Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

22 Av 5766 - August 16, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Home and Family

Home Sweet Home

by Bayla Gimmel

In the last couple of years, our neighborhood has been blessed with two local halls which are large enough to host a bar mitzvah or engagement. One is the dining room of a yeshiva and the other is the social hall of a shul. Neither has the opulent draperies or plush entranceway that some of the halls in town can boast, but they do have a wonderful advantage.

For all of the neighbors of a local bar mitzvah boy or a newly engaged kallah who want to attend the simchah, the "commute time" to the hall is a walk of seven minutes or less. No waiting for a bus, no travel time on the bus in either direction, and no uncertainty about whether or not the bus is going to arrive on schedule.

The men can pop in and say "Mazel Tov" and be out of there before night seder, and the women can put the children to sleep and join the festivities for a few minutes, stay for half an hour or linger even longer. They can use a baby sitter as young as ten, because they will be back in a flash if the sitter rings their cell phone to say the baby woke up or one of the other children wants Mommy.

It is very different from the days when, due to necessity, all of the neighborhood simchas were held elsewhere. One had to calendar an entire evening in order to attend for less than an hour. I greatly approve of the difference. Parents of young children can have their cake and eat it too.

When I was a young mother, we were living in the States. One of my sons was involved in an activity at the local Jewish Community Center. I used to drive him there, put my toddler in his stroller and walk around the Center's grounds until the older boy was ready to come home. During the course of my visits to the Center, I often encountered one particular woman who came for the social activities.

A friend told me her story. She was a wealthy woman, Jewish but not observant, whose husband, a busy professional man, was away from home most of the time. She had a live-in housekeeper who cleaned the house, cooked and took care of the one child. If you called, you were told by the housekeeper that the lady of the house was not home and she had no idea when she would return.

This was before the Women's movement, and therefore it would not have occurred to this affluent woman to get a job or to do anything else that might be more productive than sitting around talking or playing cards with her friends. The Center was as good a place as any for her to spend her days.

A couple of years later, I was at an evening social event and sitting right near my seat was the lady from the Center. In walked another woman of about the same age, and this was the gist of their conversation:

Lady from the Center: "Well, hello, Sally (not her real name). Haven't seen you in years. I thought you didn't go out at night."

Sally: "Hello to you. You're right. During the time my son was growing up, I stayed at home with him. But now that he is in college, I have started going out again."

Lady from the Center: "Oh, my son just started college also. Is your boy at State (the local college that took basically anyone who applied)? If so, I'll ask my son to look him up."

Sally: "Nooo, my son isn't attending State. He's away at Harvard!"

I did not have any plans to send any of my sons to Harvard, but I realized that this conversation was something I was supposed to hear. As in most places where the children are young, it was hectic in my house most evenings. After I finally settled the little ones down, cleared up the supper dishes and tossed the toys back into their boxes, I was sorely tempted to get a baby sitter and go out.

Card games and gossip sessions weren't the only things that were going on. There were interesting speakers, simchas, chessed organizations that held monthly meetings. There was no lack of interesting places where I could have gone.

I didn't succumb to the run-away-from-everything urge very frequently, but that night I had left the house and I was attending the simchah where I overheard these ladies. At the time, in addition to some little ones, I had two school-aged sons who expected me to be available every evening to help them with everything from their Chumash homework to studying math flash cards.

My boys were very involved with school and I wanted them to know that their schoolwork was important to me as well, so I passed up most of the activities that were going on in our community. I stayed home night after night, but I can't honestly say I didn't resent it just a little and I can't say I was always delighted to be there.

A few nights later, as I sat quizzing the boys on their brochos facts that they needed for the upcoming Brochos Bee, something occurred to me. Just as "homebody Sally" had been able to send her son off to Harvard by staying in her four cubits during the evening hours, I just might be helping to prepare my boys for top-level yeshivas! That gave "Home Sweet Home" a different complexion.

I saw myself as a facilitator. I was busy helping my boys with their schoolwork. That was very different from my previous conception of being cooped up in the house. I became a more positive person.

After the homework was finished and the older boys went to sleep, I listened to taped shiurim, started my writing career by doing the publicity releases for our school and shul, renewed my childhood interest in knitting and crocheting, and did other interesting things that could be done at home. With my new attitude, staying home became quite enjoyable.

When we were fortunate enough to be able to come to Israel, I had a big choice to make. Still at home at the time were one cheder boy, two high schoolers and a student at the Mir. (No, we hadn't been told not to bring children between the ages of 8 and 16 on Aliyah.)

Everyone told me that if I didn't go to ulpan right away, I would never go. The problem was that the ulpan was in quite a different part of the city, and it started early in the morning. My husband had to be at shacharis when the boys left for school. If I had gone to the ulpan, the boys would have had to let themselves out of the house every day. That was quite different from our usual way of life.

I elected to keep our status quo. I passed up the ulpan, and stayed at home. I also continued to be at home in the evenings. When my 14-year-old came home from yeshiva ketana at ten-fifteen at night, hungry and tired, he expected someone to be there to greet him. And the someone he had in mind was not his ten-year-old brother.

If there had been simchas in the neighborhood in those years, it would have afforded a nice, brief change of pace. I am glad the young mothers of today have that option. However, I have never regretted being a stay-at-home Mom. My sons would hopefully have gone to the best yeshivas anyway, but -- one never knows.


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