Why I made a career out of motherhood–Introduction

In this series, I want to explore issues regarding home and career from a very personal perspective. I know that all mothers work, and perhaps I work harder than many–as one friend said I don’t always make things easy for myself. While challenging at times, staying at home is definitely the easier option for me.

My mother, whose yahrzeit is this week, stayed home with us. In the early fifties, even married women rarely went out to work. She told me that at their wedding my father, a Holocaust survivor, had $300 in his pocket and owed $300 to his aunt Shirley. Still, she stayed home and scrimped and saved while my father taught in a Talmud Torah and earned a PhD. She took care of my father in a way that is unheard of today, taking care of all of his needs and allowing him to focus on his scholarship.

My mother prepared me for motherhood as well as she could and taught me the value of homemaking. When I married she told me that I shouldn’t feel obligated to work, and that making a home for my husband and myself was a valuable use of my time. (This statement was as heretical in the late 80s as it sounds today.) With our lifestyle at the time, finances weren’t a concern and my husband didn’t feel he needed to have any say in what I did. I worked part-time and finished my MA between the time I married and the birth of my oldest.

Motherhood was a shock to me. I grew up the youngest child of older parents, without any extended family nearby. Except for babysitting, I had little exposure to young children, and frankly I was never really very good at dealing with them. I found myself with few natural instincts when it came to mothering my first child. Well, let’s say that I know now that all mothers have them, but mine were as yet unearthed. My mother guided me long distance, I read a lot and I observed other mothers. It wasn’t really enough, though, and I wish I had made more of an effort to find experienced mothers who could have “mentored” me. Part of the problem was that I was very independent and was used to managing on my own. I thought I could learn everything from books. Also, I didn’t really know what kind of mother I wanted to be. My mother never yelled or hit, and I valued that, but her old-fashioned, Dr. Spock approach didn’t appeal to me. Because I breastfed and she hadn’t, there were many things she couldn’t teach me.

Update: My older sister pointed out that my mother had told her that she was always very proud of breastfeeding all four of us. That may be so; my mother told me that she stopped nursing me at a month old because “she didn’t have enough milk.” I’m sure that what she told both of us was accurate. The fact remains that she did not have much basic breastfeeding knowledge.

The early years.


  1. SephardiLady says

    Can’t wait to hear more.

  2. mother in israel says

    Thank you–you might be the only one ;).

  3. Jerusalem Joe says

    she’s not – i’m looking forward to the next post in this series.

  4. I also am looking forward to reading more. I think that it is very feministic of you mother to empower you to make your own lifestyle decisions.

  5. My daughters report that for many of their classmates, “A mother” is the only response offered to the question of career plans. Honestly, though, I would not be happy if my daughters felt that it was the only option for them. It is possible to be an excellent mother while also serving as a doctor, accountant, teacher, etc. One should not preclude the other. Girls should feel they have options to pursue that will not diminish their effectiveness in their roles as wives and mothers. I know of stay-at-home mothers who really take little interest in their child(ren) and hire people for cleaning and rely heavily on takeout for meals. And there are women who work outside the home who prepare homemade meals, or whose husbands cook, and manage their households in a more hand on way than some of their career-free counterparts. While women are far more likely to sacrifice their career advancements for the sake of their home life, that does not mean that they must relinquish a career altogether. I’ve held mostly part-time jobs for most of my life, but was nearly always working in some capacity.

    I think all mothers can see common ground and not have to pick sides between stay-at-homes and those who keep jobs. Many of us move from one to the other.

  6. mother in israel says

    JJ and EL–thanks, I’m working on it.
    EL–I’m so glad you came out to post.
    Regarding women and careers: I am only talking about why I made the choices that I made, not what I think that everyone should do. That’s why I wrote “from a very personal perspective.” I plan to have a post about working part-time and working from home.

    I hope my post didn’t imply that my parents (or I) didn’t believe in preparing girls for a career because the opposite is true–they made sure I received the best academic opportunities available. I was making the point that our society does not generally prepare girls to be mothers and homemakers –Beis Yaakov notwithstanding–(to say nothing of boys) but my mother did consider it important and that was somewhat unusual.

  7. I wish that being a housewife/mother WAS a choice for more women. They don’t know what they are missing.

  8. Ariella–I agree that women should be educated and have options, but I think it’s unrealistic to say that a woman can be “a doctor, accountant, teacher, etc.” and that “will not diminish their effectiveness in their roles as wives and mothers.” Any time that a woman spends working outside of the home is time that she’s not spending with her children. She has the right to make that choice, but it will effect her kids and her home. Teaching little girls that they can have it all can be destructive, none of us are superwoman and at some point they will have to choose between a demanding career (such as working as a doctor) and the quality of their relationship with their children. Again, I’m not trying to belittle that choice, but as the daughter of a career woman I am convinced that it does impact the home life, no matter how loving and committed the mother is during her time at home.

  9. mother in israel says

    Anon–Thanks for your articulate comment(s) on the blog.