Preconditions for Balance

By Rebeldad Brian Reid

I sometimes fall prey to the idea that attaining work-life balance is like assembling Ikea furniture: If I can just get all the right parts and follow the directions (say "no," get organized, put the spouse first), I should have a brilliantly stable life. Obviously, it doesn't work that way for me, and, looking around, just doing the "right" thing isn't enough for most of the people I meet.

It seems to me that there are some preconditions you have to meet if you want a balanced life. If you don't have these things in order, no amount of balancing will get things under control:

You Have to Like Your Job: It doesn't matter if it's unpaid work at home or a six-figure position with a corner office, you have to like what you do to have any shot to balance. I had a gig once where the hours were reasonable, but the expectations were low and the work so dull that no matter how much extra time I had, I was perpetually dissatisfied.

You Have to Like Your Significant Other: You have to have a good relationship with another adult in your life. Pretty much everyone has a single person at the top of their support system, and as goes that relationship, so goes balance.

You Have to Take Your Health Seriously: Life is never as good as when I'm firing on all cylinders, but as I get older that only happens when I do all the right things. Eat protein. Get my eight hours. Break out the running shoes.

You Have to Have Personal Time: Got hobbies? Drinking buddies? An unfinished novel? Seems that to really appreciate work and home, I have to get away from both. Thank goodness for hockey night (which is as much about the locker-room camaraderie as the exercise).

This can't be it ... what are the other items that you have to lock down before you can start to work on balance?

Brian Reid writes about parenting and work-family balance. You can read his blog at rebeldad.com.

By Brian Reid |  January 31, 2008; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Tips
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First!

Posted by: Fred | January 31, 2008 7:50 AM

I would add "Your Children Need to Be Healthy and Happy" (how's that for a moving target?) My balance list also includes coffee in the morning. (I'm trying to switch to the healthier tea, but so far, no good.) Other than that, Brian, I think your list is accurate. But it is just not that easy!!

Posted by: WorkingMomX | January 31, 2008 7:56 AM

Brian

Again, I don't think the way you do.

I require time & space for my spiritual life.

Posted by: chittybangbang | January 31, 2008 8:00 AM

WorkingMomX,

I would set the bar a bit lower on children. Just as long as they are not in jail or the hospital! (kids having a job is a plus but not necessarily mandatory!)

Posted by: Fred | January 31, 2008 8:01 AM

«what are the other items that you have to lock down before you can start to work on balance?»

«By Brian Reid | January 31, 2008; 7:00 AM ET»

Balance, is it why you are here on earth, or is it something that makes it possible, you can do what you are here for?

Purpose, you must believe there is a reason for your life, shared, it should be that your wife or wives share the same purpose, the same reason, that you do. Job, wives, health, «personal time», all of these, they are ways to aid you, as you live your lives for that reason, as you carry out your purpose, whatever it is.

Posted by: abu_ibrahim | January 31, 2008 8:01 AM

LOL, Fred. You know, my husband and I have had days with our oldest daughter (my step), now 20, where we are reduced to congratulating ourselves for things like "she made it through high school without getting pregnant and she's halfway through college and still not pregnant" (HIGH FIVE!) or "hey, it's a speeding ticket, not a drunk driving arrest".

I hope Freida is well on the path to recovery.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | January 31, 2008 8:06 AM

I know a lot of people who have all of the stuff on the list (it's a good foundation) but think you need to add something about a comfort level with or acceptance of your parenthood status. people without kids who desperately want them don't have balance. and vice versa -- some people have too many kids too fast and it's nuts. or they don't take to parenthood the way they (or their spouse) expected..

also, what about those people who are physically adults but still have big personal issues plaguing them...you can have all of the above but if your DH is a compulsive gambler etc balance becomes impossible.

i think this might all fall into the "inner peace" category that chitty noted. but i think it's far more elusive than it sounds.

Posted by: leslie4 | January 31, 2008 8:43 AM

I may get blow back for this, but I'd say money really helps to contribute to balance.

Now, I'm not saying you have to be rolling in it (although I'd have no problem living like that!), but just enough to afford you the things you'd like to do, or to be able to buy the time to do things you'd like to do (e.g., pay a lawn service to wrestle with the grass while you spend the day at the beach).

