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Dating Advice #197 - The Working Wife?
Dating Advice 197

Dating Advice #197 - The Working Wife?

In her family, the man was always the bread-winner. Should she insist on the same?


Dear Rosie & Sherry,

I have read many of your articles and they all make perfect sense. Also, I wrote to you before and you really helped me out a great deal. Now, I need more advice.

I met this great guy two months ago. We get along perfectly. However, we were raised differently and this is causing major problems. For example, his mother is a working mother and mine is not. His salary can't support two people, or even a family, and as a result if we ever got married, I would have to work.

My parents, on the other hand, are totally opposed to this idea. They think the man should be motivated and a hustler, and he should be able to support his wife and family no matter what it takes, and he shouldn't make his wife work.

Another issue is the gap in our ages. He is 25 and I am 18. He feels weird going out with someone younger, while this is common in my community and I am comfortable with it.

Because of all of this, he said that we will wait and be friends for now. The problem is that I don't want to wait, so I am seeing others, but every time I do I feel guilty.

Should I wait for him? Should I continue seeing others? Should I go against my parents and work, or should I forget about this guy and miss out on a wonderful person? Help!


Dear Maggie,

To start, we would like to say that it is less important to resolve the issue of whether or not you should work, and more important to figure out why that issue came up in the first place.

We can see from your letter that your parents are playing a considerable role in your decision-making process. Since you are 18 and just emerging into adulthood, that is understandable. They are probably giving you a great deal of advice because they believe that you are still maturing and need to develop a stronger sense of self and judgment. Even if you are a very mature 18-year-old, your parents are right in this assessment, since young adults (18-22) continue to develop their cognitive abilities and moral sense.

During this time period, men and women also go through a developmental process called "individuation" from their parents. In other words, they begin to see themselves as separate from their parents, develop their own view of life, and make choices and decisions based on their own assessment of circumstances. When they make these assessments, they may choose to consider the advice or outlook of their parents, but ultimately make their own decisions. You will see this happening to you over the next few years.

You are not be ready to get married until you've individuated and are able to make your own lifestyle choices.

The fact that your parents' views currently plays such a great role in your decision-making process shows that you are at the beginning stages of the individuation process. That's perfectly okay -- most 18-year-olds are at a similar stage of development. However, we'd like you to be mindful of the fact that you will not be ready to get married and build a life with someone until you've individuated from your parents and are able to make your own lifestyle choices.

We don't know how long this process will take. We do know that over the course of the next two or three years, your view of life, goals for the future, way of reasoning things through, and even aspects of your personality will continue to develop. You and this man may find that you are moving in different directions, or are no longer a good fit as a couple because of these changes. For this reason, it isn't a good idea for people as young as you to put the relationship on hold and "wait." You aren't going to be the same person a year or two from now.

We suggest that you allow yourselves to move in your own directions and date other people without feeling guilty. A few years down the line, your paths may cross and you'll find out that after all of the changes you've been through, you're right for each other. However, there is a strong likelihood that this will not be the case.

Mommy Track

The other issue we'd like to discuss is how to deal with your parents' insistence that you should be financially supported by your husband. This is tied into the concept of individuation. A married couple should make decisions about their lifestyle on their own, based on what is important to them. Certainly, they will be influenced by the way they were raised, but they will take many other factors into account.

You probably have observed that in contemporary society, most women work at some point during marriage. Many do so for the stimulation it provides, others do so out of economic necessity, and most for both reasons. Women can choose to work full- or part-time, stop working or go on the "mommy track" when their children are growing up, or work only at times that family economics require their contribution.

Others enter the work force only when their children are adults, or when they are compelled to support themselves because of divorce or because of their husband's illness or death.

The two of you will balance many priorities in addition to income.

Even though your parents feel strongly that a husband should make sacrifices to fully support his wife and children, you and the man you someday marry will ultimately make this decision on your own. While we hope that you will choose someone who is motivated to do the best he can for his family, and that the two of you will balance many priorities in addition to income. These may include spending time together and with your children, being involved in your community, and having outside interests.

And life doesn't always go according to plan -- you may need to work even if you don't really want to do so.

We hope that you give yourself the opportunity to open whatever doors you may need to enter, by getting the education and training that will enable you to have an interesting career that provides a decent income. Even if you choose not to work now, you'll have the ability to do so if the need arises or if you decide to work later. That's just a smart way for a woman to protect herself.

Rosie & Sherry

January 14, 2006

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Visitor Comments: 12

(12) Anonymous, February 4, 2006 12:00 AM

Discuss this before you get married

This lively discussion on whether a woman should work to earn money shows that it is very important that a man and woman discuss their views on this before they get married. A lawyer friend told me the most common cause of the divorces she worked on was that the husband wanted the wife to get a job and the wife did not want to. They got divorced and eventually the former wives had to get jobs.

