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Archive for May, 2011

If you do something for someone else make sure it’s for the right reasons.

I spoke to a woman in therapy who is annoyed with her mother. She says her mother volunteers to do things for her church group, such as prepare a meal or drive someone to the doctor’s. Then her mother complains about everything she does for others and that they don’t appreciate it.

I asked the woman why she thought her mother complained about being a good samaritan.

“Because she wants a pat on the back for everything she does,” she said. But, she added, “I don’t want to give her a pat on the back. Instead I’d like to slap her for her complaining.”

I told the woman I thought a slap was a bit drastic, to which she agreed.

It is a curious thing, however, that people volunteer to take care of others or jump in and take responsibility and then become irritated because they have so much to do. Or they feel mistreated because they don’t get the recognition they think they deserve.

This phenomenon is especially prevalent at Christmastime. A woman shops like mad for her family and all her relatives. Although shopping is work, she mostly enjoys the hustle and bustle of the mall. Each time she picks out a present, she gives herself a pat on the back: “What a good gift-giver am I.”

Sometimes she shows off her purchases to relatives and friends. But if the people she has shopped for are not as grateful as she thinks they should be, she’s miffed.

Now she moves into a victim mode and gets to fret and criticize and think, “After all I do for them.” In some ways she is double-dipping. She gets to enjoy herself while shopping and give herself strokes for being a good person. Then she allows herself to complain about how she’s being taken for granted. If she fusses loud enough, perhaps a few more nods of recognition will come her way.

If this scenario sounds familiar, decide that your reward is the pleasure you derive from shopping, giving and focusing on others. Decide, too, that you won’t grumble if people aren’t as appreciative as your efforts deserve. Remember the enjoyment you receive when in the act of doing for others. Don’t attach a string!

By Doris Wild Helmering, “Mother of Reason”

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How one woman handled her husband’s affair.

When Joan received an anonymous phone call informing her that her husband was having an affair, she said that she couldn’t breathe. “I think the phone call confirmed what I vaguely suspected,” she said.

“My husband, who had always been easygoing, had became hostile.” When Joan tried to find out why he was leaving so early in the morning for his job or what time he was coming home from work, he acted as if it were none of her business. “He also bought himself some new sweaters and pants, tennis shoes, and loafers.” When Joan shared information about her life or the children’s, her husband would act uninterested.

“I was spending a lot of hours at work, so I think I dismissed the changes that were occurring.”

After the phone call, Joan started checking her husband’s long-distance phone bills. She looked more carefully at the checkbook and the charge card bills. There were bills from florists and restaurants. “Restaurants we never went to. Flowers I never saw,” she said.

At first Joan thought of killing herself. “I just couldn’t make sense of it because I thought we had a good marriage. My husband even said we had a good marriage.”

When Joan confronted her husband, he gave up the affair reluctantly. He said, however, that he had never thought of getting out of their marriage. He bought his wife gifts, apologized, and tried to reassure her. When Joan would get angry and berate him, he’d take it. He refused to fight back and he kept telling her he was sorry.

After two or three years, Joan said she brought up the affair less and less. “I could actually get through an argument and not mention the affair. I still have pain, but I no longer obsess on how my husband could do this to me.”

Doris Wild Helmering, “Mother of Reason”

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When parents stand their ground, children may not be happy.
“This week I developed a backbone,” a mother told me.

She decided to get tough when she looked at her daughter’s pay stub and discovered that she had earned less than $60 during an entire semester of college. Why? Because her daughter chose to work only a few hours a week. “And she only takes four courses,” said the mother in disbelief.

“Her father and I are working hard to pay bills and scrape by and give her spending money”

After seeing how little her daughter was working, the mother vowed that she no longer would give her money to go out with friends for lunch, or go to the movies, or make long distance telephone calls. “My daughter has money in the bank,” said the mother, “so she can spend her own money. And if she runs out, she can work more.”

Here are two more stories of mothers who found their backbone. “Last week school was canceled because of snow. My house was full of boys ranging in age from nine to fifteen,” said Julie. “I made snacks, dried their wet clothes in my dryer, repeatedly cleaned up the wet floor, and kept some sense of order. One little boy stayed for dinner and then watched a movie with us.”