Posted by: Corvette1975 | January 31, 2008 8:45 AM

Corvette: I would say your right. You need to have a minimal amount of money to achieve balance. How much balance can you have if you can't pay the electric bill or you need two jobs to pay the mortgage. But I think extra disposable income probably doesn't hurt either. You can contract out a lot of daily tasks: lawn service, cleaning lady, babysitter, home repair etc... I don't think you need a bundle like Corvette said, but it sure can help. Even being able to afford a nanny versus a standard day care center, means your not rushing home every day by 6PM because your afraid of being charged by the minute by your day care.

Posted by: foamgnome | January 31, 2008 8:50 AM

I'd take it a step further Leslie and say you need self-acceptance period -- not just with regards to parenthood. A personal belief set grounded in faith, spirituality, community, whatever definitely helps.

Posted by: tntkate | January 31, 2008 8:53 AM

A sense of humour helps. A lot. With or without a spouse, or kids. Because entropy wins in the end.

(Visualizes the teenager's room, "Where Towels Go To Die", as an example.)

Posted by: maryland_mother | January 31, 2008 8:55 AM

Corvette1975

Pay for lawn service while you are at the beach! Hot Dog! I like that concept.

Seriously, you are quite right about the money issue. In our current situation with Frieda's cancer, we have enough cash reserves and health insurance that we don't have to worry about how to pay for it! This certainly takes out another thing to worry about.

BTW, we received an excellent report from the surgeon yesterday, Frieda is on the road to recovery. Just waiting to see if she needs chemo tho...

Posted by: Fred | January 31, 2008 8:55 AM

I have two:

1. A clear sense of exactly what you want out of life; and
2. A way of coping or finding peace when it becomes clear you're not going to get it.

"people without kids who desperately want them don't have balance."

Heck, yeah. It's amazing how losing one part of your life throws everything else completely out of whack. Now, got any tips on how to stop the talespin?

Posted by: newsahm | January 31, 2008 9:02 AM

Oops, that's "tailspin."

Posted by: newsahm | January 31, 2008 9:03 AM

Glad to hear about that Fred. Please keep us informed.

Posted by: foamgnome | January 31, 2008 9:03 AM

I don't know, "tale spin" works too, in a sense. I mean, your tale hasn't gone the way you thought it would.

Posted by: maryland_mother | January 31, 2008 9:05 AM

Agree with everything that has been said so far by Brian and others. ESPECIALLY agree with those who mentioned money. The more you have it the more free time you are going to have from basic chores because you can "outsource" it and spend that precious time with your kids. In the absence of money, family members who are willing to either help you with childcare of chores is a close 2nd. For example, my mother is a big help in buying children's clothes. I give her a budget of no more than $10 per item and send her to Ross and Marshalls. I don't have time to go there and sort through clothes while she loves it. It's a win win situation for everybody.

Posted by: tsm | January 31, 2008 9:06 AM

Fred wrote: "Frieda is on the road to recovery."

Great news! Let's hope the road is a smooth one.

Posted by: mehitabel | January 31, 2008 9:14 AM

I've found outsourcing stuff to the kids to be a nice way to hang onto cash ('cause I pay them very little, if at all). Plus they talk more to one another.

"I can't believe mom is making me do this!" Usually cleaning a room, or washing dishes or something.

The horror. I tell them it's a preview to having lazy, behind-on-the-rent roommates who eat all your food, leave dirty dishes everywhere to attract bugs and hog the remote. If you're going to be resentful, make certain it's because you know how to go about cleaning up after yourself, so why can't s/he do the same thing?

Posted by: maryland_mother | January 31, 2008 9:32 AM

I'm with chitty - having some time alone to reflect, write, be silent, is key for me. Organization helps carve out that time, as does cash. One of the highlights of my week is coming home on Friday to a house I didn't have to clean, which is cleaner than I would get it, and which makes me feel cossetted. It makes sitting down with my journal guilt-free.

Posted by: babsy1 | January 31, 2008 9:32 AM

I have to run, which I guess is personal time, but I like to get in my "sit on the coach and watch crappy tv" time sometimes too.

About IKEA furniture. It doesn't always come out right even if you follow the directions and it doesn't always stay together. I guess that's similar to work/life balance. You can't follow anybody else's rules and the rules change for you as you go along.

Amy
Working Mom to 3
www.sofiabean.com

Posted by: amy | January 31, 2008 9:35 AM

Newsahm,

You raise an excellent question about tailspin in life. It reminds me of the old saying, "Stop the world, I want to get off!" Your second point about finding a technique to bring you to inner peace or at least starting down that road is probably the best way.

