A couple of days ago, I received an email from a reader with the following statements/questions:
1. Family life can be successfully combined with a career, in particular if a woman works part-time from home.
2. Secular dating may work well for some people.
3. Both spouses can be helpmeets to one another, instead of a wife serving as a helpmeet for her husband.
4. Household chores may be shared between spouses.
5. The statement given by G-d to Eve, saying that her husband will rule over her, is given after Eve tasted of the forbidden fruit, implying that in a sinless, perfect world, both husband and wife may in fact be equal. Do I believe it applies not only to Eve, but to the entire womankind?
Here is my reply, slightly abridged:
In writing my blog, I talk from the angle of a Jewish wife and mother, and tell a good deal about my personal experiences. What I find most interesting, however, is discussing social trends. I am part of a trend; for example, when I say secular dating didn't work for me, I'm not saying so in a detached way. I know I belong to a whole generation of women whose self-respect, self-worth, dignity, emotional and physical security, were swept away by their disastrous experience of casual dating.
Speaking of a different topic, I do not believe that the roles of men and women are defined by their respective shares of household chores. My husband is quite the baker, and doesn't shy away from using the sewing machine. That does not take away from his leadership in our family. However, the home is mainly my domain, as God created me a woman, and therefore I'm wired to be a mother and a nester. I felt this very strongly even before I was married; for some women, the realization of their unique role does not hit until after they are mothers.
When I got married, I was 22. Only ten months separated the day when my husband slipped a wedding ring on my finger, and the day when our darling little daughter was placed in my arms. Of course, it would make no sense to squander that short and precious stretch of time on some short-term work outside the home. I had so much to do - get used to being a wife, establish a household routine, get ready to welcoming a new baby. Oh, and we also moved sometime in between.
If I might have been planning to do something from home while I was pregnant, when our precious child arrived there was no longer room even in my thoughts for doing anything on a regular basis apart from taking care of my home and baby. Frankly, while I read your email, I wondered how and when children enter the plan of your future life. You see, my husband can do a lot of things instead of me, but technically, he cannot experience fatigue and morning sickness in my stead; he cannot have my backaches and swollen feet, he cannot bring a baby into this world and he certainly cannot nurse that baby.
God wired me to be a mother. He created me with breasts and a womb, and most importantly, with a mother's heart, a gentle heart that will draw me towards home regardless of the number of children I actually have. Yes, I believe that even if I never had any children at all, home would still be a place where I am naturally drawn to. I have not conducted any studies, but I am certain beyond a doubt that the same can be said of the vast majority of women.
Just to note, I have always said that a woman may have her own personal interests, hobbies and pursuits, in the home and outside it, pursuits that might, or might not, bring some income. However, this shouldn't be something that the husband expects and/or relies upon. The wife is supposed to have time and peace of mind to tend to matters of the home. I think it's all a matter of how much time such pursuits actually take away from the time that should have been dedicated to caring for the husband, home and children. There are seasons in a woman's life when she can give more, and seasons when she can give less, and at any rate the home comes first. Alas, the majority of employers want us to give them everything, all the time, at all seasons of life, and it only makes sense in an economy that is based on business and not on charity.
Right now, due to a pressing necessity, I work part-time outside the home. My husband and I did not rush into this arrangement, because we knew what a detrimental effect it would have on our home life. It surpassed our expectations, and made us determined that I should return home full-time sooner rather than later.
You say yourself that you think it's better to work part-time, and preferably from home; however, in the majority of fields, to have a real career, it simply isn't enough. Most likely, whatever income you have will be supplementary, and your husband will become the main breadwinner.
This, despite the vehement protests of egalitarian voices, is the normal and natural course of events. It makes sense to have a captain and a captain's helper on a ship. It makes no sense to have two captains or two helpers. It is time to accept that as our husbands' helpers, we must fulfill a unique and challenging role, which is just as important as the role of our husbands - but it's different.
You are right in saying that Eve was told that her husband will "rule over her" after she tasted the forbidden fruit; but regardless, she was created to be her husband's help meet - and however you define help meet, you cannot go around the fact that she was created to help and assist him in his endeavors, and not the other way around; also, even in our sinful and far-from-ideal world, men and women are equal, though they are without a doubt very different creatures.
And certainly, the commandments given to Adam and Eve apply to all men and women who descended from them, which means the entire human race. Saying it doesn't apply to me because I wasn't there is like saying the commandments given at Mt. Sinai to the Jewish people don't apply to me because I wasn't there. I realize that you, like the majority of my readers, aren't Jewish, but my point is that God's will concerning us cannot be applied solely on a personal basis.