When my husband and I were dating and first began talking about having children, he said that he wanted three kids.
“Three biological kids?” I asked.
“Yeah. That’s what my parents had,” he reminded me, “and I like having two siblings.”
“I like having one,” I replied. “Maybe we have two biological children and adopt the third? Or just two kids, either bio or adopted?”
“Maybe,” he agreed, and the conversation moved to what we would name our very hypothetical offspring. I argued for Jack, he cast a vote for Tino and we were even further apart on our preferred names for girls.
Still, we eventually got married and began talking in more seriousness about having children.
It was after many brutally honest conversations that we decided to have only one child. There was a long list of reasons why this made sense, including finances, age and my impressive collection of chronic health problems. Indeed, it is a continued source of amazement to both of us that my pregnancy was completely uneventful and our daughter was born healthy. Neither my husband nor I want to see if we’d be so lucky a second time around.
This is the third post in a Sisterhood series by Nina Badzin on gadgets, family and work.
As I reported last month, I’ve made some progress in cutting my iPhone time in half. I started charging my phone in the kitchen instead of my bedroom, which eliminated any phone use in the early morning and during the last moments of the night. (And by “moments” I mean an hour, which is true for many late-night smartphone abusers.) I increased my iPhone-free time on Shabbat and stopped placing my phone on the table when I’m out with friends or family at restaurants and coffee shops.
Progress! Right? From the way I brag about my new habits you would think an awards reception was in order. Unfortunately, my progress has stalled since implementing the aforementioned measures. While I have not backtracked on the changes I made, what’s happening is something I like to call The Spanx Effect.
Mother’s Day, 1983. I’m sitting in our cramped apartment kitchen in Philadelphia with my husband and two older friends who were, I guess, substituting for our own parents that day. The crazy traffic along the Northeast corridor on that Sunday in May often meant that we skipped visiting my mother in New York and my mother-in-law in Virginia. We were never big on Hallmark holidays, anyhow.
But this day was memorable because we excitedly told our friends that we were expecting our first child. Mazel tov and hugs all around. Champagne. I probably took a sip, in defiance of the admonition to avoid alcohol while pregnant. I have always made exceptions for champagne.
It’s now 30 years later. That baby-to-be is grown up, married and expecting her own child. Besides acknowledging the stunning passage of time, I find myself contemplating motherhood today in an entirely new, confusing, wonderful way.
Sometimes I wish every week was Shiva with its unending support and ongoing hours, and days, of continual storytelling. For when loved ones die, the narratives we share help keep them alive. Shiva is the week before we must dance with reality, when the debate over how long it is supposed to take to reach acceptance in the stages of grief is not a spectrum, but a staunchly understood cavernous, amorphous abyss.
But all too often after Shiva, we forget. People are still mourning, but we forget. After the rugelach, fruit platters and babka have been laid on the kitchen counter and carried to the dining room table, then eaten, we forget. After the family members deepest in mourning — their loved one so recently a breath away — have cried, wailed and sat stunned in shock, we forget.
My brother, Joshua, died in October 2002, nearly 11 years ago. He was struck by a car while walking down a sidewalk in the Chicago suburbs; a senior from his high school pulled an illegal U-Turn and an elderly man struck Joshua, then 15, in an attempt to avoid collision with the teenager. The car flung Josh’s body into the side of a store building. Immediately left unconscious, he died the next morning in the Intensive Care Unit.
According to YourJewishNews.com, Kiryas Joel’s Satmar Hasidic community has built on 283 acres on the city’s outskirts a playground that completely separates boys from girls. More accurately, the space is divided into four areas: one for fathers with their sons; one for mothers with their daughters; one for boys, and one for girls. The sections are located a considerable distance apart from one another. There are also separate walking trails for males and females.
Kiryas Joel Mayor Rabbi Abraham Wieder approved special funding for the playground, and the Committee of Modesty of Kiryas Joel, overseen by the Grand Rebbe, Rabbi Aharon Teitelbaum, is strictly supervising its operation.
This is the first post in a Sisterhood series by Nina Badzin on gadgets, family and work.
