Monday, May 05, 2008

Taking Back the Mussar

Remember that article titled a "Five-Star Pesach" in which Jonathan Rosenblum posted the comments of an anonymous Los Angeles Rav, known for his "particularly biting style of mussar," who named Pesach hotels as the number one problem facing the Orthodox community? I attempted to write that mussar directed at "others" (in this case Pesach vacationers) was ineffective as the mussar targets other people, rather than causing the receiver to engage in self-reflection.

Now, Mr. Rosenblum has a new article up, "Pesach Hotels: At Second Look," essentially retracting the mussar that he was so taken by and felt the obligation to share. He writes: "To all who wrote to explain why the hotel experience helped their ruchnios experience of the Chag, I can only say, 'I was not talking about you.'

Now that we are back to the seder of learning Pirkei Avot, where we learn that talmidei chachamin should be especially careful that their words are understood, it strikes me just how unclear the messages that are coming from those with a pulpit often are. I understood the Rav's message to be that we are immersed in a culture of astonishingly wasteful spending, seemingly never ending materialism, and that we live in a constant pursuit of entertainment. But, Mr. Rosenblum "[presumed] the rabbi quoted meant is that the external performance of mitzvos, without any inner connection to the mitzvah itself or the One Who commanded it, is the central problem." If the adults are coming away with such different takes, only Hashem knows what state of confusion our children are living in, as they see and hear conflicting messages from us, from Rebbeim, from teachers, etc.

I respect those who are willing to take a second look at a subject. But, I think I could have done without this second look. Perhaps the saddest comment Mr. Rosenblum received in favor of going to a hotel for Pesach (quoted at the outset of the newest article) was from a friend who told him:
"Going away to a hotel allowed him to spend most of his week in the beis medrash, a luxury he would not have had at home, where he would have been the program director for his young children."

I had written about the subject of parents who seem to want to have children, but don't want their children to get in their way (see the case of a father who does not want to "waste" his money visiting his children on visiting day, or see the case of a mother who is mad the schools give a winter vacation and expects them to plan winter camps so she won't be inconvenienced by their schedule, or perhaps you can listen to those in your own backyard complaining about the week between school and camp when the kids are home, etc, etc).

I was blown away that this quote served as the opening argument in defense of Pesach Hotels. While I respect a man's desire to do some extra learning and have some uninterrupted time in the Beit Midrash (something he should be able to do without going to a hotel, but by arranging his schedule accordingly), I must again ask, what good is learning that you don't want to apply to the most sacred job of raising children by actually getting your hands dirty in the process? Why are we seemingly more makpid on the mitzvah of pru v'revu than of being mechanech our children (a job that many seem to want to reassign completely)?

If you had asked me a month or two before Pesach what I found most troublesome about the Pesach hotel advertising, I would have told you the advertising for "Baby Clubs" and full day camps. I find it a sad commentary that a "family vacation" would include separating the family with such ease. I find "Baby Clubs" particularly problematic.

There is a book, which you can probably find at your local library on the Parent Reference shelf by Drs. Brazelton and Greenspan titled The Irreducible Needs of Children. I have not read the complete text, which is series of conversations and wishful thinking between these two known doctors/researchers/professors, but I would highly recommend the section on childcare where the doctors point out the need for long term relationship between babies and their caregivers. In the chapter "The Need for Ongoing Nurturing Relationships," the doctors write, "although consistent nurturing relationships with one or a few caregivers are taken for granted by most of us as a necessity for babies and children, often we do not put this commonly held belief into practice." They write that "[babies and children] require sensitive, nurturing care to build capacities for trust, empathy, and compassion. More recent studies have shown that family patterns that undermine nurturing care may lead to significant compromise in both cognitive and emotional capacities."

I believe that we owe it to our children to be selective about when we utilize outside care for our children and that we don't shuffle too many caregivers through our children's lives. I believe that we owe it to our children to have a far more positive attitude about spending time with them. Our children need and deserve familiar care. They need the nurturing and discipline that comes with established relationships. To think that we can shuffle our children from one "club" to another "camp" to another "activity" in order to concentrate on whatever it is we need/want/desire to do, and not have such bite us (the frum community) in the bottom later is ludicrous.

Perhaps the real numero uno issue is not Pesach Vacations, but Parenting?


mother in israel said...

Baby clubs. Yuck.

mother in israel said...

I have to say more. The baby's mother didn't have to make Pesach, all she has to do is get dressed and show up at meals, yet she still needs a "break" from her baby.

Anonymous said...

See, no need for me to comment, others do it so much more eloquently!

Anonymous said...

I can understand occasionally leaving a baby with a relative or trusted babysitter, but to leave him in a room full of other babies to be taken care of by a stranger? No thanks.

Zach Kessin said...

Am I the only one who actually worked on Chol Hamoed this year? Its a newish job and I just didn't have any days to take off.

Anonymous said...

No, I also worked, but took off two half days to go places with my wife and kids. I also left earlier than usual (5 instead of 6 or 7) each day. Have lots of vacation time left, but we are busy and we are "saving" vacation time for real vacation if we decide to drive to my in-laws this year.

ProfK said...

I agree that parents need to know what their responsibilities are as parents and they need to be primary in their children's upbringing, not occasional visitors BUT...

Some mothers work outside their home. They have no choice. Even you, sefardi lady, take on clients while you are a full-time at home mom. You are fortunate that you can work from home; others do not have jobs or professions that allow them to do that. For those women who do work outside because without their financial contributions the family can't make it, we need to be sensitive when we make blanket statements that children cared for by others are not as "healthy" as those who are raised strictly by their parents. heaping on guilt when there is no alternative for these parents is not our place either.

But when parents are together with their children, such as at the hotels, and then they leave their kids to others all day, then we should say "Why?"

Anonymous said...

I worked early mornings and my husband worked all day. We took "family trips" in the evenings -- usually biking/blading in the park. I think everyone was satisfied. Full disclosure -- my kids are 9,7, and 4.

I just read that cross-currents article and this is the comment that bothers me the most:

'Rabbi Yitzchak Hutner, zt”l, was once asked by a certain gvir whether he should make a simple wedding or the kind that would be generally expected from those in his socio-economic class. The man was perfectly sincere in his question, and eager to do whatever Rabbi Hutner advised. Nevertheless, Rabbi Hutner told him to make a gvirish wedding. When his talmidim wondered at this, he explained, “If he is tight with himself, he will be tight with others as well.” '

I think many people read this type of comment and use it as justification to spend more than they can afford -- not just for weddings but for many other things as well (chol hamoed outings for example).

I think even if the gvir had no problem paying for a "gvirish" wedding, if he is willing to do it simply KOL HA-KAVOD. Let him give the difference to tzedakah. My parents got married in my grandparents basement and that was the type of wedding they wanted for my sisters and I -- a MODEST wedding. I think there is more honor in maintaining modesty than going all out for a shtatty wedding frankly.

I'd love to see the message of tzniut in financial matters promoted as much as tzniut in the dress code.

Commenter Abbi said...

I didn't get that SL was criticizing mothers who work and leave their children consistently with nurturing caregivers. I think she was knocking vacationing mothers who leave their babies and children with random day care workers at hotels.

Critically Observant Jew said...

While I don't condone the behavior of those who are makpid on the mitzvah of pru u'rvu and at the same time don't bother with chinuch, I would like to point out that if you ask your local posek, most likely, you will hear that the mitzva of pru u'rvu is de'oraita, and the mitzva of chinuch is, at most, de'rabanan. So maybe these people are just not "prioritizing" well.

Anonymous said...

ProfK; SL was refering to the general attitute that parents have nowadays. Children are often viewed as a burden. The mothers would send the babies away so they can schmooze and eat. If these mothers are also working full time, who is raising the kids? Maybe a mother who works full time should go to Pesach hotels so she can spend the time with her kids without having to cook all week. How many people you meet who do this? I see the problem that SL describes so often, mothers who work most of the day go to the park to schmooze while the bigger kids destroy things or hit other kids> I often see younger babies playing by themselves who fall down, hit themselves and a stranger has to confort them because the mother didn't even notice the baby crying. Who is raising the next generation? a ganenet for 15 shekels (or Dollars) an hour?

