Are Mature Religious Women Leaving the Fold?

Elana Sztokman’s response to Yael Mishali contains a beautiful description of motherhood.

My five year old daughter, Meital, recently began singing “A Pirate King” from The Pirates of Penzance. She learned it from a book – well, actually, she learned it from me. We were doing some bedtime reading from a pirate-related children’s book, and in the story, the main character begins singing, “When I sally forth to seek my prey/I help myself in a royal way/ I sink a few more ships it’s true/than a well-bred monarch ought to do.” I’m assuming that the book author did not actually expect readers to know both the melody and the rest of the lyrics to this song. The passage was just sort of stuck in the book, set apart from the text, one of those italicized poems that it is assumed modern readers will skip and move on. But the author I guess didn’t anticipate me. I’ve been singing the Pirates of Penzance since I was 11 years old. By the time I got to the part of the song that goes, “For I am a Pirate King/ and it is it is a glorious thing to be a pirate king, Yes!” I was dancing around the bedroom waving my air-sword. I admit I’m no Kevin Kline, but Meital, lying in bed way past her bedtime, smiled and said, “Do it again!” We have been singing sections of the Pirates of Penzance ever since, with a little help from the magic of YouTube, and it is, it is a glorious thing. Yes!

This is what (I hope) is a happy motherhood moment. Meital pulls up the stool as I’m cutting vegetables for dinner and chants, “Oh false one, you have deceived me!” To which I respond in my best dainty half-pitched voice, “I have deceived you?” And she replies, in her best angry baritone, “Yes, deceived me.” When I carpool from gan, the other children look at us a bit funny when Meital starts in with, “Oh better far to live and die under the brave black flag I cry.” I don’t care about these looks. These are my cherished moments.

Sztokman then reports on the Kolech discussion of birth control that offended Mishali:

Petrekovsky described severe mental and emotional anguish that results from all of this reproductive pressure. It should be obvious. The numbers are hard to come by, but it is clear that the system is going to eventually crash. Petrekovsky talked about her fear that many will leave religion. [MiI: Emphasis mine.] We have no statistics whatsoever on women leaving religion because all the studies on the “datlash” (formerly religious) phenomenon in Israel were done on men. Shraga Fisherman’s well-known Noar Ha-Kipot Hazrukot (Youth of the Strewn Skullcaps) research study about the 20-25% of religious youth leaving religion is all about men and not women (hence the title).

I know many women who have raised large families, and to me they seem as frum as ever if not more so. But I am intrigued. Is there anything to this concern? Do you know any mothers of many who have left yiddishkeit?

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Comments

  1. A while ago the “Frumhouse” blog had a similar but slightly different topic, about established baalos tshuva who go OTD after many years. One of the possible reasons given was the difficulty in raising a large family. Her scenario was convincing but not based on rigorous research.

    I’ve heard it posited that baalos tshuva have more difficulties raising large families since they have not seen their own mothers doing it. I’m not sure if raising a large family successfully is so cultural; I think it’s more based on temperament.

    • mominisrael says:

      tesyaa: While temperament is important, I definitely think there is a cultural/educational element involved.
      You could make the argument that delaying children or limiting family size for the purpose of education or career could have a negative influence on family life and that I have seen that happen–ultimately the career became the priority. Obviously this in itself is not a reason to have a large family!

  2. Stacey Goldman says:

    I’m so glad you brought this up. I found her response troubling. It reminded me of Liberal Jewish women who feel it their duty to liberate Orthodox women from the drudgery of their lives as second class citizens with zero understanding that most of these women are truly happy and feel they are living truly meaningful lives in the ways of Hashem. I would think the same is true for most frum mothers of large families. I am sure there are issues, but playing up two sensational stories when similar things are occurring in small secular families is disengenuous. It is not the number of children, but the attitude of the mother. Are her children a burden or a bracha?

    • mominisrael says:

      Stacey, where have you been? You were one of my first readers. By the way I edited out your email address; you placed it in the spot for blog URL and I presume you didn’t want it made public. I agree that the sensational stories are not about large families per se and that these two mothers had other problems.

