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Monday, December 24, 2007

Tuition vs. Women's Working Hours

A reader send me a question asked and answered in Baltimore's frum publication the "Where What When." The question addressed to Rebbtzin Weinberg is very much like the questions from the Agudah Conference posed to Rabbi Shmuel Fuerst (see Tuition vs. Camp, Tuition vs. Vacation, Tuition vs. Kollel, Tuition vs. Retirement). So I figured I would put it up as a continuation of the topics discussed already.

DEAR REBBETZIN WEINBERG,

I want to stop working full time, because I miss my children and feel that other people are raising them, not me. My husband is fully supportive of my working only part time. Our question is that we will now have to apply for a tuition reduction. How important is it to pay full tuition as opposed to being at home to raise your children? And if it is okay not to pay full tuition for this reason, are we justified in going to a restaurant (very occasionally) or buying plane tickets for a family simcha, etc? I realize that there is a halachic aspect to this question, but I am asking hashkafically. I hope you can help us clarify this.

WORKING MOM

DEAR WORKING MOM,

You ask a very relevant and important question. I consulted with both a gadol and a Rav, and my answer is based on their opinions.

The Jewish community participates to a significant degree in providing a Jewish education for all Jewish children, regardless of their family's ability to pay. Scholarship assistance should be provided to families that cannot shoulder the overwhelming cost of their children's education alone.

When tuition help is provided, the assumption is made that the parents are truly in need. However, parents are not expected to deprive themselves of every possible extra or put every spare penny into tuition while living at a minimum subsistence level. Parents need to create for themselves and their children a reasonable, "normal" lifestyle. It follows that parents can occasionally exercise the option of eating out, taking a trip, etc., if not doing so would put considerable strain on the couple's relationship or the quality of life for the family. Such activities are part of this feeling of normalcy.

Another assumption that is made when distributing tuition aid is that the primary obligation of the mother is to nurture her family. So if she does work, we can assume that her true motivation is to advance the emotional and spiritual needs of her family, and that her working is not based on some other motives. (I did not get the impression that working part time is a problem.) Women differ in their ability to nurture their families while also working. Children need to have a mother at home, but a lot also depends on how she uses the time with her children, even if she is home all day. So, whether and how much you work is very much a subjective judgment, to be based on the above principles.

It goes without saying that parents need to be extremely responsible in their regard. They should pay what they can, and not take advantage of the fact that their budget crunch is eased by the generosity of the community. In reading your letter, I feel that you are very responsible, and that your concern for finding a proper solution is sincere. People who are not usually don't bother to ask. Again, I want to stress that it's very important not to feel deprived in your life as a family.

My comments: I am sympathetic to the letter writer. I think it is very important for children to have the presence of a parent in the home, not only when they are young, but even when they are teenagers (possibly even moreso). The rush, rush, rush life that many people live as they run between jobs and errands certainly isn't conducive to family life. However, I found the assumption that whatever the wife chooses to do, in terms of work, is to nuture the emotional and spiritual needs of her family, well, uh, interesting. In short, I think this is a broad, but flattering, assumption to make.

In addition, I wonder what the Rebbetzin would define as "normal" and what would be a "minimal subsistence level." From my own perspective, what is considered "normal" in the frum community is a darn expensive. I'm sure it varies by community and by circle, but I lived in a number of places and socialize with a wide range of people and what passes for "normal" looks pretty luxurious to me.

And finally, one wonders how the tuition committee will react when/if the wife stops working?

46 comments:

mother in israel said...

It's the same thing with feeling deprived. One can feel deprived if they don't go out for pizza on Erev Pesach, and another feels deprived if they don't drive the latest model car.

Abbi said...

I thought it was very interesting that she mentioned "but a lot also depends on how she uses the time with her children".

To me, that sounds like home all day with the children does not necessarily equal more nurturing in all cases.

anonymous mom said...

"Children need to have a mother at home, but a lot also depends on how she uses the time with her children, even if she is home all day"

With very few exceptions, children need to have a mother at home, period. The sentence should have ended there. Way, way, way too many frum women are working and way too many are working full time. Full time working definately takes away from the nurturing of the children. The caretakers are often non-Jewish to save money or day-care/cattle-care to save money where way too many children and infants are placed together to be supervised by one or two women. I wish Rebetzin Weinberg had taken a stronger stand about this. The tuition? All I can say is, these things tend to work out if you prioritize properly. I'm going to assume that this woman is not sending her children to a MO day school where tuitions run high and that she could either cut a deal to work in one of the schools her kids attend in exchange for free tuition or work part time and cut a deal with the committee. I speak from experience, personal and second hand. With regard to restaurants: my husband and I rarely eat out, our kids get the weekly pizza and occasional fleishig greasy spoon, vacations are modest with tickets bought on deals in advance and hotel stays using points as much as possible. We rarely fly anywhere and not to Israel to visit relatives. I mention all of this because we are not normal. Most people spend way more than we do on restaurants and vacations. I have mentioned before that we have never between the two of us owned a new car or leased a car. Also, because this woman lives out of town--I assumed Baltimore, I would think her expenses would be less than those of New Yorkers. Again, I don't know why the Rebetzin didn't take a bigger stand in support of this woman's decision to spend more time at home. It is a stand for all Frum children whenever someone is honest about how important that is. Again, with few exceptions.

SephardiLady said...

MiI-You hit on an important point. Feeling deprived is an attitude, and a bad one at that.

