Looking Again at "Once upon a time..."


This a personal piece about the struggle between work and family as a jewish woman. Can being a stay at home mom can be a feminist act?  class="intro_big"

Once upon a time there was a father, a mother and a little child… sounds like the opening of the ultimate fairy-tale? Well, perhaps this is the opening which belongs to the European mythology, but it definitely doesn't belong to the Jewish one. The story of the Jewish ancient times will begin like this: once upon a time there was a grandfather, his wife and all their sons, wives and grandchildren.

Once upon a time the family wasn't just parents and children. There was the tribe. Each member of the family had a specific role he or she played.  The family functioned as an economical unit. Men went to work- they brought home money or food from the field. Women took care of the house and the children. They delivered babies and  brought water from the well- their territory was home.

Today. Today we are enlightened. Today there is free choice. No more oppression of the women. Today I, as young women, can choose. Do I want to be a psychologist? A nurse? Perhaps a teacher or a doctor? But what if I want to be home? I am not saying- "stay home" I am saying "be home".

My daughter is going to be 5 months very soon. In the last few months I find myself juggling between all the roles I am playing: my motherhood, career, relationship, academic studies, keeping the house in a reasonable condition, cooking, shopping for the cooking… this list never ends. You are probably yawning in your chair right now, thinking that you have heard enough of this complaining. This writer doesn't really mean it. She wouldn't give everything to go back in time and be a submissive woman. In fact, even if she would get paid she wouldn’t do so. Yesterday I met an old friend. He told me he envies me for being married and having a child. I replied that I would love to have his freedom. He eyed me and said- will you really give up what you have now? I said no. of course not.  

Here goes my question: is it legitimate today, in our ambitious competitive time, to be a respectful woman that chooses to be home? When I am talking about "once upon a time" I am referring to the Jewish mythology. I am referring to our ancestors.  Our four mothers performed in the last and following parshot shavuah. Sarah, Rivka, Rachel and Leah are our mythological mothers. We admire their wisdom, their courage and even their beauty but we never see them as housewives. All women were housewives then and besides- who cares? Did Sarah make a delicious meal to the three angels? It doesn't matter. In the first time in my life I look at this four women and I see them not only as heroes or anti-heroes (they were very human, after all), but as women in their time. These women didn't "stay" home. They were the home. I am allergic to sentences like "the place of the women is the kitchen". But isn't it beautiful to leave aside the anger and defense and just admire that?

I believe that feminism is to choose. Choose and investigate who we are and what we want to be, and that includes the traditional roles.  

It is late. My baby is finally sleeping and the smell of a banana cake which just came out of the oven wraps the house. Instead of studying psychology, my feeding instinct defeated me. Every time a different role wins. It's a nice little battle which I have the right to manage in this 21 century. I will never replace it, just like my marriage and pretty baby, but it's a struggle.