Anonymous said...

while i dont generally defend the charedi lifestyle of the husband sitting and learning thus leaving the mother/wife to work and raise the children, in these cases where the huband is away learning, maybe those mothers do need a little R&R to recharge their batteries before they go back to 'real' life where they are the bread winner and primary care givers as well.

since maternal child interaction is so important, maybe the husbands should go back to working and give their wives a break and not have to work at some menial low paying job where the wife has to worry about supporting the family while the husband free loads

Commenter Abbi said...

oh Lordy, here we go. I think the question of "Who is raising the next generation of kids?" has been raised enough to more than qualify it for a cliche. And honestly, I think the reams of attachment studies that have been done pretty much shoot down the theory that kids in day care are "raised" by 15 shekel/hour gannanot. If you're against day care for your own children and you've made other choices, great. But save the sanctimony for other issues, because it's not very helpful for this one.

I think it's great that I see far more parents with their kids in parks in general in Israel than you would ever find in most cities in America, certainly in most suburbs, because most suburban parks are crap because most pple just have their own playsets in their own backyards. And generally, maintaining parks are not high on city budgets because kids aren't a high priority in the U.S. in general, no matter how many parents hover over their kids obsessively.

I'm not sure what parks you hang out in, but most parents I see in Israeli parks keep an eye on their kids and most older kids want to run around with their friends anyway. Sure there are crappy parents, but you'll find them everywhere and there's not much you can do about them, except to point out when their kids are falling and doing dangerous things. The fact that they are there with their kids at all is a milestone, considering that it could be a babysitter or a nanny, which is more the norm in the U.S.

Even with wild kids and crappy parents, I'm grateful to live in a society that generally places a higher value on children and family.

DAG said...

I'll never forget working at a Yeshiva. I had this idea for some Alumni meet with their wives and children for apple picking before Rosh Hashana. The idea was to spend family time in a Chinuch atmosphere.

To most pre-school aged children, the apples dipped in honey is a PREMIER part of Rosh Hashana, almost on par with Shofar. We wanted the children to know where the apples came from, and how G-d , in his majesty controls the world. Apples need to be cross pollinated. Most orchards have bee hives. It is true that there are no apples w/o insects like bees, and there is no honey without fruit like apples. We wamted the childrfen to be proud of using the apples THEY picked making them an even more integral part of the Rosh Hashana meal

You could not imagine the ridicule I received after the event...people thought it was hilarious that anyone would leave the Beis Medrash in Elul. Why didn't we add more Shiurim or more Mussar? I get grief to THIS DAY about it.


Ariella's blog said...

Ironic, isn't it, that the holiday designated for the transmission of the mesorah directly to one's children should occasion people to go to great expense to avoid being with their children.

SaraK said...

Very well said.

I had to work chol hamoed if I wanted to have enough vacation days for Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot.

Anonymous said...

SL, well said.

Ahavah said...

I'm willing to bet that guy who decided to go to a hotel to avoid having to spend time with his kids over pesach doesn't spend time with them any other week, either. And later, he'll be the first one to gripe when they turn out to be "other people's kids" who don't have his values or priorities. He will be the first one to say it's "not his fault" when this or that happens in their lives later. Why, he'll probably actually be baffled when he figures out he doesn't know his kids at all.

Ahavah said...


"we need to be sensitive when we make blanket statements that children cared for by others are not as "healthy" as those who are raised strictly by their parents. heaping on guilt when there is no alternative for these parents is not our place either."

Not saying it won't change the facts, and pretending things are just fine when they're not is a habit we need to get out of, frankly, especially the way some things are in our communities. Change will never come if we act like we don't see the obvious.

ProfK said...

Ahavah, this is not a case of pretending that things are fine when they are not. Neither is this a case of change not coming if we act like we don't see the obvious. The "obvious" is that some women have to work, even with working husbands, precisely because things aren't fine. What we need to stop pretending about is that families will do just fine if we hold on to 19th century notions about women being strictly in the home with their children when 21st century economic realities are such that they can't be at home. For the vast majority of working women, their bringing in an income is necessity, not luxury. And yes, someone needs to be watching the children. Today's social realities are such that hired help is taking care of the kids or day care programs are.

Unlike Israel, the US does not have a socialized medicine system. Health insurance for a family can cost between $6 and $12 thousand dollars a year, after tax income. Yeshiva tuition can be $10 thousand and upwards per child. Even without spending on anything but the bare necessities the two-salary family is a fact of today's life.

My point was that we not mix up wondering why a parent would go to a hotel and not be with her children with her not being with them during the working week. There is no useful purpose to excoriating the working mother. Doing so will not bring about any change.

Anonymous said...

abbi: you made very valid points and you are correct. I retrack my post.

Commenter Abbi said...

Rachel, i just thought it was interesting that you brought up the park issue, because I took my 81 year old grandmother with my kids to visit Park Ranaana just last week. She grew up in America all her life, in a suburb, and she couldn't get over how many parents (fathers included) were at the park with their kids on a random Thursday afternoon at 4pm and even how big a beautiful a municipal park could be.

She thought it said a lot about children are valued in this society.

Dag, that's incredibly, unutterably sad that your fellow yeshiva alumni thought it was ridiculous to take an apple picking trip for Rosh Hashana. I know here in Israel, there is some strange charedi thing against organized, extra-curricular activities. Even stranger, kids are not welcome in my brother's shtiebel where he davens on shabbat. He has an 8 year old son that still doesn't attend shul on a regular basis. Very strange.

Ahavah said...


I am living proof of the exact opposite of what you claim "must" be done, and I live in the 21st century with my 19th century ideals perfectly well. You'll notice I even have internet access. People choose their priorities, and they choose what "luxuries" they want to have that, my goodness, they just "Can't" live without. Then they claim they need 2 incomes. Just because you and plenty of other people have made these choices does not mean that you "had" to. You chose to.

ProfK said...

Two small corrections that need to be made. You are not one of those who I referred to when I say "have to work," since by your own admission you do not work, have the Internet--your choice of luxury--and are doing just fine. I will also assume, since you have not mentioned otherwise, that you have more than one child in yeshiva and are paying full tuition for them in the minimum $8000 per child range without tuition assistance. If you own your own home rather than rent an apartment, that will also put you higher up on the economic scale. I will also assume that you are somewhere in the US rather than in Israel, since Israeli societal structure would drastically change the formula for living. You are indeed lucky, and those who are in your financial position are becoming fewer and fewer since the largest growth in the frum communities seems to be among those whose income is much lower.

Re your statement "Just because you and plenty of other people have made these choices does not mean that you "had" to. You chose to." First, I believe that we are probably decades apart in age. What was common when I was younger and had children starting out in yeshiva is not what is common today. Societally across all spectrums of people, women were at home with their children when they were young. Few were out to work with babies in the house. But then, when my oldest two children were in kindergarden the tuition was $300 per child per year--$600 a year against my husband's then salary--a decent one but not an exceptionally high one--of $18,000 a year before taxes. I knew how to manage a household on the income I had, and while I was not a spendthrift, we weren't lacking for anything either. My husband's employer paid the total charge for our health insurance. We managed to buy a house on that money and to have a car.

Fast forward to today. A parent in exactly my position of having two children in kindergarden has to spend 33 times as much money as I did then--$20,000 for that kindergarden. Now do the ratio of the tuition against the salary. My $600 yearly tuition payment was 1/30th of gross income. For a couple to have that today, the husband would have to be earning $600,000 a year. Know a lot of people in that position? Look at someone who is earning $60,000 a year gross instead. That yeshiva tuition now represents 1/3 of gross salary. Health insurance coverage is charged for by employers so even if it is "only" $10,000 per year that is 1/6 of the gross income. Look at the net income. Let's give them a break and say they get to keep $50,000. 3/5 of that goes to tuition and health insurance. And you haven't covered any basic living expenses whatsoever.

I hope you have the good sense to thank God every morning for the good fortune of not having to work while having children at home because your husband is working and providing a very decent salary. There are lots of people out there who are not in that position. For any of us to say that those working mothers could stay home if they want to and that they had a choice is to pour acid into their open wounds. And for what purpose?

mother in israel said...

