Anonymous Mailbag

It’s Tuesday in the Bay Area and this is a bleary eyed anonymous mailbag as I head back to Nashville after Clemson’s beat down of Alabama.

The anonymous mailbag is brought to you by my guy Ryan Kelley at The Home Loan Expert. It’s a new year and now is the time to get prequalified for a mortgage in just five minutes. Yep, five minutes. That way if a house suddenly goes on the market and you want to be able to bid on it, boom, you’re ready to go. Plus, did I mention it only takes five minutes? How many of you have been holding off on doing this just because you think it’s going to take too long? Most of you. Well, guess what, it couldn’t be any easier.

Go get qualified today.

Send your anonymous mailbag questions to claytravis@gmail.com, anonymity guaranteed.

Okay, here we go:

“My wife and I have 4 kids, ages 7 months to 7 years. We are done having kids and now it’s time for me to get snipped. I went to the consultation 4 mos ago, but I can’t bring myself to make the appointment. Here is the reason for my reluctance…20% apprehensive about all the those surgical tools near the jewels/80% the following What-if scenario: What if my wife dies in the next 10 years? I’m 36 now and would presumably want to marry a hot 25-30 yr old in that time frame. What if she wants kids of her own? Then I’m screwed. How, oh wise one, can I get over the hump? Btw, I have never mentioned this fear to my wife because she will likely take matters into her own hands.”

We have three kids and I would have had a fourth, but my wife said no way.

So she sent me to the vasectomy consultation a couple of years ago too. When I sat down with the doctor I swear to God this was my first question after he explained the procedure: “Hypothetically what if my wife dies and a Victoria’s Secret supermodel falls in love with me and wants to have kids? How reversible is this process?”

It turns out it’s not very reversible at all.

So I came back home and explained to my wife that if she left me or she died I would definitely start dating Victoria’s Secret supermodels and it would be unfair of her to keep us from having children too. She was, as you can probably imagine, not impressed with my logic or remotely sympathetic to my plight.

In fact, it may even surprise you, but she wasn’t even very thoughtful to the challenges my vasectomy might pose to the future relationship between me and my 25 year old Victoria’s Secret supermodel after she died.

She told me to stop whining and get my sperm frozen.

I haven’t looked into that since — because there’s something about surgery on my genitals that is terrifying — but I think getting your sperm frozen is probably the answer that would provide a safe compromise here. Now where do you store the frozen sperm? I have no idea. There have to be companies that do this, right? Maybe I need to start Outkick the Sperm if not.

So if your wife refuses to take no for an answer on the vasectomy, I’d store your sperm. (Sidenote, how do you even store your sperm? Do you jerk off and catch all your sperm for a month or more in some high tech frozen sperm receptacle? Or is this a surgical procedure too? I have no idea.)

“I’m hoping a man of wisdom such as yourself could give me some honest and unbiased advice on my estranged marriage. 

My future ex-husband — we didn’t get technically divorced — and I have been separated for almost 2 years now due to his infidelity. Although the separation was extremely rocky and uncivil at first, we learned to be great friends…and I mean GREAT friends…for our two children. We never fully stopped loving each other, or at least I never stopped loving him. But after nearly a year of encouraging him to come home and him refusing, I finally accepted the fate of our marriage and decided to move on.

Fast forward to now…I met a great man around 5 months ago whom I adore. He’s a little rough around the edges and has insane trust and childish issues but other than that we’ve become so close and I really am starting to fall in love with him. 

Then, out of nowhere, my future ex-husband tells me he still loves and misses me, and he is wanting to try to fix our marriage. I had a feeling it was coming, and hoped for it even while laying next to the man I’m with now. It came all so fast, though, and I’m not sure what to do. My future ex-husband was the man of my dreams and I’ve had such a difficult time learning to move on without him. I want to reconcile with him SO very badly but I’m afraid I’m setting myself up for more heartache, while losing my current partner who is honestly crazy about me. Not to mention it’s been almost 2 years! What would you do? What would anyone do?!”

I’d go back with the future ex-husband, who, and I think this is significant, you never actually formally divorced!

Now let’s be honest here, the reason he wants to get back together with you is because he’s jealous of what he’s lost. You being happy with a new man has suddenly made you unavailable to him. He’s realized that he might be replaced in the family unit and he’s finally aware of what an idiot he’s been.

Prior to this new relationship of yours he’s never really thought he was going to lose you. (Especially not with the divorce being final). So this reaction is in many ways a reaction to that fear of loss and to the permanence a divorce might bring.

Having said that, I’d still go back with the ex-husband.

My rationale here is simple, you’ve only been with the new guy for five months which means that relationship is still fairly new. You already have issues with the new guy too and there’s no guarantee you’re going to end up marrying him. While I understand your fear of losing your future ex-husband again and the new guy, you really haven’t invested that much time in the new guy. I think your decision needs to be based more on the ex-husband than it does the possibility of the new guy.