Abbi-I was planning on saying somthing about that in my next post. I'm not quite sure what she is referring to, and therefore didn't want to touch the subject in this post.

I am of the belief that the mother's very presence is important. I think her very presence is what is nuturing and reassuring. I do think women should seek to keep phone calls to a minimum. But, I don't see any reason to completely focus on the child. A mother can read, sing, play, and dance with her kids here and there. But, I think she can also set them up with an activity and turn her attention to scrubbing the floor.

Tamiri said...

Wow, I was wondering if I was the anonymous mother who posted :-)

The reason I *think* the Rebbetzin didn't take a firmer stance: she didn't want to be attacked. Because that is the only thing that happens these days when a person suggests - just suggests, mind you - that the current frum lifestyle is out of hand, damaging to children, and downright frivolous and that the priorities are skewed. The person who cries "the Emperor is naked" will be accused of "judging", ah such a popular word these days, or being "envious", of not being able to know what REALLY goes on in people's lives and houses etc.
And so, the Rebbetzin took the path of least resistance, leaving some people unsatisfied and others unscathed.

aryeh-baltimore said...

My wife and I read the same article, and I was about to send it to you, SL. Here's my question--why is okay to spend a "moderate" amount of money on vacations and a few luxuries, but not okay to save for retirement, as Rav Feurst was quoted as saying (a few posts back)?

It's okay to blow money on a few luxuries, and still get tuition assistance, but not okay to save for retirement? On that note, why should a family who has a larger house than me get tuition breaks, while I buy a smaller house to enable me to save for retirement, but I'm penalized for that?

Just to do the math, imagine that occasional dinner out is 1 time per month and costs $100. Imagine you take 1 family vacation per year ($5000). Obviously, spend much more than that, and still get tuition assistance, but follow me here. Save that money in your 401k, and after 40 years, you will have 4.7 million dollars! That's enough to retire on AND give a nice donation to the yeshiva. If you leave a match on the table, you could miss out on doubling that value. Imagine--retirement savings of almost $10 million dollars, just to forgo that vacation and dinner out.

Yet, the advice we read in Where What When and similar thinks its "normal" to take a vacation and eat out, and elsewhere we are told it is abnormal to save for retirement....

twinsmommy said...

I'd like to see a question posed about whether it's ok to continue having children when you're getting tuition assistance.

We only have 2 children and would love more, but, because we're in debt, feel like we can't even afford the ones we have. We get food on the table and a roof over their heads, and rent a nice home, but the credit cards have helped a great deal.

I would imagine that when the time comes we'll qualify for tuition assistance. We make good income but it all goes towards debt repayment. But because of that, we're going to feel guilty if/when we decide to have more children.

Thoughts?

Tamiri said...

HAVE THE CHILDREN. Money comes and money goes but the time for having kids is limited. Would you rather have money and no more kids when you are 60, or would you rather have a few IY'H around the table yet still be paying bills.
Kids are the best investment you can make in life. They ARE life!!!!
I am not advocating "too many" kids, whatever that number may be, but to me four kids seems like the magic number: neither too little nor too many. Three is good too. Five is terrific, as are six... it's so hard to decide!!!

SephardiLady said...

TwinsMommy:

When I was single I was very close to a particular family. Their children were adults and they were still paying off their education, but they told me they wished that they had made the decision to have more children (they have 3).

What they told me left a big impression. You only have the chance to have children for a short period of time (as Tamiri pointed out) and for us that means if we need to homeschool or find other arrangements so be it. I can't handle debt, but I'd love 1 or 2 more children.

BTW Twins Mommy, you have been asking about debt reduction and savings and Aryeh-Baltimore alerted me about a book by Dave Ramsey called the Total Money Makeover. It is sitting on my desk awaiting a review. So stay tuned. (Incidently, I read one of his other books too).

SephardiLady said...

I can't handle debt, but I'd love 1 or 2 more children.

Heck, I'd probably like even more than that.

mother in israel said...

Well, I knew a father who said, "the more you have, the fewer you want."
Lehavdil, I just saw in the Israel paper that "tens" of Haredi women and "many tens" of religious women had abortions last year, for economic reasons. This is in honor of the organization Efrat's annual campaign on Parashat Shemot.
FOr those who read Hebrew:
http://www.nrg.co.il/online/11/ART1/674/926.html
Don't know how they chose that bizarre picture.

aryeh-baltimore said...

SL--So glad you got TMM! If your schedule allows, I also recommend his radio show at www.daveramsey.com. He's also on 300 stations around the country, but not in the bigger markets like NY. It's a call-in show--people either ask him money questions, or they call in to shout "I'm debt free" (after they tell their story). The debt-free stories are often really inspiring to hear, and the questions are quite instructive. He runs Financial Peace University through the churches, but I've always thought we should get FPU classes taught in the Orthodox community as well. I had a fellow frum Jew trying to sell me on the benefits of whole life insurance.... told me it's the only way I can save up for retirement!!! We definitely need some Dave here

(incidentally, would certain rabbonim think that paying for rip-off whole-life insurance while getting tuition breaks was okay, or is it just responsible investing that is wrong?)

SephardiLady said...

Aryeh-I won't be around for a few days, but I will definitely try to tune in to the show. While I do have a few quibbles here and there, I really enjoyed the read and would highly recommend the book to anyone in debt or just trying to get better financial footing.

I think the best part about the book are the stories, accompanied by pictures. Real people. Real struggles. Real changes. And real success.

