In light of the recent holidays and getting together with family members, Sherry and Rob talk about family systems and hierarchy. They give some strategies to help deal with any emotional angst of re-entering your family of origin.

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Episode Transcript

Rob Walling:Went home to California for the holidays. Minneapolis is a bit cold right now. In fact I think with windchill it was -26 today and so for the past, what nine or ten days we were staying in Santa Cruz and then in East Bay and we saw a bunch of old friends and a bunch of old family.
Sherry Walling:Old family? I’m sure your mother is offended that you said that.
Rob Walling:I was just saying that as a joke.
Sherry Walling:Yaka, yaka. Yeah, so like 65 degrees when you’re a Californian is like, cold to be at the beach but when you’ve been in Minnesota for a while that’s a totally fine temperature to be at the beach.
Rob Walling:Well you and our youngest were in wetsuits ’cause we packed our wetsuits. So we never check bags right, that’s our thing. We have small bags, we carry ’em on, but we had four wetsuits that we wanted to bring, and we checked the bag for that and you and our youngest were in the water, in Santa Cruz, in essentially end of December and the water was cold. But you boogie boarded for extended periods of time.
Sherry Walling:It wasn’t that cold once you got moving. And it’s just so fun, and it’s this … it’s something that he and I love to do together, so I think a good wetsuit is a very good investment if you like to play in the water, in the Pacific.
Rob Walling:Yeah, so that was fun. It was fun to get back to California for a bit and see family and that’s what this episode is about. It’s about post holiday recovery, but more than that it’s about family systems, and it’s about how to think about as you get older, you know, when you revisit and see family members or you know, our brothers, sisters, your parents. When you see them it’s pretty often that you revert back to kind of being a kid. And that’s what we’re gonna talk about today, because it’s easy to fall into kind of the traps or the tropes of where you were when you were 15. And there’re plusses and minuses to that, and so we have a syn theoretical band, that’s the cool part of today, is like you’ve put together an outline as a trained clinical psychologist, who has studied this and who has experience in learning about family systems and the research on it.
 And then we also have some very specific coping skills that you and I have developed to kind of get out of the house and have some alone time, especially if you’re an introvert, to be able to feel fulfilled. Because when there’s a lot of people around it’s often easy to get overwhelmed and to not give yourself time and space to basically debrief and mellow out and then come back more energized.
Sherry Walling:Yeah, we probably should have recorded this episode before the holidays, that would have been more helpful to people, but I guess one of the values of this conversation is to normalize if you feel a little bit like your world has been rocked after spending time with family over the holidays. Even if you have the best family, that you just love and you get along with really well, it can be pretty tricky to re-engage with your family for a long period of time, and still come out of that experience feeling like the fully developed grown up that you were when you went into it.
Rob Walling:Right, ’cause often during these holiday times we’re trying to get away from work. We’re trying to relax, or trying to get to a place where it feels more relaxing right. And you’re just trying to come away from it recharged and so it’s a bummer if you take that one week that you have and you go and spend it with friends or family. I mean it’s not just [inaudible 00:04:07] family here, but to spend it with folks and then come away with your kind of the life drained out of you. Where you don’t have the energy to come back and engage in work.
Sherry Walling:One of the things that I found myself doing on our trip, and we spent 10 days in the house that we rented in Santa Cruz, and the chunk of that was spent with my parents and my brother and his wife. And then we had some other friends kind of cycle trough and spent time with us there. So it’s very lovely, actually the house was nice. Everybody started having enough room and overall very good experiences. But I found myself doing a couple things that are not totally typical of me. One is that, people would be sort of sitting around in the living room, watching a movie or talking and I would pick up some canvas paper and some paints and just kind of keep myself busy working on something. Like still being in the room and still sort of being part of the conversation but I was kind of distracting myself or engaged in this some little funny paintings that I was working on.
 And normally I’m kind of all in in a conversation and bright eyed and engaged in every piece of the conversation. So that’s a departure for me, and I was just sort of reflecting on how often I did that as a kid to kind of be in the room, but also engaging in my own thoughts and in a world. And a little bit separated or shut down from what was happening in the room. So I felt myself getting pulled back into that kind of 13 year old, 10 year old, maybe even 8 year old coping strategy that I developed, all those years ago.