I think it's patronizing to suggest not sharing research with parents because it might make some people feel guilty. Maybe it will help some parents and not-yet-parents make wiser decisions. We are all adults here.

Let's leave guilt out of the picture. If the mother really needs to work, (and no one can really know about anyone else) and she has done her best to ensure that her children have the best possible care for the minimum number of hours (i.e. she doesn't run out to weddings without the baby as often as she can), she shouldn't feel guilty. No one can make someone else feel guilty.

However, even if a mother "has to work," she and her husband must make many choices. (People always ignore the father's role.)

Most women who work DO have choices. Even if they must work they choose the profession, the location, the amount of pressure, the hours. For instance, I know nurses who work evenings or nights so the husband can care for small children after work (a babysitter is still needed, but for fewer hours). You say SL is lucky that she can work with clients from home in her profession. Yet many people in that profession would say that they "have no choice" but to work in an office. Many have found that working from home became an option, once they were committed to being with their children.

Families choose their communities and their day care situations.
If we are not afraid to share with parents the true needs of children and babies, mothers who must separate from them can minimize the negative effects. For instance, a mother might choose to take a lower-paying job for fewer hours while her children are young. If we act as if daycare is just as good as a family, simply because that is the reality for many or even most families, we are doing a disservice to our children.

ProfK, as long as there are still families in our communities who manage on one salary, I infer that there are families in which the mother could work fewer hours or not at all, with a little more support (and I don't mean financial, unless it means financial planning).

And I fail to see how SL's post, or the quotes from that book, "excoriated" working mothers.

ProfK said...

Re the working from home, "Many have found that working from home became an option, once they were committed to being with their children." a New York Times Magazine article on Nov. 4, 2007 discussed the fact that while the capabilities, technologically, exist for more home-based work, businesses are not buying into the idea. The article quotes figures from the US census of 2005, the latest figures available, in which the government states that the national average for stay at home workers was 3.6% of the working population of a city. The highest six cities in terms of at home workers were San Francisco at 6.3, Portland at 5.3, Seattle at 5.1, Austin at 5.0 and Colorado Springs at 4.9. The major urban centers, which house the largest frum Jewish populations, fall around the national average or below. In other words, if you have to work it isn't a given that you can work from home.

MII, why am I so hot under the collar about this? I have too many times to count been present when the non-working mothers attempt to "educate" the working mothers among them. Trust me, those working mothers know all about the studies, but those studies don't change the reality they have to live with. And those stay at home moms come across as very sanctimonious, no matter what their intentions. They aren't the right people to be giving advice to their peers.

Yes, there are some women who could arrange things differently if they gave some thought to it--some women, not all, not all by a long shot.

Anonymous said...

I don't usually comment on blogs but just read. But this time I'm asking a favor. I know you all mean well but you so often talk as if I was invisible. I'm one of those mothers who work and who have children at home. You don't know me and what my circustances are and I don't know you and what your circumstances are. You don't know me but some of you are really sure that I could arrange things better if I only wanted to and if you make sure to educate me so that I want to. I know what all the psychologists write and what people think they know about my children but they don't know my children either. Each of us has her portion and it's not the same as somebody elses portion. I don't tell you how to live your lives, I don't make comments about what I feel you are doing wrong. Please be courteous and don't tell me, the person you know nothing about but what you believe you know how to live either. If you really want to help me then trying saying what is true, that you don't know how my children can be so fine and bright and my house so clean and my husband and me so happy and still I hold a full time job. Usually people start out saying I don't know why you do what you do instead of saying I don't know how you do what you do, I couldnt manage it and clearly you can. Myhusband and I provide for our family. Besides for that knowledge that I won't be coming to ask you for help, what more do you want from us? And thank you to that person who wrote defending us working mothers some, even if I would just rather like that people would stop talking about me altogether.

Orthonomics said...

I must say something, even though I am somewhat MIA on my own blog because I'm busy with other demands this week:

My comments on childcare ("baby clubs") were specifically relating to the idea of putting children in completely unfamiliar and inconsistent care environments. Note that neither the father or the mother is working as a patron of the hotel. So, this conversations has little to nothing to do with day care scenarios during the times parents must work. The comments from Drs. Greenspan and Brazelton do not necessarily preclude day care in my opinion, although the comments might make a person think twice.

I imagine an aunt or grandparent who has the time, energy, and desire to fill in where parents cannot be there would be a 10, on a scale of 1-10 for non-parental child care scenarios, whereas a a "Baby Club" in a hotel (especially a non-US hotel where employment guidelins might be far more lax) would qualify, imo, as one of the least desireable child care scenarios or a 1. Perhaps I would give a commercial day care a rating of below average for high turnover, and an aboe average rating for a lovely neighbor who who watches only a very small number of children.

DAG said...

To clarify, the alumni loved it...its when people outside the Yeshiva saw it

Anonymous said...

Ahava and MII, thanks for saying so well what I usually say and get blasted for. I think I was almost left bleeding on the floor on another blog for making comments like these. I tried to stay out, but I do have to make a couple of points. And ProfK, I respect you so please hear me out. I believe the feminist movement sold us a bill of goods that our children are still paying for. I believe that this affects the choices that Chareidi, MO, and mothers of all backgrounds make each day. These choices include those related to vacation time, but since we have shifted focus to work, I will address that first. I believe that it is time the pendulum swung back to days of yore--not to banish all women to the kitchen regardless of the consequences emotionally and/or financially--but to place our children--especially our infants' and toddlers' needs at the very top of our lists. I believe that the current trends of leaving infants and toddlers in large-group, mixed-age day care settings is harmful to their development, cheaper but harmful. I believe that the current trend of leaving infants and toddlers with non-English speaking caregivers is harmful to their development and possibly unsafe especially when the caregivers are undocumented illegal aliens, cheaper but harmful. I believe that Orthodox Jewish women leaving infants and young children with non-Jewish caregivers is harmful to their spiritual development--cheaper, but harmful.
I believe that many women must work to help pay the bills including tuition and that some are even more pressured to do so because they are either single parents (my mom was one of those)or are in difficult marriages. But I also believe that when the mindset is to place the infant or young child's needs first and be honest about what those needs really are that there are different combinations of ways that can allow for child-care or work options that will do the following:
a. maximize the time the mom spends with the child--with great pains taken to either work part time or work in a school environment so that the tuitions will be free or highly reduced. I know many moms who choose to be assistant teachers in their children's schools even though that is not their profession of choice.
b. emphasize proper caregivers--relatives, sharing friends, for Orthodox Jewish moms--Jewish caregivers, sometimes immigrants from Russia or Israel who can use the money but are not skilled enough to get other jobs(that was my personal choice and it cost me thousands of dollars more than I would have paid for non-Jewish help)
c. Plan accordingly. Our feminist "role models" would have us believe that we can have it all. I beg to differ. I believe that there is great value--not in an "I'm fulfilled, I'm happy, Me generation" kind of way--in choosing a career that will accommodate part-time work and/or stay at home work. I personally entered a profession that I knew would allow me to spend more time with my potential children. I have other plans for my "empty nest" years. I plan to pursue the other profession that I left behind 20 years ago. But in the meantime, I like my job and I am able to spend a lot of time with my young children--more when they were first born.
The usual ear-boxing I get when I write my usual diatribe is that "I" have the right to make "my" choices just as "you" have the right to make "yours." You know what, I don't feel that these are MY choices for the big ME. I left my psychodelic colored clothing and my "Cream" records behind somewhere in the '70's. I know that I make decisions not for me, but for the tiny human lives that "I" chose to bring into this world. And that for the past 30 odd years, feminism has brainwashed many of us to think that we have all kinds of valid parenting choices. But, I know that they were wrong. And I know that there are ways to make a best case scenario work... with effort, with planning, with economizing, with attitude adjustment. And I know--gasp--it's ok for "ME" to expect the same of "You" too. I know that some choices are just unacceptable for both of us and I know that partly because of the studies and mostly because of the kids I work with and have loved and cared for and taught for 20 years. I know that Gloria Steinem doesn't live here, but I think that somehow she lives within the deep recesses of mothers of all stripes across America and it's time to kick her to the curb where she belongs.

mother in israel said...

