Monday, August 01, 2005

I'll Let the Men Conquer the World, Thank You

"Why don't women run the world?
Maybe it's because they don't want to."

In a few of my interviews below, I was asked a similar question: will I give up on my lofty career goals and be a stay-at-home mom when I have kids? And the truth is, it's not such a strange question in a world where it's becoming increasingly clear that you cannot have it all.

Can you have a fulfilling career and kids? Absolutely. Can you have a very high-profile running- the-world type job and actually spend enough time with your kids? No, you can't. You cannot be on a partner track at a law firm working 100 hour weeks and expect your kids to understand why you're never home. And they should never have to understand.

I believe that a mother can only go so far in her chosen career before she has to choose between her job and her kids. Am I wrong? Maybe. I hope so, but I truly don't think so. Most of the powerful women you can think of are single and certainly don't have children. (Think Condoleeza Rice, arguably the most powerful woman in the world.) And it is a choice - perhaps not a conscious choice, but a choice all the same.

I do have lofty career goals, and I do not foresee myself ever staying home with my children. But as a frum Jew, family is important to me. Really important to me. And it is far more important to me to have children and raise them properly - by spending time with them and imbuing them with valuable values - than it is for me to rise to the top of the legal world. It is unfortunate that I cannot do both. But I truly believe you cannot do both.

And quite frankly, I don't want my career to define me. I want to do something valuable, I want to get a good education and then get a job that leaves me fulfilled both financially and emotionally. But the bottom line is that I want to define myself by my family, not by what I do between the hours of 9 and 5 each day. Because the family is what I think is important and if that means I can't conquer the world, well then, I really don't want to conquer the world, do I?

So, you ask, why do I have to be the one to sacrifice my career goals for my children and why not my husband-to-be? Well, doesn't it make sense for the woman who carried the baby for nine months, who underwent morning sickness and weight gain and labor to feel more emotionally attached to her baby? To want to stay home with that baby or give more time and effort to that baby?

Even more than that, I view it as a privilege not a curse to be given that opportunity. How many men are given the option of taking it easy at work, of not being as competitive or high profile, of working part time or not at all so that they can spend time with their children? And in the end, isn't it far more preferable to have spent the time with your children than to have spent the time in your drab cubicle at midnight. Wouldn't you rather put your baby to sleep than stare at a computer screen?

And yes, sometimes I sigh to think that I won't ever try to make partner in a law firm, I won't ever be president. And maybe I am a feminist's nightmare because I will have the education and the ability to rise, and I may very well choose not to rise as high as I could for the sake of my family.

At the end of the day, I'll leave conquering the world up to the men, not because I have to, but because I want to.


At 8/1/05, 7:30 PM, Blogger Nephtuli said...

Great post, and to a lesser extent it applies to men as well. There's no reason for an Orthodox married man to work 100 hours a week. Kids need a father too.

At 8/2/05, 4:39 AM, Blogger Me, Uncensored said...

You're absolutely right.

At 8/2/05, 6:32 AM, Blogger Eli7 said...

Nephtuli, I think you're right. Frum men should also spend more time with their kids and less time in the office, however I think that's something that is becoming increasingly hard to do as the cost of living in an Orthodox community - food, yeshiva tuition, real estate - skyrockets.

Frum families are eventually faced with the choice of enjoying the luxuries that 100 hour weeks afford them or of actually seeing their bread-winner. I think that is a very unfortunate reality, but a reality nonetheless.

At 8/2/05, 8:02 AM, Blogger Nephtuli said...

Firstly, people assume they have to live in NY. There are jobs elsewhere and nice communities too. Getting out of NY makes things a whole lot cheaper. But it also makes finding a job harder, especially for lawyers.

Also, it goes back to the mother working. A family with two incomes, on average, might be more likely to have both parents see the children more often. So it's a tradeoff: Should the mother see the children all day and the father never or should the father and mother see the children for shorter periods of time? It's a tough decision.

Also, people should probably not have eight children if they cannot raise them. If the parents need to work crazy hours to pay for all the children, that's not a successful lifestyle.

At 8/2/05, 8:20 AM, Blogger fsgsf said...

Being a good mother for your children is the loftiest career goal a woman can have!!

Being there for your children defines you in more ways than being a "powerful woman" ever can!

I wish you all the best in your career, life, and family!


Nj from NJ

At 8/2/05, 9:48 AM, Blogger Stx said...

After a long wait….