Rob Walling:Do you think that’s similar to picking up a cellphone and doing whatever it is that you do on a phone, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter or checking email or that kind of stuff?
Sherry Walling:For me no, at least not the way that I use social media. I think for me some of the conversations that can happen around the table with my family are, they’re either frustrating to me, or they’re hard for me to be engaged in. And I think what I was doing was reminding myself of my own inner life, not my social connections to other people outside the family.
Rob Walling:Yeah, and I think there’s a difference, I mean it’s interesting you’re pointing that out. Because the first day or two we got to Santa Cruz, we basically, you and I went to an art store and you purchased paints and some … there were canvasses, but it’s like canvas paper. It’s like a thick thing of paper, and you said I’m gonna do some painting ’cause it’s what you’ve been doing for the past six months. And it was a very deliberate decision upfront, and then you would set it up and start painting in advance.
 People would come in and you’d have a conversation of why you were painting, ’cause you could do both. It wasn’t as if you were in the middle of a conversation, like some people do, and suddenly you’re looking at your phone, like zoning out, monkey braining, on Facebook and Twitter.
Sherry Walling:You know, I still wanted to be present for the conversation, but there’s an element of separateness that’s important for me to maintain.
Rob Walling:Yeah, I can see that. I mean, I think part of this trip back to California included, not only Santa Cruz but I went and saw my family, and they all live in the East Bay. And I went to my dad’s house and I haven’t been to this house I grew up in since I was four. So it’s really the only house I remember, and it was a lot different than I remember. I haven’t been there in about 10 years, and it’s definitely … there’s more clutter and the house is getting older, I mean there’s this things that change over the years and it was eye opening to realize how different I live today than I did when I was a kid.
 And to remember some of the struggles I had as a child, of wanting things, hey, whatever it is in your mind. It’s like sometimes you wanna be more organized, and other people are less. Or you wanna be less and they’re too [inaudible 00:07:53] or there’s always something but there was a period in the house that I was like, oh, this is very different from the way I live today and I’m glad that I’m in control of where we are. And I think that leads us into this whole question, I mean, this is where we get into the need of this episode, which is why, think about corporations or companies and how we build ourselves up very deliberately. And there’s obviously … there’s a hierarchy, there are cultures in a start up. There’re rules about how to interact with people, all this stuff.
 The thing is that the exact same things about families are in place, it’s just they’re unspoken. I don’t feel like people are nearly as deliberate about this as they are when they’re building companies and coming back to the intro, you know about this, about the theoretical and the research that’s been done about this. So let’s dive into that about how families are organized and what they look like and what the impact is on those of us who are members of families.
Sherry Walling:Well yeah, families are a system. They’re this composite of the smaller parts, and the way that those pieces of the system work together, those are highly nuanced and also unique in each family system. And I think the analogy that you make your start up is a good one and think about how much founders think about … or how much you spend time developing a culture in your business and the way that you want it to run, the way that you want people to interact. That happens in families even at a more intimate, more detailed levels.
 So then, one of the things that makes time with family as a grown up tricky, is that there’s a hierarchy in the family. Well, or their hierarchy can be very structured, like the parents are the sort of clear leaders of the family. Or a hierarchy can be more flat, where the family is more collaborative. So families are all different in the way that they set up the structures. And the differences between siblings, and the way that each child relates to the parents, or to one parent versus another parent.
 So there’s a fairly complex web of how a family is organized hieratically in terms of who’s connected to who and who tell secrets to who, and who can back stab and talk to who, and what are the rules that govern the nature of the relationships between individuals in the family.
Rob Walling:And is that why it’s so hard to go back for the holidays? Because at this point you become 25, 30, 35, 40, whatever it is, and when you go back you might be running your own start up. And you’re married, and you’re in charge of everything, and you make all these decisions and you go back, and suddenly the hierarchy is there again.
Sherry Walling:Like my mom still asking me if I need to go to the bathroom before I leave the house to go to dinner.
Rob Walling:Right, did she do that?
Sherry Walling:Yes!