Acceptance and Experience are maybe two ways to deal with the tailspin.

As trite as this may seem, I think about the lives of others that I know or meet. It is easy for me to find and understand someone who is worse off than me and my family. I know a lady who is having a double mastectomy tomorrow because her cancer was not caught in an early stage. She and her husband are still living in their FEMA trailer! But you know, she has a loving husband for support.

I think that I had mentioned that our younger son was in the hospital for his chronic problem the week Frieda had her biopsy and found out she had cancer. But, five years ago, the last time she had cancer, she was in the hospital in Slidell while our son was in the hospital in New Orleans for his chronic problem. So this time it was like deja vu all over again! That was a harried week for me 5 yrs ago as was 2 weeks ago.


Preparation can also help. With four children, we know that something will go wrong at some point in life. With no children, something will not go according to your life's master plan. Yet another bit that seems like a cliché' but having a will, power of atty, and a medical directive (living will), reduced my wife's anxiety when she was pre registering for her operation.

Support of family and friends always makes life easier. Although we have no living parents and no family around us, we have many friends that have already volunteered to help out. One of the breast cancer books my wife is reading says don't be afraid to play the cancer card! Don't be afraid to say I have cancer and ask for help. I would expect that the same would apply a lot of other situations. I was surprised by the positive reaction of my manager, my co workers and my friends. A lot of them had someone in their lives who had or has breast cancer. It may have been their friend, their aunt, their mother and they just had not the reason to share this.

And finally, believe it or not, even the good wishes of "blog buddies" helps. Frieda was very touched by your showing of concern (and so am I).

Posted by: Fred | January 31, 2008 9:58 AM

I found Brian's list to be on the money. I don't think he was attempting to give a complete laundry list of what one needs to be happy in life, just some necessary ingredients. People who hate their jobs and don't get along with their spouses are usually pretty unhappy in my experience. Being in bad health and having absolutely no time for relaxation and personal growth makes life pretty miserable too. I actually think Chitty probably agrees with all of these, but just can't seem to stand giving Brian any credit for having insight about anything. Part of her spritiual growth practice might include resolving to understand her narcissitc to slam on others. I'm calling out the pattern of online behavior I have observed.

Best wishes to Frieda and Fred.

Posted by: pinkoleander | January 31, 2008 10:14 AM

I think an ability to change direction at a moment's notice is important to balance - roll with the punches so to speak. Like Fred said, even if you don't have children (I don't) stuff happens. The furnace carps out, the dog slices his leg open or an out-of-town parent is admitted to the hospital. Balance is how you react, both for yourself and family and friends.

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | January 31, 2008 10:22 AM

Thanks, Fred, for your very thoughtful comment. I've been silently following the Freida situation, and I'm so glad to hear she's doing better.

I've been a big fan of counting one's blessings/looking on the bright side as a way to get through the rough bits -- it's a thought process that's seen me through a lot. For some reason, it's just not working these days.

Posted by: newsahm | January 31, 2008 10:25 AM

LOL, Fred. You know, my husband and I have had days with our oldest daughter (my step), now 20, where we are reduced to congratulating ourselves for things like "she made it through high school without getting pregnant and she's halfway through college and still not pregnant" (HIGH FIVE!) or "hey, it's a speeding ticket, not a drunk driving arrest".
Posted by: WorkingMomX | January 31, 2008 08:06 AM

LOL, WorkingMomX. On my 20th birthday, I actually handmade an apron for my Mom with the words, "My daughter (name) was NEVER a teenage mother!" She said she laughed til she cried when she opened the box.

I think maybe the key to "balance" is recognizing that it can't all be perfect all the time, and it never has been for anyone and it never will be for you.

There are parts of my life in which I feel incredibly blessed and consider myself exceptionally lucky compared to most other people on Earth. (Simply being born an American is a HUGE perk that I remember to be grateful for, even more so the more that I travel.) In other ways, my life has had its tragedies and been considerably less lucky than other people's.

I'm naturally an optimist and have been since I was tiny, and i think that helps enormously, too.

Posted by: newslinks1 | January 31, 2008 10:36 AM

newslinks, LOVE the apron. It would be very fitting if my stepdaughter gave us something like that.