ProfK, perhaps that line you quoted from my comment came off as sanctimonious; that wasn't my intention. I do realize that it's not feasible for everyone to work at home. But for some, it is. A lot of people who work at home are self-employed, which I also realize does not work for everyone. Are they counted in that percentage, I wonder?

I believe the mother-baby relationship is critical, and sorely undervalued in our society. *I* get hot under the collar when people say, "both parents must work, there's nothing we can do about it, so let's stop talking about the babies." We should not stop talking about the needs of babies and children.

Really, I don't see it as my job to convince working mothers to leave their jobs and stay home. Nor do I judge them for their decisions. That doesn't mean that this discussion is irrelevant.

Perhaps the changes meed to come at a governmental level, so that a mother wouldn't have to leave her newborn because of health insurance. The US is the only country in the world where mothers are expected to leave a two-week-old baby in order to keep their jobs. And that includes third-world countries.

Momof5, I read and appreciate your comment.

ProfK said...

The government figures for those who are self-employed or who work from home were 17.3 of the workforce, or approximately 1 out of 6 people who are not employed in traditional jobs.

FMLA--Family Medical Leave Act of 1993, provides for 12 weeks of unpaid leave for pregnant women during which their jobs are secure. There are some exceptions--if you work for a firm with 10 or less employees for instance. Some states, such as NY, have also enacted laws so that you receive 60% of your salary during that leave time as disability benefits. There is much more that is needed but it is not only 2 weeks.

I hope that I did not come across as not caring about our babies and young, at home children--nothing is further from the truth. But we have a reality of working mothers that is not going to change for the foreseeable future. We need to find better alternatives for those mothers. Here in our neighborhood we have for decades used frum women who care for a small group of children in their homes or individual children. We already employ Jewish women to watch the kids. Where a grandmother is at home they are already pressed into service as baby sitters. (Plenty of working grandmothers whose salaries are going towards supporting married children and paying yeshiva tuitions for grandchildren because their children can't do so.) Unmarried college aged siblings also help out. It is not that the mothers of these young kids are running away from their children and leaving them with just anyone.

Re the comment that we have to go back to how it was before today, keep in mind that there have always been working women--this is not some new idea that "feminists" thought up. It is only the number of women who are working outside their homes that has changed. Read the "Eyshit Chayil"--she was a working woman, involved with commerce in addition to her household duties. And she had household live-in help--see the posuk where she prepares the portions for her handmaidens. Betty Friedan was never the benchmark feminist for frum women, and not for a lot of non Jewish women as well.

Anonymous said...

"While I don't condone the behavior of those who are makpid on the mitzvah of pru u'rvu and at the same time don't bother with chinuch, I would like to point out that if you ask your local posek, most likely, you will hear that the mitzva of pru u'rvu is de'oraita, and the mitzva of chinuch is, at most, de'rabanan. So maybe these people are just not "prioritizing" well."

I disagree and think that the mitzvah of Pru Urevu *includes* chinuch! It also includes, for example, feeding your children.

Ahavah said...


My husband's annual income is just around $52,000 gross. It's a government job, so we have health insurance and he has life insurance and short-term disability benefits, true. We're in a low tax-bracket, obviously, too - which is a good thing. According to a book called "the two income trap," most women, unless they are making 6 figures, make their families worse off by working due to taxes and the cost of childcare alone - not to mention the extra car, gasoline, edlercare (if applicable), convenience foods, stylish "work" wardrobe requirements, etc. that result from not being at home. It's simply an economic fact that a mother's working actually makes most couples worse off than they would have been if mom stayed home. Have you actually sat down and run the numbers yourself?

I am 40 years old as of February. We left the east coast, Boston area (I'm from the DC metro area originally) and moved to a smaller community far inland where prices are not nearly as outrageous as where you are. We had an opportunity a couple of years ago to move to Monsey but chose not to take it, mostly because the cost of living would have put us in your position and our priorities are simply different and aren't going to change.

Our budget is tracked down to the penny. We have only one cell-phone that we share amoung us (4 still at home - the 3 out in the world have their own that they pay for themselves from their own earnings) and weonly use it as necessary, not as a primary source of communication. I hang up laundry to dry as often as is possible, even indoors, and we are conscious to not waste energy or water or anything else we have. I haven't bought a stitch of clothing that wasn't deeply discounted or on the clearance rack in I don't know how long - and I sew, too. And we look normal. The rule at our house from the time when the kids were first born was "no toys that require batteries." And they're all tops in their classes, so they weren't "deprived" by not having electronic junk to play with. I taught them to read when they were 3 and 4, before they started school, using cheap flashcards and story books. No expensive stuff needed at all. I make just about everything from scratch, including organic foods. Very rarely are processed foods a bargain, not to mention the bad health affects of the chemical garbage and hormones in them.

We don't take vacations or travel hardly at all - our moedim are spent quietly at home with like-minded friends. We have a shelf piled with board games and puzzles. We go to parks and to the library. We take evening walks, weather permitting. We also enjoy free arts & craft shows and outdoor free concerts and activites, such as kite-fests held regularly at a local park. If excitement is what you want, and it's more important to you than economic security, then the quiet life isn't for you.

We live in a 3 bedroom townhouse condo (with an attic we could finish into two more rooms if need be) that is within walking/biking distance of my husband's office - a place we chose on purpose so we wouldn't need two cars. We do actually have two cars at the moment, through a fluke, actually, for the decade+ prior to this we had only one - but the other sits in the condo's carport and is used infrequently. We sold our old home to buy the condo before housing prices started to tank - and due to the price differences between here and there, we only have a little over $100,000 of mortgage.

The grocery stores near us have a large kosher section and if it came down to it, one is within a reasonable walking distance, too. We are as reasonably prepared as we can be for peak oil and whatever else may happen in the economy. And so on and so on...

We consciously made every decision we made with the view of not having to put the children in daycare when they were young and not leaving them home in the afternoon or early evening as unattended teenagers now. And we haven't "missed out" on anything important.

As for tuition, schools on the coast are far more expensive than here in the interior, not to mention many here homeschool together in cooperatives, which is far less expensive still. And with only the man's income, you are far more eligible for tuition assistance than if you both work, obviously. There are other things you can do to contribute, such as volunteer a day or two a week at the school for half a day to do whatever they need done - unpaid, which gets things done for them, helps your tuition situation, and doesn't raise your taxes. I have done all of the above at various times in the past, depending on the needs of the child - their individual needs, which can't be met by dumping them all together in a one-size-fits-all placement because you have to cram their needs and lives around your work schedule. Children aren't interchangeable parts.

But you have to be willing to step up and make these types of arrangements and if you think being a stay-at-home mother means sitting around reading or eating bon-bons all day, then you're going to be disappointed. There's a lot of economic analysis, chores, errands, and planning involved - as well as quality time spent with family and friends. In fact, there was a study done last year or so that if a man had to pay someone to do everything a stay-at-home mom does, it would cost him over $130,000 a year. This is a social contract in the deepest sense of the term - you as a couple decide to do what's best for the children and for your family, not what other people "say" is the best or what society tries to make you think is the best based on a false consumer paradigm.

You either make it work or you give up your independence trying to keep up with other people's expectations, and keep getting swamped in debt and unrealistic expenses - and your kids are, in fact, worse off when you let that happen. The choice is yours. Either you're willing to do what it takes, or you aren't. It's that simple.

Anonymous said...

I have heard this quoted on this blog so many times, and I'd love someone to put their money where their mouth is, that unless a woman can make 6 figures she might as well not work. Ahavah, you say your husband makes around $52K. Should he therefor not go out and work? I don't see how it would cost at least $100K to replace what a stay at home mother does. The assumption behind those "$130K studies" that come out every mother's day is that you're paying separate professionals to take care of every individual household duty - i.e., a professional laundry service, a professional caterer, a professional cleaner, etc. It also assumes that if a woman goes to work she does NOTHING around the house anymore. I think it's obvious these assumptions are silly and invalid. My mother stayed home with us until we were old enough to go to school for at least half the day and then she went back to work (my youngest sister was about 4 at the time). She didn't make anywhere near 6 figures and the extra income helped our family tremendously (especially for yeshiva tuition). We didn't pay any ridiculous or astronomical amounts to replace what she did when she was at home full-time - in fact, I doubt our costs went up more than a few hundred/thousand dollars for a bit of extra help with cleaning and eating out every now and then (and lunch programs through school). If she had went immediately back to work (and not waited till my youngest sister was 4) the childcare costs would be higher for those few years, but not anywhere near the 6 figure range - and we definitely would have come out ahead.