  3. alpidarkomama says:

    I’ve seen several women have a very difficult time with raising a large family. I think it is absolutely about temperament. I know someone who went into a deep depression in anticipation of child #6, and an even deeper one after. She just couldn’t handle it at all, and they were also struggling financially. She had even asked for a heter, knowing that it would be refused and knowing that another child would be too much for her. 🙁

  4. Margelit says:

    First of all, I know many haredi rabbis who give heterim for birth control–especially to baalot tshuva, for whom it is often a shock to leave the careers they were raised for and become FT mothers.
    My personal opinion is that so much of a woman’s actions really depend on her relationship with her husband. It’s less about social pressure from outside, more about how much rachamim her husband has and shares in the experience of being pregnant, giving childbirth, and taking responsibility for raising the children with her. If he leaves her feeling alone, she is bound to realize that her new life as a religious woman was not all she had hoped for on a personal level, and move on for other drachim.

    • mominisrael says:

      Margelit,thanks for your comment. I know a woman whose husband learns in a yeshiva for baalei teshuva. His rabbi insists that all couples use birth control for two full years, just as the Talmud considers nursing for two years to be the norm and a priority for the existing child. You make a good point about the husband. This is a case where husbands need to be educated as well.

  5. Why does nobody seem to notice that lots of women get overwhelmed when they have more than one small child — even if they “only” have two kids? I have plenty of relatives and friends who really had a tough time because of the physical demands of having little babies: the sleep-deprivation, the chasing toddlers around, the constant supervision/vigilance.

    As the kids grow, that sense of being overwhelmed goes away. It’s about age, not number, in my opinion. Obviously, someone with enough money to afford some housekeeping/babysitting help will have a much easier time of raising any size family.

    Mostly, people will see what they want to see regarding the issue of family size. Those who love having a big family (including me; we have 7 kids, Baruch Hashem) will be noticing the competent, organized mothers of 9 or 12, and comparing them with the harrassed, out-of-control mother of an only child who has a screaming fit in the supermarket aisle.

    Those who are horrified by big families will notice the exhausted mother herding half-a-dozen kids home on a bus, and compare her to the put-together mother of a well-dressed baby in a Bugaboo.

    What can you do?!

    I believe this is about coping skills and parent education, both of which can be taught, and both of which are far more prevalent in the religious community, where being a “professional” mother is highly valued. Most of my friends have taken some kind of parenting workshops. Most of my friends with ANY children have mostly good days and some difficult ones.

    But people will see what they want to see.

    • mominisrael says:

      Sarah, you’re right that some parents struggle even with one child. I don’t know that there is more parent education in the religious community than in the secular. But there is enough bad advice to go around wherever you look.

  6. Shoshana says:

    Nearly all the divorces in our frum neighborhood are due to men leaving the fold or internal marital problems. Yes, the majority of them are Balei Te’Shuva with large families, but the size of the family is not the reason.

    Many of them are men, going through the mid-life 40-50 crisis who think they can have more fun again with a younger woman!

    Only one woman neighbor of mine has become more modern (not Hareidi) BUT she is stil shomer shabbat.

  7. rickismom says:

    I do not see this. But for sure the best prevention is a good RAV. When my BT friend gave birth to twins when she had 2 small ones at home, the Rav CALLED the husband in and demaned that he obtain help for her.

    And why would a woman need to stop acting religious? As a well -known rebbitzen (with many kids) told the doctor in the delivery room:
    – Tell me, doctor, why are you here at 3AM?
    -Its my career!
    -And THIS is MY career! Don’t you think I knew on the day of conception what the labor pains would be? Don’t you think I know that I have to balance the budget at the end of the month? Don’t you know that if I go to the nurse at tipat chalav, she will tell me where to get birth control and my husband would never know?
    – So how do you manage?
    -I invite you to come and see.

  8. this is a great topic, which I know nothing about 🙂 where I come from 4 kids is considered a big family. I have definitely been that mother with only 1 kid completely overwhelmed by lack of sleep and lack of domestic support (not from my husband, just in general). From my very vague impression religious communities would be more suited to raising large families because there is such a sense of community and people help each other out – or at least I’ve seen such community in some yishuvim. Without support from other mothers even one kid can be difficult.

