Aug 25, 2013

More on Mothering

A frum female doctor living in Israel, who is the mother of 13 children (7 of whom are married now), wrote a book about the tough choices she had to make between her family and her career.  While training to be a doctor, she gave birth to six children.  During her residency she had three more children.  She says she could not have done it without her husband and quite honestly says, "I am not a role model for anyone.  It was a terrible life.  It meant splitting myself into pieces, missing all the siyumim and siddur parties and so many milestones in my children's lives. 

In a Binah interview she goes on to say, "The most important thing a woman with children can do with her life is to be a mother ... Your children only have one mother, your husband has only one wife.  Had I known what this choice entailed, if I could it all over again, I would choose differently."

During the six years of her residency she would light candles by herself in the hospital, away from her family's Shabbos table.  She would leave her house at 6:35 a.m. and be gone for 30-40 hours. 
Her 3 1/2 year old son once said to her, "No mother does this to her children, no mother!"

While in medical school, she and her husband consulted with R' Shlomo Zalman Auerbach z'l to ask him whether she should continue or quit.  He told her to continue since he felt she could perform a real service for the frum community where there were hardly any frum, female doctors.

She says that her children definitely suffered.  They wanted her at their school events.  Every mother was there, but her.  "I lost out on happy times with them.  Those precious years are gone forever."

The interviewer asked her what her adult children think of her, are they proud of her and feel pride in her work.  She said, "No, I don't think so.  I think what's most important is to have a real mother who is physically present.  But at the same time, they know that I do what I do l'sheim shomayim." 

As to a previous comment, "It is not "at his wife's expense" if she is willingly and eagerly supporting him to learn because she truly yearns for her husband to become a great talmid chacham, and is fully ready to sacrifice for that worthy goal" - when a husband goes off to learn, knowing that his wife who just gave birth will be traveling over an hour each way with two babies in order to interview for a job, whether she is fully behind that decision or does it because she feels it is expected of her, does not change the fact that his learning is at his wife and children's expense.  How he is able to learn with a clear head, knowing that his kimpeturin, nursing wife is spending the day in this way, in preparation for leaving her babies to be raised by others, is beyond me.

When it is only the adults affected by the decision, that is quite different than a decision that drastically affects the children who are brought into the world and are made to suffer for Torah study.  When in our history were mothers separated from their babies for the sake of Torah? Husbands have separated from their wives, like Rochel and Akiva for the sake of Torah, but not mothers and their young children.


  1. I accept that if the Torah learning adversely affects the children's bond with the mother, then it is wrong.

    However I find it noteworthy that the very story that you cite above seems to be an example of the idea that there are sometimes exceptions to this rule of never separating mothers from children for otherwise worthy endeavours, for as you relate, this female doctor was instructed to davka continue with her career despite the adverse effect on her children. But I guess that you will say that that case is an exception to the rule, and should not be viewed as the norm.

  2. There are many mothers who teach and they are not kollel wives but their children are deprived just the same. There is also the reality that tuitions for a large family can eat up one whole income and many tuition committees push women to work rather than ask for reductions. This is not the by-product of ostentatious living. Walk through any drugstore and see that most of the items on the shelves that make us comfortable or beautiful did not exist in the shtetel. Now try living today without deodorant, toothpaste, disposable products such as toilet paper, etc. Can children go to school with slates rather than paper or to college without laptops? How about refrigeration? We can't go back in time but people once survived without these things and now these things are considered necessities but these are costly necessities. Just living today incurs expenses that once did not exist.