So, again, please back this up with some facts and figures.

Anonymous said...

oops, sorry, the last anonymous is me.

queeniesmom said...

SL, The reality of the baby clubs/ camp at the hotel was as follows: the rebettiz of on of the Rabbaim who was giving some of the shiurim and her older daughters ran the baby/camp club. She seemed to have lots for the kids to do and seemed to have activities planned for the different age levels. There was lots of supervision and the kids seemed to enjoy. They were entertained and didn't get into mischief. My 3 did camp mommy/daddy, I brought many travel games and the program organizers brought some board games (Daddy had risk marathons with 2 of my 3 kids). The issue seems to be if parents planned for their children and took into account that it was a 3 day yom tov, with limited things to do.
Reality of who was at the hotel - many families where the grandparents (as my mom did) paid for everyone to be together. Many of the families are spead all over the country and this is the grandparents way of having everyone together for the holiday. In other cases, grandparents paid to ensure the family would be together because their grandchildren will not eat in their house or stay in their house as it is not .... (fill in the blank) enough for them.

Mom of 5 - you are not alone!

PofK - Thanks for recognizing economic reality

Ahuva and the others - I'm glad your CHOICES work for YOU. They don't for many of us. Please SPARE me your justifications and insinuations that if I made changes and was more economical, prudent in my spending I too could stay at home with my children. I resent your insinuations and accusations that I harmed my kids by working. I would have harmed them more if we were homeless or couldn't pay for health insurance! For disclosure purposes: Both my husband and I work. Mine is the more stable job and provides our health insurance; husband is self employed in a white color job that has had its ups and down. My tuition bill is currently $30K and all my kids are in still in elementary school. So until any of you can walk in my shoes, SPARE those of us who have to work your sanctimonius comments.

SL, sorry this was so long but this is largly why I haven't commented in a while. Have a good week.

Anonymous said...

Here's a second-income online calculator - you plug in your info and it figures out how much you would need (for taxes, child-care, transportation, etc) in order to actually turn a profit:
Money Central Second Income Calculator

You may be surprised at the results (either way) - sometimes the extra $$ bumps you into a higher tax bracket but the amount of taxes paid actually lowers the total $$ brought home, etc. Or it may come out that the second job really is the one that can bring in the $$


Orthonomics said...

Queensie Mom-I miss you.

CB-I've seen this calculator before, but find it difficult to use.

Ahavah said...

You're right about one thing, js - a lot of the things a stay at home mom does during the day are either done in the middle of the night by working moms or not done at all. Obviously, many do hire out some housekeeping, drop off their laundry/dry cleaning, buy take-out or boxed dinners (all of which is, in fact, paying someone else to do the work for you). In the end, working moms must accept a lower standard of housework and household living to work outside the home - it's a tradeoff you made. So of course you don't do everything I do and still work all day outside the home, too. The fact is, you work all day and then do a few major chores after work before bedtime,and then errands on sundays - and the rest never gets done, quality time doesn't happen, planning and analysis is left by the wayside, because you don't have time to do it. There are only so many hours in the day. All of that is true.

The question is, is what you're not doing important? I say it is, you say it's not. I say it's the intangibles that count. YYou are "getting along" so-to-speak without them, true, but I say you are losing far more than you are gaining. We disagree then. Fine.

My "facts and figures" are my own life, and the lives of plenty of other women like me, who have the same basic requirements for our lives and reasonably similar income ranges - and yet we stay home, and you don't. There are a sufficient number of us out here to prove I personally am not some kind of fluke - I am a representative of thousands of women. You can disparage us and say claim we're somehow "special" or have circumstances you don't have, but I'm saying that's probably just not true. We aren't different from you. We just made different choices - we made them from day one.

It may be true that you have dug yourself into a hole you will have a very hard time getting out of. But I have a feeling it's more likely that you just don't want to be a stay at home mom - so why not just admit that instead of claiming you "can't" when so many of us in practically identical situations can and do. If you feel guilty about admitting you don't want to be there full time for your husband and kids, well, that's called "cognitive dissonance" and it means you're trying to pull one over on yourself.

Anonymous said...


I asked you for some facts and figures to back up your "6 figure" claim - that unless a woman can earn more than 6 figures outside the home she might as well stay home with the kids since working for anything less than 6 figures puts the family behind financially due to taxes and higher expenses.

You didn't respond to this point at all.

Also, I'm male - but I understand what you are saying.

My mom stayed home till I was around 9-10, my sister only experienced my mom full-time at home for about 3-4 years. I don't see any difference in how well-adjusted we are, our emotional maturity, how we handle stress, etc. My parents always made time to spend with us - "quality time" as you would call it. They always helped us with homework, read with us, talked to us (and not other adults) on the way to and from shul, we did family vacations where we actually spent time as a family, etc. So, it's hard for me to point to anything that was "lacking" due to my mom going back to work. My mom was never a gourmet cook, so it's not like we went from filet minion to hot dogs. The house was always clean, we never wanted for anything and we never felt our parents were too busy or missing. I could go on. I don't mean to denigrate what a stay-at-home mom does or the value she adds, and I don't think I did that in this post or my previous post (I just want you to back up your 6 figure statement).

However, I do think you make many negative assumptions and have many biases against both women who go back to work and also against children of such families. You seem to think these mothers are heartless and not willing to make sacrifices and that their children are emotionally stunted and silently crying out for mommy. A book or a study written by a stay-at-home mom for stay-at-home moms doesn't negate the thousands/millions of families that successfully make such a system work.

Ahavah said...

js - the figures came from the book "the two income trap," which I had mentioned previously, which you dan get used at for about ten dollars. The study about the $130,000 is one I blogged about before.

Stay-at-home mother's work worth $138,095 a year
Wed May 2, 2007 3:04pm EDT

The relevant part of my blog went like this:

"Thursday, May 03, 2007
One time I commented to my husband... ...that if he had to pay someone to do everything that I did all week he'd be bankrupt. Turns out I was right.

So I am absolutely sick and tired of feminazis who pretend that women who choose to be a wife and mother (and maybe a small business owner) at home are somehow doing less or less valuable than women who sacrifice their kids, homes, marriages, parents, community and religious obligations on the altar of their careers.

If my husband had to hire someone to do everything that I do, he'd have to hire:
a nanny
a tutor
a personal chef
a personal trainer
a personal shopper
a maid service
a gardener
a laundry service
a handyman
an accountant
a logistics expert
an interior decorator
a nurse for the sick (see also nutritionist/dietician)
a personal secretary/administrator
and an, ummm, "escort"

This, of course, doesn't even include the services women perform for charities, the grandparents (and other extended family), the community, and their congregations every week. That would cost even more if you had to pay someone else to do them.

How many of you guys can afford all that, exactly? That's what I thought. This is what the social contract is all about, class. This social contract is clearly the way that mother nature/evolution/God or whatever you want to call it arranged for women to have and raise children in economic security. It's the barter system par excellence - and women who think they need to have "careers" actually devalue themselves by saying to the world, "I have no value if I don't make money in the corporate world." This is the lie the feminist movement has told them..."

Ahavah said...

The book was written by professional accountants - nice try there, no cigar.

So, js, you're male. That's rather enlightening. How much of your "we need two incomes" position is based on the fact that you just don't want to be responsible for supporting your family yourself?

Apparently it is you who are desperately trying to negate the thousands of people whose kids aren't raised in herds by strangers. You can claim there's nothing wrong with that all you want. So you want "other people's children" - fine, you've got them.

Since women raising their own children has been the norm throughout Jewish history, I think the onus is on you to prove there is no harm in farming them out to strangers in daycare and in afterschool care - and there is simply plenty of evidence out there to the contrary.

Even the "capable wife" of proverbs 31 worked at home - right there where her family needed her. Methinks thou doth protest too much - cognitive dissonance, eh?

Ahavah said...

