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Q. I am newly pregnant, and my partner and I are thrilled. My parents were happy to hear the news as well, but my mother has since commented about how she expects I will stop working when the baby comes. She’s implied that because my partner makes a very good living, and so much more than me, that I would not “need” to work, in addition to some comments about how much better it is for a baby to have a mother at home. I am surprised she feels this way. She has always worked (and still does) and I think it’s hypocritical of her. for her to tell me what I should do. Help this not drive a wedge between us.
I can imagine this feels like a slap in the face — never a good thing, but particularly taxing when your body and mind are devoted to growing another human inside you. But I also think it presents an opportunity. Raising a child is a master class in learning how to be judged, disagreed with and even insulted. (And that’s not even counting what will come from your kid!) But since this is your mother, not the cashier at Target, it’s important that you flex your communication muscles and tell her how this has affected you. Let her know your surprise and discomfort with her assumptions, and that you will do what’s right for you. Then get specific about how you both can have better empathy and communication when viewpoints differ. Because she can have all the expectations she wants, but it is your life, and if she conveys her expectations in ways that hurt you, she needs to know about the damage.
Working to keep things working
Q. My parents were very different people but hashed things out a lot and prioritized each other. They made it clear that you can’t just expect things to be peachy if you love each other, and that relationships take work. But I don’t have a good gauge of what’s a realistic amount of work. My relationships tend to have a lot of effort and hand-wringing, and I have to show a lot of patience with characteristics of my partner that are hard to deal with. I look at my friends who seem more relaxed and things just seem to work rather than taking so much effort. Where is the line?
Well, there’s being different people, and then there’s being a poor match for each other. Perhaps your parents were a fundamentally sound fit, with a satisfying and fulfilling love that provided the motivation, patience and energy to make daily compromises about, say, how they spend their Saturday nights or how quickly socks should go in the hamper. Whereas for others, these smallish things become big, hulking relationship killers. Compatibility is a range. You mention the tough characteristics of your partner, but what’s the nature of the toughness? Their very being? Or the fact that your partner likes the room 10 degrees colder than you do? And what are the positives that help outweigh those negatives? The big picture will help you identify what matters here. Relationships may take work, but that work shouldn’t become constant angst.