Thursday, May 11, 2006

"But I Don't WANNA Be a Speech Therapist!!"

It's important to note that I am nobody to predict where life will take me, and what I am destined to become. G-d is the only Being that knows all, and essentially it is what He has in mind for me. But, we still plan, obviously, because of Bechirah, etc. Please take this, as everything, with "grain of salt."

In high school, we were encouraged to attend Touro college, since it's the lesser of two evils--you know, because the idea of college altogether is technically horrific.

We were encouraged to persue---wait for it---Speech therapy, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, blah, blah, blah. Why? So that our husbands can learn in Kollel, and we can work minimal hours and make a lot of money. Well, that's fine. If that's what you want to do. I'm sorry, but that is not what I want to do.

How many people actually want to do this? Are they happy? Some of my friends wanted to go into Speech regardless. So they're doing what they want. That's great for them. What about all the others who are pushed into it because that's the thing to do, and that's what's practical for a frum married woman? Will they feel fulfilled?

I often see married women in supermarkets shlepping their identically clad children through the aisles, and heeding pleads for cookies and nosh, kvetching, "Mommy, I want to go to home..." And I wonder. Are they happy? Do they feel fullfilled? I mean, sure I want to be able to be married and raise healthy, frum, spiritual, honest children, and take pride in their Middos and Mitzvos. But I just don't know how these women really feel.

I know a girl who was always a super-genius. Supposedly, she scored a 180 on her LSATs, (for those who don't know, that's the highest score) and went to Yale Law School. She's a praticing lawyer, and so is her husband. I remember hearing her complain that she never gets to see her kids. Does a couple need 2 lawyers' incomes to "make ends meet"? Obviously not. But nobody wants to live just having ends meet. I understand that.

She's smart. She's ambitious. Should her extraordinary brainpower be wasted on changing diapers all day? Absolutely not. But should her children not be able to see their own mother for hours and hours? Should they be raised by some immigrant teaching them Spanish/Polish/Russian, whatever?

As for me, I'm no genius, and I don't plan on being a lawyer, although I've given a passing thought once or twice. Then when I hear about my brother's stressful life in law school, I ask myself, "Do I need that?" But still, even with my Journalism and Marketing dreams. Oh how I'd LOVE to have some high up corporate position where I have to wear suits to work every day, feel "accomplished," do what I like, and come home with a great salary. Pinch me.

Let's get real here: what about my kids G-d willing? I want them to know me. I want to be there my kid says his/her first word, takes a first step, turns over...These are such valuable milestones in life. Is it more important for me to be home with my kids, or to persue what would make ME feel good?

I was amazed by an interview I saw last night. Halle Berry, an Oscar-winning actress, is quite high-ranking. She's made plenty of movies, and I'd think she feels accomplished and successful. But no, she told the interviewer that she wants to have children. Whether she adopts or not is not the point. It just shows that no matter how successful one is outside the home, maternal instincts kick in, and a successful career is NOT what will make a person happy. Maybe in the beginning, but somehow, it comes down to having children.

Hence, the grand ol' argument in frum society, should a woman persue a career so she can feel fulfilled, or should she stay at home and change diapers? It seems like the only compromise is the Touro Therapies route. So he has her so-called career, but is still home for the children.

Certainly, there's NO such thing as waiting until you're somewhat settled in your job before dating or trying to get married. Because as soon as the next crop of Seminary girls come home, you're even more of an old-maid. Even if you're just 22.

I know that in Manhattan, there is a large singles community who chose the career route, and now are looking to get married. So that's not the solution.

So what happens to those who have career goals that require more than a few hours a day, and also want to live the "Jewish Dream" of raising healthy, adorable children, and not missing a precious milestone or moment?

24 Comments:

At 5/11/2006 9:53 AM, Blogger ms. shtark said...

well put. You gotta do what you are interested in. You sound so beaten with the shidduch aspect of it though. You always throw that in. Just remember he is out there for you and Hashem has a plan when he will show up on your doorstep.

 
At 5/11/2006 10:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hence, the grand ol' argument in frum society, should a woman persue a career so she can feel fulfilled, or should she stay at home and change diapers
I don't think this dilemma is unique to frum women, it seems that all American Females have this problem. Americans choose to face it in their early 30's while we choose to face it in our early 20's.
In general I think it is the schools responsibility to educate and inform the girls about the decisions they will have to make in the near future. Cookie cutter solutions are not the answer, but if the school knows that its alumni who have chosen the PT OT ST route are more successful and more happy (if not perfectly so) then they should definitely advocate that derech.
While some girls have high personal aspirations, most don't. They just want to pay their bills, take care of their kids while having some sort of an outlet that a flexible type of job provides.

 
At 5/11/2006 10:08 AM, Blogger Elster said...

It IS possible to work flex hours and have a family. It is possible to wor hald a day at certain jobs.