One mistake on my part - they were not accountants. One was a harvard law professor and the other a consultant for a conservative policy special interest group. Professional women, in other words. I myself have an AAS in Architecture (with distinction) and a BA in philosophy (magna cum laude) with two minors: Judaic studies and Linguistics. Women choose to stay home because we have done the math and considered the implications for our husbands, children, parents and community and decided, based on facts, that working does not and cannot do anything other than make us servants of our employers instead of to Hashem and our families. My time is my own to allocate according to the needs of my family. I'm free, even free to work at home if I want to or need to - women who hold jobs outside the homeare in bondage to their employers, every bit of their day determined by someone else whose motive is to squeeze productivity out of them and make money off of them - not to do what's best for her family. If you think there's nothing wrong with that, then I feel sorry for your wife and children.

Anonymous said...

In defense of "baby clubs" and the like--
I worked in a hotel one Pesach, as a babysitter, and from what I saw the kids' activities were not used by parents who rarely saw their children to "get rid of" the kids so they could go have fun. Instead, they were usually used only once or twice during the week or for 2-3 hours a day by parents who spent a reasonable amount of time with their kids during the rest of the year as well.

Parents usually used the activity time to catch up with each other or other family members (a lot of people in larger family units, with parents and siblings they didn't usually get to see). The kids had fun. Maybe there were some parents who left their kids with caretakers 8 hours a day every day, but that's not what I saw.

As for the father who wanted to learn, in his defense it doesn't say that he didn't want to spend time with his kids, just that he didn't want to be "program director." Maybe he spends time with his kids every afternoon and evening, takes them out on Sundays, etc, and just doesn't have the energy to spend every day of Passover vacation running around the pool, supervising their games, etc. Unless there rest of the letter mentioned something about how he never sees his kids and didn't want to see them now either, I would say he's just a dad who sometimes needs to do his own thing, not a bad father.

IMO as much as bonding with kids is important, doing our own thing is also sometimes important--if mom and dad don't get any downtime, whether that's a date, Torah learning, time with friends/family, whatever--it can leave them feeling drained, which doesn't do anyone any favors. Not all parents feel this way, some can do 24/7 no problem, but I don't think we should look down on those who function better with a little time to themselves. (Or, for that matter, on women who feel a strong need to work, but that's a different story...)

Anonymous said...

The question is, why would your husband have to hire someone to do EVERYTHING that you do? It's not like moms who work, say, from 8-4 do nothing the rest of the day. They need to pay for one or two hours of daycare/after school programs, not a full-time nanny. Then they go home and cook dinner, clean up, do laundry, supervise baths and playtime, help with homework, etc, just as other moms do.

I do not know a single working mom who doesn't do her own grocery shopping and laundry, and help her kids with their homework (unless her husband is doing it).

So you could skip that whole long list, and stick to (assuming all kids are in school):
1/2 hours of babysitting after school.
Cleaning help once a week.
Pizza/take out once a week or just more pre-prepared foods from the grocery store.

That adds up to a few hundred dollars a month, not several thousand.

Also, an interior decorator???? Does a woman really need 7 or 8 free hours a day to decide how to arrange the furniture and color the walls? For goodness sakes, I did the "decorating" once when we moved in and that's it. A professional decorator is hardly a necessary expense.

And an 'escort'?!?! Umm.... I don't want to get graphic, but do you really think women who work don't find any time for a physical relationship with their husbands? Actually that's one thing both working moms and stay at home moms have to wait until dh is home and kids are in bed to do, so what's the difference? You seem to be making a list of what your dh would have to pay for if you simply ceased existing, not if you were out of the house for part of the day.

Ahavah said...

"Part of the day" is 9 hours at work (8+lunch), plus commute time both ways which must include errands, since you're not at home when you're running them, meaning 10-12 hours total out of the house, plus 6-8 hours of sleep. Ok, that's 16-20 hours a day, minimum. Subtract time fixing breakfast and getting everyone ready to go to work and school in the mornings (1-2 hours) and that brings you up to 18-22 hours a day, ditto for dinner, now you're at 20-24 hours a day. Hmmmm. Maybe you can throw in some laundry while you're fixing dinner. Help the kids with homework while simultaneously going through the mail - maybe. So when were you going to sit down and work on the budget? When is cleaning, again? Oh, yeah. Sunday. And how many days can you take off work when your child gets sick? One? Two? What if they're sick a week? What if you get sick? What if your parents get sick? How about those school functions, a couple of nights a month are wiped out by those, if you have more than one child...

And I'm glad you could just "arrange the furniture once," but in a dynamic family where kids needs change as they grow, things have to be re-organized on a fairly regular basis. Where do your kids do their homework? Where do you pay bills? Where do you research store prices and sales and deals? Where are the kids reference books and school supplies stored? And do you really think the little box they had in kindergarten is going to be enough space for a high school student? What will you do when bubbe has to move in due to ill health?

Things change. Things need to be organized in ways that works for the changing needs of everyone in the household. It's my job to deal with those changes - yours too.

Commenter Abbi said...

Ahava- one of the authors was a "consultant for a conservative policy special interest group"? Sorry, no cigar, that says it all.

I agree with Ora, that list of "mom replacements" is crap (escort? Pulleeze) I work from home and you know how I handle switching the kids out of season clothes? When i really can't take not being able to find anything for them to wear, I throw the old stuff in a garbage bag and try to find an empty corner in my 4 room Israeli apt where it will fit until we can take it to my in laws basement. Yeah, I'm really going to pay a "professional organizer" to do that for me.

Here's the non-judgemental way of looking at the situation (minus the breathtakingly cruel generalizations you made in your original assertions that all working mothers are suffering from "cognitive dissonance" and their children are being raised in herds). Clearly you feel the need to have a enough time to keep your family organized, so you've chosen not work and this choice is economically tenable for your family. Bully for you. However, life is not one size fits all, and everyone has to make choices that work for their families.

The assumptions you make about other pple's lives are especially shocking, when you don't know the first thing about how each family relates to each other, how their economics work out, or even how they like to keep their home.

I'm perfectly happy going to bed with dirty dishes in the sink and toys on the floor. Doesn't bother me a whit. It would probably nauseate you, but guess what? You don't have to live in my home. Bills? When I get them I pay them over the phone. Takes exactly five minutes of my time. Budget? Yes, we've been talking about making one of those for the last 7 years, but we haven't gotten to it, and we muddle through without it.

Could we be more organized? Absolutely! Would I love and attend to my kids more if we were? I don't think so. I'd much rather be out at the park with them in the afternoons then folding laundry. I don't begrudge you your choices, so why do you begrudge others'?

Just to echo js's sentiment: My mother worked full time till 6 pm from the time my brother and I were in preschool. We had babysitters galore and LOTS of TV. But I always had an extremely close relationship with them, and my mother in particular. We always had fresh dinners and the house was much cleaner then mine is. And guess what? My mother and I speak to each other at least once a day, despite living 2000 miles apart and they come multiple times a year to spend time with us. In short, my mother's working had absolutely no affect on our relationship or my development as a capable, loving adult. There were many times that she became the main breadwinner, since my father switched careers and she was able to keep us afloat during those times.

My mother's friend, who was always a SAHM: Her daughter recently gave birth and the friend announced that she will not be available to help her daughter all that much. Another child of hers is having emotional difficulties and can't hold a job at 25, despite all her mom's "being there for them" growing up.

"Being there" physically does not always mean parents are "being there" emotionally for their kids.

Anonymous said...

Why do you assume a full-time job with a one-hour commute is the only option? Most women I know who have kids and work are not working 9-hour days and are not working an hour from home--or if they are, their husband isn't (the husband seems to be lacking in your estimates, btw. What, he can't throw in a load of laundry while mom does bathtime?).

(If a woman does work a nine-hour day, btw, the extra hours usually cover the cost of a cleaning lady and even some pre-prepared foods with plenty to spare.)

I don't see why the mother in your example would need to run errands every single night. Grocery shopping once a week, adding 1.5 hours, OK. Everything else usually gets done over lunch break, or in the states, on Sunday.

But the general rule as I've seen it is for one parent, usually the mother, to work 6-8 hours (in a location reasonably close to her house) while the kids are in school and finish in time to pick them up or get home shortly after they do. Maybe things are different in the states, I don't know. It leaves the mother with at least 8 hours for errands, housework, and being with the kids, usually more.