And we definitely need to educate people about saving for retirement. Taking your post-tax dollars and putting them into a product that doesn't even "pay" what a CD in a bank pays, nor offers matching funds, or a tax benefit is just, well, "dumb math."

aryeh-baltimore said...

SL--the best part of the radio show is what you refer to as the best part of the book (personal stories), but imagine hearing those people tell their stories and then hearing them scream, "I'm debt FREE!" while William Wallace yells "FREEEEEEDOM" in the background. People cry, their kids yell with them, etc. It's quite inspiring when you hear someone whose entire household makes $40k/year pay off $50k in debt. It's also sobering because you hear what people make and what their house costs, and you realize just how upside-down finances in the frum world can be.

Just curious--what are your qualms with the book? My only one is he doesn't address how to pay $10,000/year tuition for 10 kids when your household makes $75k/year, but he's just a mortal human.

Anonymous said...

a general question. why are we asking these people -- ie rebbetzin weinberg or rabbi feurst -- advice about these matters?

mlevin said...

Three points:
1. I know stay at home moms who spend a whole day cleaning/cooking and etc. while her children are neglected. These children are very underdeveloped, but their house is clean and food is always great. That what it means being a stay at home mom isn't always good for the children.

2. Re Haredi women having abortions. I feel so bad for them. Imagine they feel so overwhelmed and overtired and stressed that they feel the desperation to have that abortion. Wouldn't simple teaching of usage of birth control be better in this case?

3. Re children being a better investment. That all depends on how many children we are talking about. If we are talking about 10 children, then no, it is not a better investment. Because these children will be a drain on you physically and emotionally and no one wants a mother who is constantly working and is never there for you.

Yes, it is easy to say 20 years later that I wish I had more children, but going back to that time you realize all the hardships that come together with having children.

I have two, and even now, years later I shudder when I remember my morning ritual of getting them dressed and running to the bus stop for the older one's school then coming back home feeding a younger one and running to school with her and then running to the subway to go to work.

Honestly Frum said...

I think the real question that needs to be addressed, and I have not yet heard any rabbonim from the M/O community in the NY area address is how can we overhaul the entire frum system when it comes to finances. Why are the kosher stores so much more expensive? Why are the schools not operating at peak efficiency? Why are our costs of living so out of control? Why are people pressured into financial obligations that they will never be able to meet on their incomes? Why are we told that we cannot count tens of thousands of dollars we pay into tuition as maaser and must then give thousands more to fulfill our tzedakah obligations? Why are we "obligated" to assist those outside our community while most in the community struggle to pay tuition? These are questions that need to be addressed by the larger community now or we are headed for financial ruin as a community. One wrong turn in the stock market (or housing market as we currently see) and all the millions of $$ free flowing into our institutions will come to a screeching halt and we as a community will be held holding the bag with only ourselves to blame for expectations that are simply not realistic.

jstein said...

"The Jewish community participates to a significant degree in providing a Jewish education for all Jewish children, regardless of their family's ability to pay."

How is the "Jewish community" defined in this case? Is Rebbetzin Weinberg referring to Jewish organizations such as the Associated who are subsidizing the costs of a Jewish education? Pardon my cynicism, but I highly doubt it. In reality, she is probably referring to the families that pay full tuition--a highly inflated full tuition, I might add, because of all the families that receive scholarships and cannot pay their full share.

As a mother who works full-time in order to be able to pay full tuition at my children's school, I highly resent the attitude discussed above. Unfortunately, I am finding that it is becoming more and more prevalent. When did it become okay to mooch off the rest of the responsible community?

DAG said...

Honestly frum...I a VERY afraid that the day of reckoning for this irresponsibility is on hand.

JS said...

I'd like to chime in:

I agree with anonymous at 3:29AM. I don't understand how financial questions of this nature are questions for a rav. I think the reliance on rabbeim for non-strictly halachic questions is troublesome and indicates the orthodox spectrum shifting to the right. I wish rabbeim would step up and say "I appreciate you asking me, but I don't have expertise in this area and any answer is not halachic but highly personal. However, I am more than happy to help you discuss it and work out a solution."

To jstein:
This bothers me as well. We save as much as possible and live in a small cheap apartment. If anyone saw what we earned they'd think we were crazy not living it up. We don't even have cable, we have rabbit ears. Meanwhile other frum couples in our apartment building have 2 bedroom apartments, huge TVs, etc and I know are struggling to get by. And yet, when the time comes, they'll get tuition breaks and I'll be forced to pay in full. My wife and I busted our butts in high school to get into good colleges, busted our butts in college to get into good graduate schools and get good jobs and now we bust our butts to save as much as possible and pay down loans. And yet we'll be made to suffer by the jewish community as we subsidize those who are irresponsible and live flamboyantly.

Lastly, regarding anonymous mom's post: How many jobs are there available in the yeshiva system? Personally (and I don't mean this against you, just the idea in general), I'm a little sick of the solution to the tuition crisis and low incomes being "get a job at a yeshiva". Firstly, how many jobs can there really be? Secondly, not everyone is qualified to be a rabbi/teacher/etc (yet it seems everyone who graduates YU or goes to Israel is somehow qualified to be a rabbi). Thirdly, if they get a tuition break that money comes from somewhere (maybe from me, see above). Lastly, the entire attitude just bothers me and makes me very angry at how the system works and how people are trying to "game" the system to their advantage at everyone else's expense.

twinsmommy said...

back to tamiri and SL on the whole having children issue--- I struggle wondering what "too many" is for me. Emotionally I could DEFINITELY handle another one.... in 5 years when my twins are in school all day I'd love to have another baby at home-- and at that point our clunkers will have died and we'll get a bigger car anyway. But financially--- can I "handle" another one if I'm not even paying full tuition for the 2 I already have? In terms of a roof over their head and food in their bellies I could probably handle 5-6.... but then I'm paying less and less tuition per child.

