By Baila Sebrow
Even though I am already 23 years old, I am new to shidduchim. My family is old-fashioned and we believe that every child in the family should get married according to birth order. But now that it’s my turn I have a huge dilemma.
I have a college degree and I’m working. The problem is that I have no plans to continue working after I get married. Ever since I was little, I always wanted to be a wife and mommy, taking care of the house, shopping, cooking, etc. Had it been up to me, I never would have gone to college at all. But my parents told me that a girl who does not have a degree can’t get a normal guy who works and learns. I also don’t want to lie on my résumé and say that I will work when I really don’t want to. We fight about this all the time.
My mother is a lawyer, but she barely worked because she got married—and that was it. I want to be honest on my résumé about my plans, but my parents say that it’s a different world today. My mother has friends who are married to doctors and they never stepped foot into college. I wish it was like the old days again when the husband brought home the paycheck and the wife enjoyed life in her role. What would be the best way for me to get what I want?
If you really want your life to be like the “old days,” then you would also have to accept the lifestyle that comes with it. Life back then was simpler. Would you be prepared to live a simple life? The cost of living in frum communities, as your parents surely know, is sky-high when you are raising a family. One of the reasons it is expected of girls to have college degrees is so that if the financial situation arises where she needs to contribute to the family account, she will have the wherewithal to do so.
But I can’t say that you have a bad idea or that you are wrong. On the contrary, waking up to the lovely aroma of coffee brewing and a hot breakfast of baked goodies is something that not enough families nowadays get to enjoy. The same goes for dinner. The typical scenario of working moms is dashing out of the house or apartment to make it in time for work, but not until they’re somewhat harried from ushering their kids off to school. Dinner is another stressful chapter for such moms as they try to feed their families nutritious meals.
There are privileged wives and mothers who have the luxury of staying home and preparing elaborate dinners for their families.
While there is nothing wrong with being a homemaker, there are women who choose to work not just for income purposes. Some women need to feel that they can also be productive outside their home. They have the need to be surrounded by adults they can relate to. There are women who can afford to stay home, but choose not to because they feel more fulfilled and accomplished by going to work. It is therefore accepted that women continue to remain in the workforce whether they are single or married with children. That thought process is carried over in the frum circles where it is assumed that the wife will continue on in her career. Not only that, but today, even more than in years past, top professional positions are filled by frum women.
I will point out that there are plenty of frum women who share your feeling on the matter and do not work after they get married and especially when they have kids. They feel a sense of fulfillment in caring for their family. Some of these women are well-qualified for employment, and could even use the money, yet choose to stay home. But such choices are very personal and usually decided between husband and wife if financially feasible.
You were raised by an educated mother with a career who chose to stay home. Additionally, having witnessed women who have not pursued higher education married to men with a profession, you crave that lifestyle. You enjoyed the privilege of arriving home from school to find your mother preparing dinner, perhaps with cookies waiting for you. You want that same experience for your own children, G-d willing. From what you are saying, you cannot fathom being happy otherwise. And there is nothing wrong with that.
Some families feel that it is very comforting for the children and husband to know that the mother is home and taking care not just of the meals, but managing the home and running the errands. If someone is not feeling well, knowing that “Mommy is home” can be emotionally reassuring.
This is not to minimize women who work and raise a family at the same time. Such women are also capable of being devoted wives and loving mothers. They might be at work all day, but their minds are on their families and making sure that all their needs are met.
I understand where your parents are coming from. Their concern is that if you state your future wishes on paper it will limit you in dating compatible guys. I am inclined to agree with them, because you never know what people will interpret and the false conclusions they might reach.
In the first place, your résumé need not have anything more than factual details. Contrary to popular opinion, there is no need to state your goals and dreams on that piece of paper. That is how many people get into shidduch trouble in the first place. Because no matter what you say, there will always be someone who will misunderstand what you actually meant. So leave out that portion, and just say what you are doing. You can disclose your future aspirations while on a date with a guy.
At the same time, you also have to be realistic about the type of guy you should be searching for. If you know that a guy specifically wants to marry a woman who will work, don’t date those guys. Changing someone’s mind is not an option when it comes to marriage.
The other important aspect you will have to face is that families need money to live on. Are your parents people of financial means who can give you an unlimited charge card to use at your discretion? Or are you hoping to marry someone who comes from wealth whose family will be willing to kick in when you are low on cash? What will happen if money becomes tight all around for whatever reason? Those are important factors to consider.
When your parents were young and rented their first apartment or purchased their first home, the prices then were undeniably more affordable. Ask them what they paid, and compare it to what the going rates are today. Purchasing or renting a home these days in established communities is quite expensive. Moreover, people were previously inclined to perhaps paint and spruce it up a bit, and called it their home. Nowadays, young couples have a tendency to renovate and update much more than in the past.
Now let’s add yeshiva tuition and everyday cost of living to the equation and you will be surprised to discover that even a high-salaried person can find himself a bit short on cash every now and then. That is why it has become so common for women to have the educational background to be able to work outside of the home and help with subsidizing the income should it become necessary. And even with two incomes, people find that they still have to be careful. In fact, many young families today complain that they cannot afford the vacations that their parents were able splurge on. This is just a broad picture of married life minus any unexpected challenges, G-d forbid.
You indicate that you are looking to marry a guy who works and learns, too. I’m not sure what that means to you. Do you mean that you want his day to be equally divided between working and learning? Or will you be happy if he works during the day, but has a seder for learning at night? And what if your husband is tired after a long day at work and cannot learn that night? Will you be understanding about that?
That learning/earning requirement that many girls seek in a guy is another reason why it is expected that the wife will have a college degree and continue to work. Money does not fall from the sky. We are not privileged to partake of manna anymore.
I have given you a lot of material to mull over. It sounds like you have an open line of communication with your parents. Additionally, they can tell you if they are able or willing to assist you financially down the line. Do not make any demands on them, as that would be completely unfair. After your discussion with your parents, you might come to a more realistic understanding of the type of guy that would ultimately be best suited for you.
When you’re dating someone you like, please keep an open mind while still focusing on the goal of what you truly want. You can explain that you have always dreamed of being a housewife and mother, but that should the need arise, you are willing to roll up your sleeves and help contribute to the family’s bank account. Don’t ever feel regretful that you had to get a college degree. Who knows? You might one day be able to have the best of both worlds—staying home and working from there.
Baila Sebrow is president of Neshoma Advocates, communications and recruitment liaison for Sovri-Beth Israel, executive director of Teach Our Children, and a shadchanis. She can be reached at Bsebrow@aol.com. Questions and comments for the Dating Forum can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org.