Aug 21, 2013

An Upside-Down World

A kimpeturin of Lakewood has a baby less than 5 weeks old.  She also has a 22 month old toddler.  She goes to New York to interview for a job in her field.  Why? Is she a new immigrant in dire need of supporting herself? Is she a single mother? No. It is because her husband is learning. 

She is not the first, not the last.  Plenty others do the same.  So what else is new ...

A woman writes to Binah magazine about being a kollel wife with three children and a full-time job out of the house.  She has a nightly walk with a neighbor and tries to get to sleep early.  I read this several times and wondered where her husband and children fit into her life. 

She thanks her husband for being Mr. Mom (not her phrase).  He gets the children ready in the morning, takes them to school, packs lunches and snacks, often cooks supper, shops for groceries, bakes and braids challa, and has cooked for Shabbos several times.

To borrow a term from R' Yosef, the son of R Yehoshua (Bava Basra 10), "Olam hafuch ra'isi" - I saw an upside-down world.

Yes, women have worked throughout the generations. The Eishis Chayil of Mishlei works.  Yet, it was a rare situation in which husband and wife switched roles and the mother traveled to support the family while the father raised the children and ran the home. 

A mother wrote that she received a note from her seven year old daughter:

"Dear Mommy, if it's not too hard and if you're not working, could you listen to me read for five minutes? We get points for this in school, and I only have one stamp.  Everyone else has a whole card already. Love ..."

And we will keep on reading "courageous" articles about post-partum depression, sad articles about the rise in divorces in the frum world, and disconcerting articles about children and their myriad of problems. 

1 comment:

  1. There is often more to the story than meets the eye. It's human nature for a mother to have a strong desire to look after the home and nurture her children, and so even mothers who work will typically juggle the work and spending time with the children (along with cooking and homemaking). If she's leaving the mothering to her husband and almost completely absent, it may be because although she would like to be the nurturer, she is emotionally lacking and finds it all too much, and so the husband is the one who compensates for that. This dynamic has nothing to do with whether the husband is learning. They could both be working in order to support their family, and the mother could "opt out" of the typical motherly role by saying she needs a break after her hard work (which may have some truth to it), or "opt in" by being around in the home every moment she can.

    As for the "husband learning": As I understand, when this was done in the past, the young couple would stay with their in-laws, or receive financial support from their in-laws ("kest"). This meant that the in-laws, along with other members of the extended family, were directly on hand to help out with childcare. But in our times, when getting married means living in your own apartment, when people are spread out and often not even living near other family members, and when having a learning husband means the wife working, and without much help from extended family for childcare, different coping solutions must be found.