Furthermore, let’s think about this issue from your kids perspective. Your kids are going to be infinitely more happy with the two of you together than they are with the two of you apart. And let’s be honest, it’s not like your ex-husband is going to leave your life, the two of you are going to be interacting over the kids for the rest of their lives so in many ways you simplify things by staying together.

Plus, his issue was infidelity. I know that’s difficult, troubling and emotionally exhausting for you to overcome, but it’s not like he was physically violent or abusive to you or the children. It was a personal failing on his part and one he can rectify.

Finally, the guy you started dating entered the relationship with you with his eyes wide open. You have two kids with a man you recently separated from. Hell, you weren’t even officially divorced. The risk in this situation is pretty self-evident — the other partner might return to the picture at any point in time. And even if he didn’t your new boyfriend would know your ex-husband would be around with the kids for the rest of your lives.

So I’d go back with the ex-husband if I were you and take the relationship risks with him rather than take the relationship risks with an entirely new man.

Good luck.

“I am a 32 year old male living in Texas.  I have a decent job in the oil and gas industry ($90K/year).  I have a two year old son and my wife and I plan to eventually have 3-4 kids.  My wife is a neonatology doctor and is finishing her fellowship training in about a year.  At that point, she is going to be able to make significantly more money than me (north of $200K/year) and has been floating the idea to me about being a stay at home dad. 

If we both decide to keep working, we are going to be out about $3-4K/month for childcare expenses for daycare or a nanny.  I wouldn’t say that I love my job (I tolerate it) and don’t expect a major promotion anytime soon there.  Add to that the extra taxes on our combined income and the hassle of managing the schedule of two working parents with multiple kids and their school/activities I think it may make sense for me to be a stay at home dad for 5-10 years until the kids are all in school. 

There is the stigma of being a ‘stay-at-home-dad’ and challenge of getting back into the job market a decade from now. 2-4x a month I already take care of my son by myself for up to a day and a half at a time when my wife is working so I know firsthand that it can be more challenging/exhausting chasing a toddler around all day than being at work.  It’s not as if I would get to be at home drinking beer and watching tv all day. 

We have already paid off all our undergrad loans and her medical school loans so that isn’t a concern.  I am also a military veteran with a partial disability rating so Uncle Sam throws a grand and change at me tax-free every month.  What say you?”

First, I think staying at home all day with three or four kids is infinitely harder than going to work. That’s especially the case when the kids are really young. So I’d rather work than do this. I love my kids, but I don’t want to be responsible for them all day long, every day.

When my wife started staying home with our kids our life got infinitely better so I certainly understand the desire to have a stay at home parent. The simple truth is this, it’s a huge luxury to have one parent home with the kids all day while the other one works and provides for the family. There’s a reason that was the preferred family unit for generations and also why so many highly educated couples default to that structure when they have multiple kids. It’s because it works! And works damn well.

I also don’t think there’s any shame in a man staying at home with the kids if your wife makes way more money than than you do.

That’s why ultimately I think this is a decision about what you — and she — want more than anything else.

Having said that, I do think there are several issues to consider. Foremost among them, I think you need to contemplate what your reentry to the job market would look like. If you’re going to have three or four kids then you’re going to be out of the job market for at least ten years. It may be sexist, but I think that work gap is harder for men reentering the job market to explain than it is for women to do so. That is, I think employers might be more likely to judge a man for not working to stay home with young kids than they are to judge a woman for not working to stay home with young kids.

That’s also ten years of increasing income you aren’t ever going to attain. Remember, it’s not just what you make now, it’s what you are giving up after ten more years of work. This is actually the primary reason for the wage gap in this country, because women take off many years of prime income years to take care of children than men do. (Women who never have children and men have nearly identical incomes, which is why much of the wage gap discussion is a political charade. The wade gap is mostly about choices when it comes to child care, not sexism from bosses. If women made 20% less than men for the exact same job, why would any capitalistic company ever hire men?)

So when you reenter the job market in your forties, what kind of jobs will be out there that wants to hire a guy who hasn’t been in the traditional work force for the past ten years? That’s why I’d consider starting a company on the side — even if it doesn’t provide much income — to be able to put on your resume that you ran your own company as opposed to you were just a stay at home dad.

Finally, you need to think about how this might impact your relationship with your wife. You are upsetting traditional gender roles by being the primary parent, but there are also a ton of other things around the house that she may expect you to be in charge of too. For instance, women tend to clean much more than men. If she’s working all day are you in charge of keeping the house clean and taking care of meals while she’s at work or are you pretty much just in charge of children? I think setting out those expectations early are important given how much of a life shift you’d be making.

