Dear Emuna,

I have been married a little over a year and I like to think that I am a pretty good wife. I work full-time, I keep the house spic-and-span, and my husband and I are happy together. There is just one thing I simply can’t do: I hate cooking. I feel it is a waste of time and I simply am not good at it. I have tried over and over again to enjoy cooking, to find simple recipes, to take pride in my food. But the fact of the matter is that I don’t enjoy cooking. I would much rather pick something up from the local grocery or restaurant or eat cereal for dinner.

Unfortunately there is a lot of pressure, especially among young married women, to cook elaborate dinners for our husbands and to cook five course meals every Shabbos. I feel embarrassed and guilty that I don’t cook for my family, but I simply have a million things I would rather be doing. My husband says he doesn’t mind eating out and that he did not marry me for my cooking skills. I'm hoping you will tell me that as long as I can pick up nutritious food I shouldn’t be concerned about this. What should I do? Please help!

Can’t Stand the Heat

Dear Can’t Stand the Heat

I have to admit that at first your letter stumped me. Don’t like to cook? How do I answer such a complaint when I love to cook and even boast a web site devoted to the subject (a little commercial plug there!)? But of course, I understand. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes. I seem to have a psychological block when it comes to picking up clothes at the dry cleaner’s, an almost allergic reaction to the iron and don’t even think about asking me to sew a straight line! And it is a mistake to think that marriage changes any of that.

So the first thing to do is stop beating yourself up and take pleasure in the gifts and talents you do have. Enjoy them and make the most of them.

Secondly, be grateful for a husband who doesn’t mind. That is definitely a blessing. Add to your gratitude the fact that, as you alluded to, we live in a world where almost everything is available through take-out. We live in a world with lots of conveniences and short-cuts that you can take advantage of.

And most of all, stop feeling guilty. Step back from the foolish notion of competitiveness with respect to Shabbos meals. That seems to miss the point of the day. The only Judge who really counts judges us based on our unique abilities and potential and what we do with them, not on what the woman down the street made for dinner.

Focus on and enjoy the things you do well and if you absolutely must cook, my site has a whole section of Easy Recipes.

-- Emuna


Dear Emuna,

I feel like my kids (especially my teenage daughters) constantly have their hands out for money. “I need a new skirt, top, shoes”…fill in the blank. It’s usually something they want, not something they need and I feel like most of our interchanges end with my constantly saying no. I don’t want this to be the bulk of our relationship but I don’t know what to do. Can you help a broke and harassed mother?

Broke and Harassed Mom

Dear Normal Mother of Teenagers,

Teenagers and money, teenage girls and clothing – these are tough calls and the bane of many a mother’s existence. After much experimentation, tears and other stress-inducing experiences, I have found a solution that seems to work (if and when I actually do it): Give your kids a budget.

Choose a certain amount of money to allot to them for every four to six-month period. Then they are on their own. They have to make the tough choices – one expensive pair of shoes or a cheaper pair and a top also? Should I buy what I sort of like now or wait for something I might like better? When they are in charge and have clear limitations, they will choose more carefully and practically (It’s too easy to be cavalier when you think the pit is bottomless).

Although the initial money comes from you, it will still teach them to budget their financial resources and to plan their purchases carefully. More importantly, that whole area of discussion and struggle will be removed from your relationship freeing you up to fight about curfews, the car, makeup…

-- Emuna


Dear Emuna,

My husband has been without fixed employment for three out of the four years of our marriage. I have sometimes been angry with him about various aspects of the situation -- how far he should lower his expectations from his ideal job, how we balance out our contributions to the household (of money, time, and effort), how much help we can request from our parents -- but we've worked through them and kept our relationship in fairly good shape. But now our savings are going fast, my salary does not cover our living expenses, I'm pregnant with our second child, and I don't know how to deal with it anymore. I know he can't make a job magically appear, but I'm scared and I desperately wish I could hand over some of the financial burden to him. How do I keep from getting discouraged?

Struggling Wife

Dear Struggling Wife,

I can understand why you might feel discouraged and even a little frightened (and perhaps a little more emotional than usual due to all those pregnancy hormones) yet it’s hard to really respond to your situation without knowing more details. It is a rough economy and a tough job search these days and your husband needs your support.

On the other hand, it seems like you need support also. Are you getting it? Is your husband making the best effort possible? It sounds like you have doubts about that. Is that just your anxiety speaking or is there some solid basis for your questions?

I think the two of you should sit down with a competent marriage counselor to talk this out. Frequently the Jewish federation or other community organizations have counseling available without charge or for a minimal fee.

I know you have no money but preserving your marriage is such a priority you need to find a way. Don’t delay going. Your frustration level seems to be building and that is stressful for you, your young child, your baby and your husband. (Your pressure and anxiety may ironically make it even harder for him to find a job; his own anxiety and desperation may bleed through in interviews – another reason for you to be supportive).

All marriages and the individuals grow through facing challenges. Don’t think of it as your husband’s struggle or problem; think of it as something the two of you need to confront and resolve. If you are both are on the same page and united in your commitment to one another, there is no challenge that you won’t be able to face.