On the Shabbat afternoon before Passover, I received a frantic voicemail from a friend who had texted me an important question earlier that morning. She was worried (and annoyed) when I had not texted back by noon.
Was I mad? she asked in her message. Was I injured? Was something wrong with one of the kids?
Sadly, I understood her exasperation. I usually text back quickly, on Shabbat or otherwise. It just so happened that on this particular morning, I was at the beginning of what I’m calling My Passover-Inspired Phone Experiment. Why put myself through such an experiment? I decided it was time to rescue myself from the stronghold of my iPhone.
Every Seder has its own story. There was Passover circa 1960, when Uncle Buddy stood in for Elijah. Or the Passover of 1985, when we started the Seder as we got up from sitting shiva for my father. I will never forget the Passover Seders when each of our children recited the Four Questions for the first time. Or the Passover when our first grandson made his appearance, and we all were transformed in our familial relationships and identities.
But no matter what the backstory, for each Seder it was clearly understood where the event should take place. For example, in my childhood, my parents lovingly prepared and led the Seder in our apartment in Jackson Heights, Queens, which was filled with family members and friends. And for the past 30-odd years, the Seder has taken place at our home on Long Island, with our own children, grandchildren, my mother-in-law and friends showing up faithfully each year, celebrating amidst the cacophony of generations.
Of course, there were occasional outliers, like the year our older daughter got married and she and her husband made their own Seder. “So, are the newlyweds coming to you this year?” friends asked with a smile. I forced a smile back. “They are making their own Seder. Isn’t that amazing and beautiful?” I opined. I felt it was true, but another part of me wasn’t quite ready for the separation. (Ironically, I then remembered that my husband and I had also created our own gestalt-experiential vegetarian Seder for our friends in graduate school when we were first married.)
Passover. The word itself makes me shudder. If this holiday is about celebrating the redemption of the Jewish people and the renewal of a nation, why, year after year, do I feel shackled by its very presence?
My earliest memory of Passover goes something like this: There I sat, age four, happily playing with my Polly Pocket when my mother tapped me on the shoulder, handed me a toothbrush, and ordered me to scrub the tires of our station wagon.
Years later, when I asked my mother why she burdened me with that seemingly pointless task, she explained that I needed to understand the “spirit” of the holiday. In other words, I couldn’t just sit around playing with my toys while the rest of the family slaved away.
Ironic as it is, the word “slaving” best describes my family’s Passover prep: The Jews were saved, and in celebration, we turn ourselves into slaves during the Jewish month of Nissan. Before you call me a heretic for having such cynical feelings, allow me to share a typical Passover prep schedule from my childhood.
In this week’s cover story in New York magazine, Lisa Miller profiles women whose decision to leave work and become stay at home moms is seen by them as a fulfillment of the grand feminist desire to “have it all.” Jessica Grose over at Slate’s DoubleX does a great job at explaining why the journalism in the piece is a little unsteady. Miller only has one example of a real life feminist housewife and recent Censes Bureau Statistics tell us that these feminist housewives are rare birds after all.
Even if Miller’s claims are untrue, the story still left me thinking about whether the choice to stay at home can really be interpreted as feminist. It might be the best thing for some families, and even necessary for a few. But feminist? Not sure.
I don’t even remember how I came across Christopher Scanlon’s piece about the social barriers between men and children, but reading it has made me feel all kinds of angry things. In it, Scanlon describes a situation in which he sees a little girl dangling precariously from some monkey bars, but doesn’t attempt to help her. Why? He explains:
I don’t want to put myself in a position where I could be perceived as predatory or a pervert, or make a child, or its parents feel threatened. I’ve internalized this fear so much so that even though I only wanted to help, I would have felt creepy.
When I was 10 or 11 years old, I had a male dance teacher. I can’t recall thinking it was weird, just that dancing was fun and being in class made me happy. I do remember my mother being really freaked out about it, though, and asking a lot of questions about how our teacher behaved towards us. He behaved … like someone teaching a dance class? It was stressful, being asked these questions. I felt like I was supposed to say something that wasn’t true, because the truth didn’t seem to be what she was after. The veil of suspicion never seemed to lift. I don’t remember when I left that dance class, but it was sooner than I had wanted.
