Ask Scary Mommy is Scary Mommy’s advice column, where our team of “experts” answers all the questions you have about life, love, body image, friends, parenting, and anything else that’s confusing you.
This week: What do you do when you and your partner butt heads about a scheduling conflict? Email email@example.com
Dear Scary Mommy,
I saw the advice you gave about the teen daughter doing chores while she was visiting at her dad’s every other weekend, and that was actually very helpful to me. My husband has a teenage daughter (13) from his first marriage as well. I love her very much. We also have 3 kids (10, 8, 6) together, who are all in after-school activities and sports, so we are a very busy family.
Our daughter is with us every other weekend (4 days per month) and occasionally on a Wednesday night (when it works with her school activities schedule). This year, her mom has requested that my husband take her and pick her up from cheerleading practice 2 times weekly, on Wednesdays and Thursdays when she works late. My husband agreed saying it was ‘no trouble’ and ‘close to the house,’ but actually it IS trouble. Because now we have nobody to get our 8-year-old to his Lacrosse practices, unless our 10- or 6-year-old quit one of their activities, because there is a time conflict. I haven’t been able to secure a different transport for him.
I think my stepdaughter’s mom should honestly suck it up and figure it out, especially on the day that isn’t part of the custody agreement, so that none of the kids miss out. But she says she’s a single mom, and sometimes she needs extra help and should be able to depend on my husband for that.
My husband won’t get involved. He’s going to do what he said, and take his daughter to/from practices, regardless of whether this puts out our son or not. I am feeling very angry and resentful and hopeful for an outside POV. What do you think?
It seems to me that this has less to do with being “no trouble” and “close to the house” and everything to do with your husband wanting to show up for his daughter, literally and figuratively, in any way he can. Four days a month is not a lot of time to spend with your child by any stretch of the imagination, so I can definitely see why he jumped at the chance — and is sticking by his decision – to transport her back and forth for cheerleading. When you have such a limited amount of time with your kid, every moment counts. And what’s more, as any parent of a tween or teen can tell you, some valuable conversations happen on those mundane car rides. I suspect your husband is simply trying to be the best dad he can be in the minimal hours he has with his daughter, and no one can fault him for that.
That being said, though, I can see why you’re resentful. You probably feel like he’s choosing his daughter over your son, and if you look at it that way, it’s a hard pill to swallow. But maybe if you try and reframe it, and see your husband as a dad who’s just trying to love and support his kids equally, it might soften your stance a bit. After all, he lives with your son every single day, so they have much more ample opportunity to communicate and bond. With his daughter, he has to take what he can get – and in this case, it just so happens to be cheerleading chauffeur duty.
It’s time to be honest with your husband about your feelings, but don’t come from a place of resentment when you talk to him about it. Instead, let him know that you understand his desire to shuttle his daughter back and forth to practice, but that it presents a practical problem that you could use his help solving: i.e., what to do about your son’s Lacrosse. When you approach it as a team effort rather than an accusation that he’s putting your son out, you’ll likely be much better received. Ask him to help you come up with a solution. If nothing else, there are a ton of carpooling apps and resources that can help you put together a way to get your son to practice.
One more thing to consider in all this is how good it is for your stepdaughter to have the time with her dad. She’s at an age where his involvement is very important, and though she may not realize it consciously, his presence and willingness to show up — no matter how seemingly small — is making an impact.
If rearranging your schedule a bit or working a little harder to find a ride for your son is all you have to do to give her this gift, it’s a small price to pay … for both her and your husband.