But, Michelle, while you may not agree with the people who have 2 full time working spouses or with the UWS girls not yet married, it is unfair of you to simply dismiss them out of hand either.

 
At 5/11/2006 10:09 AM, Anonymous Rachel said...

It is just about finding some kind of balance...I see people like my roommate, who is a 30 year old lawyer and just is realizing that she is not married and not even close to being so. On the other hand, I am 26 and almost engaged, but hate the job I have and can't wait to have kids...I feel like I am wasting my time at the job I have. Granted, I am not frum but still...it is something to think about. Good luck...

 
At 5/11/2006 10:17 AM, Blogger kasamba said...

Education is the only way that you can have 'yichus atzmi'. It is something that you have that you can use or fall back on if necessary.
Personally, I have a degree in marketing that I can fall back on because it all halted when I got married and had kiddies. I work part time in a non profit shidduch office in London (maybe we should talk?) so I'm there for the kids. I feel that's how I achieved my balance, but you have to do what you feel is right for you!!!

 
At 5/11/2006 10:31 AM, Blogger debka_notion said...

My family is far from frum- but my mom's a Speech Pathologist, and she works full time... Being in those fields doesn't mean you always work part time. It just makes it easier to do...

 
At 5/11/2006 11:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have to realize that not everyone needs to love their job. Some people cannot handle doing something they don't love (i.e. being a secretary). Others are all practical and don't mind "suffering" as their career is not their focus. Don't think that everyeone who has a job they don't absolutely love is unhappy. They might not mind it.

 
At 5/11/2006 12:48 PM, Blogger Jewboy said...

I see a problem in that girls in frum society are taught that they need to be there for their kids AND support the family because their husband should be learning full time. I realize that it is possible for a woman to work part time and still spend quality time with the kids, but in general I think it's a bit of a paradox, and a disturbing one at that.

 
At 5/11/2006 1:54 PM, Blogger jew-unit said...

you need to love what you do.A corporate executive doesn't become one on his first day he works his way up....with the best motivation (loving his job). maybe you'll like speech therapy, helping children with problems or maybe there are other things with the same advantages.
the woman that do therapy are doing so because they want their husband to be learning and they realize its a sacrafice so if you don't apperciate it then its not for you.

just an interesting observation. no one looks back and says that they spend too much time with their kids but how often do you hear someone who realized that he did it all wrong and didn't spend enough time with his kids.
BUT not everyone is lucky enough to do so.some are forced to work tedious hours and don't even know their kids well.

as far as shiduchim go please don't go out with someone on a formal date and judge them from the way he held his fork in the wrong hand. go on a walk and find someone that you love and open minded like yourself and shares your beliefs.

 
At 5/11/2006 2:28 PM, Blogger The Unorthodox Yeshiva Guy said...

Michelle,

Great job... another solid post!!!

The women in my extended family have traditionally resumed pursuit of their career ambitions shortly after their youngest child has reached an age where they can do their own homework with minimal assistance.

(obviously, this is only a feaseable option if & when the husband is working or recieving reliable financial support)

I feel that it is extremely important for all frum girls to complete their undergraduate education at the very least -- even if they do not plan on working after they get married; you never know what life has in store for a person, and hence a person must always have a career option to "fall back on" just in case!

-YUYG

PS. I was hoping that you would stop by my new blog and leave a comment... let me know what you think!

 
At 5/11/2006 2:34 PM, Blogger Semgirl said...

"So what happens to those who have career goals that require more than a few hours a day, and also want to live the "Jewish Dream" of raising healthy, adorable children, and not missing a precious milestone or moment? "

In a word, Good Luck... Ok, two words.

 
At 5/11/2006 6:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

An interesting post. Note that the correct spelling is "pursue" and not "persue." Today, there are few women whose desire to pursue a career should be held up because of children, other than delaying the ultimate fulfillment of that dream. It is acceptable for women to have children then go to graduate school and begin a career at that time. Alternatively, in many fields, you can get a part-time job while the children need time and attention, which allows you to keep an outside interest and at the same time keeping the resume filled as well. There are very few careers in which it is expected that you will begin working at 20-22 years old - so no one has to focus on career during that time.

 
At 5/11/2006 7:29 PM, Blogger David_on_the_Lake said...

It's a catch 22... A career can only fulfill you if there's that career hunger to be fulfilled...if someone hungers for something else than the career won't do anything...

So..first you have to make yourself hungry..and that's where you can choose..

 
At 5/12/2006 7:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't wanna leave a comment because you don't seem to answer people.

 
At 5/12/2006 2:02 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

Last Anonymous-- you just did.
It's the end of the semester, and I am busy catchin up on work. I have no time for thoughtful and legit response, but I check for comments at every chance I get. People are entitled to feel as they wish.
Perhaps if you write something more intriguing and sophisticated than your last comment, I'll feel the need to respond. Thanks.

