In this weekly feature, husband-and-wife entrepreneurs and full-time parents Marty and Wendy Byrde share advice on raising kids, achieving work-life balance and taking time to enjoy what’s most important: family. Note: the opinions expressed are those of Marty and Wendy Byrde, and do not reflect the views of this blog.
Dear Marty and Wendy Byrde,
My husband and I are the proud parents of a four-week-old son! While we’re excited to have a healthy, happy baby, we’re also pretty exhausted. How long can we expect the nonstop routine of feeding, playing with and putting our baby to sleep to continue? No one told us it would be this hard!
— Sleepless in Sarasota
Wendy: First of all, congratulations on your new arrival! That is so exciting! Nothing can top the fulfillment of bringing a little bundle of joy into this world, but I agree that it can be very taxing. What I will tell you is that it does get easier. In a few weeks, your baby boy will be more settled into your routine. He’ll be less fussy, will sleep longer and, eventually, you, your baby and your husband will make it through the night without a diaper change! In the meantime, be kind to one another and make sure you and Hubby are giving each other breaks when you need them.
Marty: I’m just going to echo Wendy’s response and agree that it gets easier – eventually. Full disclosure: the early weeks of baby-rearing were not my favorite. I was recently reminded of this when we cared for a friend’s newborn, Zeke, for a few weeks. I guess the key is knowing that this phase doesn’t last forever, and to try to enjoy it while it lasts. Congrats to you both.
My sister and I are estranged. We’ve been best friends for as long as I can remember, but her dependency on alcohol and prescription drugs has made her erratic and unpredictable. I’m just not comfortable having her around my two children until she addresses her addictions. My mother says I’m being dramatic. Am I? How do I repair my fractured relationship with my sister while also protecting my family?
— Tammy in Toledo
Wendy: Oh, Tammy! Your letter touched my heart as I also have a sibling with substance abuse problems. My brother, Ben, has battled addiction to everything from heroin to opioids most of his adult life. He’s been in and out of treatment centers and, when he’s sober, he is one of the most loving, caring people you could ever meet. Sadly, Ben is currently in a downward spiral and we haven’t spoken to him in months. I’ve tried to reach out, but I have no idea where he is.
Marty: Excuse me, Honey, but what the fuck are you doing?
Wendy: I’m talking about Ben and his struggle with addiction.
Marty: Okay, well, first of all, that’s a lie. Ben doesn’t have a drug problem, he has bipolar disorder. So let’s get that straight. Also, when you say, “I have no idea where he is,” that implies that he is somewhere. And people are going to start asking questions about where Ben really is, and I don’t think you’re going to want to answer those questions.
Wendy: All I’m doing is expressing empathy because I, too, know the heartbreak of a fractured sibling relationship. I know it’s hard for you to understand what it’s like to care about another human being, and the sadness of not knowing when you might hear from that person again.
Marty: I just think that maybe we should focus on Tammy’s problem, okay? Maybe not make it about what happened with you and Ben?
Wendy: My God, you’re such an asshole.
Marty: Okay, maybe we should move on to the next letter.
Wendy and Marty–
Do you have some advice on how to deal with an overly demanding, toxic, chauvinistic boss? My supervisor calls me on the phone day and night, demanding that I drop everything to meet his demands. He has no respect for boundaries or for my home life. Sometimes, he’ll just start barking at me on the phone without even saying hello! What do you do when you have a jerk for a boss?
— Frustrated in Fresno
Wendy: I think many of us know what it’s like to work for a difficult, demanding boss. Even though Marty and I own several successful businesses, we understand the pain of those late-night or weekend calls on the cell phone, whether it’s during dinner or at one of the kids’ soccer games. You don’t dare let it go to voicemail either, because that will only make things worse. And there’s no compassion on the other end of the line. No concern for what you’re going through. Just a huffy demand for an immediate answer and instant gratification. Not even a friendly goodbye!
Unfortunately, the only thing you can do in this situation is to do exactly as your boss commands. Do not deviate from what he wants and only very carefully suggest something that may be a better solution. Bottom line: he’s your boss. He calls the shots. You work for him. And if you fail to give him exactly what he wants, when he wants it, your life and the lives of those you hold dear may be in very grave danger. Just put on your brightest smile, do your damndest to make your boss happy and maybe, someday, he’ll have mercy on your soul and the phone calls will end. And then, finally, you will know what it is like to be free.
Marty: Yeah. What she said.
Dear Marty & Wendy,
Our 16-year-old son lies about everything. He lies about who his friends are, where he’s going to be on Saturday nights, and when we can expect him home. We recently caught him lying about his grades. In fact, he forged an entire report card and then tried to get us to sign it! What should we do? Do we have a budding sociopath on our hands?
— Troubled in Tennessee
Marty: First of all, “Sociopath” is such a strong word, and a little overused these days. Teenagers lie about a lot of different things. That’s not unusual. The question I would ask you is, how good is your son at lying? How often do you catch him in his lies? The fact that he went to the trouble of forging a report card intrigues me. That takes a certain amount of skill and initiative. Maybe, instead of looking at the downside, you should consider that your son might have a rare talent for deception, for which there are many career opportunities. I’m not saying you should encourage the lying, I’m just suggesting it might not be an entirely bad thing.
Wendy: What Marty isn’t telling you is that he has a 14-year-old son who recently devised a very complex scheme of diverting money across a web of different shell companies. And Marty is actually proud that our sweet Jonah is committing about a dozen different felonies. So, consider the source when Marty tells you about the pros and cons of lying.
Marty: Again, Honey, this isn’t about us. This is about helping people with their problems.
Wendy: Oh, so you weren’t a little excited that Jonah invented software allowing him to launder millions of dollars in offshore accounts?
Marty: Well, I was surprised.
Wendy: Don’t give me that “I was surprised” bullshit. There was a goddamn gleam in your eye as you watched him transfer funds on his iMac Pro.
Marty: As I was explaining to the people in Tennessee, sometimes these predicaments our children get themselves into can create some interesting opportunities. It’s not all bad if you look at them as teaching moments, and a chance to do better the next time.
Wendy: In other words, get better at lying.
Marty: No one’s better at lying than you, Honey.
Wendy: Aww, that’s kind of true, isn’t it?
Marty: Next letter.
How do you balance demanding careers and parenting, while still finding time to spend with each other?
— Curious in Columbus
Marty: Well, you have to work at it! I think we do a good job of mixing it up and keeping things interesting. Even after all these years of marriage, Wendy often will say or do something that just completely floors me. “What in the hell is that woman thinking?” I’ll ask myself. “This time, she’s going to get us all murdered for sure,” is another thought that enters my mind.
Wendy: Life’s an adventure. If you don’t take chances, you’ll never get what you really want.
Marty: Ultimately, I choose to back her in whatever crazy thing she decides to do next. That’s what marriage is all about. We’re in this together.
Wendy: True. He’s my partner in crime.