The Rabbi and the Second Shift

As long as we're grousing about the past and talking about parenting . . .

When I talk to people of my generation, doesn't matter if they're Irish, Jewish, Italian, Polish, German, or Japanese (I could go on with that but I think you get the idea), they talk about their parents and their traditional roles.

Sure, they complain about old school parenting, whipping out the belt for effect, silent but deadly looks. But at least the food was on the table, the laundry clean, and the kids got to bed by 10:00. (Yes, I'm way over-generalizing, I know, I know).

But when I talk to people a generation or two younger, they talk about their role confusion, and how between the two of them working, nothing gets done since nobody particularly wants to claim this job, or that job. Sometimes one of the two will try ALL the second shift jobs, burn out, and need me to fill out forms for family leave. So burnt out.

The kids are on the Internet until the next morning, don't understand about alarm clocks, think that gang-banging could be a concept (so bored).

What to do, what to do.

Don't ask me, I just thought I'd rant a little.

I'll pass this one along, a story I've repeated about 2 zillion times, maybe even on this blog.
The story goes about a young man who sat in Kollel and learned Torah (the Holy Books) for a living. Orthodox Jews respect Torah learning so much, that they set up groups of men to learn professionally just to make sure the world continues to spin properly. The ones who are paid to do this are married, and it's generally expected that wives will earn a living somehow, too, as well as bear children and see to it that they're well-groomed.

So this young fellow, Yankel, was expected to be on time for morning prayers at the synagogue; that's one of the expectations if you take a place in the Kollel, you make it to the meetings for prayer 3 times a day on time. And he was forever late for the morning prayers, in fact he often didn't make it to them at all.

One day the head of the Kollel took him aside and said to him, "Yankel, what's going on? You never make it to shacharit (morning prayers). What is your excuse, anyway? It's not right, you know."

Yankel looked embarrassed, but he answered the rabbi.

"Rebbe," he said, "I have this problem. I want to go, I really do. But there's this woman, and she has many children, and the mornings are impossible for her. She has to feed them all and get them dressed and off to school, and they go to different schools. It's very hard. So I feel it's important that I help her."

The rabbi, incredulous, raised his hands to Heaven and shouted, "Yankel! Who is this woman? We can help her! I can find someone who will come to her house in the morning to help her!"

Yankel shrugged his shoulders. "That woman, Rebbe, is my wife."
So you see, friends, at some point you just have to figure it out.

thoughtfully yours,



Jay said…
We both do the second shift and our daughter (at 7.5) is in bed by 7:30 every night, and, trust me, she knows about an alarm clock. The laundry has been washed (him) and folded (me) and put away (all three of us). We eat dinner together at least four nights a week, including (of course!) Shabbat.

It is possible, but it requires negotiation and forethought and recognition that all the jobs are important and can be done by all the people in the house. It means you can't assume anything will be done by the other person; at some point everything has to be discussed.

Just don't tell me he's "helping" (see today's rant on my blog)
therapydoc said…
JAY's post is many smiles long. Thanks J.
Anonymous said…
I love that story!
therapydoc said…
Yeah, and that's the short version.
Tiffanie said…
This reminds me...

I may have already asked this, but somewhere I read on one of your posts about single parenting. You had mentioned you would post about it another time. Can you help me to find those posts? Or have you made them yet?
That's a good story. I think it also sort of speaks to the fact that we all think about helping "others" and forget, sometimes, that our loved ones are every bit as much deserving of our time as the others. I'm curious to know how the rabbi responded, too.

By the way, I love your blog. I followed a link over here, and it's a very interesting place. :)
therapydoc said…
Midwife, thanks. The whole business of taking care of everyone else BUT a person's own family will get it's due one day. Chime in there when it does.
Heidi said…
What a great story, thanks.
Karma said…
I agree with Jay. I don't think the problem is shifting roles. I mean, let's look at your story - the responsibility for the children was completely on the wife/woman and the husband was "helping."

Since neither are working, both my sister and her husband are stay at home parents, but the kids still don't get to bed on time and show up late to school.

The issue, like Jay said, is about negotiating tasks and communicating.
therapydoc said…
Karma, Thanks.

Attitude, for sure, will be discussed in the negotiations, and world views, process, transgenerational patterns and expectations, assumptions, sets.

All the standard stuff of communication and more. Piece of cake, but wait. . .who's baking?
Cham said…
really like this story
Guilty Secret said…
Great story, TherapyDoc. A new twist for me on Charity Begins at Home.
I love the story. It brings a smile to my face everytime I hear it, or read it.

I was fortunate, by the way, to be raised in a family where both parents worked (and helped take care of the house and children). Somehow, despite all my folks did, it always seemed they had time for us children.
therapydoc said…
ADJUNCT, that is so much to their credit. It's pretty easy to let the parenting part drop (the interest in the kids, the attention, time) to take care of the more obvious jobs (catch of the day). Especially if the children stay out of trouble. :-)

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