As for furniture, OK I have had to make some minor changes as time goes on, but nothing that would require an interior decorator. The baby outgrew her crib and we need more closet space? Fine, it takes all of five minutes to say "Sweetie, I think we need a kids bed and a few more shelves" and all of 90 minutes to go to the store on a weekend or evening and pick those things up. Not something I'm going to need a professional for. And this is not at all a daily or even monthly event.

I'm not trying to argue that stay-at-home moms don't have plenty to do. I just disagree with your assessment that moms who would earn less than $130,000 won't find it financially worthwhile to work. For most families, mom's job does bring in money, even after taking babysitting and extra cleaning and food costs into account. That may not be true if there are two or three kids who aren't in school yet, or if there are elderly parents or chronically ill children to care for, but as a general rule a woman with school-age kids will find it financially worthwhile to work.

Whether or not it's worthwhile for other reasons, family dynamics etc, is a different question. If you want to argue that a mother of school age kids should stay home in order to make the best possible environment for her children, to make sure her husband doesn't have to deal with housework, etc, fine. But arguing that she would need to hire nine or ten people to replace her if she had an out-of-the-house job is just silly.

Anonymous said...

BTW, you seem to have overlooked an important part of that Reuters "study":
"A mother who holds full-time job outside the home would earn an additional $85,939 for the work she does at home,"

In other words, the "$138,095" is for the entire day, not only the hours that a SAHM is home while a working mom works. Meaning, it wouldn't cost $138,095 to replace those hours.

In general I find the article worthless though. A mother's jobs include CEO and psychologist? That's sweet, but realistically a mother will not need to hire a full-time CEO and psychologist for her family if she decides to take a 9-5 job. "Laundry machine operator"? Why not add another $2,000 a month because she bathes herself and goes to the bathroom--it would cost a lot to pay someone else to do that for her.

Assuming you're actually curious about how other women do budgeting, find deals, etc, when working--I work only 30 hours a week or so, no commute, so I don't know how helpful this is, but I do the budget once a month for about an hour. That's it. Major costs (tuition, rent) are the same each month, most of the rest (electric, health, clothing, food) is almost the same every month as we try to keep it within certain limits. I know it's not like that for every family, and some have more work to do to make a budget, but that's what works for us. As for comparing prices and finding deals, I don't have much time to do that. So instead we just know which stores are cheap, take a look at the paper for big sales, and shop based on that. I'm sure I could save more money if I put more effort into shopping, but I make more money by working during those hours instead than I would have by using them to try to save.

Ahavah said...

As for "interior decorator," every time you need to replace broken plates and cups, tableclothes and napkins, bedding and pillows, worn out rugs, curtains, and yes, getting new shelves, flowers or popourri - you're decorating. Choosing to define "interior decorating" in an unrealistically narrow band is hyperbole - which you're doing, not me.

On another note:

"Budget? Yes, we've been talking about making one of those for the last 7 years, but we haven't gotten to it, and we muddle through without it."

"Major costs (tuition, rent) are the same each month, most of the rest (electric, health, clothing, food) is almost the same every month as we try to keep it within certain limits. I know it's not like that for every family, and some have more work to do to make a budget, but that's what works for us. As for comparing prices and finding deals, I don't have much time to do that. So instead we just know which stores are cheap, take a look at the paper for big sales, and shop based on that. I'm sure I could save more money if I put more effort into shopping, but I make more money by working during those hours instead than I would have by using them to try to save."

This has worked in the past for you, but is it going to work when gasoline is $6, $8 or $10 a gallon? When home heating costs double? Water and Electric? Grocery prices have risen, depending upon the item in question, anywhere from 25-75% in the past year alone - next year and the year after will be the same. Not having any time or inclination to manage your finances is probably the reason you have to work in the first place, frankly. And the geometrically increasing costs of gasoline are going to make working outside the home even less viable than it already was, btw. But it's clear you're not going to be convinced, and I'm certainly not - so this conversation has nowhere to go. So let's give it a rest. I probably won't be posting tomorrow, because I have to go do election training. (You know, one of those community obligations I do that you don't.)

Anonymous said...


I really don't understand the nasty attitude or the gigantic chip you have on your shoulder. I think most people have been pretty civil all things considered, but your tone is really a downer.

My wife and I are married 2.5 years - we don't have children yet. We both work full time and we both help out around the home (whoever has more time deals with the cooking, cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, etc). It's been mentioned already, but you never speak about a husband having to do anything around the house. Maybe one of your goals of staying at home is so your husband doesn't have to do anything - that's your decision. Personally, I think it's my obligation to help out with household chores and when we have children to help raise them (including all that entails). I learned this from my father. I could understand your argument about "there aren't enough hours in the day" if only the wife is performing all these tasks, but this is the 21st century and I would hope men are enlightened enough nowadays to realize they should be helping out (and no I don't think this has anything to do with "feminazism").

You mentioned I want my wife to work because she's the breadwinner and I'm afraid of having the whole financial weight on my shoulders. Actually, my wife does earn a bit more than me - but, I don't see how facing the reality of living on one income is wrong or why it shouldn't be a cause for concern. Is it so wrong to not want to go into debt? Is it so wrong to not want to be constantly stressed out about making yeshiva payments, mortgage payments, etc?

Life is a tradeoff, but in my opinion not much is being given up by having two working parents when the kids are in school or nursey programs that occupy the majority of the work day. When a child is in school he doesn't care where mommy is.

You mention how working leaves no time for anything. Your numbers are just wrong. I'll use my own mother as an example. She dropped us off at the bus stop at 6:45 (yes, we actually got on the bus at this ungodly hour) and went to work at 7am. She worked until 3:30 (8 hours + 30 minutes lunch) and was home by 4:00. When she worked late we'd just go to a neighbor who went to school with us and play games. At least 90% of the time she was home before we were to make dinner. My mom usually went to sleep very early at around 9:30 since she woke up around 5:30 to do some chores and get us up and ready. That left her about 5 hours every evening (plus a bit of time in the morning) to do chores. My parents were always with us on Sundays (my dad coached our little league teams). If my mom was home all day instead, she probably would have gone out of her mind. I can't imagine what an extra 9 hours at home would have done for her or for our family.

In contrast, my wife's mother left her job and became a stay at home mom. If anything, I'd say it wasn't the best trade-off. While she was always there for them, I don't see any appreciable difference between how we were raised, what was provided care-wise, how our homes were maintained, etc. However, my in-laws are in deep financial straits because she hasn't worked for over 25 years placing the sole financial burden on my father-in-law. Also, she's perhaps too focused on her kids, if that's possible, as one of the reasons they're in debt is because she wants to do whatever she can for her kids no matter the cost. However, I appreciate this is an individual example, not a statement on the group as a whole.

In terms of budgetting, coupon saving, etc. I think most dual-income families will tell you they don't have time for this. At the same time though, it's not as critical either. It's not worth spending say 30 minutes clipping coupons to save $10 when time is short and the second income brings in much more than what would be saved. These skills are more important when you have a single income and you need to make every penny count - in other words, being a stay at home mom creates more for you to do.

Lastly, others have said it, I've said it, and I'll say it again, the $130K for a stay-at-home mom is just plain silly. First of all the job categories are extraneous and over the top. Secondly, who hires 10 people to do 10 different tasks? The real replacement cost, so to speak, would be if you placed an ad in the paper what salary would someone take. I think the closest is a live-in nanny. Most of those are paid under the table, and room and board are considered part of salary. They probably make 30-40 thousand tops.

I don't mean to compare a stay-at-home mom to a nanny, but if you're going to try to put this in financial terms and try to put a pricetag on services rendered, this is the closest accurate estimate you can get.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and you never mention what happens when the kids are out of the house. My mother-in-law is now effectively in "early retirement". Her kids have all been out of the house for 3 years now. Other than holidays or shabbat when the kids are home, she doesn't have much to do anymore. I think this aspect is missing from your calculations.

She's been out of the workplace 25+ years, and is therefore virtually unhireable (assuming she wanted a job). She also has no desire to volunteer. So what is a woman who devoted herself entirely to her children and husband to do now? It's a subject my wife is afraid about considering her mom is now pretty sedentary and is suffering health problems from this (she's in her mid-50's).