Rob Walling:Oh my … And it’s like I have traveled Africa.
Sherry Walling:I’ve been bathrooming on my own for like 35 years now.
Rob Walling:Yeah, oh that’s funny.
Sherry Walling:Right.
Rob Walling:But you can’t blame her because I ask our kids that all the time, right? And it’s hard to change those parenting, the instincts of you have to ask, are you okay? Are you willing to eat this, this strange food we’re gonna have, quote unquote, strange. Do you need to go to the bathroom? Do I need to wash your face, and it’s like, at what point do you cut that off as a parent?
Sherry Walling:Well, it’s tricky, because in my family I think my mom still maintain some of that maternal hierarchy. She still ask those questions and sort of wants to take care of us, and my dad’s like you’re on your own chumps. There’s not that same level of … the hierarchy is flat with him now, it wasn’t when we were kids. But with my mom, she’s still this sort of mom, caretaker of everybody.
 So it’s funny, but I also feel the hierarchy with my siblings. ‘Cause I’m the oldest, and man, I just always feel like the oldest. I always feel, okay, here’s our plan for the day, here’s what we’re doing, come on guys. And that role I fell back into really quickly when I’m with my family. And so the hierarchy gets tricky, especially as we age, because it’s depending on our parent’s health or wellbeing. We might find ourselves as adults now being more of the caretaker in that relationship, or more of the parent in that relationship. So that changes with time, the nature of our relationships, some things changes over time.
 So these things, the systems shifts as time passes. So it can be kind of confusing to go back into the system and not have this preset structure and hierarchy of how everybody should, quote unquote, be interacting with each other.
Rob Walling:And so to bring this back to being at home with family. What is the way to cope with that, if I go back and I feel frustrated by the fact that my mom or dad, or both, treat me like I’m 15. And I’m kinda like, guys, I run my own company, back off that thing. Hypothetically speaking of course. What’s the way to deal with that and cope with it.
Sherry Walling:I think the best case scenario is just to have a good sense of humor about it. My mom doesn’t care that you run your own company, she just doesn’t. And, you are not that to her. You’re her little Robbie who had the big brown eyes and played soccer with your blond hair and very short shorts. Your mom will always be …
Rob Walling:Short shorts, what do you wear …
Sherry Walling:Sorry, nevermind, that’s probably not the right mom reference. I’m just thinking of this picture of you that’s in your mom’s office. It’s like …
Rob Walling:I know.
Sherry Walling:Seventies glory. It is like teeny tiny little shorts.
Rob Walling:It’s early eighties, to be honest it’s early eighties, dude and my hair was straight blond. Can you believe that?
Sherry Walling:Anyway, it’s not the time to remind everyone of what you’ve accomplished as this wonderful adult. It’s just the time to let them see you the way that they see you. And I think that my mother still interacts with me as if I’m about 11. And that’s okay, it bugs me sometimes, but I need to let it be okay. So my coping strategy for that is, just have a sense of humor and don’t get defensive about how adult and important you are. That’s not a good recipe for family fun.
Rob Walling:Cool, so we talked about families and the hierarchy, parents and siblings, that’s one. There’s three others, so we kind of have a four point outline and then we will dive into more strategies. First one was hierarchy. The second one is the cultural expectations and rules of behavior. Talk about those.
Sherry Walling:Yeah, so again, this sense of a family as a system, there are things that happen in the system that’s separated from other systems. So, religious practices, political convictions, conversation topics that are allowed versus conversation topics that are taboo. The kinds of food or beverages that people drink within the family, and you know, when you’re a kid growing up, like your parents serve you the kind of food that they serve you. And they either pray before the meal or they don’t pray before the meal. Or they listen to Rush Limbaugh on the radio when they’re driving you to school, or they don’t.
 And you don’t have any choices about that as a kid. But when you’re going back into, again, the system as an adult, your preferences may have changed. And I feel this whenever I’m either with my family, my dad this year for Christmas. It wasn’t a Christmas present but just, he brought to the house this Costco sized vat of mixed greens, and he’s like, I brought some food for you. And it was clear that he had realized that since I had left his home I started eating more green vegetables. But it was just this small little notice of how I’m different as an adult than I was as a kid and we as our family have chosen some different politics and religious practices and food and cultural norms that exist in our household that are different than our family’s growing up.