  9. Elana Sztokman says:

    Dear Mom in Israel
    Thanks for continuing this important discussion.

    I would like to add that it’s not just “mature” “mothers” leaving the fold. It’s also young women, mothers and otherwise: it’s young mothers having nervous breakdowns, women avoiding getting married out of fear based on women they see, and it’s women of all ages living in all kinds of depression. There are simply no rigorous studies on how many, where, or what kind of emotional breakdowns religious women are experiencing. The only statistics we have are those provided by psychologists and by Debbie Gross of the Crisis Center for Religious Women, whose numbers of women in crisis are staggering. Despite the reliable information, one thing is for sure: to say that “most” Orthodox mothers are just living in delight, a claim that is clearly not backed up by anecdotal evidence, is not helpful. It keeps the women who need help invisible. The women in depression or in crisis are often the least likely to be seen. They may be under the radar, or wearing a “mask” (to quote Maya Angelou), or perhaps living in Mod’in, as is a woman I men recently who used to live in Beitar Ilit, the whole kit and kaboodle, four kids under the age of five, and now took off her hat, got divorced, and lives nearby. So really, we have no idea what is going on with a lot of women. But assuming everyone is just “happy” (or is supposed to be) is not helpful.

    B’vracha,
    Elana

  10. Elana Sztokman says:

    should have said “Despite the LACK OF reliable information…”

  11. Hmmm, the admittedly small group of women I know that are frum and have large families seem to have gotten more frum as they had kids, not less. That being said, most of the baalat teshuva I know have medium-smaller families (4 kids or less). I agree with what seems like the common sentiment that it is often better for BTs to have smaller families if they didn’t come from a large family themselves. It’s hard enough to deal with the lack of familial support that almost always goes with the territory (especially if both spouses are BTs).

    I do know one BT who went OTD after having kids, but she only has 2 children. I think she stopped observing mitzvot because her husband was extremely critical of traditional Judaism. To be honest, I can’t believe she didn’t realize that her husband was a bad match before they got married. But it is what it is.

  12. I think that much of the discussion is missing the point.

    We all know women that have lots of kids and are happy with their choices and others that are not so happy.

    The point is that a woman’s standing in the community is often evaluated based on the size of the family. The more kids she manages successfully, the more accomplished she is perceived to be. (And we have not even begun discussing the anguish of “fertility-challenged” couples, who in addition to suffering from lack of children have to endure the looks, whispers, and judgments passed behind their backs).

    It is a real challenge to juggle the Torah ideal of having a large family with respect for the privacy and choices made by individuals within the community and the need to value other people for who they are and not what they do (or how many kids they have). There is absolutely NO place for social pressure when it comes to family planning (or lack thereof).

    I am especially annoyed by articles in various religious publications about accomplished women with large families. Continuous feeding of such stories to the public sends the message that you as a woman can have it all. In reality, the majority of people cannot have the best of both worlds and end up with frustration at their inability to follow these superwoman role models. (I have only respect for the women featured; I just don’t think this should be set as a program for the population at large).

    When all is said and done, such comparison of people is baseless (Rav Dessler elaborates on this point in Michtav MeEliyahu). Each one comes to this world with her unique background, abilities, and challenges. We as a community must make it our goal to keep this in mind in all of our interactions.

  13. Leah, not to argue any of these point. Just think it’s funny: I’m one of those “big family” moms that gets featured in the religious press. I asked my Rav first, because I think diff people will get / not get inspiration from that.

    However, I said clearly in my last interview: “There’s no such thing as SuperMom”. And when I was asked to speak to a religious girls’ technology/business school, I surprised the staff by including a big slide: “You can’t have it all.”

    I think different women have different ways of finding their best path in life to fulfill their purpose in Hashem’s world. Career women sometimes feel “second best” in the frum world, but they also are looked up to for doing something “interesting”. Stay at home moms are often held up as the ideal, but in reality some feel bored or useless.

