Like other complaining editorials of late, there is a lack of differentiating between needs and wants. The author mentions all of the following costs: "tuition, mortgage payments, car expenses, food bills to the sky, clothes, utilities, camp…" So long as camp or the chatunah (a subject that rears its head later in the letter for which I only have three words: Cake and Punch) appears in the same sentence as basic food and shelter, there is a lifestyle problem that needs to be addressed.
What I don't doubt about the article is that the real subject of the letter (see below), reflects the "matzav" of a good handful of husbands out there:
But is hard to appreciate the good things in life when you are sitting and staring at a bank account that is emptying out faster than it fills up. It is hard to smile when you have to tell your 12-year-old kid that he can’t go to the dentist this month even though his tooth is hurting because you don’t have the money for it. It is hard to be happy when your wife is frustrated that you are just not making ends meet no matter how hard you are working and how hard you are trying.
The letter writer believes that he has an income/lack of assistance issue. In all reality, $80,000 is a respectable income, but with a larger size family looking to maintain a healthy budget(healthy budget loosely defined as income > expenses + no consumption debt), I'm not quite sure there is more than a 4 figures available to pay tuition. So, in one sense there is an income issue, but what I believe the reader has is a shalom bayit issue. If the couple was supportive of each other, they could deal far more effectively with the financial issues.
More essential than cash flow in personal finance, is unity in approach. I believe that Chazal asserts that a couple with shalom can exist on the tip of a pin, whereas the largest home won't suffice for a couple without shalom. I think the same can be said of shoestring budgets: a family that works together on addressing their financial challenges can survive on a shoestring budget, whereas a family that does not share common vision, determination, and accomodation will struggle even on a generous income. I believe that sharing a similar approach towards finances is also what will move a couple from disatisfaction --> acceptance and addressing the issue together --> satisfaction or sameach bechelko.
One more issue I'd like to revisit is what I previously called "worshipping at the altar [of yeshiva/day school]." While I do believe yeshiva/day school should take precedence over stuff (e.g. camp experiences, European fashion, and eating out), I am concerned when supporting a frum lifestyle (and I use the term lifestyle deliberately), means neglecting health. To me that fits the definition of "worshiping at the altar."
The letter writer, whoever that is, mentioned forgoing dental care. So did a later commentor who writes:
All I know is that if the "letter writer" is contemplating suicide and this other commentator's children have rotted and diseased teeth, leaving the yeshiva system for public school doesn't sound like the horrific alternative other commentors are making it out to be!
Giving up the dentist was the hardest of all for us, we also earn income higher than this poster, but when we had no income, the school tuition committee thought we were hiding something and refused us. That was 15 years ago and we still don’t have necessary dental care—the adults in our family have allowed our teeth to rot and become diseased, and have suffered bouts of excruciating pain without seeing a dentist because we couldn’t afford it. The children who needed braces did not get them, nor did they get normal dental care. Along the way we mentioned this to a Rav whose response was What about all the Rabbi’s teaching in Yeshiva who can’t get dental care? So we just keep quiet and suffer. But at least now we pay full tuition.