Rob Walling:Yeah, and that brings up the inevitable clash of that, where there’s this awkwardness of, oh wait, we don’t do that anymore like we used to, or you’re gonna bring up religious or political topic or just even an everyday thing that we don’t agree with. And you’re gonna assume that we do agree with that, or you’re gonna suggest an entire meal with absolutely nothing green on the plate. And that doesn’t necessarily work for us. So, obviously that may feel awkward in the moment or whatever. How does someone deal with that?
Sherry Walling:It helps me to think about this as a cultural transition. So, when I am traveling to Vietnam and I’m served Pho for breakfast, I just sort of roll with it, and normally I don’t have soup for breakfast in America, but Pho is fabulous, so I just sort of roll with it. And know that even though your family feels like it should be familiar, it might not be anymore. I grew up in a community, not just my nuclear family, but a community of pretty, staunch conservative Republicans. And that was just assumed of all of the kids and all of the grown ups in the community of people that I grew up in.
 And it’s no longer a safe assumption in my family that everyone has the same political convictions. And so, when I’m with my family, I sort of am curious and listen to their different perspectives, and really again do my best not to be defensive or try to convince them that they should be having Cheerios for breakfast instead of Pho, because it’s not their cultural norm, and who am I to insist that it is, or that it should be. Does that answer your question?
Rob Walling:It does, yeah.
Sherry Walling:Appreciate diversity.
Rob Walling:For sure, it’s like not dreading it going into it and then taking a deep breath and just figuring the things that are maybe different than the way you do it today. They don’t even necessarily change. So that was the second point, it was about cultural expectations and roles of behavior. The third one is the rules about how connected people are. Talk to us about that.
Sherry Walling:Yeah, this is kind of a continuum upon which people in the middle health community might seek to understand the families, and on one end of the continuum is what you call an enmeshed family, where there’s lots of shared emotional experience between the different members of the family. There’s lots of sharing, there’s lots of like … I kind of think of this as an open door policy in the house. The kids and the parents are all sort of going in and out of everybody’s bedroom and sort of hanging out, and there’s a lot of emotional interaction between all the members of the family. They’re all very close. There’s some pros and cons to that, for sure. That will be on partly the scope of this conversation. But then on the other end of the spectrum …
Rob Walling:Wait, hold, just for the record, that’s how I grew up.
Sherry Walling:It is?
Rob Walling:It was the family being very close, yip, and speaking freely and a lot of shared experiences is the way. We all went to my brother’s football games and then everybody came to my track meets and we interacted in a very open way, and a lot of conversations about what the family was going through.
Sherry Walling:And there was a shared sense of we’re all in this together, whether it’s your track meet or your brother’s football game, or your dad’s business Christmas event. Everybody is involved and part of it and has sort of feelings about it as well as an expectation to participate.
Rob Walling:So that’s the enmeshed, which sounds a little negative, but growing up, to be honest, it actually was cool, I felt like everybody cared about what I was doing. From the time that I was five until I moved out of the house, people were invested in my spelling bees, in my, whatever it is, homework, my track meets, my athletic career, everything.
Sherry Walling:And again, this exist in a continuum, so it’s not a category, and I think you had a very connected family, and the enmeshed can get real messy though, especially if … the difficult thing about being in an enmeshed family is if you wanna leave, if you grow up and you realize, I wanna go my own way, and I don’t want everyone in this family to have so much sway or influence over what I decide to do.
 And I think the other kind of scary thing that can happen is that members of the family, maybe a mother and child, can’t differentiate their own emotions from each other. So this is the mother whose like way overly invested in her daughter’s cheerleading career, and goes to crazy lengths to make sure that that kid is successful. Not because of the kid’s feelings but because of the mother’s feelings, but they can’t tell the difference between them.
Rob Walling:Yeah, that makes sense. And that wasn’t the extent of us.
Sherry Walling:I just want to make that point really clear, these are the opposite ends of the spectrum and families lean toward one end or another but they’re both good and bad. Being in the middle, toward the middle, a little more centered is desirable.
