Some days ago, I had the pleasure of meeting, in my neighborhood, a lovely lady who is the mother of eight children, and has been staying home with them for over 20 years now. She currently has her two youngest children, almost 4 and 2 years old, at home with her, and is tandem nursing them both.
She confessed to me that she had just started her university degree when her eldest daughter was born, and that after her birth she dropped out of school and never looked back. It was clear, from the cautious way of her communication, how many raised eyebrows she had received in the course of her life at home. If you are a full-time homemaker but live in an area where most of the women work outside the home, or at least don’t normally stay at home on a voluntary and long-term basis, you can imagine what a delight and encouragement it is to speak to someone who shares your lifestyle and convictions, and who doesn’t view you as an oddity.
“I am often asked whether I’m not tired of being with my children all day long,” she said, “but are kindergarten or school teachers asked the same question? No; and why? For the sole reason that they get a paycheck, and I don’t. So it all comes down to money. If what you do doesn’t directly result in a sheet of paper on which your income is printed, you are worthless.”
Anyway, this lady also told me that in our local girls’ school, they sometimes hold conferences for the girls who are graduating, in the course of which they are introduced to women from various professions, and that she, too, had been invited there several times, as an example of someone who rather chose to stay home and invest her time in her family. She said the girls are literally dumbstruck by what she has to say, as it goes against all they have been taught, all their lives.
And here I may add that in the religious Jewish circles, especially, I feel it is nothing short of cruelty to encourage young women to have a large family, and to pursue an ambitious career at the same time. The strain, the stress, the price to the whole family can hardly be measured.
Feminism, I believe, came a little late to the Orthodox Jewish community, and that’s why we still lack, perhaps, the period of experience which will introduce sobriety and make our young women to see feminism, to some extent, for what it really is. The warped logic, the misery, the stress, the unnaturalness which are separating mothers and young babies, which leave homes empty for the best part of every day, are yet to be seen in a realistic light.
Women who were raised by a mother who stayed at home, or worked part-time and made the best of the hours she did have at home, do not know what it is like, what is the real price of growing up as a latchkey kid, the child of a mother who works full-time, whether by choice or necessity. If they are ignorant of the consequences of such a choice, they will not feel uneasy about making it themselves. Only their children will receive the full bitter effects of it, and will think much more soberly when deciding what they wish for their children.
People go so matter-of-factly about babies only 3 months old placed in daycare, about parents spending hardly any time with their children, about women boasting of “doing anything rather than be shut up at home”, that I sometimes think – is it only me who is weird, thinking it all a tragedy of international scale? But no; the natural, the right course of things for mothers and children, for families, is togetherness, not separation. Young children belong with their mothers. Our lives aren’t meant to be a hectic rat race, at the course of which we attempt to earn and spend as much money as possible, at whatever cost to our dearest relationships.
I now come to an ending which is rather abrupt; as usual, there is much and more to be said, but time allows me to continue no further at the moment. I thank you in advance for sharing your thoughts on this.