Commenter Abbi said...

Ahava- yes, seat of the pants budgeting works for two income families- because there are two incomes.

It's not perfect, but a major reason I started working was because i wanted my own car and I didn't want to watch every penny (or, rather, agora) in the supermarket. So far, this has worked for us. Again, we could be better, but so far, no major debt.

Also, sorry, your reasons for "interior decorating" still don't add up to much. I still wouldn't pay a professional to buy me sheets or cups and we haven't bought a new rug since we got married seven years ago. And guess what? we didn't even pay a professional then to buy it for us! We chose our furniture online within an hour and got the rug on sale one Saturday night at a sale. I still can't figure out why on earth anyone would pay someone else to do these things- it takes one Sunday afternoon at Ikea to take care of these things. Are you assuming that working mothers are simply incapable of taking care of there homes or that husbands are never involved in these things?

I really don't think you'll convince anyone here that one would need a psychologist, CEO, interior decorator, professional laundry person or an escort to replace a SAHM.

JS: your description of your MIL sounds exactly like my friend's description of her mother. No career, doesn't like to volunteer, doesn't even like to take classes! I think this is one of the biggest problems with SAHMs. After the kids leave, you still have a huge chunk of active life to live, and I don't think many women plan on this

Anonymous said...

"Not having any time or inclination to manage your finances is probably the reason you have to work in the first place, frankly."

Where are you getting that I have no time or inclination to manage finances? I just said we had a budget, no? And that we make an effort to shop in stores where we know the products we use are cheap.

Saying that I have to work because we don't manage finances is just ridiculous. My husband is in school. There is no way to stretch his 500 shekel/month salary to cover rent, food, and tuition, never mind the rest. Good budgeting only goes so far.

The fact that we don't spend more than an hour budgeting does not mean we are carelessly spending. Those are two different issues. Even those who don't have a set budget can be very good at saving money.

"(You know, one of those community obligations I do that you don't.)"

Why are you being so nasty? You have no idea what my community obligations are.

I think you're confusing two issues--emotional/family reasons for staying home and financial reasons for staying home. Just because I'm arguing that many women find it worthwhile to work and can still manage to keep their houses clean does not mean I think women should all be working. I completely respect that there is no replacement for a mother, and that wanting to stay home with a young child or other person in need of care is a valid reason not to work even if work is financially worthwhile. I respect that women who do not work out of the home often have more time to get involved in the community, which helps all of us. Ultimately, I believe it's a husbands responsibility to support his wife and she doesn't have to justify not working to anybody (although IMO it wouldn't be terribly bright not to work if he wanted her to). However, while a wife/mother is irreplacable to her family, the physical labor she performs is not irreplacable, and could be performed by a nanny or other worker for less than $50,000 a year.

I also agree with you that there is such a thing as a "two income trap," btw. I could be working in a job that would pay almost three times my current salary. I don't, because after paying for daycare, transporation, babysitters, business suits, cleaning help, etc, I'd barely make anything more than what I do now. So I know that more money on a pay slip doesn't mean more money in the family account. Again, just because I disagree with your figures doesn't mean I'm slamming everything you say. So lets try to keep this civil.

Anonymous said...

js and abbi--
While I do know one or two SAHMs who seem fairly aimless, especially once the kids are grown, most have kept very active. My grandmothers were "SAHMs," but they weren't at home all day, they were taking an active role in the community. As their kids got older, they spent less time on household work and children and more time on community work and grandchildren. I see the same in plenty of families around me.

I also see a lot of moms who stayed at home until the youngest was in school then started working more. It can be hard to get back in the job market, but it's not impossible, or at least wasn't for them.

Ultimately someone who doesn't want to volunteer or get involved in other activities will be bored as a senior citizen, whether after staying home or after retirement. It's not a SAHM problem.

Commenter Abbi said...


Ahava's nastiness might have been directed at me, as I'm the budgetless , working mom. (though I work from home, but my kids are out in gan for much of the day). I skimmed over her post, because I wasn't in the mood for a full dose of her vitriol. Half dose was a enough for me!

I agree that SAHMing does not automatically mean having an aimless retirement experience. However, it is an issue to consider. I don't think you can make automatic assumptions about any of these life choices- being a SAHM does not automatically make you a great mom or wife, being a working mom doesn't automatically make you a terrible mom.

personally, I'm grateful that I get to keep my hand in a professsion, my resume up to date and have a flexible enough schedule to be available to my kids. I know I'm lucky.

Anonymous said...

abbi, ora,

I couldn't agree more. I just think it's one of those things people don't consider and then a SAHM wakes up one morning and realizes there's no one left to take care of (at least not full time) and now what should she do? Some women are very active in their communities, their shuls, hospitals, nursing homes. Some women are very active with hobbies, taking classes, exercising. However, there are many women like my MIL who have no hobbies, don't exercise, don't take classes, don't volunteer, and instead find themselves with nothing to do but watch TV all day. It's not only unproductive, it's also unhealthy mentally and physically. I think it's one of those things people don't plan for. And it doesn't just apply to SAHMs, many people work their whole lives and have no other interests and then they retire and have nothing to do. I think the problem is a bit greater for SAHMs who necessarily have no career they can fall back on. All people need to be aware that life has phases and we need to think beyond the phase we're currently in.

ProfK said...

Basing an entire argument on the basis of what one book says is bad policy. As the report below says, change the study methodology and you change the results. The following is the latest update on what it would cost to "replace" all the services for a working mother, assuming she did NONE of the things that an AHM does. And the study below recognizes, as Ahava did not, that there is a range of replacement value, since mothers who work outside of their home are still doing "mother" things in their home.

Now to pick a very large bone with some comments. Replacing broken cups is not decorating--it's part of the regular shopping that we all do, working or not. Working mothers also do plenty of decorating in their homes--last I looked no one I know hired anyone to buy new sheets or carpeting for her house.

If we are talking about being organized, it's working mothers who are more organized then most of their non-working counterparts. They have to be: they don't have all day to make up a shopping list. They make daily, weekly and monthly schedules because they need to. Budgeting? Of course we had and have a budget, and my husband and I worked it out together. And I'd venture to say that it's a darned "professional" budget at that, because it takes into consideration expenses for now and expenses for later. It takes into consideration today's payments and future payments as well. I had the money to pay for my children's college education because I budgetted for it years before. We will be able to have a comfortable retirement because we have planned and budgetted for it for years already.

My children have never been deprived of their mother, or their father either. They are loving, fully functional adults now. They were honor students throughout school. They saw that being a volunteer was important in our lives and they too are volunteers now. Yes, I put that into my schedule as well. I was a class mother, President of the PTA, President of my chapter of AMW, active with Bikur Cholim, a trained Hatzalah volunteer, did nursing home visitation and a zillion other volunteer things over the course of raising my children, and I worked outside of my house too. I wasn't superwoman, just very organized. Most working women are, because they have to be.

There is an axiom here in the states: if you want something done, tap a working woman. We are used to the multi-tasking and to a high level of organization.

It's kind of strange and puzzling really to hear a SAHM spew such vitriol at working mothers (and yes, at working fathers too, when it is commented that they aren't ambitious enough to make more money so their wives can stay at home); those working mothers don't talk about the SAHM moms in the same fashion. We get called "feminazis." How sweet. Perhaps I could return the favor. "Leeches" comes to mind. Don't like it? Then stop slinging the mud yourself. People who sling mud are quite likely to get muddy themselves.

9:19 am EDT May 11, 2008

If a stay-at-home mom could be financially compensated, she'd bring home nearly $117,000 a year.

That's according to an annual pre-Mother's Day study released by, which studies workplace compensation.

For the past eight years, has calculated mothers' market value by studying pay for tasks such as child care and housekeeping.

This year's stay-at-home mom figure is $116,805 per year, while the working mom figure is $68,405. Both are down from last year because of a change in study methodology.

The range of at-home value for a working mother varies from $36,680 to $104,767, according to the site.

The numbers were based on a survey of moms who averaged a 94-hour workweek. If moms were in the workplace, they'd be spending more than half their working hours on overtime. also provides a tool that allows you to calculate the value of the mother in your life and even cut a pretend check for that amount.