Tamiri said...

I feel sorry for those paying full tuition. Based on what I saw, living in 4 diff States, with kids who attended Jewish Day School in each place, from preschool thru
12th grade: the education is mediocre (with some exceptions, of course). We paid for the luxury of segregation. And maybe some Jewish (can't even call it Hebrew Language in most cases) education. I don't see it as noble or wise to limit the amount of children you have based on the high limits "someone" is setting to get them educated. You will work it out, just as everyone else does. No one is going to tell you you can't have aid because you have x number of kids. Just pray you can pay a decent percentage of what they *say* you owe, and call it a day.
Remember: you've got far more years to have, hold, enjoy and nurture your children than you have years to pay for tuition.
And the day the policy-makers and administrators give up the luxuries they enjoy ON THE PARENT BODY'S CHESHBON, is the day you can think about limiting your family size.

another jewish accountant said...

ugh - this whole topic hits a nerve. just talking to a friend last week who doesnt want to start working (all her kids are in school during the day, and she says she is bored) b/c she figures she'll only start out making $15/hr, and will then probably have to pay more tuition. My advice was that as long as there are no additional costs (or limited) associated with working since her kids are all in school full day now anyways, she might as well work some of those hours, and put away as much as possible....right now they have no emergency stash, no retirement savings, and receive tuition discounts, so even if their lifestyle doesnt change, they can be far ahead of the game after a eyar or so just by putting the extra money in an emergency account, a retirement account, and yes, maybe even paying a bit more in tuition. and if in another year or so she has a baby, then stop working until that baby is in school (at that point the equation becomes different as to if it makes "sense" to work).

I am like some of the posters above who works very hard to pay full tuition, and dont take vacations, etc. and worked hard through college etc. to feel some resentment when i see people who feel like its someone elses responsiblity to carry their load....believe me, id love more time with my kids, but i just cant justify not working at this point in my life.

the hardest thing for me to do is to minimize the resentment i feel when i see/hear about these things, and just worry about myself and my family and make sure we are doing the "right" thing. i'd be a very angry/bitter person if i kept in mind the way others are taking advantage of a system that penalizes people like me who work hard and dont live lavishly at all b/c we are caught in that middle ground, and are responsible and ethical to live within our means.

JS said...

tamiri,

I have to agree with you regarding the quality of education. I received a much better secular education than I did a "Jewish" education. And as you stated, I never learned Hebrew - any Hebrew I know is from my father. I understand pretty well but have difficulty speaking. My father would always say the following after asking a halachic or tanach question we couldn't answer "Can I get a refund on my tuition now?"

My father grew up in Israel and went to public school. The school system was different back then and he had to learn entire chapters of tanach by heart - and he still remembers much of it to this day. I'd be lucky to quote a single verse from my yeshiva education. And although my father didn't grow up orthodox per se, he now learns daf yomi using steinsaltz (hebrew translation) and various online hebrew learning sites. Without knowing Hebrew as well as he, I'm stuck with Artscroll and can't learn any commentary that isn't translated to English.

I know going to Yeshiva made my family more religious, but if that wasn't the case, if we were already religious, I can't help but wonder if I would have received a better education if I had gone to public school and had a rabbi tutor me in the afternoons. It's a very difficult question to answer.

But, I don't understand what you're proposing - to simply not pay full tuition? Is this even if you can afford to pay or only for those with hardships?

I guess this goes to all the other postings and questions about retirement, vacations, leading a "normal" life, etc but what is a "hardship" anyways? I mean I think it's a hardship if you can pay in full but can only do so by borrowing against your house and using credit cards.

Tamiri said...

js "But, I don't understand what you're proposing - to simply not pay full tuition? Is this even if you can afford to pay or only for those with hardships?"

I am proposing that this is insane! The reason that the tuitions CAN keep going up is because the paying public ups the ante (everyone has to be a doctor, lawyer or successful businessman) and pays up. It's INSANE to ask an average family to pay these tuitions, and INSANE that people can't be average. Forget all the fancy vacations: you need to be earning a heck of a lot of money, far above U.S. average income, to even make a dent in tuition payment. Family earns $150k? Not enough. $200K? Barely. That is INSANE.
Look at all the mothers out there working today. Not the doctor and lawyer ones: the shleppers. Leaving the house early and returning late to "pay tuition". Worrying about being home in time Friday. Spending Sunday cooking for the rest of the week. Arguing with their bosses for Yom Tov off. What kind of a life is that?For minimum wage or slightly better? Who are they kidding? So they are paying a little more? And destroying their health and their family health in the process? I don't think that a $40K job would convince me that it's worth it to leave the house. How many women earn more than that? Not professionals.... please, enlighten me.
I propose that more women DO stay home, fait d'accompli, and see how the schools deal with that. I propose that instead of people pretending that this fabulous education is what will make/break their children, they put a halt to the madness.
I can propose what I want from afar, but who will do anything about it?
If I were still in the States, there is NO WAY I would go out to work just to pay tuition. I would rather put my kids in PS and teach them Hebrew and Judaic studies. I actually did do that with 2 kids in one place we lived, cause the Jewish DS was so bad.
You know how many kids go thru the PS system then get religion later on in life?
You know how many go through the yeshiva system and get "lost" later in life?

