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Ask Rene: Is My Boyfriend Cut Out For Parenthood?


Hi Rene,

I’ve been following your site for the past six months now and although I am not a mom (yet!) I love your witty sense of humor.

I hope you can help me on this one!

I’ve been with my boyfriend (let’s say his name is “Paul”) for three years.  Six months ago we BOTH agreed to adopt a dog.

Her name is Roxie and she is a three-year-old Labrador mix. She is a wonderful dog, very well trained and just loves to please.

Although Paul is very good helping at home (he loves to cook so I do the cleaning), he’s become very lazy whenever anything related to Roxie is concerned.

He forgets to feed her, take her for a walk and I feel like he just “got bored” with his new “toy”.

It’s really starting to worry me because we are planning for a family and although some people don’t compare a dog to a real baby, I feel that taking responsibility for someone’s life is paramount, no matter if it’s a child, dog or even a goldfish.

Do you think I am over thinking? How can I take our relationship to the next level when he can’t even look after our dog???

Please help.

Sasha, Scottsdale

Hi Sasha:

Can we please just pull that pony back into the barn for a moment? My mother used to always tell me not to borrow trouble. By that she meant, let’s deal with what’s on our plate right now instead of imagining things that have yet to be. Having said that, parenthood is a big decision and you want to make sure the partner you choose is up for the task. So with that in mind, here’s my advice.

MAKE A SCHEDULE: Okay, you got the dog six months ago but you’re all still trying to learn to work together. By that I mean you, Paul AND Roxie. This was a big step for you and Paul because it really is the first time you’ve had to integrate as a couple. Now I know you had to work out who was going to do the dishes and make the bed and the like. But if you didn’t feel like coking, Paul wouldn’t starve; he knows how to care for himself. Now you have a little creature dependent on the two of you and you need to lay down some ground rules. Problems can be headed off at the pass with a simple conversation, followed by an even simpler chore chart.

AS YOU SAID, A PUPPY IS NOT A BABY: To all my pet lovers reading this, relax! I’m not beating up on Baxter. But what I am saying is the feeling you get when you hold your baby for the first time is different from cuddling with a puppy. You won’t know that though until you do that. So while there are clues as to the type of parent Paul will be, you won’t really know until the baby pops out of the chute. You might be surprised how much he steps up.

ASK YOURSELF, IS THIS A DEAL BREAKER? Everyone has a line in the sand, a hill they’re willing to die on, a point they cannot concede. Is this issue with Roxie big enough for you to throw away the three years you’ve invested in the relationship or are there concessions that can be made? Relationships are about love, communication and compromise. If you love Paul then you need to be willing to give on some stuff. He’s not going to care for Roxie the way you would but that’s okay; he’ll develop his own system of dealing with her. And as I tell my mom friends (when they talk about their husbands and kids), you need to back off and give him space to develop his strategy. Do NOT stand over his shoulder and tell him, “You’re doing it wrong.”

There is one more thing I would suggest and that is to give Paul ample time to bond with Roxie without you being there. See Paul doesn’t have to pick up the slack because you’re there to take care of the dog. But if you’re not, he will have to do it himself. I also think it will give him a chance to experience the unconditional love that will come from a very grateful Roxie.

Don’t worry and good luck!

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Combing the aisles at Target in search of the best deal on Cheerios, it hit Rene Syler like the stench of a dirty diaper on a hot summer’s day. Not only is perfection overrated its utterly impossible! Suddenly empowered, she figuratively donned her cape, scooped up another taco kit for dinner and Good Enough Mother was born.

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