(11) Anonymous, January 23, 2006 12:00 AM

It's the husband's obligation to provide!

so it sounds like many people think the kesuba the man gives the woman under the chupa is dated, you know, that halachic document which says the man will provide for his wife ... When the Rambam said even a wealthy woman should not be idle, do you think the Rambam meant she should leave her home for school and work? No way! The Rambam and those who lived in his time, expected women to be AT HOME, though not idle.

I find it sad that many women either feel or actually have to work to support themselves when their husbands cannot provide for them or they are left without a husband. Let's not forget that in the very recent past, the 70's, most frum women did not work outside the home. Most frum children came home to cookies and milk and mommy.

I take exception to the woman who says, "most religious single women are hard-working professionals who are not planning on sitting back and relaxing once they get married." That's quite offensive you know! If the couple are blessed with many children, the woman does anything but relax! Taking care of a growing family is a full-time job, no matter what feminists or seminary teachers might say.

I agree with the girl's parents, a husband must provide for his family and think they are right in guiding her in this direction. I don't like Rosie and Sherry's last paragraph in which they urge her to get an education and a career. It might be a smart way for a woman to protect herself but it's also a great way to remain single in the frum world and a wonderful way to provide conflict in a young mother's life when she is torn between her babies and her career. Once women have gotten their degrees, they don't often shelve them for decades down the road.

(10) Chana, January 20, 2006 12:00 AM

Working Wives

Well done on your wise advice to this young woman. Having seen many older friends miss out on motherhood because they were chasing careers, I chose a career path with motherhood in mind and tailored my education toward that goal. I made just enough money to support a single twentysomething comfortably until I met my husband and had a family; now, several years on, with a baby and a husband on disability with a debilitating disease, I'm trying to support a household on my "pin money". Also applying to grad schools, and wishing I'd done it while I didn't have to work and mother and caretake at the same time. No matter how traditional the family, or how capable the man of providing (and mine was), things happen and a young woman needs to be prepared and willing to support her family when they do. Get a good education. Pick a career path that has some flexibility but good pay for a full-time worker. If nothing else, you'll have wonderful skills to volunteer to a worthy cause while you stay at home.

BTW, thanks to the authors for acknowledging all of the women who, because of illness or widowhood, are supporting their families when they'd rather be home. I feel sometimes like we're the silent minority in the working mother debate.

(9) Anonymous, January 19, 2006 12:00 AM

Comments to "Men Aren't Slaves"

Comments to "Men Aren't Slaves"

Dear Sir,

As a woman with children, married for over 6 years, I take offense to your statement that 99% of "frummie" woman expect their husbands to support them, etc. Firstly, livelihood is the husband's job to provide (read the wedding ketubah). Secondly, there are many religious women, such as I, who happily work and bring parnassah to the home, although it is their husband's responsibility because they want to help out with finances, because they feel that being challenged at a job helps them to be a better wife and mother, or because they want their husbands to be able to focus on learning Torah.

I am not sure which women you are referring to - you sound quite bitter about the situation, but take heed! - nowadays, most religious single women are hard-working professionals who are not planning on sitting back and relaxing once they get married...but it is all a matter of perspective - if you "expect" your wife to work and not "sit back and relax", you will have quite an unhappy wife.

If you show your wife appreciation for working, although, according to the Torah, it is not her job but yours, you will be much better off and have a happy marriage, IYH!

(8) Daniela, January 18, 2006 12:00 AM

I feel like I need more info

I loved the advice given here to this 18 year old girl (I must admit, these days it is extremely hard to think of anyone under at least 22 as a woman). However, I kept thinking throughout that it would have been helpful to know if this girl comes from a very Orthodox family and if the reason they want her to be supported by a husband with a good living is because they are not of the ilk that prefer a scholar for a son-in-law. It's important for people to understand that many girls leave seminary with dreams of marrying someone who will sit in Kollel all day, with no ambition of learning any trade or profession that would allow them to make more than $10-12 an hour. No one among any of the Orthodox believe that home and children are not at the top of a Jewish wife's priorities. They simply don't encourage "career aspirations" per se. The issue seems to be a difference of opinion on whether the husband's income should be expected to need supplimentation, or if the wife should be totally free to fulfill her obligations at home without any imposition on her time. I highly doubt we're talking about this girl's parents wanting her to be a pampered, previledged wife who sits around and does nothing. Unless, of course, that's the background she is indeed coming from - which also would have been helpful to know. Let's face it, tuition is expensive, keeping a kosher home is expensive, and being able to take off for every Shabbos and Yom Tov is not that easy. Frankly, in my search for a husband, the question of whether or not I would work I'm leaving to what the income level of my future husband will be. If it's low, I'll have to work, if it's high, I'll probably get into money making projects at home and won't hold a job. But I have bankable talents and have many options as a result. Most don't have that. Everyone needs to be realistic, including this girl's parents. One suggestion ? Let them know that the more tuition a family is able to pay, the less another family has to. :)

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