We have also considered hanging a sign in the kitchen that mimics the sign on a warehouse floor ("78 days with no accidents"), but it would say something like this:

18 hours since our last "we have to talk" talk

Posted by: WorkingMomX | January 31, 2008 11:27 AM

I think you can have balance even if you hate your job. But I think you need to work a little harder in the other parts of your life to feel it. I have a soul sucking job. When my personal life is in order, the job doesn't bother me that much.

I think Brian did a pretty decent job of describing the essentials. With the support of your partner, I think you can overcome a lot so a supportive partner is a priority. Now if only I had that supportive partner, I would have balance.

I work 60 hours a week. I know a little out of whack but we need it to pay the bills because all of my partner's money for the next two months goes to his other family. 60 hours a week would actually be manageable if I could get my partner to step-up to the plate and help out around the house since his work week is only 37 hours. But he can't. He is too busy with his other family to do anything extra for this family - and he said this right to my face.

Someone said that as a step-parent I couldn't limit his contact with his kids. I thought about this for a long time and I don't think that is entirely true. Maybe I don't have the right to force him but he should be performing his own limiting. He knew when he married me that he would need to balance his life between two families - the old one and the new one. He has a duty to both of his families and I don't think it unreasonable to expect him to participate in BOTH of the families that he has involved himself in.

All I can say is thank goodness we don't have children. It is one thing for a wife to slowly realize that she has been abandoned for his ex-wife and kids... but imagine the confusion of a small child as he/she realizes that his father has abandoned him/her for his other family.

Posted by: Billie_R | January 31, 2008 11:34 AM

Ok guys and gals, time for:

Fred's Freudian Slip of the Day

Last night, Frieda and I were talking about what the surgeon had said. Frieda asked me to recap the report on the lymph nodes. I started by saying, "What the autopsy report said..."


BIG aw sh....!


Posted by: Fred | January 31, 2008 11:44 AM

It is one thing for a wife to slowly realize that she has been abandoned for his ex-wife and kids...
Posted by: Billie_R | January 31, 2008 11:34 AM

Billie, sounds like a no-win situation. Are you taking steps to improve it? Perhaps he doesn't realize you feel abandoned? If he doesn't care, perhaps more drastic measures are needed? It sounds like you're putting in extra effort when he isn't even putting in 'standard' effort!

Posted by: newslinks1 | January 31, 2008 11:46 AM

"It is one thing for a wife to slowly realize that she has been abandoned for his ex-wife and kids..."

If it helps, rather than thinking of yourself as being abandoned in favour of the ex-wife, maybe it'll be more palatable to think of your husband as being a loving father to his children. Or at least honouring a prior committment (sp) he made to them.

Pollyanna

Posted by: maryland_mother | January 31, 2008 11:47 AM

Last night, Frieda and I were talking about what the surgeon had said. Frieda asked me to recap the report on the lymph nodes. I started by saying, "What the autopsy report said..."

BIG aw sh....!

Posted by: Fred | January 31, 2008 11:44 AM

Hopefully you both viewed it as a cue that some much-needed sleep was next on the agenda.

Posted by: maryland_mother | January 31, 2008 11:51 AM

Billie: I would talk to your husband. There is no reason you should be doing it all. Working 23 hours more then him, doing the lions share of the household duties, and carrying the full financial load. Yes, it is honorable that he keeps his financial and time committments to his first family. But he shouldn't had started a second, if he wasn't prepared to work overtime to balance the two. And it works both ways. A parent shouldn't neglect their first family to take care of their second. Big reason not to have multiple families.

Posted by: foamgnome | January 31, 2008 12:01 PM

I should have said more than him.

Posted by: foamgnome | January 31, 2008 12:06 PM

For me, having a home that is a safe and comforting sanctuary is key. In fact, I can even put up with my less than ideal job because it pays well enough for me to have that home.

Three years ago we were living in a less safe area, with neighbors that were causing us a lot of grief. Now, all is well. This issue may resonate more with me because I grew up in an abusive home where I never felt safe or at peace.

Posted by: cjbriggs | January 31, 2008 12:20 PM

You have to live within your means.

You have to be mentally healthy.

Posted by: JEGS | January 31, 2008 12:26 PM

What the autopsy report said..."

Fred - YIKES! I bet Frieda slept with one eye open last night!

