Dear Emuna,

My husband and I both work and we have two young children. We have decided that, for a number of reasons – money, attention, convenience etc. – that it’s preferable to hire someone to watch them in our home than to send them out to day care. A lot of our friends recommend au pairs, but I’m concerned. I’m not sure I want a young, attractive woman as a fixture in our home. My friends suggest I’m just being paranoid and that I should trust my husband. What do you think?

Not so Trusting

Dear Not So Trusting,

I’m with you. Have your friends read the newspapers lately? In Ethics of our Fathers we are taught not to be sure of ourselves until the day of our death. It’s not really a matter of trust. It’s a matter of being realistic.

We try very hard not to put ourselves in situations of temptation. There are enough that we encounter on our own without going looking for them! If you were on a diet and I waved a freshly baked cookie back in forth under your nose, would you eventually eat it? Not necessarily, but there’s a good chance.

Obviously here the stakes are higher – and so is the desire. Is it your female friends or male friends who suggest you are just being paranoid? I would guess it’s the former. Men understand their drives better and I think they would acknowledge the risk. Why take the chance at all?

Judaism erects a lot of fences to try to prevent inappropriate contact/connection between men and women who aren’t married. It’s not because we’re paranoid; it’s because we’re realistic. And because we want our marriages to be as wonderful as possible.

Some people may suggest that the rules are anachronistic in an age where the sexes mingle so frequently – in work environments and socially. I would suggest that, again based on all recent revelations and allegations, that they are more necessary than ever before! I just want to clarify. I’m not saying that your husband will, God forbid, stray if you hire an attractive nanny. I’m just saying it’s not worth even the slightest chance. Your marriage is just too precious.

Dumping It On Stay-At-Home Mom

Dear Emuna,

I’m a stay-at-home mom and I find that there are a lot of expectations placed on me – both from my husband and from other moms in the neighborhood. It’s assumed that my house should be spotless, that dinner should always be hot and ready June Cleaver style and that I should be available for extra carpools, to be room mother, to organize and bake for the bake sale etc. etc. I’m feeling resentful, not just because I don’t think it’s fair that other mothers should displace their responsibilities (guilt?) unto me but also because my husband doesn’t seem to appreciate that I’m not just lying around all day. What should I do?

Frustrated

Dear Frustrated,

I definitely hear you. Let’s separate the two issues. As far as the expectations of the other mothers, what they expect is irrelevant. You don’t need to justify how you spend your time to them and you certainly don’t need to pick up their slack. If there’s something you want to do or are able to do (although it doesn’t sound like that), obviously you can and you don’t need to refuse just to make a point. But if you are unable, you can politely but firmly say no.

“I’d love to help you with carpool but that’s really special time for my children and me. It’s when they unwind and tell me about their day.” “The bake sale is certainly very worthwhile but I try not to bake while my kids are up so I can give them my full attention and then at night I’m too tired.” Or, even better perhaps, no need to explain at all. You can just use my line to all the phone solicitations: “I’m sorry but I can’t help you right now.”

With our neighbors, we need to learn not to worry about their opinions. With our husbands, we need to learn to communicate.

With respect to your husband I think a fuller conversation is required. You really need to explain to him what your day is like. Or better yet, go out for a day and leave him along with the gang and the responsibilities! It’s not that he’s deliberately obtuse or unfairly demanding, he just doesn’t know. Tell him about the games you play, the mess you clean up, the trip to the grocery store where everything got pulled off the shelves and then your toddler had a tantrum because you wouldn’t buy candy. Explain how long it took to get everyone in their winter clothes for that short walk around the block and how long to undress them again when you returned home, how the kids enjoyed the bath but it took half an hour to mop off the water after their “fight” in the tub. And on and on.

And perhaps work on your own empathy as well. Just as our husbands may not appreciate our days, we may be guilty of not appreciating theirs. From our overwhelmed perspective, it seems that they are freeing themselves of responsibility as they cavalierly walk out the door in the morning in the middle of the mess and the screaming and that they are at business lunches and golf tournaments all day! Of course I exaggerate but it would also be help to learn about the stresses and challenges of their days and lead to better communication and understanding for all.

With our neighbors, we need to learn not to worry about their opinions. With our husbands, we need to learn to communicate. Hope this helps.