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The Debate Continues

February 28, 2011 7 comments

I’m happy to share with you my open letter to the editors at Aish.com

Dear Aish editor,

My name is Chavi Cohen and I am both a graduate of Harvard University and of EYAHT.  I have been a long-time supporter of Aish and worked for Rabbi Gluckin and Aish Boston when I was in college.

I am writing now in response to an article posted on Aish.com “Mommy Detour” by Rachel Barmatz.

Although it was easy for me to become frum while in high school and then college, after being frum for a few years I began to feel like I was submerging parts of myself that needed to be expressed.  This feeling became particularly acute when I got married about a year after graduating from college and had my first child about 10 months later.  Adding to my angst was the intense pressure that the frum community exerts that being a stay-at-home mom is the only option – or for second best, one should teach or find a job that allows them to be home as much as possible.  This was clearly Rachel’s perspective.

I want to strongly urge Aish.com to go the extra mile and start either a column or a series to present the opposite side of things.  There are so many truly talented and brilliant women who need the support of the frum community to develop themselves in many different ways.  While, yes, many women might need the chizuk to step away from the career track, there are just as many woman who need the encouragement, support and role-modeling to do the exact opposite.  And outside of careers, there are also women who need to be encouraged to continue playing music, speaking in public, or any other skill they developed before becoming frum.

We do our entire community a disservice if we continue to promote only one right way to be a frum Jewish woman.

I wholly support Rachel’s decisions, but I hope that there is not a woman reading her article out there and being weighed down by the guilt she perceives from making different decisions.

I would appreciate a response.  Furthermore, I would be happy to contribute my perspective on this issue in an article for aish.com or in whatever forum deemed appropriate.

I urge the editors of aish.com to learn more about me and my personal struggles and challenges of being a frum woman on my blog – www.harvardhousewife.wordpress.com.

Thank you,
Chavi Cohen

 

Use the comments to tell me what YOU think!

Categories: Family, Me, Work

When your age doesn’t match your stage of life…

December 16, 2010 4 comments

I’ve found that there’s a disconnect between the secular world and the Orthodox Jewish world.

An understatement you say? Let me be more specific…

It seems that there is a secular life trajectory and the “frum” life trajectory.  What follows is a gross over-generalization but I think you’ll agree with me.

Secular: High School, College, Job/Graduate School, Job/Graduate School, Find/Date/Live with significant other, Marry significant other, Enjoy being married to said significant other, Enjoy being married to said significant other some more, Talk about having kids, Have a kid, Consider having another kid, Maybe have another kid… cue settling down into domesticity.

Frum: High School, Seminary, Leave seminary to date, Date as quickly as possible, Enter some sort of profession, Date and Get Married (note they follow one another so quickly as to be in the same time period!), Have first kid, Have second kid, Have third kid, Have fourth kid, Have Husband enter some sort of profession, Have fifth kid etc etc… You get the picture. Domesticity from the get go.

I have fallen somewhere in between – broken the mold so to speak.  Spending years gearing up for a professional career with all the right high school jobs, college academics, college internships and work experience to mold me into the consummate young professional.  I was aiming to be THE young Jewish professional, probably an upper west sider, living the dream.

And then I went WAAAAYYYY off track.  Graduated college, traveled for a summer while attending seminary, came home, met my husband one month later, dated for one month, got engaged, got married and had Munchkin #1 10 months later – phew.  Munchkin #2 came exactly 19.5 months later.

Definitely not what most people expect from a 25 year old.

Case in point::

I’ve been going on some informational interviews lately to learn more about the development field and just generally get some ideas for fundraising best practices etc.  Today, I was fortunate to maximize my time by having two meetings with two seasoned development professionals in the same organization.  I always try to keep the personal information to a minimum, no mention of family or religion.. just professional.  I got dressed in my best suit (well, honestly the only one that barely fits after having two kids and spending most of the last two years in maternity clothes) and put my best foot forward.

One topic I’m desperate to find out more about is can you have a career that’s professional rewarding while having a family life?  Aka is flex time a possibility in the non-profit world?

To feel this out, I asked the first woman if her job brought her to a lot of travel and would jobs similar to my skill set require lots of travel.  She started talking about all the opportunities for overnight trips in the US and abroad and how pursuing the donor and being willing to travel was a great asset to my profile.

And then I realized… she’s seen my resume and met me.  Her impression was not married woman, mother of two.  She saw, young professional, seeking exciting experiences, travel on my employer’s dime, and a young woman looking to advance herself and her career.

ok.  then my second meeting.

We got to talking, he kept referencing my resume and saying you graduated recently in 2007 right?  As if confirming that I was the youngster he was expecting.  And then the conversation turned to salary negotiations and how one would negotiate for flex-time.  He asked me, well what kind of flex-time are you interested in?  Then I dropped the bomb…

Well I have children so I am trying to find out about flex-time that would accommodate that.

His response was not normal.

You have children? More than one? [long pause]  ARE THEY YOURS?

I tried to contain myself.  Did I look like the person who would have stepchildren at the age of 25? Did he want to see my c-section scar for proof? And lastly, is it THAT strange a situation?

So I just politely responded, with a rueful smile, yup, they’re both mine!

And then he continued as if my confirmation still really didn’t make it true.  So let me see, he said, you got married in 2008 and have children already? And more than one.  You must have had them right away.

Well sir for someone who raises millions of dollars, it seems like your math skills when it comes to months and years need a little bit of time to kick in!  But thanks for playing the let-me-figure-out-when-you-conceived-your-children-game! oy.

This experience just convinced me that I’m living outside the mold.  And these people are also parents!  It even made me a bit defensive.  But I love my kids.  And I always wanted kids and to be a young mother. And my children are adorable and enrich my life in so many ways.

It just seems like I should have had them 10 years from now.

Just another example of living in two worlds…

to be continued…

Categories: Family, Me, Work