I am sending good vibes your way - don't forget to remind Frieda of how very lucky she is to have you! :)

Posted by: moxiemom1 | January 31, 2008 12:42 PM

Newslinks and foamgnome... right now we aren't talking and I have no desire to change that. Rolling his eyes or hearing him say... Oh no... you want to talk again or even hearing him say he would like to fast-forward through my talking (reference to the movie 'Click') is not exactly conducive to a heart-to-heart. I think he thinks I am being unreasonable or jealous. I asked him to go to a marriage counselor so we could sort out what was reasonable to expect from each other in the situation and learn to communicate better. No go. I suspect we are on our last legs and I don't have to worry about adjusting to step-parenthood or being a good step-parent. I just need to get up the courage to admit to myself that its over, there is nothing I can do to save the marriage and actually do something about ending it.

Maryland_mother - I have absolutely no issues with him being a loving father to his children. I encouraged it and helped him pay for his children's visas and airfare from our joint account at the risk of getting behind in our own bills. I helped him find a place for them to live. I found all the items on Craigslist that we got to furnish their house. I borrowed the truck from my friend so we could get the stuff to their place and I helped him pack and unpack it. I support him almost 100% while the bulk of his income goes to his family. When he was unemployed in December(because he quit) and brought just 40$ into the house, I still managed to figure out how to pay the child support despite his irresponsibility. I have supported him in every way so that he can be that loving father. What I didn't realize during that time was that his role as a loving father would come at the expense of his role as a loving husband.

Everybody seems to focus on how he needs to honour his commitment to his children. I don't mean to sound selfish but what about honouring his commitment to this family? What about being a loving husband? Thank you foamgnome for saying that his second family is deserving of his time and support.

Posted by: Billie_R | January 31, 2008 12:46 PM

Bille, I'm so sorry. Sometimes your best efforts just can't save an unsaveable situation.

For what it's worth, you personally have made a tremendous impact on the lives of him and his children, by funding and assisting their move to this country. Many charities do less than that to help their recipients!

I suppose in this situation Leslie's advice of, "You won't believe how much better you'll feel in a year" comes into play. Best of luck to you throughout the situation.

Posted by: newslinks1 | January 31, 2008 1:01 PM

Billie_R

"I just need to get up the courage to admit to myself that its over, there is nothing I can do to save the marriage and

actually do something about ending it."

You are on your way - here's some Tough Love to jumpstart the process. OH, NO! I'm going to be negative again!

STOP BEING A DOORMAT FOR THIS GUY!!!!!
You are doing all of the work and he's getting all the Father of Year credit on your dime!!!

What would you say to a sister or friend who was doing the same thing as you? No one can abuse you without yur permission.

GET AWAY FROM THIS LEECH ASAP!

And get some help to find out why you became a doormat in the first place!!

Best wishes.

Posted by: chittybangbang | January 31, 2008 1:11 PM

"What I didn't realize during that time was that his role as a loving father would come at the expense of his role as a loving husband."

"He is too busy with his other family to do anything extra for this family - and he said this right to my face."

What is his definition of "extra", and how in the world can he come up with a definition that leaves you with the sh*t end of the stick? And he delivered his little "extra" speech with a straight face? Geez.

I doubt he made that clear to you before the ceremony.

Well, if he's not going to listen to you no matter how you word your concerns, and he is not going to even try to match your efforts, there's only so much you can do.

I'd say salvage your sanity by not overfunctioning. I would hope he'd step up, but if not, you sound like a smart, resourceful woman. I'd bet on you having a much rosier future than him.

Best wishes!


Posted by: maryland_mother | January 31, 2008 1:43 PM

Okay, the WaPo didn't like that. Let me try it again.

If they'll let me post it, go to this web site and search the manipulator files.

If they don't let it get posted, do a search for "Romeo is Bleeding". It's in the Manipulator Files. The web site I have in mind starts with "heartless".

www.heartless-*****es.com

Posted by: maryland_mother | January 31, 2008 1:47 PM

I think liking the place where you live is essential. If there's too much traffic or prices are too high, you may never experience balance -- unless you are very wealthy, as someone else pointed out. We live down near Virginia Beach -- and it appears that living near the ocean is enough to balance out practically everything else for a LARGE majority of people. (I can't tell you how many people I know who will tell you "I hate my job but we have a boat, so life's good.") Today I was thinking how much I hated my job, but since I work at home and can set my own hours, I blew off the morning and went for a long walk on the beach. I'm feeling balanced again, thanks.

