While I’m away, readers give the advice.
On parents who feel that “all we do is rush around”:
A lot of us feel that. Be sure the kids are doing the extracurriculars they truly enjoy, not just because everyone else is doing it.
Then, focus on truly being present wherever you are. If you trust the child-care/school situation of your children, then totally focus on work when you’re at work. If you are with the kids, then totally focus on them. Put down the cellphone.
If you feel good about being with your kids when you are with them, and if you pay attention to them, then they will remember you. We’re doing what we are all supposed to do – work to support a family we love.
Trying To Take My Own Advice
I have worked my children’s entire lives. (I got two whole weeks off when my oldest was born.) When I was married, my husband had a hard time keeping a job. After we divorced, he had an even harder time making child-support payments. So quitting was never an option for me. I worried that I was missing the important parts of their lives. To add insult to injury, the job that kept food on the table and a roof over their heads in a decent school district also included travel. My career priority was moving up into a position that wouldn’t require as much travel, and I worked like a dog to get there. But I worried every step of the way about the cost.
Fast-forward to my youngest’s freshman year in college. She called one day, in tears, to thank me for being a working mom! She said that learning to juggle classes, organizations, an apartment, a roommate, and newfound freedoms had her appreciating just how much I managed to accomplish while she was growing up. She said she knew it was hard, but that I always made it look easy to her and, most of all, I never missed anything important. She said she was following my example by setting priorities, organizing her time in advance, and reminding herself that not everything has to get done. She was thinking how lucky she was that she had a mom who taught her how to do all of this and just thought she ought to let me know. At that point, we were both in tears.
With clear priorities, you can be there for the important things, and your kids will let you know what is important.
On giving compliments when someone loses a dramatic amount of weight:
Fat woman here. I’m 5'7”. I gained a lot of weight in my teenage years, mostly emotional eating resulting from sexual abuse in middle school. (In retrospect, I was partly, unconsciously, trying to hide my curves, blaming them for what my abuser did to me.) By the end of college, I weighed around 200 pounds. Over six months, I lost 50 pounds and was the slimmest of my life. All of a sudden, new people started talking to me, co-workers who never gave me the time of day. People I walked by every day who had averted their eyes and who I assumed were unfriendly all of a sudden complimented me on the weight loss, struck up conversations in the elevator.
Fast-forward a year, and I put the weight back on. Lots of reasons, mostly that I had not learned new coping skills and the new attention from men and women was terrifying. I didn’t want to be seen that much! And I hated the realization that all of the time they DID see me, they just saw me as unworthy of human interaction because all they could see was my fat, not my person.
I’ve yo-yo’d up and down for 10 years, every time getting the same result of suddenly being worthy of being treated like a human. If you are reading and are inclined to be kind to people in the process of losing weight, how about just being kind to people of all sizes and shapes?
On the fear of raising nerdy kids:
I am an incorrigible nerd, and the child of similarly unapologetic nerds. My cousins are definitely nerds, and so are my brothers; the last time my youngest brother and I were in a car together we spent maybe 5-10 minutes performing the yo-momma fight from “Robot Chicken Star Wars” and the rest of the time dissecting anime. I love having this common ground with my family.
My parents delighted in our endless oddities, and, though we come from a strong-willed family to begin with, I think we are stronger because of their support. My weirdo brothers and I were never taught to pander to the “popular” masses; we were told from the start there was no shame in being ourselves. I think this is a message more kids need to hear.
Email Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.