JS said...

tamiri,

I agree with you. Maybe my attitude is wrong, but from a strictly financial perspective, I'd almost rather not send my future kids to yeshiva and get a tutor than send them to yeshiva and simply refuse to pay full tuition. I'd just feel like I was ripping people off even though the costs are extravagant and obscene.

From an educational perspective, I think the yeshiva system is lousy when it comes to jewish education. I think nothing exemplifies this better than being told in my junior year of highschool that we should all go to yeshiva in Israel because this way we'll really "learn how to learn" and otherwise we might go to college and not be frum anymore.

All I could think was "what the hell were the last 12+ years for? Somehow 1 or 2 years in Israel will correct whatever was wrong for 12+ years?" Also, I think we should be asking ourselves why we're entrusting yeshivas to make sure our kids remain frum. Doesn't this come from home? I think too many parents send their kids to yeshiva, pay the tuition, and then it's all hands off.

Honestly, I think I got the following out of my modern orthodox yeshiva education:
1) Good secular education
2) I was around only jewish kids
3) Most of those jewish kids were frum
4) I had a couple of really good rabbeim who taught me interesting concepts

However, other than those good rabbeim, most of what I was taught was practically straight out of artscroll. A lot of rabbeim and morot were young, right out of YU or Stern and just didn't have much experience - they mostly lectured out of Artscroll or used notes they took from shiur in YU/Stern.

The focus was far too great on gemara and there was limited focus on Tanach. Subjects were covered quickly, informally, and with little depth - the favorite was navi quizzes where you sped through and "learned" all of melachim or shoftim and had to spit back about 20-30 facts to see if you had read it. Kids would sell summaries they mad of the artscroll tanach by chapter having all the relevant points.

I did not learn at all halacha, Jewish philosophy, tefilah, or Hebrew, and we had limited exposure to Jewish history other than modern zionistic history.

In terms of commentaries it was strictly rashi, tosefot, and an occassional ramban.

My point is that in 12+ years I can't really point to a whole lot I actually learned, and now that I'm about 9 years out of my last yeshiva experience (I didn't go to Israel and went to a "secular" college) I can barely even remember a single actual shiur I did learn. And, by the way, I was always in the "top track" in Judaic studies and did well. Other than a mostly frum environment it's hard to point to what I got out of it.

Seems kinda sad.

another jewish accountant said...

JS - that is an interesting perspective as well, and points out certain things for me to look out for in my kids education. I went to more right wing schools growing up and learned a lot of halacha and TONS of meforshim when learning tanach, in addition we learnt jewish philosophy (mostly chassidic) and very in depth jewish history....for all of that I am now more thankful than ever hearing others say they went through their school years without this....on the flip side, the secular education wasnt great, and it was only becuase of my parents/family background that I went to college and am now a professional. this raises such good questions, am i better off sending my kids to the MO school they are now in (possibly facing much of what you describe as lacking in your post) or send them to a more right wing school where the secular education is lacking (i did get a regents diploma, so it wasnt totally no secular education, just certainly not the focus. My school also actively discouraged me from going to college and that was 15 years ago, id imagine its even more frowned upon today.

Tamiri - I hear you, and can see where you are coming from, but still have hard time agreeing with it all. do you hold the same stance for those whose children are in full day school as those with babies at home? i see a huge difference in that. not only are the extra costs associated with childcare taken into account, but one is leaving children in the care of others, etc. but what about when kids are in full day school? yes, its hard to juggle, but certainly should be dismissed so easily.

JS said...

It's an issue I struggle with as well. We don't have children yet, but the whole situation in the Jewish community makes me so angry at times. I think part of it is because I know how much my parents struggled and sacrificed to put us through yeshiva. It helped make my family more religious, and I am grateful for that, but I can't help but think that the religious experience and education I had was a rather shallow one.

I think the real question, we as a community need to be asking ourselves is: why send our children to yeshiva in the first place?

1) Is it to make sure they stay frum?
2) Is it to keep them away from "goyishe" influences?
3) Is it so they will know how to learn?
4) Is it because "what will the neighbors say"?

Here's my response:
1) I think family should have more of an influence in this area than any yeshiva. In fact, I find it troublesome that many yeshivas teach children that outside the frum or yeshivish environment they will instantly fall prey to their desires and fall off the derech. I've seen this used to scare kids away from secular college for instance. Also, does it even work? I hear all the time of kids leaving home and not remaining religious.

2) In my modern yeshiva there were the kids who did drugs, gambled, ate unknosher, smoked, had sex, etc. Maybe it wasn't as prevalent as public schools, but it happened and everyone knew about it. Besides, even in more right wing schools these problems exist.

3) As I mentioned above, I was never taught Hebrew well enough to learn on my own - and my Hebrew is far better than about 80% of the kids I went to school with. Like everyone else, I have to pick up an Artscroll to learn. But the bigger point is other than the mitzvah of learning I doubt many parents wants their kids to become rabbis or learn in kollel. In fact, I doubt most parents are happy if their kids grow up, go to davening at least over shabbat and hear a shiur from the community rabbi every once in a while. Do we need yeshiva for that?

4) I think this is the biggest reason honestly. But, I think even this will break down as people just can't afford it. Already where I grew up people are sending their kids to public school and having the community rabbi give extra lessons.

