Ask Dr. Susan vs. Ask Dr. Laura: “Please Help Me to Fix My Husband”

It’s like I joined the Witness Protection Program, except the exact opposite. Hi. I’m Susan. I used to go by Malyshka, which isn’t my real name, but I decided that doing so was dumb. So now I go by Susan, which IS my real name. Hi! You should still ask me stuff.

This week, I’m going to go up against Dr. Laura again, because it’s fun. But if you have a pressing issue, please ask! I will advise you just like Dr. Laura does, only way better.

From Dr. Laura’s website (transcript from her YouTube channel):

“I’m a stay-at-home mom of two toddler boys, married four years to a great husband. My boys get very excited to see daddy arrive at home at the end of each day and he usually takes them outside until dinner is ready. Daddy usually leaves something behind, like a cell phone or something to drink, and leaves the kids in the driveway while he runs back to get his forgotten item. This annoys me. I feel it’s not safe and it’s not right. I grew up in a city, I’m not at ease when it comes to dealing with this stuff. I fear for their safety, even though we live in a great family neighborhood. I’ve addressed this with my husband each time I see it happen and he ignores me or says ‘you seem to think I don’t know what I am doing and you have trust issues with me.’ At that point, I want to scream. Even leaving them in the garage where they will be in sight would be a better option. In any event, this always turns into an argument. How can I get him to see eye-to-eye with me on this?”

Dr. Laura’s advice: Ok, he’s not as hypersensitive or (forgive me) a little paranoid as you are, so you’re never going to see eye-to-eye. So, it might be good for you to A) bring out his drink of soda or whatever it is, bring out his cell phone. If those are the two things he comes back in for, just say “honey, you forgot these” and there’s no more issue.

See, I just like the simpler solutions, rather than fighting it out. Just realize he’s a little absent minded there, the kids have been fine, most of the time kids are fine. It’s the extraordinary exceptions when something horrible happens, but I appreciate being safer than sorry. However, you know, calm it down and be cooperative. Cooperation is the best way to handle this. “Sweetie, do you have everything that you need?” And if you see that he missed something, bring it out to him. “Can I get something for you? Just tell me.” That’s how loving people treat each other.

Dr. Susan’s advice: What is happening here is not about danger, and it isn’t about fear, even though it feels like that to you. You say that you live in a great neighborhood, and that he is leaving the children in the driveway. Quick question: have you ever left them in the driveway? Or left them at the front of the grocery store while you run to get a cart, or answered your phone while at the playground, turning your attention away from them? For just a second? My guess is that you have, and that it didn’t seem like a big deal to you because it isn’t a big deal. What your husband is doing, though, feels different. Why is this?

There are two issues going on: trust and respect. The trust issue comes from you, and for whatever reason, you do not trust your husband completely to take care of the children. This is not infrequent when women are the primary caretakers, and the internet is riddled with articles about fixing the “chore wars,” many of which suggest turning over control. You are used to being in charge of how the children are raised, and you get nervous when you turn over the control. Since this particular situation is something that happens often, it is where the trust issues are coming out.

Putting it simply: the risk of a child being kidnapped in the United States is very unlikely. There are 69.8 million kids under 18 in the United States.Around 800,000 are reported missing each year, of which, 200,000 are actually reported as abducted (instead of just lost). Of those, 58,000 were abducted by non-family members, and the number of stereotypical kidnappings (involving a stranger, or near-stranger, who kidnaps the kid for evil reasons, demands randsom, etc.) is 115. This is a .00016% chance of your kids being kidnapped in the way that you imagine, and that figure for your situation would be even lower given the fact that your neighborhood sounds like it is well-populated, your husband is leaving them outside for a few minutes during daylight hours, and the area is full of families. This is roughly half the chance of getting struck by lightning, or about 1/100 the chance of dying in a car crash. Do you allow your kids to ride in vehicles?

All of this is to say that your fear is not completely rational. Everybody fears for their children’s safety, but your fear is based on a lack of control: lack of control over Bad Guys, and lack of control over your husband when he is in charge of the children.

The other side of the equation is respect, and here, the problem is coming from your husband. You have brought up with him that this bothers you, and even though this isn’t totally rational, it is a valid feeling on your part. Your husband is unwilling to work on the behavior, even though you have suggested ways to do so that are simple. This is disrespectful to you.

