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Family First Inbox: Issue 740

"What if we taught girls how to remain hopeful through the dating process? How to cope with all your friends getting engaged and married while you’re still single?"



Finding the Balance [Where She Shines / Issue 738]

Ariella Schiller’s story about the woman who finds that her job is taking away from her ability to be there for her family hit home for me. As a working mom who enjoys learning and growing in my field, the decision to work more part-time or to follow a less competitive career path is difficult. Balancing being wife and mother while enjoying a career is a tough one. Your story highlighted this challenge in a very tangible way. I felt like you were in my brain. Keep the stories coming!
Your friend in the Midwest

Natural Isn’t Always Safe [Gut Reaction / Issue 737]

I’m deeply concerned by the premise of the article “Gut Reaction,” about how a mother was finally able to resolve her son’s health issues with the aid of a healthy diet and fermentation.
I’m saddened that a mom would so reflexively blame herself for a yeast overgrowth. It’s a shame that mothering and self-flagellation go together so casually. Ladies, unless you were on drugs while pregnant, you did your best. Move on.
Respiratory issues could and should be dealt with using Western medicine with naturopathy being used as an adjunct only. Go for the borscht or whatever, but lema’an Hashem, please provide the western medical cures as well.
Remember, just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it’s safe.
For example, some essential oils (think lavender or teakwood) relax the muscles. If you have a child with a pseudo wheeze due to floppy upper-airway muscles, using these very potent products can have catastrophic side effects. But unless you have significant experience or see a competent doctor regularly, you will not know what you are hearing.
Doctors have a whole lot of training. Prevention magazines, the Shulem hotline, or a Google search are not appropriate replacements for med school.
So, to summarize:
It’s not your fault.
Find a doctor you can trust.
Give the inhaled steroid along with the borscht.
A Jewish mother with 20 years of experience in respiratory medicine and a long string of letters after her name.

New Curriculum Needed [Words Unspoken / Issue 737]

Thank you for publishing the Words Unspoken about asking seminary teachers to prepare girls so that they don’t panic about shidduchim. As a seminary graduate, the piece really resonated with me. Seminaries have so many marriage classes that are very insightful and necessary, and I’m sure a lot of girls benefit from sitting through them. But shouldn’t we give girls other tools in addition to those classes? After all, not everyone gets married right after stepping off the plane. What lessons will those girls cling to?
What if we taught girls how to remain hopeful through the dating process? How to cope with all your friends getting engaged and married while you’re still single? What to do when your younger sibling starts dating? How to retain what you learned in seminary in the coming years?
There are so many other classes seminaries can give, but perhaps the most crucial lesson seminaries can give over is the one the author mentioned: “...instilling within them true faith in Hashem, and fortifying our daughters with something they’ll need more and more as they travel through adulthood.”
A Seminary Graduate Who’s Been There

The Real Source of Panic [Words Unspoken / Issue 737]

It’s very nice to ask seminary teachers to help stop their students’ panic about shidduchim, but perhaps you should be addressing some of the real and ridiculous sources of panic.  A sense of panic evolves when there are unreasonable and ridiculous realities put into place for shidduchim.  Change those realities across the board, and the panic will dissipate.
For a case in point about a valid source of panic, read no further than the letters referring to the previous Double Takes column, about the people upset at their mechutanim for not providing more support to the couple. To the girls reading the original story and the letter that followed: You can avoid both situations by a very simple approach. Don’t enter into marriages in which you are dependent on others to support your husband’s learning. If you are genuinely interested in starting your marriage with strong kollel years, be prepared to live simply and to support yourselves.
There are happy and successful kollel marriages in which none of this meshigas occurs because the couple (and their parents) do not feel entitled to any outside support. The couple is mistapek b’muat and supports themselves. Their marriage is not tied up in any wealthy father-in-law’s business, and their shalom bayis is not dependent on the stock market.  It’s not easy, but they do it....
It’s beautiful when parents can support their children in kollel and choose to do so, but if your parents can’t do it, don’t worry. Torah is the yerushah of all Klal Yisrael and not just those with wealthy fathers-in-law!  If you are prepared to live a simple lifestyle, and you really want your husband to learn in kollel, start asking around — it’s possible.  Speak to those happy people who have put in the hard work and have done it successfully.
There are a lot of reasons for shidduch panic, but asking seminary teachers to address these deeply rooted societal problems by conveying emunah to the girls is really missing the point. Let’s teach our children responsibility before marriage and focus on the problems at hand. Yes, seminary teachers can inspire with emunah and bitachon — but as a society, let’s simultaneously show achrayus where it is due.
A Reader

Validate Our Emotions [Step It Up / Issue 737]

I wanted to thank Mindel Kassorla for her latest Step It Up article on acceptance, which was a very practical piece that really resonated with me. Many people say to “just accept” or to “stick it out,” but Mindel advised us to “hold hands with the emotion, telling it that I’m here with it, giving it a hug of some sort.” I love the idea of mourning loss by validating our pain and being mindful that it’s real and exists, no matter how small.
Thank you for promoting emotional wellness rather than suppression of our emotions.

