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Carolyn Hax: As baby’s birth nears, husband idealizes living near family

(Nick Galifianakis for The Washington Post)
4 min

Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: My husband grew up with all four grandparents living within 10 miles of his family. He never had a babysitter: A nana or papa would just pop over if his parents needed a break. (His mom was a stay-at-home mom.)

It sounds lovely, but it’s different from my childhood — I had two working parents and only one living grandparent 300 miles away — and it’s different from our own circumstances. Our first baby is due in four months, and we’re several states away from our families.

Husband is convinced that our situation is impossible, irresponsible, cruel to the child, will result in our divorce and misery, etc. He wants to move “closer to family” but cannot articulate exactly how that would help: His folks are in their 80s and mine still work full time. Furthermore, we work in industries that don’t exist in either of our hometowns. There are no jobs for us there.

I know we might not have the village he did growing up, but I think I turned out okay without that. I’m frustrated by him deciding we’ve failed before we’ve even tried, and by his implication that his childhood was the only right way.

I guess I’m looking for a reality check: Am I the crazy one? If you didn’t have a blood-related village, did you make it work?

— Village-Deficient, Apparently

Village-Deficient, Apparently: Yikes.

1. I had no family village and came out just fine.

2. The “I came out just fine” standard is utter bullflooie. Some people survived plague. That doesn’t mean plague is the way to go.

3. The real issue is your husband’s insistence that something he can’t possibly have is the only thing worth having.

That attitude can make even a fully villaged childhood utterly miserable for your kid, because a parent who denies reality is going to respond to reality badly.

Good parents have a working relationship with the idea of not getting exactly what they want, then making something else out of it, often better than what they’d hoped for.

He’s not only about 10 squares behind this crucial starting point, but he’s also dead certain he’s right where nothing is black and white, which is hard to work with regardless of the topic.

So, again, yikes.

4. His “cannot articulate” is an opportunity to get at the source, which seems bigger than babysitting. Anxiety, maybe? Might explain his seeking refuge in the familiar and the absolute.

5. If you think he’s receptive to this message, then go for it. Otherwise, consider using a paid referee, in marriage counseling.

Readers’ thoughts:

· As my mom said about the built-in grandma babysitting: “Oh, it wasn’t free. I paid.” There is a very big trade-off in having people in your business like that.

· But the village does not have to be related to you. You can and will create your own village right where you are. That’s what his parents did: They found grandparents instead of friends, but they created the care they needed just as you will.

· Can you guys grab some parenting classes now where it is possible to address this?

· Seriously, pay someone to babysit your kids. I was the built-in grandma. My health and strength were failing, and my daughter-in-law complained that I didn’t do everything the way she wanted. I had to tell her that I just couldn’t, and she was furious that she’d have to pay someone.

· Your husband sounds like he is having cold feet at best, or experiencing depression surrounding the birth. He should see his primary-care provider to get screened. Just having the conversation with the PCP may help him feel better.

· It sucks and it’s disappointing the grandparents won’t have the day-to-day involvement he always thought would happen. Empathizing may help him get to the next step of building the village around you.