Dear Stacy: My wife is pregnant with our first child, due next spring. We just reached the 12-week milestone and told her parents about the good news. They live in California and are both retired. Less than 24 hours after hearing about the baby, they informed us that they plan to sell their house and move in with us when the baby comes. I was shocked, and when I expressed my doubt they said, don’t worry, we only plan to stay for a year.
We have no family out here, and not too many close friends, so the offer of help sounds pretty good. But moving in with us is completely absurd. I thought Wife and I were on the same page when she replied that our 2-bedroom condo wouldn’t accommodate them for a year. But then she told them we would just move into a bigger place that has a guest suite! Now she’s talking about moving outside the city and finding a place with good school system. This is all without talking to me about how I feel.
I have no intention of selling our place (in this market?!) and moving to the suburbs, all so her parents can live with us. I work from home, and the scenario of spending days on end with them is frightening. But she and I have had problems in the past, including a brief affair on my part, that her entire family found out about, so I’ve been slow to tell her how I truly feel, especially since she is very close with her parents and will likely tell them everything I’ve said, undoing some of the repair work I have done in recent years. Help. I don’t want to lose everything we have when this baby comes. -At a loss for words on Albemarle
Dear At a Loss:
You have outlined a nightmare equation:
New Baby + First-time Parents x On-Site In-Laws/History of Affair = Toxic Environment
I’ve said it before, but communication is what’s needed here. I will assume that you and Wife worked through your affair to the point that it is not her magic trump card in each argument you have (e.g. “You forgot to take out the trash! It’s just like the time when you forgot you were married…”). If not, then I suggest you race to a couples counselor ASAP before Baby arrives. Trust me, you won’t have time for this later, and it’s a huge investment in your parenting future.
But if you and your wife have already worked through the pain of your affair, and together made the conscious decision to forgive and move on (um, with regular check-ins and attention to one another’s needs), then please don’t let your fears about what her family thinks of you serve as a reason not to be heard on the topic of the in-laws moving into your fictional new house in suburbia.
Having a new baby is like hosting a demanding, jetlagged houseguest (who doesn’t speak your language) for about two full years. No matter what size your house is, there may never be space for her parents in that setting. Yes, you will appreciate their help and support, but no, they don’t need to be sleeping in your basement, selecting paint colors, and relying on you for emotional support while adjusting to the simultaneous shocks of retirement, grandparenting, and relocation.
The In-Laws are offering you an amazing gift of love and collaboration. If they really want to try living in the DC area, I say welcome them and help steer them to the very best rental in town. At the same time, recognize that having a child and moving are among the top stressful life events that can lead to anxiety and depression. While some people thrive on tackling these changes all at once, Murphy’s Love you are not in the wrong for voicing opposition. Well intended or not, other people can get between us in relationships – including babies. We must take care to treat marriage space as sacred, or damage is inevitable. Moving away and moving in with two additional adults must be a decision made by you and your wife in harmony. Doing so will affirm your alliance; something you will certainly value as you head into the next 18 years.
I work downtown as an administrative assistant at a nonprofit and I absolutely hate my job. I am 25, graduated more than two years ago with a degree in foreign relations, and while my group’s mission relates somewhat to my education and interests, getting coffee and integrating hardcopy files with our new advanced computer program does not. There’s no one to talk to. No one wants to be friendly with me. I know I am lucky – many of my friends are waiting tables and working in daycare centers because of the difficult job market. But I find myself with a pit in my stomach every time the 32 bus turns onto my office block. It doesn’t help that my boss is a very bitter, older lady with no family or (apparently) friends, who seems to take delight in making my life very difficult. I don’t see an end in sight – I’ve applied for promotions only to be told I don’t have enough experience. How am I to get experience when all they let me do is data entry?
-Fed Up in Federal Triangle
Dear Fed Up:
First, congratulations on maintaining a work history after graduation – not an easy task in this economy! But I hear you that your work situation is not feeding you, and it sounds like in addition to being flat-out bored, you aren’t feeling trusted or appreciated by your officemates. While the office environment isn’t always the best place to make friends, you spend at least 40 hours there per week, and spending those hours without any positive relationships can have painful reverberations into how we feel about our work, our city, and even ourselves.
How about exploring your sense of feeling stuck – are you frustrated in other areas? Dating? Family? Living situation? A wise friend once told me that when we feel like nothing in life is quite right, the one part that seems the most obvious of a misfit (e.g. job) gets the most scrutiny, and as a result, creates the most disappointment. When we’re really stuck, sometimes adding something new and totally unrelated can help build new energy and create opportunity. Are you training for a race? Learning to cook? Learning to drum at Meridian Hill Park?
Back to the office: I applaud your efforts to seek promotions, and I am going to assume that you also have your ear to the ground and eyes on the want ads looking for new opportunities. But as you wait for the right people to realize what a catch you are, have you spoken to your superiors (not just the Bitter Old Lady to whom you report) about feeling dissatisfied? Are you making yourself available for additional assignments and opportunities, all the while showing them your enthusiasm for the more substantive tasks? If so, and you still are not feeling heard, then you will have to weigh the feeling of being ignored and paid, versus the feeling of walking away and figuring out what comes next.
The cliché that it’s easier to find a job when you already have a job is fairly legit in this market, so staying on with the data entry might be a better financial choice for now. A rarely acknowledged workplace truth is that time on the job actually translates into experience on a résumé – e.g. you may think that your “data entry” is worthless, but data entry over a few more years can actually translate into an “information technology specialty,” which may be catnip to your next employer.
But as you wait out the clock, you certainly can seek out more intriguing extracurriculars. Are there organizations in your field you can join – with happy hours you can attend – to meet new people and revive your passion for whatever it is you are passionate about? Yes, your 20’s is a time for paying your dues, but you don’t have to be miserable while writing the check.
Stacy Notaras Murphy is a licensed professional counselor and certified Imago Relationship therapist practicing at the Imago Center of DC in Georgetown. Her website is www.therapygeorgetown.com. This column should not be considered a substitute for professional counseling. Please send your relationship questions to firstname.lastname@example.org