Rob Walling:That’s the best right. So enmeshed it was one end, and the other side is?
Sherry Walling:The other side is disengaged, which is a very individuated family. Where each member of the family is doing their own activities, they’re very distinct. They have very distinct emotions. These families also tend to be quite hierarchical. And my family was a little bit more like this. My parents didn’t sit down with me and chat about the gossip that was happening with my friends in seventh grade. And when I wanted to run for student council, I figured out how to do that by myself. And when I had track meet, sometimes they’d come if they were close, but mostly not.
 So, it just impresses upon, the skills that you learn in a disengaged family are a lot of autonomy, but not necessarily a lot of emotional connection.
Rob Walling:See, that’s what I like about this episode is that, we have some pieces that are directly applicable to dealing with family and handling everything in the context of holiday and coming back and revisiting and this one, I’m not sure how much it matters. It’s just good to know, were you enmeshed, were you disengaged, where were you on that continuum. You feel like this impacts how you would interact with your family if you went back and revisited them 20 years later at our beach house in Santa Cruz?
Sherry Walling:Well, I definitely do, especially because you and I now have our own family, and we have a different … we’re on a different place in this continuum than either of our families of origin. So we’re definitely less disengaged and less enmeshed. It think we’re more in the middle. And so for me to go and visit your family, it kind of feels like everyone’s all up in my business and I feel my own individuation coming out strong, because I grew up in a different kind of family.
 But if I don’t know why that’s happening, or don’t have a handle on that, then it would be easy for me to withdraw or distance myself from your family without understanding why I was uncomfortable. That it’s not that they’re bad people, they just have a different way of doing family than I’m used to.
Rob Walling:Totally, and that’s the thing. I think, especially as you get married and another family, your spouse’s family has a different system, it’s not this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad thing. It winds up being, oh, there really is … it’s crazy that there tends to be some pretty simple descriptions of this stuff that is just a continuum, whether it’s, we’re talking about hierarchy with parents and siblings, talk about cultural expectations, we talked about how connected people are in enmeshed and disengaged, and it really is just where you are in this continuum and understanding that your family presently, your family when you’re growing up, and your spouse’s family may be very different. It can lend you that anthropological mindset of, oh, this actually isn’t terrible. This is just different. And like you said, they served me Pho for breakfast and I’m just gonna eat it. I wouldn’t do that normally but I’m just gonna accept it as a different way of being.
 And there’s a fourth piece, right. We’ve touched on three of them. The fourth piece is about rules about how structured the family is. Why don’t you tell us about that?
Sherry Walling:Yeah, this one’s kind of fun to talk about because again our families are super opposite in this. And here are the two ends of the continuum, one is rigid, and the other is chaotic. I came from a very rigid family where we ate dinner at 5:30 every day for my whole life.
Rob Walling:And what happened if someone happened to call, let’s say a friend happened to call at 5:35?
Sherry Walling:There was no answering the phone during dinner time. And there was shaming and grumping, and my dad would yell about it, or at least, why is this person calling at dinnertime? Like it should be just universally understood that no one should make phone calls at 5:30.
Rob Walling:Right, then everyone ate dinner at 5:30 pacific.
Sherry Walling:So very rigid. Things were in a place, they had a place. There’s a high level of organization, and there were lots of rules that governed how the family operated and those rules were enforced very strictly. And then your family on the opposite end goes toward this more chaotic style, which is like what, at 8:00, 9:00, 10:00 you were at home by yourself, making peanut butter and jelly, and then maybe your mum shows up around 8:30, and your dad comes around 9:00, and people are filtering in and out. There’s no dinner time, there’s no dining room table to eat at. People just grab their food and squat where ever.
Rob Walling:That’s not totally correct, but it is a pretty good picture.
Sherry Walling:There was no furniture.
Rob Walling:No, there was furniture. So yes, you’re right, actually I learned to make mac and cheese when I was nine. I did make PB & J when I was 8 or 9 and there were parents around, but things became more chaotic as I got older. I’ll put it that way. So yeah, you’re right, it’s very very different. In terms of when I was really young we did actually all eat dinner together and then as I got older things … everybody just went their separate ways, and we just managed, and you did your thing.
