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Mr. Dad: Teen shouldn’t be family’s provider

Mon., Oct. 26, 2009

Dear Mr. Dad: I’m 17, and my father walked out when I was 9. Since then it’s been my three younger brothers, my mom and me. But my relationship with my mom is falling apart.

How do I handle school, work and the stresses of being a good “husband-father” and making sure the bills get paid? She blames me for not doing it and says I’m irresponsible. I know part of this is because she has the stress of being a single mother. But how am I supposed to make this work?

A: The short answer to your questions is this: At 17, you shouldn’t be responsible for being a good “husband-father.” And you shouldn’t be responsible for paying household bills. Those are roles that should be filled by adults.

There’s no question that your family is in a very tough position, but your mom isn’t handling things very well.

Your job is to go to school, get good grades, and hopefully go to college. Asking you to contribute to running the family is fine – in fact, it will probably do you some good to get a basic understanding of finances, budgeting, credit and so on.

But asking you to take on those responsibilities is completely inappropriate. If your mom needs help (and it sounds like she does), she needs to be turning to and leaning on adults. If she can’t get the assistance she needs from friends and family, there are many social services organizations that may be able to lend a hand.

Dear Mr. Dad: I am 5 1/2 months along with our third child and my husband, as usual, has started hanging out with his buddies, spending lots of money, coming home at 3 or 4 in the morning every night.

He’s also spending a lot of time with other women, which is why we’re now separated – for the second time. And to top it off, he’s blaming it all on me. I’m completely confused.

Can you give me some insight into what’s going on with him and whether it’s normal?

A: The short answer to your question is that your husband’s behavior is neither normal nor acceptable. It’s not uncommon for guys to have a mini crisis before they become dads.

They’re worried that their life will never be the same (it won’t), that they’ll never be able to hang out with their friends (they will, but not for a little while), and they long for their more care-free, pre-parent lifestyle (well, that’s gone forever).

Moms also have many of the same thoughts, but it’s a little easier for a dad to act on them than it is for a pregnant woman.

Going out for a few beers with the guys before the baby comes is fine. But your husband is taking things way too far.

Armin Brott is an Oakland, Calif.-based author of six best-selling books on fatherhood. Find resources for fathers at

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