 
At 5/13/2006 11:46 PM, Blogger Lost said...

Hello Michelle. How are ya. Glad to see those creative juices are still flowing...

I think we actually had a conversation about this recently. All frum girls talk about this issue. Well, those with a half a brain neway. It's hard to find that perfect balance of professional career, professional mommy, but take note from our parents. It can be done, it will done, and it is the responsiblity of a caring wife to help out her husband with the financial burden of raising a Jewish family in today's crazy expensive world.
One thousand bucks for 15 hours of work IS awesome.
The world would be a better place if more people were happy with their jobs. But the reality is, most are not. It's all about knowing what you have to do to get by in this world, set up a correlated mathematical equation using happiness and money as your variables.. and maybe itt'l shed some light. Or not. 'tis why I'm still major-less. :-P
Gut Voch to you..

 
At 5/14/2006 4:52 PM, Blogger Josh said...

Mich - You're absolutely right that it is a personal decision, and nobody, whether family, friends, or schools, should try and intimate that one career (or lack thereof) is appropriate for everybody. You have to think about what will make you most happy, weighing your own priorities. Trust me, you can make tons of money in a flexible work place - and still wake up every morning hating your life. You have to be happy above all else. Hopefully the frum shidduch world will start to put this personal fullfillment over pareve interests that meld with communal expectations.

 
At 5/14/2006 5:51 PM, Blogger socialworker/frustrated mom said...

Yeah like me a full time social worker. Sometimes we have no choice.

 
At 5/15/2006 9:50 AM, Anonymous Chani said...

I guess I'm lucky-I'm the friend you were talking about who's going for speech & is actually excited about it. But that's a new perspective of all those nice, frum girls in Touro who're going for speech & might not be so excited about it-they're going for speech even though they don't really want to, because it will enable them to work part time & earn a good salary, & still see their kids. How self sacrificing of them! I hope they come to enjoy the job!

 
At 5/15/2006 11:00 AM, Blogger The Unorthodox Yeshiva Guy said...

Michelle,

I want to put a link to your blog on my blogsite...

Do you know how to do this?

If I email you my template, will you be able to do it for me?

Thanks!

-TUYG

 
At 5/15/2006 2:36 PM, Blogger SephardiLady said...

It is ridiculous to assume that a therapist working Part Time will be able to support a husband in kollel and children.

 
At 5/15/2006 11:38 PM, Anonymous esther said...

Just wanted to add some perspective from the been-there-done-that crowd...

I am not frum, but I faced the same dilemmas years ago when I made the decision to pursue an advanced degree. I have had the good fortune to have been successful at a series of "careers" -- most of which I have loved. Along the way, I had children. I schemed and planned and negotiated so that I could make sure that I would have time with my kids. I still do that. I have been known to walk out of meetings that run past the time I promised to be home. I have been known to refuse to attend meetings that conflict with school drop off and pick up times. I refuse to be "punished" for being a working mother.

On the other hand, I'm perpetually exhausted and there are some Sundays when the laundry doesn't get done because we spent the day at the zoo or the park or a movie... so we eat mac and cheese for dinner, or the kids don't have clean socks that *match*! (I draw the line at clean underwear.. thank goodness Target is open late!)

For working mothers who have young children (under the age of 16) there is no such thing as balance -- it is a perpetual tightrope with snapping alligators waiting below. (I call that survival, not balance.)

But we (my children and I) are both better off -- they know me as their mother, but they also know that I am a person who has accomplishments (and failures) in the world beyond our home. They know that as much as I love them, I have other responsibilities that occasionally (not often, but occasionally) take precedence. They know that while they are the center of MY universe, they are NOT the center of THE universe -- and that occasionally that other universe intrudes and they need to be patient until I am available to focus on their needs again. They have learned how to behave in all kinds of different environemnts (cuz I drag them with me everywhere I go) and people are impressed that they not only behave but are able to engage in interesting conversation with adults.

It's all very overwhelming when you are 20. (At least it was to me...) There are no simple answers, there are no perfectly balanced lives waiting for you to inhabit them. No matter what your choices, the most important thing is to keep it real. Happiness doesn't come from a job or a career... it comes from what we make of our lives. the perfectly happy life is the one that you yourself create.

 
At 5/16/2006 3:34 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

Esther--wow! Thanks so much for your valuable contribution. After all, nothing speaks better than experience. You must be extremely good at what you do if you can manage to walk out meetings and keep your job. Is that an accurate assumption?

And what you said at the end, you're obviously right that it's what you make of yourself, but you can never predict where you'll be. So there are people who pursue careers, have kids, and don't follow thru. And the other way around

 
At 5/19/2006 9:34 AM, Anonymous Chani said...

Esther, I don't know you, but you sound like a very special, interesting person. I really liked your comment!

 

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