 And we have … our oldest now is 10, he is older than I was when I was arriving home after school on my own. And we didn’t even had latch keys back then, ’cause we lived in the country. I would just get of the bus and I’d walk this quarter mile driveway and I’d walk into the house and be like, all right, I’m here on my own, and everybody trusted me not to burn the house down, eat rat poison, drown in the pool. Just these basic fundamental things that you expect of a kid. So I was definitely kind of managing things on my own at that point.
Sherry Walling:But things were also very fluid in your house, you could watch what you want, and go to bed when you wanted, and eat what you want, versus at my house, dinner at 5:30, bedtime 8:30 or 9:00, or 10:00 if you’re in high school. There was this structure that was pretty strictly …
Rob Walling:Ten at high school?
Sherry Walling:Yeah, it’s amazing I’m as cool as I am.
Rob Walling:It is like, I didn’t know you back then, holy crap.
Sherry Walling:My junior year we really really had to negotiate hard for 10:30.
Rob Walling:10:30? I think when I was in junior high I may have been out till 2:00 multiple times.
Sherry Walling:Yeah, you had no … just like come and go when you want.
Rob Walling:It’s different also with the …
Sherry Walling:Oh, don’t even say what you’re gonna say.
Rob Walling:It’s different also when you’re as cool as I am.
Sherry Walling:All right, we’re blabbing on really long here, but I think the bottom line is that if you, like us, are feeling a little post holiday, non alcohol related hangover, it’s because again, despite how great your family might be, re-entering that system that you’ve lived in when you were a child can shake you up a little bit. Our adult development takes us out of our nuclear families, and we find new ways to live, we find new cultures, new preferences, new ways of doing things and organizing our new families. And so when we kind of experience the culture shock of getting pulled back into the old structure, or fighting against the old structure, it can definitely cause some tension and some emotional angst to go along with your Christmas ham.
Rob Walling:And so we have some strategies. Five of them to be exact for staying sane, and how to cope. If this stuff is stressful sometimes going back and seeing family is awesome and other times it can be stressful. And like you said, maybe it’s a little bit late to do it for holiday parties ’cause we’re past the first of the year, but maybe you could use it for super bowl parties, or your trip back over the summer, or even next year, because podcast are timeless. So kick us off with our first strategy.
Sherry Walling:I think just have a heads up that it might be trickier than you think. Sometimes it feels like it’s gonna be so great to return to something familiar to see these people that you deeply love and yes, it will be great. But there’s always gonna be something that’s a little bit tricky, that causes a little bit of tension. So have the heads up about that, make a plan for it, like give yourself some grace, give ourself some room, give your spouse some room, and take space when you need it, which is sort of the second strategy.
 But again, so the first is to be aware that you might need some space and then the second is to take some space.
Rob Walling:Yeah, I think being aware that you’re gonna need some space is big for me. It’s like identifying in advance, okay this is what’s gonna happen and I’m an Anthropologist and I’m gonna observe, and I’m gonna take a scientific view of … this is not the way I do it, and I’m not gonna freak out because things are a little different or because someone said something that I don’t agree with, because I don’t have to live under that for a 100 years right. I don’t have to eat Pho everyday, although I really like Pho, but I don’t have to eat it everyday for breakfast for 100 years, I have to do it this once. I have to eat something at dinner that have no greens on it once, so I’m gonna zip my mouth and I wanna  be an Anthropologist, and I’m gonna observe, this is how far I’ve come. This is where I am.
 Specific examples of taking space when you need it I think come back to you, you going off that second day and buying paints and in essence …
Sherry Walling:I’m here, and I’m not here.
Rob Walling:Yeah, but I mean, emerging yourself, that was your space. It was to create art and you and I also went for walks and runs every day and right now in Minneapolis it’s a little chilly to that. We’ve carved out a few of them here and there, but in Santa Cruz, bru, you and I individually were going for multiple per day. And I think that was a big thing where I’d be like, Sherry, take off, like go, do this thing, I’m gonna handle the kids or we’re just gonna manage the house together with your family and you would do the same. And we had a lot of flexibility. I think we lended each other a lot of flexibility and got each other’s back in this one.
