If It Were Me

By Elizabeth Oates

Have Questions?

Hello, friends, and welcome to the Wacoan’s new monthly advice column. As a wife and mother of four, I am excited to read your questions and share my thoughts on whatever trials you might be facing relating to marriage, family, parenting or general women’s issues.

What qualifies me to dish out my opinion? Good question! I earned a master’s in marriage and family studies from Dallas Theological Seminary, although I admit this means nothing in the real world. Ha! I have studied harder in the school of life than I ever did in seminary.

Over the past eight years I have mentored countless young women and I have heard it all — nothing shocks me. Do you a have question you need answered? Go ahead and send it in. That’s what I would do … if it were me.

Q: I am a happily married woman who recently gave birth to my first child and returned to work after 12 weeks of maternity leave. I love where my daughter goes to day care and know a lot of the other moms and babies, but I am really struggling with mom guilt over returning to work. On the flip side, I love my job and can’t imagine quitting. I feel like I am in a lose/lose situation. What should I do? — H.H.

Dear H.H.,

First of all, congratulations on your little one! The sheer fact that you housed a tiny baby in your belly for nine months and ushered her into this big world is something to celebrate, so relish that for just a moment.

Speaking as a mother of four, the mom guilt never ends. You can jump through all the hoops, accomplish everything the books say, follow everyone’s well-meaning advice, and the guilt will still stare you in the face.

In this particular situation, it is important for you to identify the root cause of your guilt. Did your own mother stay home, leading you to feel like you need to do the same? Does working outside the home violate what your church teaches? Is someone in your life (a friend, your husband, your mother-in-law, etc.) telling you this is detrimental to your baby? Do some soul-searching to figure out from where this guilt is stemming.

If you love your job and working fulfills you (and both sound true in your case), then you need to make peace with your decision once and for all and heed this advice:

1. Ignore the negative voices. It sounds like you’re comfortable with your decision — it’s everyone else who has a problem. Confidently, yet graciously, let the naysayers know that your life decision works best for you and your family. End of story.

2. God gave you gifts and talents. It’s your responsibility to share them with the world. Your job is the perfect place to use those gifts and talents, so don’t waste a minute of the day on guilt. Utilize every precious moment by working to your potential.

3. Be an example of a strong, capable woman for your daughter, not someone who wallows in guilt and self-pity. Your daughter is watching you follow your dreams and give back to society. One day she may feel called to do the same. Will you want her to answer God’s call with courage and confidence or shrink back out of guilt and fear?

Q: I am a stay-at-home mom with two children, ages 4 and 8. My husband works late almost every night, and the long hours I spend with the kids is taking a toll on me emotionally. How can I let him know my frustration without being the nagging wife? — Tired and Alone

Dear Tired and Alone,

Girl, I hear ya! I once walked in your shoes with three little ones, ages 1, 3 and 5. It’s a good thing wine gives me headaches or I would have declared every afternoon “happy hour” just to get me to bedtime.

The key here is communication and understanding, from you and your husband. Set time aside to have a conversation together. After the kids go to bed and you have spent 14 hours feeding, entertaining and disciplining is not the right time. Give your husband some forewarning that you want to talk and then plan a date night.

Let your husband know what you need from him. Depending on his job, it might be unrealistic to expect him to arrive home every night by 5:30 p.m. However, if you think outside of the box, you might find some creative solutions:

• Can he come home by 6:00 p.m. two nights a week?

• Can he work at the office on a Saturday while the kids attend a birthday party?

• Can he work at home after the kids go to bed while you curl up with a good book? Sometimes just being in each other’s presence promotes bonding.

Discuss ways that allow him to fulfill his work responsibilities while meeting your needs at the same time; both of these things will affirm his manhood.

In return, your husband needs to understand the demands placed on you. Motherhood is no joke. It is a tiring, thankless, selfless job. Help him understand your emotional needs. Most men want to provide financial security, which is why they work long hours, but sometimes they forget we also need emotional security.

Be patient, and I think you will find a happy husband + a happy wife = a happy life.

Q: I am really struggling with loneliness. My dad passed away when I was very young, and my mom passed away about four months ago. I am an only child without much extended family. I have always been rather shy and introverted, so making friends is difficult. I feel like my whole world has collapsed. Do you have any advice for me as I deal with this overwhelming loneliness? — Bethany

Dear Bethany,

I am so sorry about your recent loss and the loss of your dad so many years ago.

I encourage you to join a GriefShare class. This program meets at local community centers or churches and is completely free. You say you don’t have many friends or family, but even if you did, they might not be able to relate to what you are experiencing. The leaders and members of a GriefShare class, however, will offer support and encouragement as you journey together through the pain of losing a loved one.

You can find a group at griefshare.org, and you can sign up for daily encouraging emails. The program and devotional will help you avoid isolation, which it sounds like you gravitate toward in general. GriefShare also helps connect people in your season of life with a community who will validate your feelings as you work through the stages of grief.

People attending GriefShare have experienced loss in a number of ways, from death to job loss to divorce to losing friends and family due to moving to a new town. Their situations vary, but the sense of loss bonds them together.

No one should walk this road alone, so I pray you will reach out to a group. We were all created to live life in community, and I hope you find yours in GriefShare.

Q: My teenage daughter came home yesterday with her head shaved on both sides and short on top. It looks hideous, and I’m not sure what this means in the grand scheme of things. I am worried about her and not sure what to do. Help! — Brenda S.

Dear Brenda S.,

First, I admit that I am still three years away from parenting a teenager, so take my advice with a grain of salt. By the way, I have two daughters and two sons, so the likelihood of something like this happening to me is pretty high. In the meantime, I take all of my parenting cues from friends, books and parenting experts.

Here are some questions I would ask if I were in your position:

Is this an act of expression? Meaning, is your daughter the creative type? Does she experiment with hair dyes, fake tattoos, makeup, clothes? If so, then realize this is just another step in her journey to artistic freedom.

Is this an act of exploration? I recently listened to a podcast in which a mom and published author said teenagers try to find their own way in the world. They don’t want to do things exactly the way we do them, and that’s OK.

Think back to when you were a teenager. Did you want to dress like your mom? Wear your hair like your mom? Watch the same TV shows as your mom? Probably not. You wanted to explore the world and your place in it. That might be what your daughter is doing. Give her time.

Is this an act of attention? To some degree, isn’t attention what all teenagers seek? Don’t all teens long for validation and approval? In fact, don’t all of us want to know we matter? Everyone wants to be noticed. Everyone wants to know they have value in this world.

If you feel like your daughter needs more attention, maybe you could find ways to show her in a way she can hear you. Schedule a mani-pedi or, a coffee date or just sit on her bed one night and chat. Let her know she is a priority.

Is this an act of following? Is your daughter following the crowd instead of leading it? Is she making her own decisions or doing what her friends are doing without asking questions? If so, this definitely warrants a conversation.

Is this an act of rebellion? This is probably what you are most worried about. Think about this: Has your daughter previously rebelled in any way? Has she given you reason to distrust her?

If so, pray diligently. Approach her with gentleness and love. Express your concern. Involve a third party (a youth pastor or counselor) if necessary.

If not, then this haircut is probably not the first step in a long line of rebellious activities. Be on the lookout for more concerning behaviors, but in the meantime embrace the new ‘do.

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