Dear Emuna,

I am feeling torn, and would appreciate your advice. I was a stay-at-home mom all my life, by choice and loved it. Having raised six beautiful children, with one married, and the youngest 8, I have been working the last 2 years. I was looking for something part -time just to keep busy and to widen my social circle. I happen to love the work environment, and learned a lot on the job. It is a good feeling to contribute financially, and as we all know the expenses grow with the children. Although we can more than manage without me working, my husband makes it clear that it is my choice, but I know that he thinks I will be bored at home.

This is my dilemma. In a way I really do miss just being home. I miss doing things in the house, projects, more time to prepare dinners, Shabbos and for the holidays. These days I have about an hour before everyone comes home to make supper, breathe, catch up for a bit and sometimes go to the supermarket as well if I am not so organized, which is often. I just feel like I am always playing catch-up with homework, dinner, errands, and life. On Sundays I can't really relax and spend quality time with the kids, because I feel guilty that I should be shopping for the week and planning my week, lunches etc. I also do all the paperwork, bills at home, so that takes time. I have outside help almost every day, so the housework is under control, and that is huge!

My husband works late and by the time he comes home is tired, eats dinner and doesn't always have time to connect and talk. I get it, but this was part of my initial frustration. In true honesty, I took the job as an outlet. A place where I would be valued and could speak to other adults and learn new things and be appreciated. And I am! I became more confident, enjoy what I do, get to use my creativity and skills, and really made wonderful friends.

I do have a wonderful, hard working husband, and we love each other. Yes, he could be more attentive, and sensitive, but he's not and I'm not going to change him. It used to hurt but then I learned to accept it and find a way to deal with it. Am I just fooling myself by working and making myself exhausted so I don't have to face the fact that I have issues in my marriage? Or that I am unhappy with my life? Yes I have guilt even though I know I am a good mother. I am so conflicted every year before school starts. I question again what I am doing.

I have faith (emuna) that God will guide me I the right direction. I just don't know what to do! So I need Emuna!

Feeling Torn

Dear Feeling Torn,

There seem to be a number of issues thrown together in this letter and seeking one simple solution. The first seems to be your dilemma over working versus being at home. Whatever your reasons for working, your sense of guilt, your feeling that you are constantly playing catch-up, your conflict over which is the right path to choose and the stress that accompanies your choice is typical of every woman in your situation. This should provide some comfort. What you are experiencing is not unique or unusual. It is the purview of every mother who works outside the home – and sometimes even of those who work in it!

There is no easy answer to this question and every mother finds her own way to make peace with her situation and to achieve the balance she can – based on her financial needs, emotional needs, intellectual needs, family needs and so on. There is no “one size fits all” solution and we all feel torn and pulled in many different directions. Welcome to the reality of modern motherhood!

As far as your other possible reasons for working and your concern that you are avoiding dealing with issues in your marriage, you seem to be presenting two conflicting perspectives. On the one, you have a wonderful husband whom you love and whose weaknesses you have come to terms with. Instead of being frustrated with what he can’t give you, you have found in your job the adult attention that you crave. This seems like a very mature way of dealing with your situation.

On the other hand, the fact that you question if you are just working to avoid confronting some problematic issues in your marriage does suggest there is something deeper at play here. As do your comments about your husband’s lack of sensitivity and attentiveness combined with the fact that works seems to provide you a place to be “valued” and “appreciated”. We all feel this to some extent but we should also get validation and appreciation from our husband and family. If these elements are seriously absent in your marriage to the point where you are desperate for outside validation and appreciation, I think it is time to take a closer look at your marriage.

Do you and your husband need to have a talk about the same things are? Do you need counseling? Or are you indeed satisfied with the compromise you have worked out? Can you enjoy your marriage and your husband as they currently exist and with their current limitations and satisfy your other needs through your work relationships? If you continue to do that, will your marriage continue to be nurturing and important to you or will you slowly but surely drift away from it?

There are a lot of serious questions that you need to answer for yourself. The months of Elul and Tishrei are certainly times of thought and introspection so I can think of no better time to grapple with these serious issues and set aside time to thoughtfully consider them than now.

Travelling with a Toddler

Dear Emuna,

My husband I like to travel. At the moment we have only one child, a toddler, and I like to bring her with us. My husband, on the other hand, finds it frustrating and limiting. We are frequently stuck in the hotel room with her and I spend a lot of mealtime chasing her around the restaurant. I don’t want to leave her at home but I also want my husband to be happy. What should we do?

World Traveler

Dear World Traveler,

Since you are married with a child, you should already know that life is a series of trade-offs. When you married your husband, you accepted that you couldn’t always do just what you wanted; sometimes you have to do what he wants. Sometimes he subjugates his desire for yours and sometimes you subjugate yours for his. You both make compromises in order to make the marriage work. For the pleasures and opportunities of marriage, you trade away some of your freedoms.

With the advent of children, life gets more complicated and more tradeoffs are required. For many people, travelling while children are young is just not in the cards. We accept that price as one we are willing to pay for the pleasures and responsibilities of parenting. Others I know, who are more adventurous, travel the world with kids in backpacks and front-packs (or whatever those things are called!) prepared to “go with the flow” and have a different kind of experience.

You sound like you are somewhere in the middle – not willing to stay at home and yet not of the backpacking variety. If this is the case and you insist on travelling with a young child, you need to strategize with your husband how to make this work. Otherwise you will both be at each other’s throats, frustrated and resentful and possibly, God forbid, taking your frustration out on your child – certainly on each other!

Can you leave your child with your parents or in-laws is the first question. Can you arrange babysitting as you travel or bring someone with you is the second. A lot of family resorts have babysitters on staff that would provide you the break you need. If neither of these are an option, you need to plan your trip with your child in mind. Go to child-friendly restaurants with games and coloring books and iPads etc. at the table so that you have a chance of eating in peace. Arrange picnics, eat in your room. Get creative. You will not be happy (or functional!) if you can’t eat on your trip and you will both be frustrated if you pay a lot of money for a fancy restaurant and can’t sit and enjoy it. Toddlers don’t belong at fancy restaurants or fancy hotels but the world is full of child-friendly resorts. Do your research and take advantage of those and you should all still be able to indulge your travel bug. It comes down to good will and effort.