Monday, June 30, 2008

Juggling Marriage, Career & Toddlers

I am so thrilled to be done with graduate school! The one person I owe the greatest debt of gratitude is my husband. He has supported me every inch of the way including juggling our schedules to make sure our toddler son was taken care of. As most parents will share, daycare costs are astronomical - my husband and I opted to shuttle our son between us and for that I am eternally grateful. I had a healthy dose of being a stay at home mom in the daytime with grad school at night. When my mental health/marriage & family therapy internship came about- we had to reconfigure schedules again. We probably have a good definition of flexibility in roles and life transitions :)

I went back to graduate school when our son was 2.5 months old because I had to - long story. Since I am a die hard believer in nursing, that presented some issues for my poor hubby including panic when the baby finished all his bottled milk :) He became an expert diaper changer, his way of playing with the baby was rougher than I - yet our son loved it! The greatest lesson I learned was that, I was not an expert in caring for my son and therefore my husband needed to find his own way without my constant criticism. We are different and our son thrived because of that difference. He is a healthy, extremely verbal, active and funny 2.8 year old boy. He started 2 days of preschool 3 weeks ago right in the middle of my final class projects and loved it! My story is not unique by any means, there are other women who can share about supportive husbands who helped them achieve their dream. I'm just glad to be able to write about it and give my hubby public props.

Were there times of tension and conflict over all my roles as a wife, mother, grad student, mental health intern? Yes! We had verbal disagreements, ignored taps on the shoulder in the middle of the night, silent treatment mostly from me and then we figured we'd better smarten up. By the second year of grad school in 2007 - I began wondering how other young couples were coping with juggling marriage, careers and babies. This is the reason why my website was born. I was determined to help young couples make it during their early years of marriage when life goes insane with shifting roles. I talked to stable married friends and older couples who had faced similar circumstances and also searched the web and a couple of good books. The main advice was having an attitude of "stick-to-itiveness".

Our story is not unique, lots of couples deal with worse trying times. There's no perfect way to deal with juggling marriage, careers, babies and life changes - keeping your communication line open and choosing to stay together through thick and thin works. The secret seems to lie in having a die-hard committment to stick together and make it together. My point today was to give my husband public props for being the coolest level headed, secure hubby ever!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Obama's Speech on Father's Day

Happy Father's Day to all those dads taking good care of their families! I just read a text of Barack Obama's father's day speech at the Apostolic Church of God in Chicago and loved it. I'm glad he was bold enough to hit the nail on the head during a presidential season when he should be 'watching his words'. Common sense and not political correctness, tells us that present/involved dads play a great role in shaping a child's life. Its amazing to see our son respond to my husband's voice. He knows there's a dad in the house who loves him and won't let him get away with acting a fool. I feel incredibly blessed to be watching the boy he is becoming as a result of a loving, playful, firm, present dad. Obama is right - dads are key to breaking the cycle of poverty, broken families and demanding the best from their children.

My husband, my big brother Joe and my uncles are all great dads who shaped my view of men and taught me there are some good responsible men in the world. So kudo's to great dads out there taking care of business! My father decided not to be a part of our family and we grew up with my single mom in Nairobi. My greatest blessings included my uncles who stepped in as male authority figures and models. Their involvement in our lives exemplified the family ties often present in African families. They were heavily involved during my wedding negotiations with my husband's family. In Kamba tradition (my tribe, my hubby's is Luo) there are several negotiation meetings to determine if the man deserves to marry their girl/daughter. My uncles definitely put my husband through the wringer, he thought long and hard about the promises he made to them that he would take care of me. I'll write about that in the near future. Back to great dad's .....

The National Fatherhood Initiative has some great resources on for men committed to being present dads. The Father's Forum online is another great site I came across with good tips for first time fathers written by men. I learned early that my husband was more likely to listen to advice that was 'guyspeak'. The African American Healthy Marriage Initiative has some great information on building strong marriages & families in the black community. Another great resource is the Christian parenting website of Focus on the Family. In conclusion, be a present and involved dad - your kids will thank you for the rest of their lives. As Obama said "I resolved many years ago that it was my obligation to break the cycle — that if I could be anything in life, I would be a good father to my girls," Sasha and Malia are two blessed little girls to have a dad committed to being there for them.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Moment of Truth Show Affects Family Dynamics

I stumbled on "The Moment of Truth" show on Fox TV back in April before I received a call in May from one of their casting directors in South Florida. Back to the show ... morbid curiosity took over as I watched contestants compete to tell the "truth" for the grand price of $500,000 based on previous polygraphed questions. If their response elicited "That answer is FALSE" - they lost all the money won. The contestants seem to be regular folks, single, married, working class, stay at home moms (SAHM) and upstanding citizens. The juiciest bits come from married contestants who answer to intimate details of their lives. I wondered why they are willing to destroy their families on national TV.

The call from the South Florida casting director was a surprise to me. They googled my marriage preparation classes site and contacted me about announcing their casting in Miami. They were looking for young engaged or married couples to go on the show. The director was polite and I of course said I'd review their emailed information. As I watched episodes afterwards, I could not in good conscience recommend the show to my couples. Telling the "Truth" has a limit - even for Christians. The medical motto "Do No Harm" applies to the mental health field and my legal and ethics class drummed it into our heads. The show relies on "Truth" for ratings based on how much pain the contestant drags their loved ones through sordid disclosures. Contestants admit affairs, job violations (EMT falsified reports), lying to the government, arson, robbery, perversion, and revelations of resentment to unsuspecting family members. Recommending the show to young couples would do more harm than build their young relationships.

Classic advice given to folks admitting a sexual affair is to tell the truth to the wronged spouse without expounding on the details on frequency, locations, positions etc. The wronged spouse might demand details but it does not benefit either of you - it prolongs the pain and gives them a vivid image to associate with your betrayal. Michele Weiner-Davis has some incredible articles on her website on divorce busting concerning infidelity.

Spilling the beans on national TV does not make you a hero. If anything, I think "Moment of Truth" justifies its existence by making contestants seem slimy for hurting their loved ones on TV. By the time they win $100,000, the body language of the spouse or significant other often indicates rejection and shock. Some marriages end, relationships break up and contestants risk losing their jobs based on their disclosures. The show makes for good TV and bad family dynamics.

Building a healthy relationship requires honesty and truth layered in loads of love. The world does not need to know sordid details of your personal life - if anything people respect you less. Lesson here: if you are a young engaged or married couple, think carefully before jumping into the reality show biz for a bit of money to start your family. The experience might leave you with nothing including your loved one who you wanted to build a future with. If you have sordid details to disclose chose carefully who to share them with. Remember that details are best when brief and edited, timing is essential and your motivation should be to build the relationship and not just purge your sin or guilt.