So, I ask everyone, why do we send our kids to yeshiva?

JS said...

oops. That should read:

"I bet most parents are happy if their kids grow up, go to davening at least over shabbat and hear a shiur from the community rabbi every once in a while."

Lion of Zion said...

"she could either cut a deal to work in one of the schools her kids attend in exchange for free tuition"

a) but then she's not home with the kids if she's working?

b) free tuition is a thing of the past (as least in MO schools)

Tamiri said...

To another Jewish accountant:
Well, at what point is it considered having "all" the kids at "a full day of school"? When your last four year old goes to PreK, leaves the house at 7:30 am and returns at 4 pm? I guess that would leave mom enough hours to work. Never happened to me in my years in the States, so I can't tell you what I think. Surely all those hours at home would get boring, but who would hire a non-prof (or even a prof) for just those hours which are convenient? And you are STILL left with the erev Shabbat/YT, school vacation and various non-school days AND summer to contend with. For what? A measly job?
I just don't know. And, as previously stated, I write what I write from afar, having gotten out of the system over 4 years ago.

Abbi said...

Tamiri- what exactly is a "measly job"? If you earn money, you contribute to your family's well being. Why is that "measly"? I know plenty of frum women who have taken shifts at the supermarket, drug store, to keep the family that much farther away from financial ruin, during hours that fit in with childcare. In Israel in particular, pple love hiring part-timers, so they don't have to pay all those benefits. But it's not hard at all to find an 8-1 pm office job.

The point is you can make it work if you want to, even during school vacations. Many women don't want to- and end up like some of my extended family members who's kids are all in college,their husbands work two-three jobs to make ends meet and she acts like she's a retired wealthy lady (her days are filled with exercise, classes, hair/nail appts).

The reality is that once you're kids are out of the house altogether, you'll really have to find some thing to combat the boredom.

As for this disbelief that there are SAHMs that neglect their kids- I know plenty, it's a phenomenon that does exist, I'm sorry you don't believe it.

mother in israel said...

Abbi:
"Many women end up like some of my extended family members who's kids are all in college,their husbands work two-three jobs to make ends meet and she acts like she's a retired wealthy lady (her days are filled with exercise, classes, hair/nail appts)."

It sounds like a nice life to me.

Why should you care, as long as they're not asking you for a handout? Just because you don't find those things fulfilling doesn't mean that she doesn't. (Although I'm not sure what problem you have with exercise and education, and doesn't everyone need haircuts?) Maybe they feel she deserves it after raising her kids. Maybe she has some condition that prevents her from working. Maybe they don't want her to commit to a job, so that they can travel. Even if the husband isn't happy with the situation, you may not have heard her side of the story.

The women I know with older kids who don't work are spending their time doing chesed, chesed and more chesed. And learning, and taking care of their parents, grandchildren and their children, who still need them.

Obviously you should work if you need the money, but I resent the implication that a woman is bored or wasting her time if she isn't earning. Especially working in the drugstore. For financial reasons--yes. But so she won't be bored when her kids go to college? One has nothing to do with the other. Women are stressed out enough without the message that they have to earn a living every minute their kids are in school.

An 8-1 job is a big commitment, unless you have backup for vacations and days when kids are sick. And then there's commuting time, and the times the boss needs you for a meeting or to stay a little late. . .

Tamiri said...

Abbi, any job which takes me away from my primary focus: my family and everything that has to do with it, and does not leave me with enough income to pay a surrogate, is, in my definition, measly. And those supermarket and drugstore jobs are the worst! Of course, if a family needs the money, then everything has to be done to earn it but please, don't glorify those positions - they aren't fun!
When a woman has a job, and wants to keep it, her reasoning can get skewed. For example, if the kid doesn't look so sick, just pour acamol down his/her throat, and send him/her off to gan or school, rather than stay home - because the job comes first. I have worked, and know that the boss doesn't care about your family, he/she just wants the job done.
I dealt with that and couldn't come to terms with the fact that my family and home took second place. Earning some money doesn't give me any satisfaction when the expense is my children. Been there, done that.
Fortunately, with me being home, my husband has been able to devote himself to doing well at what he does. He can be relied upon for work at all hours of the day/night, never has to leave to pick up kids or go to the bank or let the electrician in - and the payoff is: he can support us. I feel blessed, and look forward to retiring at some point to a life such as that one you described plus some chessed hours: gym, swimming, classes, maybe a cleaning lady one day... what's boring about that???
I define myself by who I am and what I do, not by my job.
Now, when it comes to that tuition thing: I am SO SORRY that women feel the need to get out there and make sure they are paying 100% tuition. It's noble, but pointless. Because all around them there are those who are getting assistance and there is no reason that everyone should not enjoy this benefit. None. People scrimp and save to pay everything, while around them those on assitance do whatever the heck they please. They call it "parents treating (think summer camp and vacations)", they call it "I deserve" they call it what they want, while the working stiffs pay up. Two wrongs don't make a right, but if the schools accept all kinds of people to the scholarship list, they can accept a non-working mother as well.

Abbi said...

MII: The family member i mentioned: her husband had two heart attacks before the age of fifty and they are constantly asking my parents for handouts.

Sorry, if your husband has to work at two jobs to make ends meet, you're in NO CONDITION to act retired, no matter how hard you worked raising kids.

Not acceptable.

(And she runs 3 miles a day- she's in perfect physical condition to work.)

