My mother-in-law was wonderful after my wife died; she provided day care and helped in raising Emma, but they moved away and now we only see them four or five times a year. Emma does FaceTime with them every week. She had a female kindergarten teacher, and I signed her up for gymnastics at a place that has all female coaches.
There’s a family who moved in across the street that is a single mom and two daughters; one of the girls is about Emma’s age. Should I let the relationship develop in a natural fashion, or should I be more proactive in trying to arrange playdates and explaining things to the mom? Is there anything else I should be doing to provide Emma with a positive female role model? Should I ask Emma directly whether she feels there is something lacking in her life, or will that just plant the idea in her head?
— Widower Dad
Widower Dad: Kids need love. You love your kid. You are enough. She will be okay.
I think it’s great that you’re mindful of Emma’s having women in her life as examples, but these bonds must grow organically. Sometimes even moms aren’t the right example for their kids, remember. Focus on the love and on giving your daughter the things she needs that are within your power to give, and trust the universe (and endless human variety) for the rest.
That might be hard for you given the twin traumas of losing your family and your wife, so maybe a more productive place for your energy right now is to look into therapy, if you haven’t done so already. That can help you rebuild, for yourself and for Emma, after all you’ve been through.
Re: Dad: I agree with Carolyn, except that Emma may need someone female to help her as she approaches puberty.
Anonymous: Thanks, yes. The cultivating that might make sense here is not specific to role models, but general, where the dad makes sure he counts women among his own friends. That is a form of role modeling, too.
Dear Carolyn: I recently bit the bullet to enable my husband to do an out-of-town assignment he wanted to do. It meant a lot of extra solo work with the kids and housework, all while working myself.
The thing is, his thank-you has all been stuff he gets to do, too, such as baseball games. Don’t get me wrong, I like those things, and it’s not like he got me a bowling ball with “Homer” on it, but it rings a little hollow. Is this a mean thought to have?
— Favor Returnee
Favor Returnee: Figure out what you want, then say: “This is what I would like as a thank-you.” The rest is just various life stages of resentment.
If there are deeper roots to that resentment, though, then you’ll need to address the bigger imbalance. And soon.
More from Carolyn Hax
From the archive:
Delete a friend’s confession about having an affair
A husband’s put off by his wife’s procrastination
A widower’s request to his child is a lot to unpack
Saying ‘I do’ for all the wrong reasons
Mother-in-law wants you to apologize for something your husband did. Heck no!
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