Family First Inbox: Issue 826| January 10, 2023
“I’m confused about how filling up on materialism as a child would help someone gain strength to face challenges”
Independence — At What Cost? [Inbox/Issue 825]
I wanted to respond to two Inbox letters — then I realized they’re actually related.
I’m the SAHM who wrote the letter saying that if we want more women to become stay-at-home moms, there needs to be more support for us. Someone responded that I was trying to create an “us versus them” feeling with working moms. I want to clarify: that was far from the point of my letter. You sound very overworked; I feel you deserve more help than you’re getting and hope that you find the support you need to make things work for you.
I wrote that letter after several letters that bemoaned the fact that more women don’t choose to stay home with their babies despite the obvious benefits to a child’s development. I wanted to point out that if this is something that the frum community values, then more support is needed for SAHMs to make this a viable option. I know women who probably would stay home, but they choose to work for the intellectual stimulation and social interaction. Like I mentioned, I needed to spend hundreds of dollars to get the intellectual stimulation I needed, which not everyone can afford.
If people think more women should be SAHMs, we need to make it easier to get that social and intellectual stimulation.
Another letter writer bemoaned the fact that parental support is such a given. Much of what she said is valid, but I wanted to take issue with one point. I agree that independence is a value — but at what cost?
I was able to stay at home because relatives offered to give us more financial support. Initially, I also felt that independence was crucial and that I should turn down my relatives’ offer and keep working. A mentor pointed out that if I accepted their support, I’d have more menuchas hanefesh to focus on my family, something else I greatly valued. A calm mother, not pulled in many directions, is a blessing for her household.
If you choose not to take support from family, but then snap at your kids because you’re trying so hard to make ends meet, is it worth it? Even if you can’t stay home full-time, you can use the proffered money to cut down on work hours, hire extra cleaning help, or have peace of mind that your utility bill is paid for. Isn’t it worth it for the room it will create in your heart to give more to your kids?
I’m not saying I have all the answers. But these factors should be part of the equation when we make choices about how much support we take from family.
You Don’t Have to Manage [Family Connections/Issue 824]
I’m writing to the woman expecting her third child who’s worried about how she’ll manage. Who says you have to manage?
What you call manage is different than what another might call manage. No one has to know if your kids wore the same pjs three nights in a row, or if you served pasta on Sunday, tuna sandwiches on Monday, and eggs and French fries on Tuesday.
The kids won’t be traumatized by that, I guarantee it. As long as you’re calm, rested, and there to smile at them when they come home, the kids won’t even remember this time in their life.
But they will remember a mother who screamed.
Remember, your friends and neighbors don’t need to see pictures of the mess in your sink saying, “I’m not managing.”
A Managing Mother
When a Coach Oversteps [I’m Stuck/Issue 824]
The I’m Stuck column presented a dilemma in which a woman feels caught between the opposing approaches of her therapist and her so-called coach/mentor.
The roles of coach and mentor are vastly different, but often confused and vague in the minds of consumers. Clarifying and differentiating between these roles is important because the differing roles lead to different goals, which lead to completely different outcomes. This information empowers a client to choose the support most suited to her circumstances and to evaluate the quality of the service she’s receiving.
In the case the column presented, it seems that the coach was indeed stepping out of the role of coach and into the role of mentor. The role of a mentor is to provide advice and opinions based on the mentor’s personal experience and professional expertise. The International Coaching Community (ICC) explains that “mentoring is when a senior colleague, seen as more knowledgeable, worldly, and wise, gives advice and provides a role model.” The outcome of good mentoring is increased knowledge and competence in a specific area, as well as a feeling of being supported.
In contrast, the role of a coach is to open a space for a client to access her own inner wisdom, intuition, and creativity as a vehicle for finding solutions in the areas of the client’s choosing, and to propel personal growth. A coach sees her client’s innate ability, capacity, and greatness, and works to help her client connect to that in herself. Therefore, a coach doesn’t share opinions or advice. To quote the ICC, “In coaching the client is the expert and the client has the answers. Not the coach.”
As coaches, we noticed this element of self-awareness lacking in the letter. The writer has a great sense of her mentor’s and therapist’s opinions and uses loaded words to express them, but the writer’s own opinions, insights, goals, and desires (other than to hear more opinions!) are missing.
The outcome of good coaching includes visible movement and momentum toward the client’s specific goals, and an increased sense of well-being, confidence, and empowerment. But beyond that, no matter what the focus of the coaching has been — marriage, parenting, relationships, business, etc. — coaching leaves a client with a better, stronger, and deeper relationship with herself. She is more centered, more in tune with her desires, and more cognizant of her intuition. And she is more equipped to express her desires and insights to those around her in a way that is respectful of herself and others. Inevitably, this translates into better experiences in all of the client’s relationships — even those that were not specifically being brought up in session.
Hindy Mozes, Parent and Marriage Coach
Chaya Breindy Kenigsberg, Parent and Relationship Coach
How Did That Help? [Inbox/Issue 824]
I’m writing in response to the letter writer who challenges the recent discussion about the abundance of materialism in our community. She wrote that a materialistically rich childhood helped her overcome the significant challenges she faced in adulthood.
It sounds like she’s had a really tough ride, and I’m so glad that she had the strong foundation she needed to survive her challenges. But I’m confused about how filling up on materialism as a child would help someone gain strength to face challenges. I would think that someone who wanted the latest styles and whose mother allowed her to have some of what she wanted, but not all of it, would be the person who’d gained backbone. I’d love to hear more about how being given lots of material things can fortify someone to deal with huge challenges.
It’s a Shanda [Keep Calm and Cheer Him On/Issue 821]
Shaina King’s article on helping our sons get into mesivta was very well done. But I have to say, it’s a shanda that it needed to be written. Why do we need to make our children jump through hoops to get into mesivta? Schools should consider it a privilege to educate the next generation, to mold them into ovdei Hashem! Why are we making our children “perform” and rehearse for that “performance” to get accepted? Why are we giving our children the impression they’re unwanted unless they prove they’re exceptional? I can’t imagine the damage this does to our children’s budding self-image.
Last year, we realized our son’s elementary school was no longer a good fit for him and tried to switch him to another school. The process was harrowing. We went for interviews where we felt we were being interrogated by the FBI for the “crime” of wanting to switch schools. One place requested we send in a family photo before they would agree to meet with us. My son was so stressed out by the whole thing, during one interview he froze and clammed up. The principal interviewing us suggested he was autistic and must have suffered trauma.
After that experience, I can’t even think how we’re going to handle the mesivta application process.
I ask: what is the goal of the school acceptance system? Whose best interests does it have in mind? Is the system going to survive scrutiny in the Beis din shel Maalah?
I think not.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 826)
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