Tuesday, February 21, 2006
Dissonance.

Monday - chof beis shvat - was the yahrzeit of the Rebbe's wife. Naturally, this is a day observed by women.

The Rebbe gave a talk once, on one of her yahrzeits, speaking on the role of women. To my understanding, the Rebbe was saying that the feminist movement didn't do women any favors.

He said that women were being told they had to compete with men, do men's jobs, etc., and this is not the role of the woman. Conversely, it is not the role of the man to do a woman's job. In Egypt, one of the harshest labors pharoah gave to the Jewish people was when he assigned men to do women's tasks, and women to do men's. He stressed that a Jewish woman is never "second class." Her role is far greater than a man's.

I was not alive when the feminist movement began, but I think I understand its historical underpinnings. Women felt "less than" because they had to stay home. They were bored, depressed, and felt like there was more to life than keeping house and raising children.

I feel that way sometimes. I'm with my children all day long. Sometimes the strain of raising them makes me so overwhelmed, I feel like I can't take it any longer. Just going to the grocery store is a monumental task. Most of the time, they're simply incorrigible. I can't tell you how many times a day where I am left feeling completely drained. When Srulik won't let me buckle him in his car seat. When Rivky pishes on the floor - again. When Chaya has a tantrum because she isn't getting what she wants. When the three of them harass me (constantly) while I am trying to make supper. When they refuse to go to sleep. I feel like I go a little crazy, every single day. It's almost 9pm, and I have had no peace at all today. (Well, I sat outside by myself for 10 minutes when Yaakov got home because I couldn't take it any more).

As a chassidisher woman, I am expected to have many children. This is what the Rebbe wanted. Each soul that is brought down brings Moshiach closer. What holier job could any person have than bringing more Yidden into the world?

But I resent the hell out of it sometimes. I don't have the personal freedom to "close up shop" and not have more kids. The Torah way is to have a Rav, and the Rav is the one you have to ask permission from. You might get a break - 6 months, a year, maybe more. But you have to have really extenuating circumstances for a Rav to say "okay, no more kids." I did not grow up religious, and I bristle and chafe from the yoke sometimes. I suspect many "frum from birth" women do too.

Yet there's another part of me that will always yearn for the next baby. I love having a midwife, and I love being pregnant (hey, when else does society so warmly embrace a fat lady?). I even love natural childbirth, as agonizing as it can be. I'm sure when G-d ends my childbearing years I will be terribly sad.

And probably a little relieved.


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