Enlivening Ourselves

Dear Dr. Norquist:

I know I’m too involved in my kid’s lives, but I don’t know how to pull back. I worry they won’t be on top of things, so I’m always reminding them of what needs to be done.I guess they see it as nagging. They are getting older now (6th, 9th & 12th grades), and I know I have to be less involved with the details of their lives, but I hate seeing them make mistakes (not studying for a test, or forgetting about a practice, etc.) I work a part time job at a local doctor’s office (15 hours/week), but mostly I’m home for the kids after school. My husband travels a lot, so he’s not involved with the kids in the detailed way that I am. What will I’d do when they are gone?

Dr. Norquist responds:

Your last sentence may be the crux of the matter. Perhaps your over-involvement with your kids serves the purpose of distracting you from an emptiness you feel inside. Their lives are your life. This is necessarily so, to a certain degree, when our kids are young. But as they grow, our job is to help their gradual development into confident independent young adults who are capable of managing their own lives. The longer you stay in the "managing" role, the less they have the opportunity to develop this skill for themselves. There is a consequence here for you as well: the more you focus your energy on managing their lives, the more out of touch you can become with the need to embrace and develop who you are as a person. Perhaps this is why you fear the fact that they will eventually move on. Who are you when you are not being their mother? This is a question you must start to focus more of your energy on. What do you want to do with this life you’ve been given? Your job as mother will be diminishing more and more over the next 6 years. It is a time to think of new beginnings for yourself. Doing this will help you to allow your kids to gradually take more responsibility for managing their own lives. This will make their transition to adulthood much smoother and more certain. One of the hardest things for a parent to do is to let their child make her own mistakes (within reason, of course). As parents, we are teachers, of sorts, about love, relationships, and life. Teachers do not do the work for their students – but they do provide structure, guidance, feedback, and course material that is age appropriate, and sometimes individually tailored for the student. Perhaps this analogy can be useful to you as you evaluate how to best respond to your kids needs.

Dear Dr. Norquist:

My husband has been laid off for some time now. He is computer-crazed and wants to know everything about them and how they work. He’s going to go to school for an intense course on computer repair. I’m proud of him.

Here’s my concern: He spends at least 5 days a week, from morning to night on the computer. I feel it’s not right and I miss him. He says “oh honey you know you’re the most important person in my life, and if you need me I’ll stop.” Well I’ve never asked for any man’s attention, I feel if he wants to spend time with me, he will.

We were just recently married, and I remember telling him before the marriage I couldn’t live with him on the computer all the time. After we were married, weeks of bliss followed. Unfortunately, it was short-lived and I need to know if I’m being selfish in asking him to stay off the computer?

I feel so alone sometimes and cry a lot over this. I get so angry that I would love to take a sledgehammer to this computer. I attend college, and have a 13-yr. old son. When I come home, it would be nice to feel special. Don’t get me wrong when it’s convenient for him he tells me I’m special and spends time with me. I love him with all my heart! Any advice would be much appreciated.

Dr. Norquist responds:

Your husband’s zealousness about the computer may be his way of dealing with being laid off. It provides him with a sense of competence, possible job opportunities, something “useful” to do with his time, and perhaps something to buoy his self-esteem during this time period when he is lacking in a solid working provider identify in the family. It may also have become a way of avoiding being aware of his feelings, and his other responsibilities in life.

Quite understandably, you are feeling emotionally abandoned, and are angry about it. He needs to know how much you miss him, how much you love him and desire to spend time with him, and that his lack of a job doesn’t affect your desire for or need for time with him. See if you can plan set times to be together, or set activities to do together. His unemployment may be affecting both of you in these not so obvious ways.

Dr. Norquist and the staff of Chaitanya invite you to write them at Chaitanya Counseling and Stress Management Center, 51 Newark St., Suite 202, Hoboken, NJ 07030 or www.chaitanya.com or by e-mail at drnorquist@chaitanya.com, or by fax at (201) 656-4700. Questions can address various topics, including relationships, life’s stresses, difficulties, mysteries and dilemmas, as well as questions related to managing stress or alternative ways of understanding and treating physical symptoms and health-related concerns. Practitioners of the following techniques are available to answer your questions: psychology, acupuncture, therapeutic and neuromuscular massage, yoga, meditation, spiritual & transpersonal psychology, Reiki, Cranial Sacral Therapy, and Alexander Technique Ó 2002 Chaitanya Counseling and Stress Management Center.


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