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Thursday, October 06, 2005

Confessions of a Self-Titled SuperMom

As I shopped for food for Shabbos today, in the short time I have between work and the kids coming home from school, I had an epiphany. Am I really a liberated woman? Yes, I'm as educated as any man. Yes, I have the successful career that I set my sights on. But have I given up any of the traditional "women's" roles in exchange? Decidedly not.

I am the sole person in charge of feeding everyone in my household - from shopping to cooking to packing snacks and lunch every day. Dinners every night, meals every Shabbos and Yom Tov.

I am the one who makes and keeps my kids' appointment schedules, from check-ups to haircuts, to gymnastics and hockey.

I am the one who drops whatever I might be doing at work to pick up the child complaining of a sore throat and ferry said child to the Doctor's office.

I am the one who rushes home to do homework with the kids, who rushes home to spend precious time with my baby.

Don't get me wrong. I love what I do, soup to nuts. Every bit of it. I wouldn't want to give up any of it. But part of me yearns for the women in my world to make a choice when it comes to our gender roles. Are we equals? Are we more than equals? Are we less than equals?

Someone we ate a meal together with over Yom Tov commented on the fact that I managed to put a whole meal together while getting all the kids dressed and even make it to shul to hear every one of the shofar blasts. He commented that in his mother's day, women were never expected to go to shul. They were never expected to do anything but take care of the children and keep the house. That job is a monumental task in itself, but what of all the additional expectations that we "liberated" women have heaped upon ourselves?

I really feel that I do "have it all", but sometimes I wonder if "having it all" has to include "doing it all".


Blogger Unknown said...

The reality is that in most cases a mother of an orthodox family has to work. And because more education generally allows for more obtions in terms of pay and flexibility with respect to work schedule, college and postgraduate degrees help as well. So the "supermom" thing is become more and more of a necessity than a feminist statement.

11:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this post sounds just like the renreb.

12:05 AM  
Blogger Ayelet said...

My mom always says that we woman are gluttons for punishment. We weren't satisfied with Eve's curse (b'etzev teldi banim), we had to go take on Adam's (b'zayat apecha tochal lechem) as well! All the same, I'm glad I have the option to go out to work. Not everyone is cut out to be a SAHM. Thing is, more often than not, we've given up the option of "just" staying home. I shudder to think of trying to make it on my hubby's salary alone (He's a rebbe).

12:19 AM  
Blogger queeniesmom said...

supermom maybe, but the reality is that we need to work. between the cost of food and tuition - who has a choice?

the problem is that we were sold a false bill of goods - women , you can have it all we were told and we bought into it. yes, we can have it all but at a very large price. the price we would pay was never discussed because in reality our roles haven't changed, we've just added "men's roles" to them. that's the fallicy of the whole thing.

like you i wouldn't change my time with my children for one second but can i please have a "wife" of my own!

shana tova!

1:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is Orthodad so busy that he NEVER makes a meal or drives children anywhere? It's one thing to be proud of being the primary care giver. Even if it's a choice, being the sole care giver is not a liberated person.

You shouldn't be amazed that you can do everything and get to shul. You should be saddened that in generations before yours women never went to shul and everyone thought that was ok.

1:35 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I think some of this is changing as well... I don't know how much younger I am than you, but I'd have to guess at least a few years. I think "Supermoms" such as yourself have paved the way for people like my wife, who truly do split the duties.

Perhaps it's just me, but I cook more of the meals than my wife; I do more of the laundry; and we're both too lazy to clean. :) Meanwhile, I'm still in college, while she's finished her Master's and is working full-time.

Many of my friends know how to cook as well - and not just burgers or chulent, but actual courses. I can't say they will do a large share of cooking when they get married, but I believe many will.

It's quite possible that in your house, things are different because OrthoDad grew up in a different age; but your kids, who are growing up in your house, may have a house more similar to ours.

2:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to disagree. While I do understand that the woman in the marriage does have to overextend herself by caring for the kids in addition to balancing her own job, the question that needs to be asked is whether the woman's "job" is a "job" or is it a "career." Most men nowadays have full-time jobs that require them to work obscenely long hours. These hours are required of them because their jobs are careers (and generally although not always bring in more money) and not only jobs (I am by no means intending to disparage your job - I am just trying to make my point clear). By placing more household responsibilities on the man, it could very well end up jeopardizing his career, which in the end will really end up hurting you. But I'm the first to admit that balancing the family's social calendar is no easy task. Kudos to all (super)moms.

2:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You'll get lots of opinions on this one. I think the thing to remember is that there may be more options than we realize, and more flexibility.

I humbly disagree with Swickster...

My husband, who (sorry if I boast here) has written dozens of patents and is a top-rate technologist with a fantastic career (OK, I'll stop now), also cooks up a mean chicken stir-fry. I have no problem handing the kitchen over to him. And he finds time to make dinner, to play with the kids, to attend their choir concerts, and all of that. While making a good living. (Of course, he's brilliant. Can't expect that of every guy. I know, I said I would stop!)

Now I, the woman, also have a career, not a job. Most educated women do have careers, not jobs. At least the more fortunate ones do. So it's not so simple either to say "he doesn't have the time" or "your job is just a job". IMHO.

Many of us have also embraced a lifestyle that, simply, requires two very good incomes. Trips to Israel, synagague memberships, expensive education for our children. Face it, we are living large in the Jewish community. We could live smaller, the woman could stay at home, but there is a trade-off.

That said, have hubby step into the laundry room or kitchen now and then and help out. You'll feel better, he'll appreciate what you do, and kitchen/laundry room smooches are the best.

7:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I take the LIRR to the city every day from the line that you'd be on.
The ratio of males to females is much larger on the early AM trains than on later AM trains-PM trains just reverse higher ratio males- to females is greater on later PM trains.Obvious coclusion even when women work they work fewer hours.
It is not clear that so called super moms work more than men do-especially considering commuting time.

8:14 AM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Everyone, thanks for weighing in. It isn't about the generation OrthoDad's from, or his expectations that the "wifey" will get everything done. His hours are such that even if he were capable of making a mean dinner or doing a load of laundry (he isn't),that isn't an option for us. OrthoDad is a wonderful husband and father, who happens to work 14 hour workdays. But that's part of it. I could never, no matter how huge my workload, stay late to get the work done without major maneuvering of family and/or babysitters. So I come home, and sit on the computer for hours after the kids go to sleep. I wouldn't give up kissing the kids goodnight for anything, but it can get exhausting.

8:39 AM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Queenie's Mom:
like you i wouldn't change my time with my children for one second but can i please have a "wife" of my own!


8:47 AM  
Blogger and so it shall be... said...

" By placing more household responsibilities on the man, it could very well end up jeopardizing his career, which in the end will really end up hurting you."

Mirty -- Think again. This is a very good point sometimes. I personally hurt my career by making up my mind to "always be there" for my wife as she was getting established in her field and caring for a chronically ill child.

I was ready to run at the drop of a hat, which my self-employed lifestyle readily allowed, picking up kids, staying home/going in late when the kids were sick, writing/editing letters, reports, and presentations for her, being there to support, validate, and advise in every area of work and home.

I didn't realize it was happening, but years passed and as I fully integrated my work schedule into my household's, despite many late nights away -- even those spent sleeping on my office floor -- the constant tug from my responsibilities created havoc, sapped my concentration and drive, and contributed to lost opportunities that were sorely needed and are only now being addressed.

No matter how you slice it, family life can be unfair, unbalanced, and challenging--regardless of your gender or role.

9:04 AM  
Blogger Y.Y. said...

you are very right i think todays women overrun with to much work

9:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Everyone does what works for them. If the husband is making more $ and needs to spend more time at the office, does it really make sense for him to be the one to stay home with a sick child? But if the wife has a better job, she should not be 'expected' to do all the household chores/child-rearing by herself either. I believe that each spouse should be contributing to the entire household. In most cases, 50-50 doesn't work. Both spouses probably have to work, but in terms of everything else, that should be worked out between each couple. I am single, I work 40 hours a week right now and I live alone. I do all the cooking, cleaning, shopping, etc. OK, I don't have kids. I expect that when I get married, we will decide how much each of us has to work and all other chores and responsibilities will get divided based on who it's easier for. If the dry cleaners is on my way to work, why should my husband have to take care of that? If he can come home earlier on Friday, he can help with the cooking and Shabbat prep. Bottom line, whatever works for you.

10:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Still wonderin' - what happened to your blog? No mo blogo?

12:26 PM  
Blogger Shifra said...

This is a sensitive topic for me.
I work because I have to but because I have a family who I always put ahead of my work I have only a job and not a carreer.

Sometimes I feel like I don't do my family or my work justice.

I also do it all, housework, laundry, cooking, and a full time job- my husband helps out with childcare and errands etc...
It's a tough life- but with moments of sweetness that make it all worthwhile.

2:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll send Shifra and OM virtual **SPA DAYS** (with childcare provided)

Sorry things are rough :(

2:38 PM  
Blogger and so it shall be... said...

"Still wonderin' - what happened to your blog? No mo blogo?"

Mirty -- Funny you should ask. I got to a point recently where I had to say, "No more Mr. nice guy, it's clobbering time," when it came to working and my career. Although I troll from time to time, and help at home where I can, i spend much more time at work doing work and much less time doing much else.

It's what pays the bills.

2:40 PM  
Blogger Noam S said...

It is a tough situation when both parents have to work and unfortunately, usually all the housework and childcare falls to the mom. Not to make you feel any worse, but my wife works 15 hours a week, I work a full time job, but I usually cook dinner, make most of the food for Shabbat/Yom Tov, do at least half the stories and tucking in, and do the Sunday soccer/birthday party car pools.

2:45 PM  
Blogger Moochy said...

I know a few you people you caused jealousy too !!!

Keep it up

3:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From a purely financial standpoint, it often does not make sense for a women to work (especially outside of the home).

Number 1: All of her earnings are taxed at the husband's marginal rate and her earning may push the marginal rate to an even higher marginal rate. Add the state marginal rates in and things can start to look really grim.

Number 2: Childcare isn't free (or at least for most people).

Number 3: Working costs money too. Professional clothing, upkeep of clothing (and sheitals), transportation, packaged food, housekeeping, and more.

I imagine that many working women are left with pennies for all their efforts?!?! The entire family pays the price when a the mother (or father) overextends herself. While the many Orthodox people would like to deny that "feminist" values have made their way into the community, I think there is no denying the fact that they have made their way in. While many women I know "have" to work (a debatable point for some), most of the working women I know tell me they would work no matter what because "why would one want to "sit home" all day and take care of children?" With that attitude, I have to wonder why they had children in the first place. But, I digress.

Ladies, as my cousin who fought for women's rights told me recently, if I knew what I knew now I would not have got involved with the women's movement. Now, instead of women having one hard job, they have two and they are not any happier for it.

12:42 AM  
Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

OrthoMom: I don't know about other dad's here, but I'm "expected" to do as much as possible to help our supermom. Granted, I'm kept out of the kitchen save for making ice-cubes, but definitly put in my share of housekeeping chores (vaccuming, straightening up, etc.). It doesn't come close to what my wife does, but its not like its exclusively her job. I show up late to work for taking my kids to the doctor, leave work early for learning with the kids at school (like tonight and tomorrow night).

The thing that bothers me most is that my wife insists on davening 3 times a day. She has more than enough to do, without having to daven 3 times a day as well...

8:31 AM  
Blogger Shifra said...

Sefardi Lady-
While you are correct sometimes about two working parents not being cost effective that is not always the case.
My husband and I make nearly the identical salary (although he works FAR harder) if one of us didn't work we'd be finished.

8:12 PM  
Blogger Shifra said...

Hey Mirty, that VIRTUAL spa day sounds good - how do I get everyone to leave me alone so I can enjoy imagining it?

8:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

AskShifra--I said that two working parents "often" does not make sense, not that it "always" does not make sense when there are small children at home.

If a woman pull in a six figure salary, from a purely economic standpoint it is probably worth working. If a woman pulls in a $40,000 salary, it is time to start making a serious analysis.

11:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about moving to a community where the cost of living is lower but has day schools for the kids. The cost of living is higher in the 5 towns because of communal expectations of what one needs to do to be normal. Out-of-town costs less plus the expectations are lower so you need a lot less money

6:35 PM  
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Anonymous Anonymous said...

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. I don't dislike not at every hour but often to see the wheater forecast either
I am much happy with what I have and overall about my kids. I just hope to remain in good health, so just an normal happy life.

4:12 PM  
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