A: You must have some sympathy for Piers Morgan, who was recently attacked for an interview he did with a transgender activist, Janet Mock. During it, he asked Mock about having been born and raised a man, for which she took offense. How much better it would have been, if there were terms or assumptions Mock didn't like, if she had explained her thinking to Morgan. As you make clear, what transgender individuals reveal or not is decided on a case by case basis. And here you are, surprised that your partner would not tell your future children about her past. But you two don't have kids, so you've got plenty of time now to talk this out. Keep in mind, decisions such as this are not set in stone. Your partner might say that her childhood will be off limits to discussion. But when faced with actual children who want to look at old photos, she will see this as a chance to explain who she is. And if you two feel you can't move forward until you come to an agreement on this, then having some help from a counselor might help you resolve this.
Q. Re: Maybe room for one more: Before I married my husband, I told him if he wanted to have children to marry someone else. I was dead set against having children. He stuck by me anyway and after 10 years of marriage I changed my mind. Both families were overjoyed, no explanations necessary. We now have three wonderful kids, and I have no regrets about changing my mind.
A: Thanks for this. Yes, I'd say the overwhelming majority of times in this situation the grandparents-to-be do not ask for explanations, they just start crying then run out and buy a crib.
Q. Elderly MIL's Care and Expenses: My husband is an only child and my elderly MIL lives hundreds of miles from us. My MIL has dementia and is no longer able to care for herself. In order to get her long-term care, living situation, and finances in order, my husband has had to travel to where my MIL lives a lot lately. This has cost us thousands of dollars and will not end until my MIL dies. I think that my MIL's estate should help defray the costs of his travel. He is "disappointed" in me for bringing up money at this time. Do you think I am being unreasonable?
A: Caring for an elderly parent who can no longer care for herself is one of life's difficult and draining tasks. And yes, it is financially as well as emotionally draining. There is nothing wrong with talking about how you can afford this, but you have to be very sensitive to the emotional nuances of what your husband is going through. It would be good if you apologized for expressing yourself in a way your husband thought was cold. Say that was not at all your intent. Then open up the discussion about what's best for everyone. If your mother-in-law is alone and needs to be institutionalized, it might be better to move her near you. This possibility, and working out how to make sure everyone's needs are being met, should be something you two should be able to discuss with the acceptance that the conversation comes from a loving place.
Q. Re: Transgender parent: She should really read this and see if discussing it with her partner helps: Girl Goddess #9: Nine Stories by Francesca Lia Block (has a great story of a child raised in this type of configuration—two moms, one of whom used to be a man, hides it from the child).
A: I have not read this book, but thanks for a suggestion that seems so apt.
Q. Tricky Work Topic: I have a good working relationship with my boss, "Derek." Not long ago I mentioned to Derek that I wanted to change my work schedule so I can fit in a workout; I am significantly overweight and would like to drop some inches. He said it was a good idea—he is a gym rat—and he would consider my particular proposal. Then last week Derek said he couldn't OK that proposal, but does want me to lose some weight and so he wants me to come back with other ideas. He specifically mentioned a later work schedule, but that would interfere with my family's dinnertime. I think that his concern is coming from a good place, but I wonder whether we are straying into areas that have the potential to be problematic in the work setting; I know that family issues and weight can both be the subject of legitimate work complaints. How would you advise going forward with this?
A: I would advise that your weight is none of Derek's business and you erred by bringing it into the workplace. If you want a more flexible schedule, you should simply have made a request for different work hours, explaining that you felt the change would help you be more productive and efficient. Now you're down the rat hole with your gym rat over your optimum time to fit in a workout. You need to drop this. Explain to Derek his counterproposal unfortunately doesn't work for you. If there is some work hour compromise you can come up with, present it, minus the discussion of your waist size. If he brings up your weight, tell him you're sorry you brought your personal life into this discussion and you just want to focus on optimizing your work schedule. Do keep in mind that you can work exercise into a sedentary day by other means than the gym: Park in the furthest space, take the stairs, devote half your lunch time to a brisk walk.
Q. Re: Transgender mom: I have a hard time understanding how this couple would reconcile raising an open-minded child (which, I assume, is a goal of theirs) with hiding his/her parent's own experience with gender and sexuality.
A: There are so many issues here around identity, privacy, and secrecy. But I think it would be hard to expect a child would not find out this part of her mother's history. And I agree that being to talk about it in an open, confident way would help insure there was no sense of shame attached to the information.
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