    There’s a lot for all of us to learn from each other. I wonder if the situation is not so bad as it sometimes feels — I think there are plenty of models and peers for everyone.

    But when a person is feeling overwhelmed or depressed or lonely, it is hard to hook up with the people who can provide the companionship, inspiration and support. It can even feel difficult to reach out to the rabbis/teachers who could provide that authoritative guidance and support, which leads to a lot of misunderstanding.

  14. Leah and Sarah, your comments are so interesting.

    About social pressure: among my non-frum friends and coworkers, I can think of many who wanted more kids but whose husbands were against it, or who just didn’t think they could manage. Obviously, that sort of pressure doesn’t exist in the frum community. People joke about “baby fever”, that desire for a new baby when they’ve planned not to have any more. In the frum world, it is just so easy to indulge that desire. In the frum world, not only is it socially acceptable to have a large family, it’s socially desirable. It’s often not socially acceptable to have a large family outside of the frum world.

  15. mominisrael says:

    Thanks, RickisMom. But don’t you think there are some women who are pressured into having more kids when they don’t want to?
    Katherine, it definitely helps if others are in a similar situation. And people who are not used to seeing it do not always understand how it is done, like rickismom pointed out.
    Elana: If a mother leaves because of pressure to have children, you are right that it would probably be at an earlier stage. However, as you imply, the bigger concern is not leaving Judaism rather depression, child abuse, divorce, debt, etc. It seems odd to worry about a woman uncovering her hair when we are talking about problems that directly impact children. Especially when the other things seem more prevalent. And while many divorced (and single) women do become less observant I still do not see married women becoming less observant as a trend. I can think of only one woman I know who gave up custody of her small kids and left yiddishkeit. I’m sure there were many factors.
    Elana, do you agree that the pressures of a career or balancing a career and even a small family could also lead to women leaving Judaism? You could make a cynical case that keeping women at home with a lot of kids makes it more likely that they will stay in the community.

  16. Elana Sztokman says:

    Dear MII,
    I totally agree that removing the hat is not the main issue here(in fact it may be part of the solution — I took off my hat after four years, when I was in a deep crisis, and I think that kept me from being what you call “OTD” — it helped me find myself again.)
    I don’t know about trends. As I said, there is no rigorous research. I think we all agree on that. Plus, there is a fundamental problem in analyzing trends because how would we find those who ‘left’? They would be everywhere. Like my new neighbor. Or my aerobics instructor who used to live in Har Nof, would put her hat and skirt back on after class, etc, but then one day I saw her out on shabbat in the german colony in lycra shorts walking her dog — she took her seven kids and just LEFT har nof and the whole thing. So how many women like that are there? How would we find them? How would we be able to identify a trend? I don’t have a good answer to any of these questions.

    all I’m saying, as I think a lot of the commenters are saying, is that there is a LOT of pressure on women, often unreasonable and certainly unhealthy pressure, added social pressures, and even if some women can handle it, or some women love it, that’s terrific, but it doesn’t change the fact that we really ought to be rethinking what messages we are sending to our daughters, and to one another. I think that’s the main point.

    What do you think?
    B’vracha,
    Elana

  17. this is a very interesting conversation. Just one thing, elana’s comment I think needs a bit of editing – it is very specific in it’s description of that woman – I think she could easily be identified which may not be what she wants.

  18. faith/emuna says:

    sara thank you for your comments, i am one of those people who have been feeling inadequate lately from these stories of woman with big (more then 10 children) families who have jobs outside of the home and seem to have it all under control (although i b’ah have 7 children, i do not have an additional job). your comment made me feel validated.
    what i would really like is to hear practical tips from these woman (esp the one in tsfat wtih 18 kids). i mean we all only have 24 hrs in a day, i would love to hear how to be more efficient with them.

  19. faith/emuna: I don’t have any specific advice, certainly not for an open forum. But focusing on priorities and goals is always a good idea, no matter what you do!

    I do think that this is where the great parenting workshops come in. I don’t come from a big family, so learning and working with other moms, led by a mother of 13 whom I deeply respect (and I love the atmosphere in her home) was a fantastic experience. I wish I could have done more.

