s more common than you think especially among young mothers. Juggling work, family, and home life isn’t easy, and it’s bound to take a toll on you if you don’t manage it properly. Little adjustments in time management can go a long way.

The simple act of getting yourself and your children dressed and ready for the day is probably a race against time every morning and undoubtedly a stressful process. Make life easier for yourself by laying out everyone’s clothes the night before. If it applies, pack the families snacks and lunches the night before too. Make sure backpacks are packed and ready sitting by the front door. These are just a couple of simple adjustments that don’t take much time at all, but you’d be amazed at what a difference it makes in your morning routine.

You can just as easily grab a cold bottle of water and a piece of fruit for breakfast versus sweet tea. Dinner should never be a Pop-Tart. Believe me, I’m a loyal fan of Pop-Tarts, but there’s a time for them, and it’s not dinner. I love to prepare food for what I refer to as refrigerator food. I cook specific items just to keep in the refrigerator in case I don’t have time to cook one day or just don’t feel like making a mess. For example, you will usually find meatloaf, grilled chicken cutlets, steamed broccoli, beet salad, etc. The list goes on and on.  Instead of grabbing a Pop-Tart, slice a piece of meat loaf instead. This is definitely a lifesaver, and you can prepare the foods at your leisure. A healthy diet is important, and I’m guessing it’s something you’re lacking. This could be one of the reasons why you’re gaining weight and feeling tired.

I’m a big fan of the gym. I feel like it’s a great place to go to get motivated and get back into the fitness groove. Some of us just don’t have the luxury of belonging to one. That shouldn’t deter you from exercising. There are so many DVDs out there that you can purchase and use in the comfort of your own home on your own schedule. Take a walk around your neighborhood and bring the kids with you if you have to. It’s good fresh air and a benefit to all. I could go on and on with examples of simple things you can do at home or work on to maintain a healthy body, but I’m sure you get where I’m going with this.

Keeping up with the house is a challenge, especially with little ones. I have a few little tips I can give you that I’ve found to be helpful to me. I keep disinfecting wipes under my sink in the bathroom, and as part of my morning routine I wipe down the sink and counter tops when I’m done. It takes as much time as brushing your teeth, literally. I use a squeegee on the glass door and the walls of my shower after each use; it eliminates soap scum build up, which makes the process of cleaning the shower much faster and easier. I don’t designate any given day or time to cleaning. I do little things here and there to maintain the overall cleanliness of the house as needed. It takes away the stress of getting everything done in one day. 

Now we need to address the pizzazz issue. It’s so easy to lose your sense of self when you’re juggling so many different things in your life.  I’ve seen so many women get lost in mommy mode and put their needs as an individual on a back burner. This isn’t healthy. It’s not good for you, your marriage, and ultimately your family life may suffer. Maybe you’re not the same person that wore stilettos and mini skirts back in the day. That’s OK, it’s only natural to evolve over time and have to adjust to life as you know it. However you can look just as good in a pair of flats and skinny jeans. My point is that you can’t allow yourself to fade away. Your husband didn’t fall in love with his children’s mother, he fell in love with you; don’t let yourself fall between the cracks! You need to make a conscious effort to adjust and improve yourself, and the pizzazz will be back before you know it. Good luck, Bobbie!

Paula from Canton, GA says: I’ve been married for seventeen years, and my husband just started using email and Facebook about a year ago. There’s never been any problem with passwords, etc. and now all of a sudden it’s as if he doesn’t want me to have access to his account. I do not believe he’s cheating. His response to me was he didn’t want me to know about everything he talks about with his foster dad. Last year, he had a major issue when he found out there were things I was not telling him, and we made an agreement that we wouldn’t do that anymore, but now he’s doing it himself! Am I wrong for my feelings even though we talked and agreed?

Caroline says: OK, let me get this straight, your husband only started using email/social media a year ago. Am I correct in understanding that you had access to all accounts back then? Next, when he had an issue with you keeping things from him, was it about the same time he joined Facebook, etc.? I’m making the assumption that he still has access to your accounts at this point and has decided to cut off your access to his.

Something’s wrong with this picture. If your husband expects to be able to have access to your email, Facebook, etc., he should give you the same courtesy. It’s not a one-way street. I have to admit that I have an email account, Facebook, and Twitter. My husband doesn’t know my password, he’s never asked for it, and I’ve never asked for his passwords either. It just never occurred to me to do so. Every now and again we’ll have to go into each other’s emails, and when we do, we just ask for the password, do what we need to do, and get out. I can understand your husband’s need for privacy when it comes to his stepfather. You admitted yourself that you had kept certain information or conversations from him too.

