If It Were Me | May 2017

By Elizabeth Oates

Have Questions?

Dear Elizabeth,
I recently returned to work and my 2-year-old has started disobeying more than usual and acting out for attention. I know she feels neglected because I’m working now, but I don’t know how to make her understand that work is important to me and the extra income benefits our entire family. Any advice for this guilt-ridden mom? — Guilt-Ridden Mom

Dear Guilt-Ridden Mom,

Let me start by reassuring you that you have nothing to feel guilty about — and you are not alone in your pursuit of both motherhood and career. In fact, a recent survey by the Pew Research Center says that two-parent households where both parents work make up 46 percent of the population, as opposed to 31 percent back in 1971.

You mentioned wanting to help your daughter understand how important work is to you. Unfortunately, a toddler is not ready to grasp her mother’s emotional need for career and self-fulfillment. She also has no grasp on finances. I’m guessing she doesn’t wonder, or care, how you pay for Goldfish crackers and Doc McStuffins toys, and trying to explain it to her would be fruitless.

There are certain things you can do, however, to curb the disobedience and give her attention in more positive ways:

One, be present. When you are home, turn off social media, technology and television, and focus on your daughter. Each night set aside 15-30 minutes and do what she wants to do: play dress-up, put a puzzle together or blow bubbles. You don’t have to be extravagant; you just need to show her that she is the center of your world.

Two, limit outside interests. You might have been involved in the community, church and with your friends, but now that you are back at work there are less hours in the day to spend with your child. This means you need to limit your extracurricular activities. During this crucial adjustment period, I recommend focusing more on her and less on those around you.

Three, know this is just a phase. Your daughter will adjust to her new normal. She will learn that just because you work doesn’t mean you love her less. She will also learn, over time, how to be independent and social. If you pour into her now, you will enjoy the benefits later.

Dear Elizabeth,
I am a recently divorced mother of four. My husband lives a few hours away so the kids live with me full time. They visit him every other weekend and most holidays. Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids and am so grateful for the custody arrangement we worked out, but single parenting is more difficult than I anticipated. I am emotionally exhausted and worn out every single night. The laundry is never done, we survive on chicken nuggets and Hot Pockets, and I am constantly asking friends to help chauffer my kids to different places. I feel like a failure most of the time and wonder if we’re going to make it. Any advice on how I can do this single parenting thing better? — E.F.

Dear E.F.,

The first thing you need to do is cut yourself some slack. Any time we go through a transition there is an adjustment period. So, take a deep breath. Know that it’s OK if you’re not bringing your parenting A-game right now. No one is keeping score, and I guarantee your kids love eating Hot Pockets for dinner.

Last summer we welcomed a foster baby into our family. I was already overwhelmed with four kids, and now I had to adjust to five (and a baby nonetheless). I gave myself a year — one year that I didn’t have to cook. I told myself that fixing bottles every three hours, eventually adding in baby food, changing two kids’ diapers and driving three big kids to sports gave me a free pass from cooking fancy home-cooked meals.

Sure, we still eat at home. But we eat simple meals like pasta or tacos. I don’t cook anything that requires a recipe. And chicken nuggets and Hot Pockets are a staple at our house too. That is the grace I gave myself so I could survive this baby’s first year of life.

What grace do you need to give yourself? Maybe you need to hire a cleaning service to clean your house. Maybe you need to take advantage of H-E-B Curbside pickup to ease your errand burden. Here are some other helpful hints to bring peace and order into your home:

Create a chore chart. Make a list of all the chores around the house, then decide which ones your kids can do. Assign daily chores to each child and then rotate those chores each week. This not only lightens your load, but it teaches them responsibility as well.

Make a meal plan. Plan your meals for the week, then create a grocery list from your meal plan. Do this the night before you go grocery shopping. If you plan to use a grocery delivery or curbside service, make sure you submit your list early. There are also services such as Blue Apron and HelloFresh, which deliver all the ingredients for a specific meal to your door and you do the cooking. Or, better yet, Waco’s very own Talk More Meals delivers the entire already-cooked meal to your house!

Plan some fun time. In the hustle and bustle of school projects, football practice, dance rehearsal and shuttling the kids between houses, we can sometimes forget to have fun as a family. Be sure to build in some family fun time. Whether you enjoy hiking together, bike riding, playing board games or baking cupcakes, plan a time to do something together. Put it in your calendar so your time is protected, and then enjoy one another.

Build in some “me time.” When your kids are away with their dad, that is your time to recuperate. Take a relaxing bath, go to a movie with a friend, take a yoga class, go on a walk, meet someone for coffee — do whatever you need to do to rest and reenergize. Be thoughtful, purposeful and intentional with your time, planning ahead so as not to waste it.