    There are others out there; ask around (or contact me directly sarah -at- reallysarahsyndication -dot- com)

    Sarah

  20. Sarah – I actually read the article about you the other day and loved it because 1)you sited the caveats involved in managing both a career and a large family; 2)emphasized the avodas Hashem perspective.

    faith/emuna – I can very much relate to your comment. Some time ago, I took part in a workshop together with several other 30-something women, all hard-working committed mothers of 4-7 kids and day jobs. At one point during the workshop, the participants were asked to tell a bit about themselves, but instead of listing their accomplishments, each one expressed feelings of inadequacy because there was something she had failed to accomplish. This got me thinking that may be this anecdote reflects something about the self-image of women in our community.

  21. glowing_flower says:

    Adding on to what’s been said above, I personally don’t see any difference between how BT and FFB emotionally manage the challenges of motherhood, wifehood and (sometimes working). I think maybe BTs are more willing to talk about the challenges because they grew up in a more open society, but it’s not for no reason that you can buy a shirt on the Internet that says, “Another Kollel Wife on Prozac.”

    As a BT, I think we are challenged not because we didn’t see large families growing up, but because we don’t have the same support systems. With exactly zero frum relatives, I can never go away for Pesach/Sukkos/etc. Where would I go? While friends of course help with kiddushes, brissim, etc., it’s not the same as having a mother or MIL there to help. While my MIL is VERY careful in my kitchen, I still just can’t send her in their alone, or leave the house and have her prepare food. If a new baby is coming, I have to freeze ahead, and DH has to come home every night to supervise dinner, bedtime, Sh’ma etc. I don’t think we are unique in BT couples in not accepting finanial support from our families either, which brings another challenge.

    I also agree that there is way too much pressure and status based on family size. I have seen too many people decide to have a child when they were not coping emotionally/physically or were depending on welface/family to put food on the table and keep the lights on. Rabbi Dessler in Michtav M’Eliyahu talks about steiging at your own pace in order to avoid falling backward, but this doesn’t seem to be applied to growing our families.

    Finally, I think we as women need to take responsibility to say what needs to be said if we need a heter for BC. I know that after one of my children, I had to have a break. I just had to. My DH called our rav and based on what he said to him, the rav said he didn’t think a heter was justified. So I had to make a very difficult phone call and be honest about where I was holding. I said, “Rabbi, I simply cannot, emotionally or physically care for myself, my husband and my children if I get pregnant again now.” It was painful enough to admit that to myself, harder still to admit it to my rav, but I got a heter and we went on to grow our family at a time that it made sense for us.

    Did I ramble enough? 😉

  22. mominisrael says:

    Leah: Yes, every family has its own challenge. And I also cringe when I hear about a mother of 9 who is also a high school principal, etc.
    Sarah, please provide the link to the interview. I agree with your point that when you most need help and support, it’s hardest to ask for it.
    Tesyaa, Good point, although I’m sure there are plenty of frum couples who disagree on whether or not to have more children.

  23. mominisrael says:

    Katherine–I don’t think it’s a problem.
    Faith/Emunah and Sarah–If you are more specific, we can have a thread on this blog.
    Leah, I think the inadequacy thing is prevalent among secular women too.
    GF: Thank you for sharing. I think family support is key, but living in Israel I also had to rely on friends. But you know what, my mother died early in our marriage and my mother-in-law got sick and died as well. Not everyone has the support, BT or not. I found your last point troubling. What about the woman who can’t or won’t or thinks there’s no point to making that phone call? And what about her kids? I hope your story will help others.

  24. The article can be viewed at the Mishpacha website here:

    http://www.mishpacha.com/pdfrequest.c/8/123/18/

    or on my blog at http://216.92.160.187/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/mishpacha_ff_01_07_2009-small.pdf

    Don’t you think feelings of inadequacy are prevalent among all people? Women tend to show it more openly, and depend on family/friends to validate them; men tend to hide it, eg., by not asking directions. Cliched, I know, but also a lot of truth there.

