Banana came home the other day and announced that her rav at mechina (preparatory kindergarten) had told the girls that in the home, the husband makes the decisions and the wife obeys the husband.
I’ll give you a minute.
Once the Cap’n and I had picked our jaws up off the floor, I remembered that Banana’s rav is Sephardi. (He also tells the girls it’s assur to eat fish with dairy and who knows what all else.) I don’t mean to impugn Sephardim, but many—especially those who came to Israel from Arabic-speaking countries—have not encountered anything like a women’s movement in their communities. So after a giggle and a snort, I pointed out to my five-year-old that in the Crunch household, Ima and Abba are partners and work together as a team. There are things that Abba does better and takes responsibility for, and things that Ima does better and sees to. But our strength comes from acting as equals, not from having one person in charge and another subservient (though by assuming the traditional stay-at-home mom role and doing most of the chores, it probably looks that way).
A friend of mine once told me that her four-year-old son told her that “Mans [sic] work and mommies stay home.” My friend had a Ph.D. but had chosen (for the time being) to be at home with her young children, as I did. It’s galling sometimes to feel like we have to give up our image as educated, intelligent beings in order to provide our children with parental care in their early years. But perhaps at the same time it affords the opportunity to explain the complexities of feminism and modern life to tell them about our choices, and point out the choices other mothers make to go out and work, or fathers to stay home, or parents to have their children cared for by others while both parents work.
I sometimes think we’re going down a weird road by sending our kids to the frummier schools in Efrat. But then again, we have plenty of interesting conversations at home as a result, and our kids don’t take for granted what we do in our house when they know that other people do things differently. We explain to them in neutral ways why other families do what they do, and why we do what we do.
Given that some Jewish families—both those who do a lot and those who do almost nothing—often don’t discuss why, perhaps in the end my kids are getting a better education after all.