Q. Only Grandbaby: I am expecting my first (and only) child in a few months. This will also be the only grandchild on both sides. What my husband calls “The Christmas Wars” have already begun, with my dad sending multiple emails announcing he will not spend time with my mom (they’re divorced) and that I need to acknowledge his request and ensure their visits are scheduled apart. He also doesn’t want the other grandparents around. Other fun communications have arrived from the others, but it is mostly him. My husband said he wants to take our little family of three out of town for Christmas and leave all the craziness behind. The issue is that I am older than most first-time moms (40) and the grandparents are all well into their 70s, so they won’t have as much time to enjoy being grandparents, as they keep telling us. Is it OK for us to leave town with the new baby for his/her first Christmas? If so, how soon do we tell the family and what do we say?
A: At least you’re not coping with the breaking news that your parents aren’t perfect. I know that this winter has seemed unusually long-lasting, but last time I looked at the calendar, it showed we actually have three seasons to get through before we’re back to winter festivities again. You are about to have the only grandchild for people quivering with anticipation. However, if one of them, prior to the birth, is already throwing tantrums over how much attention he gets, you need to learn how to ignore and reduce such behavior. Tell him now that you don’t want any more demands from him on who visits and when. Say if the emails keep coming, you’re going to delete them without answering. Understand the rest of the grandparents are eager, but tell them you’re going to put a lid on everyone’s demands. Do not make plans to flee for Christmas. You will find that having a baby tends to change things a lot, including your energy level. It might also mean that those old people who are annoying you now turn out to be a godsend in a few months (maybe with the exception of your father).
Q. Re: Changing your mind about having a baby: From the wording of your response, it sounds like you are putting all the guilt and problems on the husband, wanting him to go see a counselor with his wife. That is so wrong. He went into this marriage (at the time) with a woman who didn’t want kids and HE still doesn’t want kids ... Now that she does you think he should change his mind. No he shouldn’t.
A: He’s in a marriage, so I think he has an obligation to at the least discuss with his wife the source of her feelings and give fair consideration to them. It’s really not beyond the bounds of imagination that people who don’t want kids in their 20s feel differently about it in their thirties. And it’s not much of a marriage when your spouse asks to talk to you about something profound your response is, “Asked and answered.”
Q. Travel Woes in My Marriage: I’m finally in a position to start traveling a bit off of the North American continent but my wife has a problem that makes this difficult. She suffers from crippling anxiety about flying. While medication could ease her 8-hour flight, she says that she’d be just as anxious during the whole trip knowing that the flight home is fast approaching. She also suffers from drowning anxiety, so taking the Queen Mary to Europe is out as well. I’ve never been outside of the U.S. and would love to see a bit of the world while I can, but doing so without my wife would be difficult if not impossible. Should I give up my desire to see Europe or should I live my life without letting my wife’s issues cripple both mine and hers?
A: Your wife needs the help of someone who treats phobias. If she agrees to go, obviously, the end point of treatment is that you both get on a plane, so you will have your answer as to whether or not it worked. If she refuses to even consider getting help, then I don’t see why you have to be limited to the driving radius of your home. Lots of couples vacation separately. Sure, it’s not ideal, but you don’t give any reason for your assertion that it would be virtually impossible.
Q. Re: His and hers vacations: I love to travel; my husband is a homebody. We usually take a together weekend each year, and then I’m off on my various trips, across the country or even overseas. I know he wouldn’t enjoy my trips, and I would be worried the whole time that he’s not. Plus: We are always so happy to see each other after a trip—we realize just how much we miss each other.
A: Lovely! And you sound so understanding I bet you are a great travel companion.
Emily Yoffe: Thanks, everyone. Have a great week. It’s going to get warm someday, right?
Check out Dear Prudence's book recommendations in the Slate Store.