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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Some Choice Words for Working Mothers from the OU

This is a passage from an article on the front page of Orthodox Union's website about being a stay-at-home mother:
In the professional arena, there is constant kudos. For a mommy, however, while the inner sense of fulfillment is there, the pats on the back are less frequent. The confidence that a fulltime mother must foster within herself is profound. This is especially so when the world out there - even the Orthodox world out there - often shows little appreciation for, or understanding of, the immeasurable value of raising children.
Fair enough. I often remark that non-working, stay-at-home mothers have the hardest job out there. And what could be more noble than giving up a salary or any free time to spend every waking moment with one's children? Nothing. The rest of the article, however, is not as noble. Check out the air of judgementalism toward working mothers in the next paragraph:
How often do you hear someone say, "How do you do it all? You must be a superwoman!" This accolade is almost always offered to a mother who works outside of the home. "You cook dinner too?!" usually follows the remark. Let's shatter the myth. Superwoman is not "doing it all." Someone else is raising her children and if she walks in at 5:00 PM and starts cooking dinner, she's not tending to her children's need for deeper nourishment while rushing to get the chicken on the table.
Um, is someone a bit defensive? I have no problem with the author of the article asserting her place as a true "supermom", but to so nastily put down a working mother's worth? She goes even further in the next section, trying to bring proof that working mothers do so for their own selfish reasons, and not out of necessity:
In an article in U.S. News and World Report entitled "Lies Parents Tell Themselves About Why They Work" (May 12, 1997), sociologist Arlie Hochschild observed that among female employees "home had become a place filled with incessant demands from noisy children, endless piles of laundry, few tangible rewards and little time to relax. At work, in contrast, people felt in control and their hard work was appreciated by colleagues and supervisors." Hochschild concluded that the reason most women who work full time do so is not because they absolutely have to but "mostly for the same reason men do. Increasingly the identification between occupational success and self-worth is as strong for women as it is for men."
If when you claim that women work "mostly for the same reasons men do", you mean to be able to afford tuition and put food on the table, then call me guilty. Otherwise, laud yourself all you want. I actually will laud you for you selfless choice as well. But when it comes to my life's choices, and your opinion on the existence (or lack thereof) of "spiritual nourishment" in my childrens' lives, please shut up.
I simply cannot believe the OU let this go up on the front page of their website. Especially, as Avrohom points out (hattip), "I'm not sure what message this is supposed to send all the married/child-rearing women who work at the OU."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll be back to comment on this once I pick my jaw up from the floor.

9:09 AM  
Blogger Gil Student said...

They are giving space to the many voices within their community. Good for them!

9:36 AM  
Blogger rebba shlita said...

what do you expect from a "jewish" paper if thats what you want to call it. my wife works because she has to i wish she could stay home and so does she. and yes my wife is a supermom, wife, and person. and if the ou thinks for one second she works to get away from the kids, well they are just proving what idiots they really are. she works harder at work than at home. when she makes super my children are involved with helping. B'H my children know who the parents are and are not neglected at all. we also do not sleep shabbos we spend time withb the children. we also dont go running out to eat at night we spend time with the children. basiccally it seems the writer of the said article has some issues of her own to work out.

9:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

At the risk of dragging out this headache again, my wife has to work so we can do our part to fill the tuition holes created by other moms who opt to stay at home.

I'm all for people determining their own ideal course of action, but I don't give too much credit to folks willing to be moser my nefesh.

10:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yoy. We just got our tuition bill - four kids - $30,000.

My husband makes a decent living, but not enough to cover that plus our living expenses here. So I work too.

I sure wish people could find value in their own choices without bashing everyone else's choices.

11:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks for posting this- I would never go to the OU website for anything other than checking the calendar.