This also requires you to be comfortable with a stay at home mom-centered universe. How will you fit in there? As much as traditional gender roles may be changing the vast, vast majority of stay at home parents are still women and you probably will be excluded from many of their gatherings because, let’s face it, drinking wine and letting your kids play together has a totally different connotation if suddenly a dad is hanging with the milfs during the day doing the same thing.

That’s why I’d suggest trying to find some other dads in the same life situation as you so you don’t go crazy keeping kids all day and have a social outlet to interact with other adults.

Good luck.

“Hey Clay, huge fan, thanks for all the CFB Winners this season. Just got engaged to my dream girl a few weeks ago, we are both 27, both have goods jobs and both of our immediate families are very happy. We are all in on a destination wedding, probably Aruba. We like the idea of having 4/5 nights to celebrate and it costs about $20,000 as opposed to a regular wedding here on Long Island that typically runs for $50,000 for the one night.

However, I have some family members who are less than thrilled about having to pay for the vacation, travel, take time off from work etc….

Obviously we are inviting everyone but know many people can’t/won’t come which we are fine with and completely understand. What are your thoughts on destination weddings in general and what should I say to the family members that aren’t happy we are getting married in Aruba?”

I’m fine with destination weddings so long as you make it clear that you don’t expect everyone to attend. I think the general disdain you may be experiencing comes from people feeling as if you’re obligating them to travel to attend your wedding.

That’s why I’d offer two options — a destination wedding for those who want to attend and a wedding celebration and gathering — like an engagement party — for those who can’t or aren’t willing to make the trip to Aruba for the wedding.

Let’s also be honest, most weddings are destination wedding for a substantial number of the wedding guests no matter where they take place. The number of people who marry someone else who grew up in the same town as them is rarer and rarer, especially with people waiting longer and longer to marry. Most people are traveling for weddings regardless of where the wedding is held.

I think the real challenge with a destination wedding comes if you have close family members who simply can’t afford to make the trip and would otherwise definitely attend. That’s kind of an asshole move on your part and it puts them in a very difficult position. In a situation like this I think you’d need to foot the bill. Let’s say, for instance, that you have parents or brothers and sisters who you know can’t afford a trip like this. (They’re in college, living on a small fixed income and retired, something like this). Then I think you’d need to budget in rooms or flights for them as part of your overall wedding cost.

I think the same would be true, potentially, of anyone you’re asking to be in your wedding party if you know they don’t have the money to travel.

Otherwise it’s your wedding, have it where you’d like.

“I’m pretty sure that my mom was an evil Christmas genius when I was little. I was one of 4 kids and we would always go to church on Christmas eve and then the same neighborhood party. There were many years that we did not get home until well after mid-night and, though I don’t really remember it, I’m certain that there were many Christmas Eves where my parents went to bed drunk as hell. Leading up to Christmas day we were threatened to an inch of our lives over when we were allowed to go downstairs. 7:00 a.m., and not a minute before or else all of your presents would go back to the store (in hindsight, this was bullshit but I absolutely believed it as a kid).

Remember, my parents were out partying until 1:00 a.m. then had to come home, get four kids in bed and then stage presents (including assembly), they often didn’t get into bed until 4:00 a.m., which is obviously not enough time for sleep to deal with a Christmas day. So here was their solution:  after the kids went to bed, my mom would sneak around the house and change all of the clocks back 2-3 hours. We would wake up at what we thought was early and then have to sit in our rooms for an hour or more while they slept, which was literal torture when you have been waiting to tear into a year’s worth of presents. Yes, I know we were stupid for not figuring it out by how light it was, but how many young kids are really going to question the clocks?  Anyway, as a parent of Santa-aged kids I’ve come to admire the boldness of this strategy, even if I hated it as a kid. I’ve never been able to duplicate this because my wife loves Christmas so much that she is usually up before the kids, but I hope others can benefit from this story.”

Your mom is definitely an evil genius.

A couple of years ago our middle son got up at 3:30 AM for Christmas and came downstairs and woke us up. A couple of weeks ago he got up at 5:15 and came downstairs to open presents.

My wife sent the kids back upstairs and said they couldn’t come down until it was light outside.

My kids interpret light outside to mean — you can see the light somewhere on the horizon, but this at least gets us sleep until 6:30 or so. (In Nashville the sun doesn’t officially rise until nearly seven in the winter months, which is just brutal because it means the sun goes down at 4:30 too. It’s honestly, I think, the worst thing about living in Nashville during the winter).

The time switch is a great trick for other parents to try out.

Of course the modern day version of this would be changing the timezone for their iPads at night while they’re sleeping. Because otherwise I don’t think we have a clock in our house.

I’m going to share this clock trick with my wife for next Christmas.

Send your anonymous mailbag questions to claytravis@gmail.com, anonymity guaranteed.

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