No More “Mother, May I?”

I rarely – RARELY – write about pop culture on my blog.  It’s true that I’m a nut for reality shows and I watch entirely too much television, but I don’t usually care enough about water-cooler topics to spend some font on them here.

Tonight, though, after watching the interview with Kate Gosselin on TLC, I have to express how certain things she said really. hit. home.

At one point she gives Jon his due by admitting that yes, he was home alone an awful lot with all 8 children while she was out on speaking engagements and book tours, etc, but defended herself by saying, “It was always with his approval.”  She continued by clarifying that he never protested to her leaving, that he always gave his blessing.  And that she “knew he was unhappy” (which was said a bit dismissively, I will note), but that when he told her that “he needed something for himself,” she told him “well, go and get a part-time job or something” (as if that would be a great gift from her to him).

::taking a deep breath here::

I’ve been married for 16 years to a truly fabulous man, but our marriage has not been without its trials.  Even now we are working to re-negotiate some bad habits that have been left untended to for far too long.

I believe, based on my experience, that it is not fair for one partner to approach the other with any desire, big or small, that ultimately takes them away from family, and then put the decision in the other’s lap:  can I do this please?  How on earth do you answer a request like that?  How on earth do you say “We need to be together as a family.  I’m worried I will feel alone.  I’m worried my own needs are being overshadowed here.” without it somehow translating into “I’m here to crush all your dreams.”

More of us than not say, “Yes, of course you can do that.  I love you and I want you to be happy” even as we die a little inside, even as we give another inch we felt sure we’d fight to defend.

I believe it’s a coward move to play the “Mother, may I?” card.  Each partner has the responsibility to search out in their own mind what is best for their family, and then come to their partner with a desire to communicate, a willingness to come to terms, make decisions, and then live with them.  NONE OF THIS ASKING FOR PERMISSION.  None of this passing the buck.  None of this denial of responsibility, then shrugging it off when all is said and done with a simple, “Well, s/he told me I could do it.”

It is not right to put your partner in the position to say yeah or nay.  It’s just not right.  Counsel with each other, yes.  Hammer out details, yes.  Give a little when necessary, yes.  But coming with the batting eyelashes and the cupped hands tucked under chin?  NO.

As assinine as the whole “Jon & Kate” situation is, I actually think it’s been a fascinating witness into the deterioration of a marriage.  A real, live lesson in what can happen when spouses don’t carry their own, value each other, and listen.  When she says she told her unhappy husband that he could “get a part-time job,” I just about went through the roof.  Do you think that’s what he was trying to tell her:  “I want to work at Hobby Lobby”?  I doubt it.

I am so grateful for a husband who, after 16 years, is willing to help re-seed the beaten-down paths we both walked that took us each a little farther away from each other.  It takes two people in a marriage committed to being responsible and for shouldering their own duties and decisions in order for there to be happiness and a brighter future.  A brighter future where you are walking side-by-side, on the same path.  Fortunately for me, that path is growing itself again before my eyes.

  • Melanie S

    You make an excellent point. I’ve never quite thought of it that way, that by asking for someone else’s permission, you are giving them a chunk of the responsibility for your decision. And now I’m thinking of other, even casual requests, the Mum-in-law, May I’s, even times when we’ve asked our son if it’s okay with him (like when we move! yikers!).

    And, as usual, you make your point excellently. I love the way you word things! …”re-seed the beaten-down paths”… Yes yes yes! Man, this is hitting home for me too. Thanks hon. ♥

  • You are absolutely right. Everyday in a marriage is work, no matter what anyone says. We are doing the same thing right now with some of our bad habits. It is sad to see when some people just stop trying.

    I do have to say that the Hobby Lobby thing made me choke on my water. Just the way you stated it cracked me up.

  • Interesting to think about. I guess I don’t see it as asking for permission, as much as it is saying I would like to do this, do you think it will work. My husband doesn’t ask for my “permission” to go out with the guys for a night, but he does talk to me about it to make sure it doesn’t conflict with something our family has planned. But I can see your point–it can easily turn into a situation where one person feels pressure to say yes to something, whether it is really okay or not. We definitely have to continue to talk about what we want and what we need and what is best for our family.

  • Amy Christensen

    I, too, have never thought of it that way before, but it is absolutely true! .Each individual should take responsibility for their own actions. Discussing and coming to an agreement are one thing, but asking permission is putting some of the blame on the spouse! Well, you say it much better than I can, so I will stop now! Thanks for that post!

  • Jen

    I like what youve had to say here and I think it gives many of us a cause for stopping and thinking. I am glad you brought this up, and I might come back after I have deeper thought about it!

  • Definitely a much needed lesson for many. Awesome post!

  • That. That was very well said. Thanks for saying it.