12:37 PM  
Blogger queeniesmom said...

okay Ou pay my tuition bill and i'll stay home. but then who will educate my the children if i'm not there? i know i'll do that at home too.

someone please give ou a ligth we've left the dark ages of keep 'em barefoot and pregnant.

seriously, i wonder if this isn't a backlash against girl's being educated and questioning what is being taught or not taught. ou may be realizing that the current status quo isn't going to keep working. hate to tell them but you can't put the genie back in the bottle.

in the mean time like you i'll continue to work and encourage my daughter to be whatever she wants and to aspire to whatever job she wants.

4:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ditto and cudos to rebba shlita. My wife works too. And heres a news flash if I could afford it, believe me i would leave the six day rat race in a New York minute. Sorry to say But the OU is full of @#&$ with this one. My work occasionally takes me to the outside world during the day, and guess what I see. All those so called "stay at home" moms sitting with their other hard working "stay at home" mommy friends drinking gourmet coffe in the local cafes/resteraunts with nary a child around. Why? Because they have a housekeeper/nanny watching the kids, so they can go out. Why is this any better than working? (before you all get your panties in a bunch, I know there are some true hard working stay at home moms. They r obviously excluded from this rant).(Aside: I also dont feel sorry for the family that has to drive around in a Lexus and an Acura, and have the biggest house on the block just because their neighbor does. REVELATION: If you cant afford it DON"T DO IT!!!) Furthermore, does the OU realize that alot of girls schools (at least in brooklyn) are trying to brainwash their students into marrying a kollel boy, which then leaves the wife to have to go out and work, or live off hard working tax payers dollars.

And don't get me started with tuition. If the OU wants to be of any help, they can start by lobbying for tuition subsidation. Mayby our wives won't have to work, long tough hours. They can investigate why childrens shoes at a jewish shoe store costs $93 when the same pair is half price elsewhere, and why kosher food has to cost more right around pesach time.

OU LAY OFF THE WORKING MOTHERS. The reason we all work is because being jewish is an expensive proposition. And untill it becomes more affordable we will all have to work.

So unless you (the OU) want to fix all that ails us, stick to food and leave the good hard working mothers alone!!!

5:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I sure wish people could find value in their own choices without bashing everyone else's choices."

My husband and I are going to be paying $22,000 in tuition this year for two children, to send them to an Orthodox Jewish day school. According to school records, about ten to fifteen percent of their budget goes to financial aid to those who need it. What they don't say is that a significant portion of the families who need it are families with four or more children. So, in essence, I am paying for their children to go to an Orthodox Jewish school.

So you tell me: Don't I have the right to complain about their choice of having more children than they can afford, when I end up paying a higher tuition bill for it? Or should I just ask the school to lower my tuition bill by ten percent?

I realize that this is a sticky situation. Most Orthodox families have the mentality that every child is a miracle, and money should never be a reason not to have a child.

But the thing is, this school would not exist if all it's students were in need of financial aid. The administration raises tuition every year, knowing that the families with fewer children will be able to pay it, thus supporting the school for everyone. And every year, more of it's wealthier families realize that they can get more for their tuition money by sending their kids to a non-Orthodox school, and leave.

6:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

everyone seems to be justifyin working moms by saying its necessary to pay day-school tuition. Thats definately a major reason that my mother worked, but I plan to work after I finish college regardless of children. I hope to be able to find a schedule that is accomodating for families, but a job is more than just putting food on the table, its also a chance at making the world a better place. The children on stay-at-home mom's do not seem inherently better off that children on working moms. For years my Mother got to work by 7 am when teh office opened so that she could leave by 3 and be home with us. sure its hard. But all the good things in life are hard. I don't see why parents can't work, whether as teachers, doctors, social workers, psychologists, and also raise fine children. And with teh length of school days at day schools, seems kids have almost as long a day as the parents starting around 5th grade.

7:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. Am I the only SAHM here? We made the choice to live in a smaller place not near the shul so I could stay home. We homeschool because Day School tuition is outrageous and not even remotely worth it (DH spent years in Hebrew school and hated every minute of it and gained no true knowledge of either Hebrew or English subjects) I haven't sat in a tony coffee shop sipping a gourmet coffee with no child in sight in so long that I'm not even sure how to drink a cup of coffee without dodging little hands.