    Sometimes I think that frum women feel inhibited from calling their rabbonim, because it seems awkward (tzniyus-wise) to open a “need-based” conversation with a man other than immediate family (father, husband, brother). [Do they approach rebbetzins? Maybe.]

    I have personally felt that way sometimes, but I have also had many opportunities to ask personal questions of great rabbanim, and NEVER felt pushed away or made to feel silly. Of course, I am drawn to ask rabbanim who, I feel, understand/hear me. They are great people, in the most profound sense of the word. Plus, they know a lot of Torah.

    Sarah

  25. I have mentioned before the Kipa forum of Horut and mishpacha (famliy and parenting).
    Religious forum in Hebrew where people write anonymously. If anyone wants to do any research in this direction and speaks Hebrew, I believe you can find intersting things there. These subjects are discussed there all the time, especially after the Kolech conference. Some people on that forum thought that there is social pressure to have a large family. There is no doubt that people living in communities where large families are the norm (whether a settlement, or a haredi community) are likely to have more children than if living in town (social pressure/or acceptance of large families).

    I do not think that there are many women around who do not know about BC.

    Of the families where I live, I do not know of any who left religion because of the size of their family. Even here, you have to factor out other emotional problems they could have had anyway.
    If you read all those American parenting blogs, mothers there also seem to feel inadequate, as today they are expected to both run homes, be super mum and have careers too. Look at the book “I don’t know how she does it?”

    All in all, I do not think pressure to have large families could cause such problems, however, inability to have them possibly could!

  26. Now I have read the article I hope I can add another comment.
    I was at the binyan shalem conference. This was a couple of days after kolech and is very different in emphasis. You could say it is aimed at the population described as “Hardal” (haredi Dati leumi). One of the lectures was given by the head of Machon Puah and it was about……contraception, how, what when etc. This was on the program and intended for young couples obviously, so you cannot say that in that society people are not told..

  27. Elana Sztokman says:

    Keren —
    First of all, do you have a link for the forum discussion on kipa?

    Second of all, I would like to say again that the issue isn’t even necessarily how many women are leaving religion. There is no research on this, and such research would be very hard to come by anyway. But I think that the whole question about leaving religion misses the point.

    The point here is about women under pressure to create lives for themselves according to political-religious grand schemes rather than according to their own physical-emotional-spiritual well-being. That’s the issue. Even if women KNOW about birth control, the messages in the religious community that tell women that they should be first and foremost mothers to many kids, and that they should love that and find complete fulfillment in motherhood are not necessarily healthy for women. That can be really hard. Malka Petrekovsky was saying that she believes sooner or later women who have no lives and no money and no sense of self and lots of little kids and are themselves not even 30 — she thinks that at some point they are going to wake up and crash. She talked about leaving religion, but she also talked about emotional crisis in general. Not every women who is in emotional crisis externalizes it. Actually, women tend to internalize rather than externalize (men get angry, women get depressed, that kind of thing.) But this is very real, no matter how it finds expression.

    Also — it is TRUE that the feeling of inadequacy crossed cultures and gender. But these feelings of inadequacy revolve around different issues. For western men, it’s often around not making enough money and not having a good enough job, etc. For western women, it’s often around not being thin and gorgeous enough and perfect enough (which btw, many religious women, living in a modern world, are vulnerable too as well, constituting a double set of expectations.) Just because problems exist elsewhere, it does not exonerate us from looking inward and examining our own community. Ultimately, by helping free women from the onus of social expectations, we are acting in the divine spirit of compassion
    B’vracha,
    Elana.

  28. Elena
    I am sorry that I cannot give you the link to the exact discussion as that forum is so active that I am not able to find something from a week and a half ago easily.
    However, if you are interested in any sort of study of religious society in Israel and are comfortable in Hebrew, it is worth checking them out from time to time as every single subject that you could imagine is taboo (including problems with violence in families etc etc.)in religious society in Israel, is discussed either on the family and parenting forum,
    http://www.kipa.co.il//community/all.asp?id=41
    or the Pregnancy and childbirth forum
    http://www.kipa.co.il//community/all.asp?id=114

    (as well as pregnancy loss support forum)

    Family size, and limitation of and social impact on, seems to be discussed every few weeks.