Abbi said...

"Because all around them there are those who are getting assistance and there is no reason that everyone should not enjoy this benefit."

Um, maybe the schools would enjoy the benefit? You make is sound like schools are profiteering mega corporations who don't feel it when they miss a few dollars here and there.

Ironically, the only ones who really feel it are your own kids, when they have larger classes or lose certain programs and activities- which is surprising coming from someone who feels that nothing should disturb her focus on raising her children. So which is it- your kids' education is important or not?

As for nothing disturbing your focus- I don't know, I was raised, and I'm managing to raise lovely, well-adjusted loving children without watching them grow 24 hours a day. I manage to work 5-6 hours a day and still focus quite well on my children and family.

And, once again, these claims about "evil" working women and their acamol are outrageous. I have no illusions that it doesn't happen, but I resent this suggestion that this is the rule.

As for women keeping themselves busy after their kids are in school- (since this is an economics blog) chesed and self-improvement are wonderful- once you and your husband are financially secure for your retirement and whatever else you want to do to help your older children get settled as adults (graduate school, first homes, etc.)

To behave otherwise, ESPECIALLY after your children have left home, is just very selfish and unfair to your husband. Why should he have to work like a dog while the wife is already enjoying retirement?

Tamiri said...

Abbi,a housewife's focus is her HOME and all that it entails. It does not mean doing nothing but nurturing the kids all day. In fact, SAHMs probably spend LESS "intense" time with their children, because they don't feel the need to. The children feel secure in the knowledge that the parent is there, in the house, period. There is nothing to prove, no time to "make up" for. So I don't understand your "which is surprising coming from someone who feels that nothing should disturb her focus on raising her children. So which is it- your kids' education is important or not?". I really don't care too much what the school is/isn't giving as far as extras, as long as what goes on in the school doesn't damage my child. I am happy with them getting decent chinuch and a good start on life. An extension of what they already get at home. The parents who focus the most on getting extras are those who can't give it themselves and feel bad about that. The SAHM familie's extra is the asset of having someone around every day for most of the day. And that is a far higher price to pay than for external extras.
No amount of money that I pay the school can make up for the time the child misses with me, in his home. School is not a substitute for bottom-line loving and nurturing.
You have the best of both worlds: a 5-6 hour/day job is a dream come true. You can send your kids off in the am, and be there for them when they come home from school. You are quite fortunate. In the States, there aren't jobs like this. At least not ones that Jewish women would accept (besides some teaching positions). Maybe cleaning ladies, hospital aides... but the income from these hours would make the job totally not worth it. In the States, that type of job, unless you are a teacher, is not an option.
Abbi, you write: "To behave otherwise, ESPECIALLY after your children have left home, is just very selfish and unfair to your husband. Why should he have to work like a dog while the wife is already enjoying retirement?". I don't get that one.... are men and women equal? Don't "real" men find pleasure in providing for their families? Don't you think most men would LIKE to be supporting by themselves? The breadwinner? We aren't equal. Men are programmed to go out and hunt, women are programmed to nurture near the hearth. Just because people woke up one day and thought they could change the makeup of the world doesn't mean it's the right thing. Look how many divorces there are. Look how many children without fathers are around... can this "equality" be to blame, in part?
Also "And, once again, these claims about "evil" working women and their acamol are outrageous. I have no illusions that it doesn't happen, but I resent this suggestion that this is the rule" Abbi, you may want to look into this a little closer. Working moms do not want to stay home with sick kids. Said kids go to gan/school. Said Moms argue with teachers/gananot when asked to take children home. You can resent that all you want, but it's the rule.
In the States, there are employee programs where you can hire a nurse for the day, to stay with your sick child, so you don't have to miss any work.... how sad is that?

Abbi said...

Ok, Tamiri, you seem to be talking from a different planet, so I'm going to end the argument there. Once you talk about men being "programmed", you've obviously read too much pro-SAHM literature or talked to too few men other than your husband in your life.

Most men I know, and I'm talking about men I've been friends with and men in my immediate and extended family, welcome any help they can get in supporting the family and preparing for retirement, regardless of your bizarre view that men have some primal "need" to hunt. My husband, and most men that I know that currently have families, want to pay the bills and have enough to splurge on a nice dinner every once and a while- and sincerely appreciate when their wives pitch in and help with this, in the form of working. Sorry if that bursts your bubble.


And yes, I'm familiar with the evil working mothers in your yishuv. I am grateful that I have yet to meet such mothers in any of the communities I've live in here in Israel so far. Almost all of my friends work full time here and most winters they are home at least once a week with a sick child. And, whaddya know, they still have jobs!

As for part time work- most women I know have built up their careers in the States to such an extent (even by their early thirties) that they are able to cut back to part time and make a salary that it's well worth it for them to work.

another jewish accountant said...

the item that bothers me the most is the approach that others are benefitting from handouts, so "you" should too. if everyone felt this way schools would be forced to shut down and/or take other drastic measures. who is gong to pay for the chinuch that we want to give our children if not us? what an "entitlement" mentality to have. it really sickens me to read that.