Posted by: justlurking | January 31, 2008 1:51 PM

I'd add: You have to like your kids! Seems pretty obvious, but I'm sure we've all met parents who don't like to spend time with their children. Not that one has to spend every waking hour with your precious offspring. I absolutely agree with Brian's recommendation to take time for yourself and my weekly evening at choir practice helps keep me sane by making music and socializing with a fun bunch of people.

But, you've gotta love spending time with your kids if you're spending your precious free time chauffering them (and their stuff, and their friends) around to band/orchestra practice/events, sports practice/games, dance practice/performances, swimming lessons, G-rated movies with their friends, etc. Add in nagging about missing towels and chores, and kids can be a big stress in the life of an adult.

Best survival mechanisms if you're juggling kids, full-time job, significant other, plus misc. other obligations is a sense of humor and resiliance! Which I suspect go hand-in-hand.

I heard an interesting lecture once in which the speaker asserted that resiliance is the single biggest predictor of future success and happiness of a child. Not IQ. Not how attractive s/he is. Not how much money the parents make. Not how many extracurricular activities s/he avails him/herself of. It was fascinating and really made me think about what I'm modeling for my daughter and how important it is to pass on skills related to handling adversity.

Posted by: vegasmom89109 | January 31, 2008 1:54 PM

"I heard an interesting lecture once in which the speaker asserted that resiliance is the single biggest predictor of future success and happiness of a child."

I agree, wholeheartedly. This is one more topic on which my husband and I disagree. Vehemently. He wants the children to be happy, all the time. I want them to be competent & resilient. I tell him that no one can be happy (an ever-moving target) constantly, nor should they be. There are times when it's appropriate to be sad, disappointed, discouraged, etc. You have to learn when & how to persevere, and when to put something aside, and even when to toss in the towel. And that without some pain, few people change and grow up.


Posted by: maryland_mother | January 31, 2008 2:02 PM

how important it is to pass on skills related to handling adversity.

Amen to that vegas mom. When the kids complaing about taking in the trash cans or having to be cold since they chose not to wear a jacket I say "character, brought to you by mommy." You don't build character by being "happy" all the time and setting the expectation in your children that life will always be "happy" is setting them up for disappointment and, I think, greater unhappiness. Rock on mean moms! haha

Posted by: moxiemom1 | January 31, 2008 2:26 PM

"The furnace carps out,...." Posted by: KLB_SS_MD

Sounds fishy to me. >:D Thanks for a great afternoon giggle.

"What the autopsy report said..."
Posted by: Fred

Oops! We've all made slips that make us cringe. Surely Frieda understands and laughs about it. You both are in my prayers and I'm glad to hear that she is feeling better.

Posted by: lsturt | January 31, 2008 2:55 PM

BillieR -

"All I can say is thank goodness we don't have children. It is one thing for a wife to slowly realize that she has been abandoned for his ex-wife and kids... but imagine the confusion of a small child as he/she realizes that his father has abandoned him/her for his other family" - I lived that confusion, but we were here before the second wife.

My father left my mother with 3 kids - I was 8 years old. He proceeded to have children with another woman whom he later married. He chose his life with new kids and family over us - Couldn't visit us or support us financially because there wasn't enough time or money left over after focusing on the second family. I have not spoken to my father for 30 years - he put us out of his life and has been gone so long, there is no room for him in the lives we have made for ourselves.

"I don't mean to sound selfish but what about honouring his commitment to this family?" After being on the other side, I do believe you sound incredibly selfish. HOw would you like it if you had two children and he ignored the first once the second came along?

"He knew when he married me that he would need to balance his life between two families - the old one and the new one." And you knew this too, when you married him. Why can't you see that your doing extra housework is your part of "stepping up to the plate" while his part is staying involved in his childrens' lives? Or, lower your household standards, spend less time on household chores and more time with him, even it that means that is with him and the children.

I understand your frustrations, but you seem to want him to adjust his actions/attitudes when it is also possible for you to adjust yours.


Posted by: bettyj | January 31, 2008 3:18 PM

BTW, I chose to never date men who had children because I knew that children would have a huge impact on our relationship. I also know that I would never respect a man who didn't allow his children to be a central part of his life.

I don't say this to slam anyone who dates/marries those with kids. I just want to point out that you shouldn't put yourself in a position to have to deal with complications you would rather not deal with.