    MII hope it is OK I answered this question online

    • mominisrael says:

      No problem Keren. I’d be interested in a summary of the b/c discussion at Binyan Shalem.
      Elana, I think we all agree that pressure to have large families can cause problems. It seems that there are still rabbis/yeshivas (although I have only heard this second hand) where couples are encouraged to have one after the other. Others advise spacing. To me close spacing is a bigger issue than number of children.

  29. For anyone who has difficulty approaching a rav, Nishmat runs a hotline (both online and over the phone) where its female halacha consultants (yoatzot halacha) answer questions. The yoatzot work under the guidance of a rav and are extremely knowledgeable. They go through a three-year program in Halacha and Ob/Gyn before answering questions.

    Just in case anyone is wondering, Nishmat is a mainstream dati-leumi/hardal institution, though I honestly don’t know about its standing in the haredi community. They make it their point to emphasize that the answer is not a psak, so that a woman is not prevented from asking a rav if she decides to do so.

    The hotline’s phone number is 02-640-4343 weekdays 6PM to midnight, Saturdays – 1/2 hour after shabbos. The website is http://www.yoatzot.org/index.php. The website includes a huge range of Q&A and is quite enlightening.

  30. By the way, has anyone seen the movie Bat Melech (in Hebrew)?

    http://switch3.castup.net/cunet/gmp2.asp?plid=-1&ai=416&ar=34&ak=null

    It tracks the lives of several religious women in an attempt to understand just these issues of family/social pressure/women’s choices. While I think the director’s goal was to push her own agenda, the movie does raise some questions we might want to consider as a community.

  31. mominisrael says:

    Leah, that’s a link to a movie on tznius. The film footage came straight from the BBC. I admit to not waiting to the end to see if they gave credit.
    Here’s a link to a discussion of the movie I think you meant: http://www.bhol.co.il/forum/topic.asp?whichpage=1&topic_id=1695291
    I thought you were referring to the movie where they interview parents of large families. I don’t remember the title, but from the forum discussion this one seems to be about haredi lifestyle in general, especially separation of sexes.

  32. I’ve updated the link, so here it is again: http://switch3.castup.net/cunet/gmp2.asp?plid=-1&ai=416&ar=34&ak=null

  33. Sample of disucssion on Kipa, (in continution with request from Elena)
    this is a new one, not one I mentioned. Someone 6 weeks after giving birth is afraid of being pregnant.
    note the range of opinions, one does not want to get pregnant, but is not using birth control, other people tell her to ask a rabbit and to use something, a 3rd tells her to take responsiblity for her life. another (or the first again), says she could not face being pregnant again
    These are young religious women.

    http://www.kipa.co.il//community/show.asp?messageid=5247042

  34. Like stacey (post 2), I found Petrekovsky’s speech + the blog you linked to well-intentioned, but ultimately patronizing. As a 20-something woman with small kids – come on, you really think we don’t know about birth control? Do you really think that (unlike you, obviously), we’re fearful sheep pushed this way and that by “society”?

    I know several young women who, like me, have multiple young children, and slightly older women with large families. I’m sure some are stressed or overwhelmed, in fact I think we all feel that way at one point or another. But it’s a big step from that to blaming our problems on our kids, or our kids on our rabbis (or our neighbors). And while I’m sure our hashkafa influences our life decisions, just like Ms. Petrekovsky’s influences her own, I can honestly say that I don’t think any of us are having kids due to “what will the neighbors think” or anything as dumb as that.

    I also found the comments + blog illogical in their use of a few examples to try to prove a societal norm. Why pick on the famous “burka mother” from Beit Shemesh over the 3 secular mothers who actually murdered their children, for example? And why mention only pressure to have children – is there not also significant pressure NOT to have “too many” children? In my experience there is… living in a “mixed” community, the only comments I’ve had about family size are from more “left wing” MO, telling me I should put wider gaps between children.

