Q: I’m writing to you about the difficulties I encounter parenting my children while my husband is away on business trips for a large part of the year. I feel like my children don’t take me seriously and are much more respectful towards my husband. He also brings them presents and is more lenient in comparison to me. He always gets the nachas calls (I try not to burden him with annoying passing squabbles in the house; I wouldn’t want to get such calls, either, if I were away). I understand that his job can be very stressful, and taking endless airplane trips is not pleasant, so I’m not resentful about that. Still, I don’t want to feel that I am the policeman while the children see him as the “nice guy.”
A: It is difficult for any parent to manage a household alone. Baruch Hashem, your husband is helpful when he is home. Perhaps you can work out a system in which there is some type of accountability to both you and your husband. You can make a behavior modification chart, and email a copy to your husband, reflecting the children’s progress and areas that need improvement. In that way, a dialogue can exist between father and child, and conversations can be geared towards problem-solving — rather than receiving nachas calls alone.
All behavior modification charts run on trial and error. What might work for one child doesn’t work for another, and your husband may be able to come up with an alternative creative solution. In reality, family problems will just resurface when your husband returns from his trips, and it is always preferable to deal with issues as they occur.
In order to share the authoritarian role more equally with your husband, perhaps his gifts from faraway places can be connected to exemplary behavior. Not that items acquired always need to be rewards (unconditional reflections of love can be displayed in the form of greeting cards and buying favorite nosh for children), but in this situation it may better reflect an example of a united front on the part of both parents.
The more your husband communicates awareness and involvement in your family’s everyday affairs, the less you will be seen as the sole authoritarian figure in your home.