You know Paolo Abrera. He is a sportsman, environmentalist, and host of Mornings@ANC and Green Living. He is also a dad to three beautiful girls, Leona, Jade, and Nella, and husband to host Suzi Entrata-Abrera. The couple actually shares a parenting advice column in Manila Bulletin. Paolo also happens to be a guy's guy, so we thought it's worth listening to his two-cents of advice on some of the most common daddy- and husband-related sticky situations. It's good counsel, too.
1. "My husband is into designer kicks. I’ve tried to ask him to stop, but he says it’s his only hobby that helps him cope with the stress at work. I don’t know how else to tell him that he needs to find a more affordable hobby or we’ll be scraping the barrel soon." My current passion and hobby are vintage motorcycles, but I had to keep my interest on the backburner until I could afford to indulge it. I’m guilty of sometimes spending more time tinkering with my project bike than I should, but my kids remind me [whenever that happens].
As for your problem, start serving sardines and instant noodles for dinner and see how your husband reacts. Tell him those are what will be on the menu if he keeps over-indulging his expensive “hobby.” 2. "I need my husband to be more hands-on with our newborn son. He’s so scared to even carry him, but I need an extra pair of hands so I can get a decent shower at the very least. Any tips on how to boost his confidence?" I can safely say that gentle baby care just comes more naturally to mothers. From the days when you cuddled and played with your dolls, women have been wired for it. Men just don’t have the practice you have had since childhood—not to say we can’t tap into those instincts, too. Dads can learn baby care, and to watch them realize that they’re actually capable and then see the new world that opens up to them is a reward in itself, too.
Start with simple tasks, such as asking him to hold the bottle when feeding or to pat the baby to sleep. Then, move on to letting him cradle the baby in his arms while in bed and eventually carrying the baby while standing up.
3. "I’m scared that my hubby is having extra-marital affairs. I have no proof, but I’m scared. We haven’t really talked for days except about the bills and the kids. How can I rekindle our connection and the feeling of being close and in love? Most of these issues are just fears and worries. Rather than worrying, how about working on the things that need work? You need to talk more? Then talk more. Find ways to put yourselves in situations where you can converse and enjoy each other’s company. Go on a weekend getaway or a dinner date. Express your need to be more intimate. Men are not mind readers--we usually need you to spell it out for us.
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4. "Having five kids, between ages 6 months to 9 years, is a challenge. I’m going crazy with all the sibling squabbles every single day. I want to ask my husband to intervene, but he always says to let the kids iron things out. Help!" It must be a battle zone! I’m all for letting the kids work it out. By this, I mean there has to be a referee to actively help them sort out their differences. One can’t leave them to iron things out without a mediator; that won’t end well. Sometimes, squabbles can’t be solved right there and then. In that case, time apart to cool off is my go-to technique.
5. "My husband is so conservative, he doesn’t want me to wear makeup or even groom my eyebrows. But I just want to look good and feel better about myself. How can I explain this to him?" Ah, yes. I know the type. All men have this quality in varying degrees. Your husband obviously has more than his fair share.
You simply have to put your foot down. Why does he get to make the final decision? Marriages and partnerships are founded on trust and equality. You have every right to feel good about yourself. Find ways to show him that you put on makeup for yourself first and foremost. Get him involved--ask him how he likes your makeup, and let him have a say in choosing a lipstick color. Don’t take “I like no makeup,” for an answer.
6. "My husband is a tough guy, and he’d really love to have a son. We have two young daughters, aged 2 and 4, and he’s feeling kind of left out. He loves the girls, but he can’t seem to find common ground or things to do during playtime. What are his options?" Has he really tried hard enough? I’ve convinced my girls to bike with me. They even show occasional interest in woodworking. However, I also meet them on their turf and join them in a “tea party” or a “home salon” session. And let’s not forget--no one says no to ice cream or cheeseburgers. Expand their horizons, and stretch your own. It’s all about give and take.
7. "Do guys really need boys’ nights out? I’m sick and tired of having to stay at home and deal with reality, while he’s out having drinks like he’s still a bachelor. It’s unfair. Who says you just have to stay home and deal with reality? Why not have a girls’ night out? It seems fair that what’s good for the goose is also good for the gander, and vice versa. Work out a deal: One night he goes out; another night you do.
Equality in all things is something we should strive for in a marriage. Unless you and your husband work out a way to live on equal terms, you’ll always feel bitter and unhappy. I’m not saying that you go out and be crazy, but do find time and ways to let off steam and decompress from the pressures of managing the home.
8. "While sorting the laundry, my daughter asked me, ‘Mama, why does Papa need to go to work, while you stay here at home to clean the house?’ I wonder how a dad would answer her question without undermining either sex." Tell it like it really is. Staying home and keeping house is your “job”--and it’s a darn hard job, too. We dads wouldn’t stand a chance! Tell your child that her dad works in an office, and that’s his contribution to the family. Your own contribution is to manage the home. One job is not harder or more important than the other. Both are ways of providing for the family’s needs and are necessary to keep everyone in the family healthy and happy.
9. "My husband is already worried about our soon-to-be teenage kids. He says he sort of knows how to talk to our 12-year-old son about dating, but is still at a loss when it comes to our 10-year-old daughter. I want to tell him it’s going to be okay, but I’m quite nervous, too, especially since kids nowadays seem to grow up so fast. What’s the best way to handle this?” Oh, I know the feeling—I’m a father of three girls! Just like other dads, I worry about the jerks out there. At the risk of tooting my own horn, though, I look back at myself and realize there are some nice guys out there, too.
On the issue of sexuality and adolescence, I believe in being open. As uncomfortable as it is, it’s the only way to feel that I’ve done my job as a parent and feel confident that my kids will be smart about these things.
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This article originally appeared in the June 2015 issue of Smart Parenting magazine. Minor edits have been made by the Smartparenting.com.ph editors.