Eli7’s interview:

1. What do you think you could do now that would make you into the best mother later?
2. Describe a situation that you’ve been in where you had a tough choice to make and are proud of what you chose.
3. Your outlook (or “hashkafa,” if you’d rather) has changed in a lot of ways over the course of your life. What’s one way that’s it’s changed that you haven’t blogged about yet?
4. If you could work on yourself and thereby change one thing about yourself, what would it be? (Notice the difference between this and “if you could change one thing about your life, what would it be?” Very subtle, but very important.)
5. What single thing makes you happiest?

At 8/2/05, 10:07 AM, Blogger Stx said...

And one more:

6. Avraham was chessed, Yitzchok was din, Yaakov was emes…What do you think is the middah that YOU have the greatest potential to bring out in the world?

At 8/2/05, 11:08 AM, Blogger Eli7 said...

Yes, the cost of living in NY is more expensive than elsewhere, but it is also far more convenient to live in NY as a frum Jew. And there are lawyers in every state and every city, but anytime you go to a large frum community, the real estate is very expensive. That's not just NY.

And yeshiva tuition is also expensive, kosher food also expensive. Being a frum Jew is just not cheap.

And yes, a two-income family is better off sometimes and does balance things out so that both parents can see their kids, and it is increasingly becoming a necessity and not a choice, regardless. But I would like to ensure that my children spend more time with their parents than they spend with the baby-sitter, even if that means less money.

Will I possibly not be given the choice at all and have to work? Even have to work long hours? It is a definite possibility, but it is a shame that in order to be able to afford a frum lifestyle you don't have the time to spend with your kids to actually show them your love of Judaism. Dontcha think?

At 8/2/05, 2:29 PM, Blogger Nephtuli said...

Eli, I wholeheartedly agree. But outside of NY the real estate is substantially cheaper. Although other costs are the same (school) or more (kosher food), it would still end up cheaper in the long run. A place like Skokie has a big enough Jewish community and very cheap houses relative to NY.

Work is a problem because of rising costs. The problem is even more pronounced with kollel families who have a mother with a limited education and a father with no professional education. Combined they can't make enough money to cover all the kids, so government subsidies is a must. It's a real problem in a community like Lakewood (also cheap compared to NY but going up in price).

Personally I'd rather my wife spend more time with the kids and I spend more time in the office, as opposed to an equal time in the office. I believe children need a mother more than a father, but both are very important and fathers should not work 100 hours so they can have three cars and go to a Florida for Pesach every year.

At 8/2/05, 6:25 PM, Blogger ClooJew said...

You do sacrifice some when you leave the kids to attend to a job. Even after work, you are, lulei demistafina, tired and that affects your parenting.

Two points:

One, when did it go from being a "job" to being a "career"? We have allowed ourselves to romantacize the notion of a career when in fact most of us are just slaves of the system, bringing home money so it can be spent. Why would a woman willingly choose that? They should be smarter...

Two, I don't believe that a two-income family is better off than a one-income family. The Gemara states, "Mezonosav shel adam ketzuvim lo meirosh hashanah." Yes, one needs to do his or her hishtadlus, yes a woman who yearns for fulfillment outside the home needs to address that.

But look around you. There are plenty of two-earner families that struggle and plenty of one-earner families that are wealthy. G-d will provide you with what's coming to you, regardless of how many people are at the office.

At 8/2/05, 10:22 PM, Blogger Classmate-Wearing-Yarmulka said...

Economists say that about 1/3 of the second wage earner earnings (post taxes) is spent on things that would not be needed if one parent was a stay-at-home. (Child-care, prepared foods, transportation, wardrobe, etc...)

Just something to think about.

At 8/3/05, 2:53 AM, Blogger The Rabbi's Kid said...


Some of us men have made the same decisions. How do u relate to that?


At 8/3/05, 7:17 AM, Blogger Eli7 said...

TRK, I think men should be able to make the same decision, except that men do have the halachic obligation to support their families, but what suport means, of course, is subjective. You need to put food on the table, do you need the three vacations a year? Probably not.

I have no qualms about admitting that the fact that women have the socially accepted choice to "opt-out" of the competitive working world is a privilege. Men should be able to spend quality time with their children as well.

ClooJew, yes there is a difference between a career and a job, and it is often ridiculous to romantacize one as the other. However, you do spend a large portion of your time at your job, and it's nice if you can do something that you enjoy, something that you consider more than just a job.


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