And you know what? If I went back to work it would be to rejoin the relative peace of answering phones and attending meetings and intelligent adult conversation. And the money I earned would entirely pay for my ability to work. (i.e. pay tuition/daycare) And my children would be being raised by someone else. And like many of the children out here, would be almost fluent in Spanish before they were even introduced to Hebrew.

But I also get to hear my children playing and laughing together. I get to occasionally pack them up in the car and join my husband for a family lunch. I'm no supermom, far from it, but I don't necessarily disagree with the OU article when it says that what kids get is a harried parent who has to use all her non-work, non-Shabbos time to prepare meals, do laundry and keep the house in order.

10:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, I actually have a lot to say on this one. I work outside and it's certainly not just to pay tuition bills and put food on the table. Maybe it's selfish of me, but I don't think there's anything wrong with saying that you enjoy your job, that you like making a difference in people's lives, that you like adult conversation, etc. Some working moms feel like they are guilty of not being a good-enough parent if they really like their jobs because it somehow implies... what ? Implies that they might enjoy something other than nurturing ? Implies that they really can't stand their own kids and so they run off to work ?

Please, everyone - let's stop the silly dichotomizing. Most people I know, most real people, can't just take care of children all day and clean up and toilet train and kiss boo-boos ad infinitum. They also need to connect to other adults and receive feedback about skills other than parenting ones. And so SAHMs go on-line or go to reading clubs or whatever. At the same time, most people also need to spend time with their families and to "hear their kids playing and laughing together". And most working moms ( and dads) spend time with their kids and read to them every night and talk about their day, etc, etc.

What I found objectionable in the article was that this statement : "Superwoman is not doing it all. Someone else is raising her children and if she walks in at 5:00 PM and starts cooking dinner, she's not tending to her children's need for deeper nourishment while rushing to get the chicken on the table," somehow implies that the SAHM is always able to cook dinner and tend to her children's emotional needs, blah, blah, blah. In my own personal experience, I find that unlikely to be always true. I think that there are plenty of SAHM who are so frazzled and tired and burned out by the end of the day that their children's emotional well being is the last thing on their mind.
I don't work outside the home in the summer, for example, and I certainly can not say that my parenting improves during those months or that I am more in-tune with my kids or some other such nonsense. I am just as frazzled, just as stressed out. Just that this time dinner is late not because there was a meeting at work, but that dinner is late because the kids and I were shopping for a sprinkler and a wading pool.

Women work for many reasons. Paying the bills, getting a different kind of satisfaction, filling the tuition coffers, etc. Making the choice to work outside or inside the home does not condemn your child to one sort of lifestyle or result- your child will not be hopelessly neglected if you work outside the home and will not be hopelessly dependent on you for every little tushy-wiping if you stay home. I can go on and on about this actually. I am tired of people setting up this argument in a polarity. It's so much more complex.

1:20 AM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Agreed. That was my problem with the article. I am perfectly wiling to accept that a SAHM is a true Supermom. That being said, I'm not sure why she feels the need to denigrate my choices.

9:07 AM  
Blogger BBJ said...

Yeah, to Orthomom's last. I don't put down women who stay home. But countless generations of Jewish women, in my family, and worldwide, have worked and raised families.

And I've never actually heard ANYONE get gushy that a working mother (or father) goes home from work and makes dinner.

9:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the OU is starting a new tuition intiative to help drive down the costs of Jewish education, and should be commended (especially betty ehrenberg, whose headache it is to figure out). that said, i'm the one (aka, his wife) who pointed this article out to Avraham.

i pointed it out because it was written in such a rude manner, upsetting to both women who choose to work and women who have to work, along with families that have the father at home while the mother works, or the father learning while the mother works.

i don't think it's the place of the OU to put an editorial like that out there without it saying in BIG BOLD letters that it is an opinion piece and not the opinion of the institution which supposedly represents all of us.
- Dani

8:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm happy to see a different opinion than that of the virtues of the "superwoman."

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