Posted by: bettyj | January 31, 2008 3:24 PM

bettyj:Seriously, don't you think people with multiple families need to honor both families. He should be contributing half his net pay check to his first family and half to his second. Right now, he isn't financially supporting his first family at all. And although Billie R needs to adjust her thinking, so does her husband. Personally, I think Billie R should just ditch him. He obviously just thinks of her as a free place to stay. If your going to have multiple families, you better figure out how to manage both families, or don't bother having a second family.

Posted by: foamgnome | January 31, 2008 3:24 PM

foamgnome,
"He should be contributing half his net pay check to his first family and half to his second."

I completely disagree with this. His children didn't ask him to start a second family. He has a responsibility to his children that should not be replaced by a new wife in the picture. Adults should be capable of supporting themselves, children aren't. He should provide the level of support that was previously agreed upon or determined by a court. The childrens' needs don't change because he has a new family. If that level of support is more than half his pay, then so be it - new family has to get by on what is left over.

Think of it this way. Suppose you have a mortgage payment and then you buy a second home. Should your mortgage company accept a smaller payment for the first home because you now have new obligations? Of course not - you shouldn't get the second home if you can't afford it. So maybe he really shouldn't have married BilleR, or maybe she should have seen him for a freeloader before she married him. Or maybe he thought that they were a team, both giving what they could and not have one keeping score over who makes what and who does what chores. Quitting a job wasn't the smartest thing but people do it every day - some situations are too stressful to stay in.

Posted by: bettyj | January 31, 2008 3:38 PM

bettyj:Clearly he is mandated by the courts to pay what he agreed upon. Although these kids came from another country, so I doubt the child support laws apply here. Unless the ex wife then asked for child support once he brought them over. But why should she support him and his kids from the other marriage if he isn't willing to contribute to his own upkeep. Not hers. But pay for his own living expenses. Personally, Billie made the mistake with marrying someone who was unwilling to contribute to their marriage in anyway. Who knows if he sold her a bill of goods before they married or if she was in a dream world when dating. But she should not be stuck supporting a man who has no vested interest in his current marriage except to use her as a pay check. Seriously, I am sorry that your dad was a dead beat. But if you get married again, you have an obligation to both families. If you can't fulfill that obligation to both families DON'T get married again. And people, think twice before marrying someone who can't support both families.

Posted by: foamgnome | January 31, 2008 3:44 PM

Foamgnome... its his second family that isn't getting the support (just to keep the facts straight).

BettyJ: I think you might not have read all of the posts. The reason why I was asking him to do extra housework is because I work 60 hours a week to support our household for which he is currently not providing money to. All his money goes to his first family. He works 37 hours a week. I think I am already stepping up to the plate by putting food on our table, a roof over our heads AND doing a portion of the housework. I was simply asking him to perform a couple of extra chores like vaccuum the condo and clean the bathroom.

And I wasn't asking him to ignore his kids. I have been more than helpful in helping the first family get established in the area and letting him spend lots of time with his kids. I have been encouraging him to have the kids come and spend time at our house where we can all spend time together . He says the kids are eager to come to our house so I assume it must be a positive experience for them. I am asking my husband to balance his time and resources between his first and second family.

Maybe this is a pipe dream. Perhaps you simply can't have two families and I am asking for the impossible.

Posted by: Billie_R | January 31, 2008 3:54 PM

Anyone else here remember Chrissy?

Posted by: mehitabel | January 31, 2008 3:55 PM

Bilie, I realize your the second wife and the one not getting any support. Maybe I wrote something else by mistake. Again, my advice is ditch the guy.

Posted by: foamgnome | January 31, 2008 3:59 PM

This situation with blended families is so complex... My mother divorced my father when I was a baby. It was an abusive marriage. My father remarried to a divorced woman with a child and my mother also remarried to a divorced man with a daughter. Talk about complex. Well, today I have no relationship with my father. I tried to get him involved when my kids were born but he is just an unpleasant person and I can't forgive me for mistreating my mother. My step father treats me like his own daughter BUT his own daughter still can't forgive him for leaving her mother despite the fact that he tried to be an involved father after he left. It was a bad marriage for him as well. And my father's step son calls him Dad and my father supports him financially for which I resent my father because he never fulfilled his financial obligation to my mother and me....