Once again, science tells us what we long suspected was true: Never-ending work days, weeks and years are not ideal for human productivity.
According to a recent story in the New York Times, a “new and growing body of multidisciplinary research shows that strategic renewal — including daytime workouts, short afternoon naps, longer sleep hours, more time away from the office and longer, more frequent vacations — boosts productivity, job performance and, of course, health.”
In short, doing as much as you can for as long as you can is not the most effective way to get stuff done well. Such bittersweet advice for those of us who parent and work.
It was pretty impossible to be a female writer and not be aware of Judith Shulevitz’s Dec. 6 article in The New Republic on the aging of American parents. Not since the premiere of Girls was there such an eruption among the ladyblogs; it seemed as if everyone had her own perspective on the article’s lessons and (to some) insinuations about women and their pesky biological clocks. Yet amid all the blog traffic and fiery debate, my 23-year-old self kept wondering, “So what does this mean for me?”
I didn’t read Shulevitz’s article as a feminist essay as much as a scientific one — and not a particularly shocking one at that. Studies showing increased health risks for babies born to older mothers have been confirmed and in the news for decades. If anything, Shulevitz stressed that the mother’s age wasn’t the only problem at hand; older fathers also increase the risk of health issues in their progeny (again, not exactly news). But the commentary and emotional responses her article churned up made me realize that I should start thinking about my motherhood plans sooner than I anticipated…
First, a message to my family members, friends and suitors: Calm your horses. By no means am I saying I want to have a baby any time soon. It feels strange and ridiculously premature even admitting, at 23 years old, that I want to have children at some point. Though my inability to cook anything other than macaroni and cheese and to properly read a Metro-North schedule reveal just how ill-equipped I am to care for another living creature (potted plants very much included), that’s not why I feel this discussion is so premature. It’s actually because of the way my mother, the woman I respect and admire more than any other, raised me.
This post is in reply to Margaret Morganroth Gullette’s Forward piece, “Keeping the Conversation Going: A Daughter Speaks to Her Mother Across the Memory Loss Divide.”
The visit to my Dad last week didn’t have an auspicious beginning. For the first time since he entered a nursing home two and a half years ago, he did not recognize me. He was delighted to learn who I was — the rabbi daughter, visiting from her home 2,000 miles away) — but he was quite agitated.
“I don’t know how I got here,” he said. I’ve never been in this place before. It’s some kind of a school started by some guy who’s made millions in non-union enterprises.”
“Dad, look at those pictures on the wall. Isn’t that one your Dad? Aren’t those my kids? Isn’t that a photo of the business you ran?
“Yeah, that’s so strange, I wonder how they got all of those pictures in here.”
I am trying to “re-orient” Dad, to bring him into reality as I know it. He is not going along. If anything, he’s getting more upset. I know from many years of accompanying people with dementia as a chaplain that convincing someone that their perception is wrong simply doesn’t work. Still, it’s painful to see my dad, formerly a dynamic politician and raconteur, so out of it. I pivot and try another tack.
“Dad, this must be very disorienting for you.”
“YES. And this sort of thing is happening to me a lot lately!”
As soon as I stop trying to correct and fight him, things improve. He’s still not oriented — he would definitely not pass the mini-mental status test (count backward from 100 by 7s; remember these three objects). But he is calm. He is happy at brunch in the dining room downstairs. He readily agrees to sit outside on the patio. The sun is warm, and the light is golden on this first day of fall. I am still, restraining my urge to make small talk.
Well it looks like the emasculated husbands who appear in the bulk of beer and car ads aren’t too representative of the typical American male. Men, it turns out, actually like being married and having a family.
In a new survey from Askmen.com, 85% of men said they still believe in marriage, with 67% believing “it is a necessary institution and one in which [they] will participate to help preserve .” Also, having a family was the top-rated “ultimate male status symbol” among the 100,000 men who participated; it ranked above a high-profile career, a beautiful wife or girlfriend, a beautiful house, a luxury sports car, and a membership to an exclusive club.
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