    That’s part of what I find patronizing, that someone from outside my community is afraid of what messages my community is sending me — but of course, the messages her community is sending are fine, that’s just thinking about the family and the welfare of the children, not “pressure”…

  35. glowing_flower says:

    Ora, I think it really depends on the community. Where I live, people start staring at your stomach when your youngest is two. And just four kids is a borderline nebach case. Not everyone is strong enough to stand up to the pressure of the community, so yes, I think women ARE having kids because of what the neighbors will think.

  36. What glowing_flower says actually touches on the problems that women with fertility problems have in such communities.
    That could be a subject of a separate post.

    The pressure to have children at all… not to have a large family.

    The questions and the looks.

    The fact that a rather plump neighbor of mine (a little bit fat), with 4 children goes around telling everyone of her fertility problems so that people will not ask her if she is pregnant or say to her mazal tov.

    The fact that it is expected that you will have lots of children (and be pregnant often), so if you did not lose enough weight from your previous birth, people ask you what month you are in.

    The fact that where I live a women was asked after her 4th miscarriage (which she did not tell people about), “Nu, when are you going to have another one”. People actually do ask and pressure about when people are going to have a baby, and if you are trying and not succeeding, this is particularly unpleasant.

    That is the other side of actually having the large families…..not having them

  37. MIL, it works on my computer.

  38. glowing_flower, do you think YOUR children were born because of what the neighbors might think?

    In general I find that people tend to be concerned about what affect societal pressure might have — on others. Whereas we ourselves are convinced that our own family planning, wedding spending, lifestyle, whatever, are entirely of our own choosing.

    I’m sure there are communities where it’s assumed that a four-child family had some infertility/shalom bayit/medical issues and is therefore “nebach.” And there are others where four children is considered a large family. Like I said, pressure in all directions. It’s OK to recognize pressure – what’s patronizing is looking at other women, in other communities, and worrying about what the pressure might do to their pretty little heads, instead of looking at your own community and what kind of pressure YOU might be sending, and worrying about that first.

  39. glowing_flower says:

    ORA, in all honesty, our family size is going to put us in the “nebach” range for our community. And it is because of medical issues (not infertility). And that’s hard to think about sometimes, that some people will decide to look at me as a nebach case. (I get comments about having another baby, and when #x of my children was born, I remember a few people saying, “Now you are REALLY a family.” as if we were just pretending before that) So I wasn’t meaning to be patronizing, I was just sort of talking out my own personal issues. Fortunately, my husband and I are on the same page and agree that the only people who need to be satisfied with our family planning decisions are HKB”H and the two of us, not anyone who lives on our street.

  40. faith/emuna says:

    specifics
    laundry (quantity)
    main meals (specificaly prep and clean up)
    they both take up alot of my time for my family of 9, and my kids do help.i wonder how a family, with say 12, manages. (ie if i do about 12 – 15 loads a wk, do they do the same proportionately or do they wash less clothes? do their kids wear shirts more then once etc)
    i wish there was a ‘super mother’ where someone like the mother of bli ayin hara 18 from tsfat would follow me around for a day and show me how to be more effecient.
    leah i meant to thank you for your comment # 17.
    did anyone see “mali green”‘s article in nashim this wk? i found it disturbing.

  41. Elana Sztokman says:

    DO you have a link to the article by Mali Green that you mentioned?
    B’vracha,
    Elana

  42. mominisrael says:

    Faith/Emunah, I’m also interested. Any way you can scan it and send it to me?

    Leah, Keren, Ora, Sarah, Elana, glowing_flower: Thanks for your thoughtful contributions to the discussion.

    I share techniques for quick cooking at my other blog, CookingManager.Com and I’ve had a few posts here too on the subject.
    My older kids do their own laundry, about once a week. i fill in sometimes. So let’s say 1.5 loads a week per extra child. 5 more children is about 7 or 8 more loads a week. I think you can manage four loads a day with one machine as long as someone is home enough time to take the loads in and out. You simply must have kids or hired help either in charge of their own laundry or folding, putting away etc. Let me make this into a post, please. Next cooking break, God-willing.

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