Chesed for Mothers [I’m Stuck / Issue 736]

I was happy to see that all the panelists in “I’m Stuck” agreed that a mother whose children still need her should not be in the chevra kaddisha.
On the subject of mothers doing chesed, Rebbetzin Chana Weinberg a”h once offered the following piece of valuable practical advice: When our children are young, we should not commit ourselves to doing chesed as part of a committee or organization, because we have a previous commitment to our family. Rather, we should do the types of chesed that come up as one-time opportunities, so that each time we can properly assess whether it is something that we can do.
Mrs. K.

Finding the Right Help [Can You Help Me? / Issue 736]

As someone who’s been around the block and back in the therapy world, I wanted to comment on the article “Can You Help me?”
In my opinion, the scenario described in the article is not typical. I’ve been to quite a number of therapists and though not all have been the right fit, I found most therapists to be well-meaning and helpful in some way. Contrary to what people think, the therapy field is not a lucrative or easy one, and most people who embark on this career path do it with sincere caring and a genuine desire to help people.
That being said, I agree that finding a therapist is not an easy feat. Neither is finding the right therapy modality. As a prominent professional once told me, “there are countless therapy modalities out there and they’re all good — at the right time, for the right person, with the right therapist.”
I suggest getting a referral from a professional, as different therapists specialize in different areas. That’s why taking your sister’s friend’s advice might not be your best bet. Her therapist might be excellent for helping her deal with her difficult spouse but not be informed enough to help you recover from your eating disorder. Similarly, CBT might be great for alleviating symptoms of OCD, but somatic work might be more helpful for healing from abuse.  Somebody with broader knowledge and experience can guide you to the right address. There are organizations like Amudim who don’t only refer you to an appropriate therapist, but they stay on top of the case to ensure that the therapy is headed in the right direction.
Another important piece of advice: Trust your intuition. If you see a professional once or twice and don’t feel comfortable, call it a day. This is easier said than done, as people with traumatic pasts tend to lose trust in themselves. Nevertheless, nobody knows what you need better than you do.
I also find that at different times people need different modalities. Sometimes a therapist could be super helpful up until a certain point and then you might need a different type of treatment to take you further. Switching doesn’t mean starting over, it simply means you need different tools to climb the next rung on the ladder. I would throw in a note of caution not to switch just because the therapy got too difficult. Oftentimes the reason that gets people to switch is precisely the reason they’re in therapy.
After all is said and done, I believe that ultimately, a person’s healing comes from the one therapist who’s always available, always the right fit, always has our best interests in mind, and best of all — doesn’t charge 200 dollars an hour!
May He grant all of Klal Yisrael inner peace, happiness and healing quickly and easily,

Beware of Allergies [Off Limits / Issue 736]

The article about food restrictions in the Pesach edition was excellent. It mentioned how some people were mistakenly informed that certain foods were free of a specific ingredient, only to have it proved otherwise by their breathing being affected. I have unfortunately heard of this happening frequently.
I once offered to make supper for a postpartum friend. She told me that she does not accept meals because she has two children with severe allergies, and while most people are well-intentioned, they make mistakes — and those can lo aleinu be lethal. Someone may send a Pesach cake over and then, realizing that she used walnut oil, call frantically, “Did you eat from the cake?!”
Nobody (myself included) is as careful (neurotic?) as the person themselves (and their mother). I try my absolute best to serve people the right foods, but at the same time, people with severe allergies should realize that their safest option is to avoid eating foods for which they need to rely on others to keep track of the ingredients.
M. Adler

Support My Dreams [Dream On]

Thank you Mishpacha and Gila Arnold for Dream On, a wonderful serial I look forward to every week. It seems to me that the theme is emes, which resonates so deeply with me. I especially relate to ZeeZee, although I am more introverted and subdued. Like her, I look for ways to use my many unique talents and interests to serve Hashem and am always being shut down (why are you talking about stories when you haven’t mopped your kitchen yet?). Sometimes, I think, instead of telling me how my stories and art and kiruv dreams are a waste of time, maybe first ask if you can have a look? Show some interest?
A story I love about Rabbi Shlomo Freifeld is how his student found secular books on interesting topics hidden in his desk because Rabbi Freifeld wanted to acquaint himself with his students’ interests. Wow! That is a real rebbe! Unfortunately, I have been bruised by too many authority figures who scoff at me when I mention the things I’m interested in.
Granted, I am a mother and the floor must get mopped, but how will I find the motivation to do it when those around me are hinting that Hashem must have made a big mistake when He made me, and I should forget about all my kochos and interests?
Thank you for a serial that is addressing such an important topic.
Name withheld


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue  740)

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