I understand why you’re annoyed, a deal is a deal, and he’s not keeping his end of the bargain. However, we all have a right to privacy and being married shouldn’t change that. Life is funny; everything comes out in the wash. If he’s hiding something from you, it will find it’s way right into your lap regardless of any attempts made to keep it a secret.

My only advice to you would be to accept his terms, but at the same time he has to forfeit the right to access your accounts as well. Fair is fair.

Kelly from Livermore, CA says: So I left my husband two years ago for greener pastures…and it’s empty! I am forty-six and very attractive, nice, and slim with baggage that has been dealt with and doesn’t need to be on the surface anymore. So my kids put me on a dating website, and I only receive emails from psycho weirdos. And when I finally find a man who I think is handsome and very similar to me, he doesn’t email me back. What am I doing wrong, and what are men looking for nowadays? Getting older and tired of being single -- how in the world do I meet someone?

Caroline says: I think I need a little more background info on this one. I need to have “greener pastures” defined. Did you leave your husband because you were bored and just wanted more out of life or were there deeper issues? The tone of your question leads me to believe it’s the first scenario.

I’m also feeling like you put a lot of emphasis on physical attributes as well. I get it, we like to look at pretty things, but pretty on the outside doesn’t necessarily guarantee pretty on the inside. If you’re choosing men solely on looks alone, you’re making a mistake. Look beyond the physical attributes and get to know them for who they are as a person. Find out what makes them tick, what they’re passionate about, what they want out of life. When you get to know someone and connect with them on an emotional level, you’d be amazed how beautiful they become in your eyes on a physical level.

In a perfect world we’d all have amazing bodies, gorgeous faces, a beautiful home, and a dream job. Well guess what? The world isn’t perfect and neither are we. So what you need to do is find the perfect person for you, but I think you’ve set your standards pretty high. I’m not suggesting that you’re not attractive, what I’m saying is have an open mind and an open heart. You never know -- the bald guy with bad taste in clothing may be the love of your life, just give him a chance.

Lisa from Buffalo, NY says: Caroline - I am the mom of a beautiful eighteen-year-old young woman. I am an Italian mom, and I have a very hard time letting her grow up and spread her wings. She is going off to college in the fall, and I know we (my husband and I) raised her well, but I worry all of the time. I often think, “Maybe I did too much for her.” I guess my question is how do I allow her to leave the nest, but yet hold on to her tight enough to keep her close? Between you and me, I would be happy if she stayed here forever! Ha-Ha!

Caroline says: I hear you loud and clear, Lisa, but we raise our children to let them go, don’t we?

I believe that the biggest disservice we could do as a parent is to do everything for your child. Let’s face it, we’re not going to live forever, and when we’re gone, how will they survive? Children need to stand on their own two feet and make decisions and deal with the consequences of those decisions. Making mistakes, falling down, and getting back up again only builds character and makes you stronger. I agree that you never want to see your child hurt or suffer, but unfortunately that’s the reality of life. So is sunshine and happiness. We need to roll with the punches take the good with the bad. As parents we will worry about our children until the day we die. I’m fifty years old and my parents still worry about me, that’s just the way it is. Like I said, roll with it.

Let your daughter go off to college and start this new chapter in her life. It’s a very exciting time for her, and you should share in her happiness and excitement. I’m not going to lie, it broke my heart when Albie went away to school, but I didn’t let my heavy heart become a burden on him. You’re allowed to have those feelings it’s natural!

The dynamic of your relationship is sure to change; have faith in the values and lessons that you’ve instilled in your daughter and give her the wings she needs to fly. After a while you’ll start to see your daughter change from a little girl into a healthy, balanced grown woman and there’s no greater feeling than that!

Marissa from Rochester, NY says: Hi Caroline - my name is Marissa and I was wondering if there is any way I could meet Albie. I have the biggest crush on him!

Caroline says: Well I can’t say that I blame you, Marissa. Albie’s a cutie for sure!

I’m sure a lot of people believe that I’m on a constant lookout for girlfriend options for my sons. Not true. They do all the picking and choosing themselves!

I say we leave it up to fate. If it’s meant for you to meet Albie, you will.


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