The next day when this mother announced she was going shopping with her friend for a few hours, she took all kinds of grief from her 10-year old son. Where was she going, he wanted to know. “Why can’t I go too? What am I supposed to do all day? When will you be home?” he whined. The kicker came when he asked, “Well, will you at least take me to the mall tonight?”

When these tactics didn’t get him the results he wanted, he confronted his mother about her spending. He said, “You told me I couldn’t buy anything for a month, but you’re going to.”

The mother said nothing.

Another mother had a similar experience. “The first day it snowed, a friend of my daughter’s came over,” said the mother. “They baked cookies. Then four other teenagers came by the house, and they all went sledding. When the six of them came back, my husband and I were watching a mystery on television. The kids wanted to watch a football game, so my husband and I gave up our mystery and the kids watched the game in the family room. We went upstairs to read because we don’t have cable upstairs and the mystery was on cable.” The daughter’s friend also spent the night.

The following day, this mother announced that she would be taking her car. She had to work that morning and was going shopping with her friend in the afternoon. The daughter had a fit. “What about me?” the daughter wanted to know. “I need the car. We were planning on going to lunch and shopping.”

“I’ll drop you off at the mall,” the mother suggested. The daughter declined.

“Can’t you take your friend’s car?” the daughter begged. “She can drive her car.”

The mother said no. She wanted to drive her own car because it had four-wheel drive. The mother found her backbone.

One thing to keep uppermost in mind when parenting: Do not expect your children to be happy when you put yourself first or take care of yourself instead of them. Don’t expect your children to be happy when you say no. Don’t expect your children to say, “I’ve had enough fun, Mom; now it’s your turn.

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I decided to write my column about you today. So sit back, and I hope you enjoy because I’m going to talk about how great you are.

I think my earliest memory of you, Mom, was when you slipped on the ice on the front steps and couldn’t get up. I was three, and you had me go to a neighbor’s house to get help. It was you and me in that little house; Dad was away in the war. I remember loving you so hard.

I remember the day you enrolled me in kindergarten, and I got sick, and you carried me four blocks because I couldn’t walk. You were so worried.

Remember when I would come home for lunch when I was in grade school, and we’d sit at the table and eat soup? We’d listen to Rex Davis and the News and then that radio soap opera that started with “Can a girl from a small mining town in West Virginia?” I loved coming home for lunch and being with you.

I remember, too, that every day about four o’clock you’d go wash up and put on make-up because Dad was coming home. I used to secretly admire you as I watched you put on your lipstick. You were so pretty. You still are beautiful, Mom.

I remember one night I was not a very good girl, and you told me that when the ice cream man came, I was not going to get an ice cream. I was sure you were going to change your mind. You went out to that little truck and got everyone but me an ice cream. I was so sad when you didn’t get me one. I knew then I better behave. Thanks, Mom, for having the courage to discipline me.

I remember all the times you took me to swim practice and all the malts we drank afterwards. Mom, do you know how many fat grams are in those malts? They were sure good, weren’t they?

Remember all the meals you prepared? Pork chops with mashed potatoes and applesauce and peas. Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, white gravy, spinach, beets, and salad. And pie for dessert. And when you made liver for Dad, you made us girls bacon because we couldn’t get the liver down.

Remember how I used to read that Betty Crocker cookbook and cook all summer long? You ate everything I made, even my first cherry pie when you had to tear the crust because it was so tough. You were my friend.

Remember when I had our son John? I couldn’t get him to sleep for anything, and you’d come over and rock him, and he’d go to sleep. That’s when I realized experience was everything.

I remember when I started writing my newspaper column years ago. Anna Mary was a baby. If I got writer’s block, you’d come over and play with her or take her for a walk so I could get it together.

I remember, too, all the times you babysat John and Paul and all the swimming outings and fishing trips you took them on. And how you’d save your money for Christmas to be able to give everyone a special gift.

Mom, you have given me so much. You taught me to say “please” and “thank you” and “I’m sorry.” You taught me to give hugs and freely say “I love you.” You gave me the gift of liking to work. You gave me a belief in God and a religion and you taught me to pray. You gave me the courage to try new things and be adventurous. You gave me the love of cooking and eating and having family gatherings. You taught me how to take care of others and to be responsible. You taught me to smile and laugh and enjoy life and make each day count. You are a wonderful wife, a sweet grandma, a special human being and my mom. I love you!

┬áDoris Wild Helmering, “Mother of Reason”

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