Sherry Walling:Yeah, I think it’s pretty futile speaking of coping strategies, to try to change the way that your family of origin operates.
Rob Walling:Yeah, that’s the third piece here. The first strategy is be aware that things are gonna be weird, the second is to take space, and the third is, don’t try to change things.
Sherry Walling:I came home from college. My parents are from the Midwest, and I came home from college with an avocado and an artichoke. And these were both foods that did not exist in my family up until I went to college. And I brought them back and I was explaining the artichoke to my parents, and I cooked it, and I made the sauce, and they were just like, what is this thing? Why would we spend all this time doing this for this. It was just a foreign entity, and I was like, okay, I like artichokes. And I’m gonna decide to like artichokes, but you guys don’t, and your not going to, and you don’t get them, and they’re not intriguing, so we’re just gonna let that be, you know. Whether it’s politics or religion or artichokes. Letting your family of origin, letting the people in your family have the space to be different from you. And to realize that your journey into adulthood has taken you in different directions and to not sweat it.
Rob Walling:That’s right, and you’re probably not gonna change your parents who are 20 or 30 years older than you, because let me tell you as your elder, anyone who’s listening to this podcast, I’m probably older than you. You don’t change nearly as well as you get older. So what’s our fourth strategy for staying sane?
Sherry Walling:I think also not to be defensive about the structures that you’ve implemented. We’ve made different decisions than our parents made about parenting, and things that we do or don’t do with our kids. And so I think there times, maybe especially with your family, just because it is more foreign to me, that I kind of want to make a public service announcement and just be like look, this is why I do this thing with my kids. And this is my rationale, and I wanna constantly explain myself, and it’s just not helpful or important and I think it’s this defensiveness in me that gets in the way of having a comfortable and warm relationship. If I’m overly attached to everyone approving of me for the things that I do that are different than their convictions and the way that they have chosen to run their family. So don’t be defensive about how you’ve implemented your life.
Rob Walling:Yeah, I think that’s the big deal, it’s like going into it, preparing yourself and thinking about how to be proud of the decisions you’ve made, and move on with them. What’s our fifth strategy for staying sane?
Sherry Walling:Especially if you’re now part of a new family, if you have a partner and children, it’s important to take some time with your partner and maybe your kids as appropriate to talk about the differences in your family and then the family that you came from. Your family of origin. I know, as we have talked and just created more shared connection between the two of us, as we reflect on the differences between our current family and both of our families of origin, that’s been important both, to give space to express, like wow, this is hard, this is weird, these people are kind of crazy. I love them, but I don’t really understand them, and to help us clarifying, and solidify, okay we’re okay with doing things differently in our life, in our nuclear family.
 So mom, if you’re listening, I love you, you’re the best.
Rob Walling:I love you too, I love you too mom, you are the best. [crosstalk 00:35:04] Thank you for raising me.
Sherry Walling:We love spending time with you.
Rob Walling:Putting up with all my crap.
Sherry Walling:In smaller doses.
Rob Walling:I was a jerk and now …
Sherry Walling:And we’re sorry about all the tattoos.
Rob Walling:O yeah, ’cause do you realize in our parent’s day tattoos were …
Sherry Walling:So I have a new tattoo that I’ve been getting work done on over the past couple of months, and it’s a fairly large tattoo, takes up a quarter of my back. And my mom saw it at Christmas and she was just like, come here, I have to … what have you done here?
Rob Walling:I almost hyperventilated.
Sherry Walling:She’s trying to be cool, she’s trying to be like, tell me about it.
Rob Walling:She said, “what have you done here?” Is it a … [crosstalk 00:35:45]
Sherry Walling:What is this?
Rob Walling:Yes.
Sherry Walling:So my mom now thinks I’m in a biker gang, that’s not how it works these days. But again it’s pointless to try to explain to her that I’m a psychologist from very upstanding accomplished.
Rob Walling:Right, do you realize that was … in the 50’s or the 60’s perhaps getting a tattoo was a signal of being in a biker gang, however, these days even people with Ph.D’s get tattoos.
Sherry Walling:Love you mom.