As I’m writing this, I’m sitting in my car outside my daughter’s day care. No worries, there’s no crying here, no major trauma. I’m trying to check things off my list while waiting for the start of “El dia de Primavera,” a celebration of the first day of spring.
There was a moment in my late twenties when I seriously considered rabbinical school. I was changing careers, trying to figure out what my next step would be, and becoming a rabbi would have allowed me to blend my love of Jewish ritual, my intellectual curiosity, and my passion for helping people into a calling. It made sense, on a deep level. But the more I talked about it with friends who were already rabbis and rabbinical students, the more they cautioned me, “As a woman, if you become a rabbi and you’re not married yet, you need to accept that you’ll probably never marry. Men don’t want to date women who are authority figures; it’s too emasculating.” I wanted to be a rabbi. But I also wanted marriage and children. When I believed that I needed to choose between them, I couldn’t bear the thought of never having children of my own. I quietly turned my focus to other graduate programs.
Today we welcome our first post from Marissa Harrington-Verb, one of our Rising Voices Fellows. Be sure to check the JWA blog each Tuesday for a new post from one of our fellows—and check out the great educational resources provided by our partner organization, Prozdor.
My mother, Elisa Harrington-Verb, loves feminism. But more importantly, my mother loves motherhood. She is the most devoted and loving mother that my little brother Sawyer and I could have wished for. When we were young, she stayed home with us all day. She slept next to us at night, and she breastfed us until we decided for ourselves it was time to wean. I love her more than anything, and if you had tried to tell me back then that she was raising me wrong, I would have looked at you like you were crazy.
I had no idea that my mother’s relationship with us was something she had to defend.
Judaism does not shy away from the pain of these longings on Rosh Hashanah—in fact, it confronts them head on. This year more than ever I am struck by the stories we read about Sarah and Hannah during these two days. During the holiday we read of Sarah’s yearning for a child and her surprise at conceiving even after her cycle had stopped. And of Hannah’s burning desire for a child that, after many years, finally came to be. What connects these stories of barren women yearning for children and the name of Rosh Hashanah as Hayom Harat Olam (the Day of the World’s Conception)?
When other people tell me about what their partner’s do to raise their babies, I want to suggest they look into a rebate program, as Charles is so clearly kicking their butts. At our birth class reunion parents were talking about how the fathers sometimes “help out” or “let the moms sleep in.” The frames people were using were that childrearing was this thing moms did, and sometimes the dads heroically stepped in to do a small amount for their wives’ projects. The dads might change a diaper!
Amy Chua’s article in The Wall Street Journal last week, “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior,” has stirred up a firestorm of comment, with literally thousands of mothers and their friends weighing in on Chua’s harsh treatment of her daughters—an approach Chua defines as “Chinese” as opposed to a more permissive “Western” strategy. Inevitably, a comparison to the famed Jewish mother arises, and for good reason.