Nov 15, 2009

Where are the Mommies?

Rabbi Yakov Horowitz is to be commended for raising many important issues about parenting and chinuch.  Close to three years ago, he wrote an article about many of the issues he intended on discussing in forthcoming articles.  I responded to him as follows:

Towards the end of your article you list many topics that need to be discussed. Seems to me there's a glaring omission. I am wondering whether you, and we in the frum world, are brave enough to discuss our children and various problems but are afraid to address one of the major issues that affects them. 

Back in the 60's and 70's we did not have a crisis with our youth. Yes, there were children who went off, but I think - correct me if I'm wrong, that by and large, frum parents raised frum children who remained frum, many even becoming frumer than their parents.

I can't give you the precise figures, but back in the 60's and 70's, most frum, American mommies were home raising their family. [I remember Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss saying that he did a poll among his seminary students. Perhaps you could ask him the precise results but I seem to remember it was something like 80% of mothers were home and 20% at work at one point and then the reverse, 80% at work and 20% at home at a later point!]

Some worked in family businesses or other jobs but most mommies were home when their children came home from school. Back in the 60’s and 70’s, mommies did not drop off infants at babysitters. They didn’t drop off toddlers at daycare centers. Some children (gasp) were home till age 3. When a 2 and a half year old went to a playgroup, it was for a few hours, not 8-2, 3 or 4 or beyond.

When a 3 and 4 year old went to school, it was for a few hours a day. As recently as the early 90’s, a 4 year old’s day in school was from 9:30-2:30 – 5 hours. How many programs will you find for a 4 year old these days with such short hours these days?

Rabbi Manis Mandel a’h believed little children should be home with their mothers and he resisted having a preschool for a long time until, inevitably, Y.O.B. opened one.

Mommies are told that babies need to socialize, that they are depriving their toddlers of stimulation if they don’t send them out. Mommies of two year olds are asked by other mommies where they’re sending their toddlers to playgroup and are looked at askance if they have no intentions of sending them anywhere. Mommies who want to get together with other mommies and their children don’t have many options since most people have bought into the daycare system. Mommies are told they have a life too and if they’re happier sending their toddlers out, that’s good for the toddler. These and other lies are rarely, if ever, addressed in our frum circles.

I think we need to discuss what messages we are giving our daughters. That they have to pick a career (preferably one they can get either online or through some frum, accelerated program) so they can either support their husbands or help pay tuition while others raise their children? Should we expect our children to grow up emotionally stable and bonded with their parents if they are being raised by others from infanthood? Should we be surprised when children abandon the religiosity of their parents and express resentment, hurt, and grievances about them when they never fully bonded with them? Should we expect our children to give us nachas when lectures, workshops, articles and books for the frum oilem regurgitate current psychological ideas on parenting which are not Torah-based? Psychology was called avoda zara decades ago. Has it gotten any better since then or do we now have more and frum therapists espousing secular ideas to us?

I think that without addressing the hot topics of mother’s role and what a real yiddishe mama is all about, discussing whether girls in school are being groomed to be yiddishe mamas or working women, and where psychology is leading (or misleading) us, you are missing crucial components in this discussion.

1 comment:

  1. Usually the 2 income families are charged more tuition than poorer one income families. That alone should be an incentive not to work but many frum women need to work part time not for fullfillment, but to make ends meet. The cost of living is so high that even when families cut down on extras and extravagances, few people make enough in the frum community today to raise a family on one source of income alone. As a mother of a son in shidduchim, I see that many young girls today are looking for career boys who can make a living so that the pressures to make a living are not on the mothers who are trying to give birth and raise children. These girls don't want to hear that a boy will find a job after kollel; they want to know what he will do from the start.
    Kids who are not in day care or pre-school can meet other kids on the playground and mothers can do their own projects with them.