Posted by: tsm | January 31, 2008 4:02 PM


bettyj, I would caution you not to assume things about billie that may be unfair or untrue. If you read her comments over the last couple of weeks, as well as today, she is married to someone who is spending all of his free time -- not some, not 70%, but ALL -- over at the house at which his kids reside. He is exhibiting no commitment to his marriage at all - admittedly this could be a pattern for him. She is not selfish for rejecting the doormat role. Chitty is spot on in her earlier comment.

This isn't parenting, it's escaping. For whatever reason. It could be that he is secure about his ability to be a good dad, and less secure about his ability to be a good husband. Whatever. The fact is he's not acting as a married man and his wife's needs are not a lower priority to his kids' needs. . . they are not even on his priority list.

Billie, Do what's right for you, but more time and more "we need to talk" conversations with your husband are unlikely to result in meaningful change. Your husband is voting with his feet and tuning you out. Take confidence that you did your best and make whatever change is most likely to bring you peace.

Posted by: mn.188 | January 31, 2008 4:03 PM

i just keep circling back to the zoo thing. sometimes i feel like minor things illuminate larger things. the other day, Billie, you were talking about how you love going to the zoo, but your husband hates it. BUT, he goes to the zoo with his kids AND THEIR MOTHER. and that to me just sets off extreme red flags. it sounds to me like it's possible that he's not really "divorced"--perhaps he and his wife made a plan whereby he'd come to this country and find a woman to marry him and get visas for their whole family and help financially. then after they were all here, he could ditch the new woman and go back to his happy family.

i hope to God that is NOT what's occured in your situation, but it sounds plausible given the stories you've told.

i have no issues whatsoever with him spending time and money on his kids, but when his EX-WIFE is included in all this quality time, well, i think it's definitely possible he's additionally having an affair with her.

all of which is to say, Billie: you know it's time to cut the ties and run and not look back. so strap on your running shoes and get your life back on track.

Posted by: newslinks1 | January 31, 2008 4:44 PM

Mn.188 is right - this man has made his choices obvious. And he's in great shape - he has a woman working her tail off to support his kids; he gets to spend time with them while not having to do more than roll his eyes at the supporting wife; and he avoids the unpleasant side of parenting. Dump him now and thank your stars that you don't live in California, where you would owe him money in the divorce.

Posted by: babsy1 | January 31, 2008 4:48 PM

I want to wish Freida (and Fred) and Billie all the best with their situations.

Back to Brian's question - essentials for balance.
I would add, "a back-up support system" to his list. When DH was having stomach troubles yesterday and wanted me to get the boys to school (I'm normally out of the house and on public transit while older son is showering, younger son is sleeping, and DH is rubbing his eyes and getting ready to roll out of bed) it was a disaster - funny now.

Late for breakfast, stop at donut shop, give boys the change for lunch money, which older son didn't need because it was a minimum day and he'd be home for lunch, get to the high school, find that older son doesn't have his backpack, drive to elementary school, drop off younger son, drive back to house for older son's backpack, DH is ready to take over, drives older son back to his school (only about 45-minutes late), drive-through breakfast for the two of us, get change for the toll bridge because we don't qualify for the toll-free carpool lanes, then DH finally got me to work.

I was two hours late, and we had an afternoon meeting with a several-levels-above-us manager who was here from Colorado, so I was off balance for the whole day.

When something in the day-to-day is out of whack, having a back-up plan or support system really helps keep some sense of stability, and with getting back on track.

Posted by: sue | January 31, 2008 5:12 PM

from RebelDad's post:
I sometimes fall prey to the idea that attaining work-life balance is like assembling Ikea furniture: If I can just get all the right parts and follow the directions (say "no," get organized, put the spouse first), I should have a brilliantly stable life. Obviously, it doesn't work that way for me, and, looking around, just doing the "right" thing isn't enough for most of the people I meet.

I LOVE the analogy to IKEA. and i think a lot of us expect life to be that way when we're young: that we'll grow up and order all the right pieces and it will come together beautifully. but sometimes we think we've ordered the right thing, but after we acquire it, we find out that the holes are drilled in the wrong spots or it turns out it's completely the wrong color for our room or whatever.

So then we either try to delude ourselves into believing that it IS perfect, or we accept that it isn't but love it in spite of its flaws, or we toss it out and order something else. :)

Posted by: newslinks1 | January 31, 2008 5:30 PM

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Posted by: MothersWisdom | February 15, 2008 7:33 PM

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