About Dear Abel and Sofi: This Alignable column gives our small business owners an outlet to anonymously share the kinds of frustrations, fears and private struggles few people express openly. Father-daughter duo Abel and Sofi co-author the column, bringing diverse perspectives to both professional and personal problems. A serial entrepreneur and counselor, Abel, 65, is known for his empathy and his uncanny understanding of many issues. Co-owner of a salon, Sofi, 28, has a younger, more candid approach to life’s challenges. Beyond appearing on Alignable’s Q&A Forum, now this column in syndicated in outlets including the Focus Newspaper in NC and The Yankee Xpress in MA. To submit your anonymous questions to Abel and Sofi, please click here.
Dear Abel & Sofi:
Abandoned Dad Struggles To Juggle Kids & Biz
Dear Abel and Sofi,
I’m a Dad with two young kids and my wife just couldn’t handle the pressure of raising them and the intensity of entrepreneurial life. She picked up and left to spend some time with her parents who live in Greece last week and says she needs at least a month or two off from our crazy life to figure out what she can handle and what she can’t. It all started after she turned 40 and she’s been in a downward spiral for the past seven months.
She’s been threatening to get a divorce, and start a new life back home in Greece, and all of that, and it’s been really hard on the kids. They’ve probably heard some of the arguments, but they don’t know how unpredictable this situation is — and I’d prefer they don’t know many of the details, as I’m even feeling clueless myself.
Part of me is still hopeful she’ll take a break and come back to us, despite what seems like a true mid-life crisis, since I feel like I’ve been a good husband and a really dedicated father. I’m trying to juggle keeping the kids going and getting them psyched for a new school year, while doing things that distract them from the disruption of their Mom’s sudden “vacation.” I just want them to continue to do well in school and enjoy themselves, but maybe that’s unrealistic?
She Facetimes with them once or twice a week and puts on a happy face with them, but she still seems pretty detached compared to the way she has been most of our marriage. It’s like she wants to be a teenager again and she’s telling me how fun it is to party all night like the good old days.
I mean she loves them, for sure, but just hates being 40, doesn’t love being in the U.S., and really dislikes the entrepreneurial lifestyle we both chose 10 years ago. I’ve talked to her about getting counseling and she’s thinking about it, but I honestly don’t know what’s going to happen, as she’s really not the same person I married.
I feel like I’m on autopilot and I just want to take care of my kids and my other kid, the bakery, which I love running. And thankfully, it’s doing well.
I have two part-time senior staffers who help out at the counter, ringing up purchases, and they do a great job. But maybe I need more people.
I’m thinking of hiring a second baker to help me and maybe free up some more time for my kids, but I really worry about finding the right, really experienced person, especially since the market for good help is so tight.
Sorry to unload on you, as I’m sure many people writing to you are so much worse off than I am now, but if you’ve got some advice to share, I’d sure love to hear it.
Nut-Free Baker Going Nuts
Dear Dedicated Dad,
While you might be a nut-free baker who thinks he’s going nuts, I have to say, based on this note at least, that you’re holding things together extremely well under these wild circumstances. That’s why I’m just referring to you as the Dedicated Dad, as that’s a big job that almost no one gets credit for in our society.
Of course, being a baker is a very intense, time-consuming career. And doing it while doubling as Mom and Dad, trying to keep your kids’ spirits up despite your wife’s “vacation” from reality is quite a task, indeed. I have lived through a similar situation myself and I focused on my child’s happiness and my business, while trying to get my wife some help. The key learning here is that your wife will only work out her issues if she wants to — if she loves who she’s evolved into, the sad truth is, there’s not much you can do about that. Just keep those kids here in the U.S. with you, if she decides she’s staying in Greece.
I also have to applaud you for employing senior staffers. I would only suggest asking them if they want to go full-time, if you can afford it. We’re coming up on Q4 and if you can’t count on your wife to help out, you could probably use extra help from them. Of course, hiring the baker to help you (and free up at least some time with your kids) is an investment you’ll never regret. If it’s tough to find a talented full-timer right away, see if you can hire a more senior person part-time for starters and see where that might lead. There are plenty of very talented senior people out there that others aren’t wise enough to hire.
Dear Dedicated Dad,
I was in a similar position to where your kids find themselves now, so reading this note, as an adult, brought back a flood of childhood emotions for me. My Mom didn’t leave the country, but she had a full-on mid-life crisis and, happily, is much better and happier now. It took many years of work and understanding on everyone’s part to map out some new relationships, but it was worth it, for sure. And my Dad instantly became my hero, so trust that you have already taken on that status with your kids.
It’s a lot of weight on your shoulders and don’t expect yourself to be perfect or to always say the right things to your kids. You’re human, too, and don’t be afraid to show that. And please, definitely get yourself and your kids some counseling, if this break turns into a different type of situation. Everyone needs someone to talk to (yes, even Superhero Dads), and your kids, I’m certain, have some fears that they’re too afraid to discuss with you.
Shifting to your professional life, I’m thrilled that you’re investing in the business and in extra help. It sounds like that’s a very wise decision. Sometimes in these situations, people tend to take way too much on themselves, and end up suffering in the long run.
Thanks so much for having the courage to write such a candid letter at a very challenging time in your life. Sending prayers that it all works out for the best.
Please Take Care Of Yourself, Sofi️
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