I have taken off many days to stay home with my kids when they are sick. most working parents know taht they arent benefitting anyone by sending a sick kid to school/gan only ot perpetuate the cycle of kids getting sick at school. i have seen just as many stay at home moms stopped at the door dropping off a kid with green mucus all over their face that the teacher has to send back home, b/c the mother decided its "only allergies" since she had a nail appt. or needed to get tot he gym. selfish people exist in all caetegories including working and SAHMs.....

do you really think just physically being there is enough? dont children feel neglected when their mother is sitting in front of them on the phone, computer, watching TV and clearly tuning them out? can you agree that children of working parents see what their parents sacrifice to provide for their families (again not all, but when the working is clearly done to benefit the family).

mlevin said...

Green mucus coming out of the kids nose does not mean that he's sick. If children were kept from school everytime they got a sniffle we would not have school at all. A mother decides if her child is sick based of his body tempperature, his mood and sympton. Anyone who could brush it off as working parents or mothers having an nail appointment has no concept of raising children.

mother in israel said...

Anther Jewish Accountant:
I would not choose attendance at a Jewish day school over staying home with my small children. Babies and toddlers cannot possibly appreciate the "sacrifice" you mention. Young children don't care that the tuition committee is going to come calling. It sounds completely backward to me. There is no chinuch more critical than the early years, and I would not entrust anyone else with the job.

I think if you came to my house you might think my children are neglected. I read, work on the computer (yes, even paid work can be done with children around), talk on the phone, cook, clean, etc. I also read and play with my kids. We don't have a TV so I can't use it as a babysitter. And sometimes I even "tune out" my children. I'm only human. My children know that I'm an adult, I have other responsibilities, and my job isn't to entertain them. I nurture them a lot when they are little. I hold them and nurse them frequently until they are quite big. When they need me, I am usually there, and I learn when they really need me and when they can wait a bit.

"Just" a parent's physical presence is not enough. We all know of parents who neglect or abuse their children. But most mothers who stay home and make a reasonable effort to meet their kids' needs, according to their level, and let them gain independence at their own pace, will do fine even if the mothers sometimes ignore (but are aware of) their children.

I don't want to sound self-righteous. I really believe that no one can judge other people's situations. And I wouldn't compare my children to anyone else's and say that their good traits are because I was home with them--we'll never know. But I think that parents who leave small children with caretakers solely in order to be able to pay full tuition have misplaced priorities. I would hope that a tuition committee could respect that.
I know that many parents see no harm in leaving young children with a nanny. If I felt that way, I would also resent at-home mothers who asked for a break. But I would feel very uncomfortable in a community that "punished" me for doing what I believe is essential.

ora said...

another jewish accountant--

IMO part of the point is to make schools take drastic measures, for example sharing building space or teachers, or in the case of MO schools, forgoing the brand new science labs and sports facilities in favor of realistic tuition. Of course people should pay tuition when possible, even if it means buying a smaller house, driving an older car, etc. But there's a difference between asking people to give up a certain material lifestyle and asking them to give up their family life, whether through spending the whole day apart from their children or through limiting their family size for the sole purpose of paying full tuition. IMO once people are changing their family structure for the sake of tuition the system has taken over to an unhealthy extent, and "drastic measures" are most definitely called for. IMO if people give up material pleasures for their child's Torah learning that is praiseworthy, but if they give up their family's happiness for the sake of tuition, they are actually contributing to the problem by allowing absurd tuition requirements to go unchallenged.

Tamiri said...

MII and Ora, you write so beautifully!!!!
You so succintly put into words what I feel. Thank you.

another jewish accountant said...

i dont totally agree or disagree with what is being said, but i go back to a conversation i had a few weeks ago with a friend whos children are in school full day, and she just plain doesnt want to work....yes there are all sorts of excuses (what about school breaks? what about dr.s appts? what about yom tov?) but from experience i know it can work, and while its not easy, i think that is a huge cop out. she even said, why bother if $X is just going to go straight to tuition?

just to put it into perspective so i dont come across as some crazy full time working mother who leaves my children to others all day while i pursue career progression.....many times have i had friends or family members say things to me about "isnt your company frusterated that you keep taking off?" or "how did you take off to take xxx to the dr.?" or to watch aperformance, and i have always said, i work to provide for my family and i refuse to let that get in the way of raising my kids since that would defeat the purpose of working, keeping that in mind helps me make it work. yes i may need to leave early to take a kid to the dr., but i will also go into the office at crazy early hours, or stay up late to get stuff done. i feel like sometimes people give up on making it work too easily.

ora said...

abbi + another jewish accountant--

I understand what both of you are saying (I think), but I don't think the examples you're bringing are relevant to the topic at hand. There's a huge difference between 1) A mother of young children who works so many hours that she feels that someone else is raising her children, and she wants to cut back to a part-time job (the original topic) 2) A mother who could take a part-time or even full-time job but just doesn't feel like it and 3) A woman with no young children who just doesn't feel like working at all, even if her husband is suffering and making himself ill to support her lifestyle.

In this case, the mother is perfectly willing to work, just not to the point where she feels her family is losing out.

In general, I think it's safe to say that:
1) The tuition board/community should respect the importance of allowing a mother to be home with her young children, and should not expect her to put her children in daycare for a full day (8/9 hours) for the sole purpose of paying full tuition.
2) The tuition board/community has every right to expect a woman to work and contribute to tuition if she's able to do so without compromising her family life (ex, when all the kids are in school and she's able to find a job in those hours).
3) A woman who spends her days getting manicures and whatever else while her sick husband works two jobs is probably not a very nice person (although for the sake of being dan l'chaf zchut, we should maybe assume as Tamiri did that her husband approves of the arrangement, however awful it looks to us).

Agreed?

another jewish accountant said...

agreed! :-)