Thus, there are two problems, both rooted in your relationship with your husband, and neither are actually dangerous for your children: your trust of him, and his respect of your feelings. If you are willing to admit that this is a trust/control problem, and work on placing more trust in him, he will most likely become less defensive about the situation and be willing to work on respecting your needs more. Instead of the argument being framed in the idea that he is putting the kids in danger, it is framed in an understanding that your feelings are not logical but they are valid, and asking him to help to put your mind at ease. The fight is not about him being a bad parent, but about both of you recognizing your weaknesses as partners.

Dr. Laura suggested that you follow your husband around with forgotten items to forgo possible arguments. This is a terrible idea. First, instead of working on the trust/control issue, it is shoring up the feelings that you have that he cannot manage on his own. Second, instead of showing your husband that you understand the underlying reasons for the argument, and diffusing the situation, following him around with things he has forgotten is likely to make him more defensive about his capability as a parent (and human being). Dr. Laura appreciates simplicity, but what she says about loving people is just not true. Loving people treat each other as equals, and recognize weaknesses in themselves in order to strengthen a relationship. Love your husband, who is doing a fantastic job as a father, and take strides toward treating him and having him treat you as an equal.

By Susan

I am old and wise. Perhaps more old than wise, but once you're old, you don't give a shit about details anymore.

12 replies on “Ask Dr. Susan vs. Ask Dr. Laura: “Please Help Me to Fix My Husband””

Your advice is way better than Dr. Laura’s. I am always slightly paranoid about cars and kidnappers, regardless of the fact that I know MiniB will be fine if we leave her outside for the 45 seconds it takes to run in and grab a phone. The Mister and I managed to compromise on “If you need to run into the house, the kids have to play by the porch.” It’s far enough away from the road that I feel pretty safe, and MiniB still gets to play.

Definitely a traffic issue. If the kids aren’t in a fenced yard, then they can’t be unattended until they know not to run out into the street– period. My six year old is knows this, but my three year old still isn’t aware of where the sidewalk ends and the street begins. If he’s outside (we have a  pond in back, and a street in front), an adult has to know where he is.  If I need to run inside, he has to come into the garage. If I had to choose between my kid getting hit by a car or bringing my husband his phone or his drink, I’d bring the drink out. Is it annoying? Yes. Does it piss me off? Yes. Am I willing to put my child’s life at risk? Not a chance. I’ll suck it up.

This is where my own experiences work against me. My toddler is anxious and terrified of cars, and our driveway is sort of a cul de sac with very little traffic (we are the last apartment). If she sees a car down the street, she screeches and runs for my arms (actually, even if she hears a motor going). Even if she got brave and ran into the street, it would take awhile for her to get to it, plus the traffic is rare. Which isn’t to say I leave her hanging out in the driveway alone for hours (or minutes, or seconds), but if my husband ran inside to get his phone, it wouldn’t be an emergency situation. But my setup is not the norm.

I grew up in a cul-de-sac (well, in a house on one), and it was fantastic for this reason. Now we’re on a street corner (well, in a townhouse on one) & it’s a whole different thing. Our neighborhood streets aren’t that busy, but it’s not a neighborhood with a lot of kids, so people don’t drive cautiously like you do in a neighborhood with kids hanging all about.

What I wouldn’t do for a yard with a fence! Or at least not a retention pond 200 ft from my back door!

This is a great point.  I was looking at it from the point of view of “somebody will kidnap my child” instead of “they could hurt themselves” (based on the “great family neighborhood” bit, which could mean that people drive slowly).  I still think following daddy outside with his cell phone is a terrible idea.

You’re right – and I was only looking at it from the point of view of kidnapping (based on her point about “great family neighborhood,” although that might mean more than just “free from kidnappers”).  I think that the problem does have to be worked out between the mother and her husband, instead of just walking around with a bunch of his crap all the time.  But you raise a good point.

I really hate “Dr.” Laura. Of course her solution is to make the wife follow her husband around and anticipate his every need. “Daddy” needs to get his act together. If someone left my toddler in the driveway for a minute I wouldn’t be worried about kidnapping, but I pretty much guarantee she’d wander off, probably into the street. If he can’t remember to stick his phone in his pocket, he needs to just live without it and play with the kids. If he gets thirsty, bring everyone in for a drink.

Yes.  That is probably what blinded me to the mother’s legitimate fears – that Dr. Laura makes me so mad.  Following daddy around won’t help anything!  But I should have taken into account toddlers and their ability to run far, fast, in every direction.

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