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Can a mother have an identity outside her family/children?

 
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honey36




 
 
 
 

Post Sun, Jan 03 2021, 6:52 pm
Not specifically in terms of career or self care etc, but those can be manifestations I guess. But my question is more about life in general, and spirituality/yidishkeit. I don't think there is a right or wrong answer, just something I've been thinking about. To illustrate my question:

I was listening to a recorded shiur. Topic was emunah and bitachon and working on our relationship with Hashem. At the end there was Q&A. All the questions asked were chinuch related questions, like "what should I do if my child is resistant to yidishkeit or rebelling" type of questions. The speaker answered a couple of these, and then got a little "annoyed". Like we just spent an hour talking about emunah. Cant you just put your kids aside for a minute to work on your own emunah/relationship with Hashem? Why does everything always have to revolve around the kids?

Other questions related to this I've been wondering:

If I have time to daven, or spend that time doing something extra with/for my child, what comes first?

When an older couple make Aliyah after marrying of their kids, and leave all/most kids and grandkids in chutz laaretz, do you think that's a nice thing, like they were finally able to fulfill their dream, or like, how could they abandon their family? How would you feel if it was your parents? Now your kids are growing up with minimal connection to grandparents...

On the other hand, women (more than men) are so intertwined with family life in yidishkeit. We are "Bais Yaakov", we are the Bayis etc. Obviously one great way to connect to Hashem is through the mitzvos we do at home I.e. being a great wife and mother. But if a lady also feels she can connect to Hashem in other ways (davening, learning, chesed outside the home etc.) Can that be a priority as well? Or should her family always be her one and only priority?
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bigsis144




 
 
 
 

Post Sun, Jan 03 2021, 7:01 pm
In my gut, I believe that HaShem wouldn’t have made half of those created in His Image to rely on others to fulfill their tafkid in this world.

Maybe it makes me a twisted liberal, but in my heart, neshamos don’t have a gender.

Though I assume my Bais Yaakov teachers would tell me that the vessel my neshama was placed in tells me a lot about what its purpose is, like an amnesiac waking up to find himself in a studio with a paintbrush and paints. And so “waking up” in a body with a womb means that my “profession” is to be a caretaker and helpmeet.

There is some comfort in feeling like I have a role laid out for me, but I chafe against that too.

I’m a human being just trying to do my best every day. 🤷🏻‍♀️


Last edited by bigsis144 on Sun, Jan 03 2021, 7:03 pm; edited 1 time in total
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nechamashifra




 
 
 
 

Post Sun, Jan 03 2021, 7:02 pm
Quote:
When an older couple make Aliyah after marrying of their kids, and leave all/most kids and grandkids in chutz laaretz, do you think that's a nice thing, like they were finally able to fulfill their dream, or like, how could they abandon their family? How would you feel if it was your parents? Now your kids are growing up with minimal connection to grandparents...


I don't think it's considered "abandoning" their family when the kids are all married and settled into their own lives. On the other hand, I can't imagine why anyone would want to move far away from their kids and grandkids - not for their kids' sake, but their own.
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avrahamama




 
 
 
 

Post Sun, Jan 03 2021, 7:12 pm
I think the best thing a mother or father can do for themselves and their kids is to own their yoddishkeit.

Now if a child needs something you have to provide it. But children don't always need everything we think they do.

My children know that I have a chaburah and that I also give shiurim and that I have a few different personal projects that I do that not only have nothing to do with them but also they are not necessarily allowed to be included in (kallah classes and doula work) They're proud of it and look forward to developing their gifts in this world as well.

A lot of invisible work does fall on us as mothers and wives. But it's up to us to build ourselves. If we want to define ourselves as ultimately most importantly mother's that's ok too.
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honey36




 
 
 
 

Post Sun, Jan 03 2021, 7:40 pm
nechamashifra wrote:
Quote:
When an older couple make Aliyah after marrying of their kids, and leave all/most kids and grandkids in chutz laaretz, do you think that's a nice thing, like they were finally able to fulfill their dream, or like, how could they abandon their family? How would you feel if it was your parents? Now your kids are growing up with minimal connection to grandparents...


I don't think it's considered "abandoning" their family when the kids are all married and settled into their own lives. On the other hand, I can't imagine why anyone would want to move far away from their kids and grandkids - not for their kids' sake, but their own.


I agree it's not abandoning their family, but some families may feel that way especially if they have a very close relationship with their parents.

Why would the parents do it for their own sake? Because as much as they value their relationship with their children, maybe they feel making Aliyah will make their relationship with Hashem stronger/they want to fulfill the mitzvah of living in eretz yisrael etc. Which brings me back to the original question, does a parents identity revolve around the kids, or can they have their own lives/identity?
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Malkqueen




 
 
 
 

Post Sun, Jan 03 2021, 8:11 pm
I think that not only CAN a woman have an identity outside of her children/family, but she SHOULD. So much of a woman's "midlife crisis" or "existential crisis" can be answered by having a personal thriving relationship with herself/Hashem/Judaism, outside of caring for her family. This is also true of women who never marry/have children/raise children - if the entire goal in life is to birth and raise children, then you are invalidating the life of someone who didn't merit that.
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Genius




 
 
 
 

Post Sun, Jan 03 2021, 9:20 pm
I believe women should have an identity.
I also believe that if you need to choose between davening or tending to your child, your child should obviously win. I don’t see how that takes away from a woman’s personal identity.
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honey36




 
 
 
 

Post Sun, Jan 03 2021, 9:47 pm
Genius wrote:
I believe women should have an identity.
I also believe that if you need to choose between davening or tending to your child, your child should obviously win. I don’t see how that takes away from a woman’s personal identity.


Yes, if your child needs something that comes before davening, that's why I specifically said doing something EXTRA for your child. Like you can either spend this time working on your relationship with Hashem or doing something not necessary for your child, but will improve that relationship, like making them a fancier lunch instead of a plain sandwich or something.

My question is not if a women should have an identity, rather what is the priority here, her identity/ personal growth or her children.

I am also towards the women prioritizing her own personal growth, but what I see from other women I'm close to is that basically everything they do is for their kids. I don't think it's their fault, it just happens that kids are very overwhelming and we lose sight of the fact that we are people too, and our own growth matters just as much.
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srbmom




 
 
 
 

Post Sun, Jan 03 2021, 10:03 pm
Quote:
Yes, if your child needs something that comes before davening, that's why I specifically said doing something EXTRA for your child.


I this case, I would say daven.
So much of our childrens' relationship with Hashem comes from what they see us do. There is no better way to get a child to appreciate davening than to daven yourself.
I used to daven after I got all my kids off to school but then I realized that my kids don't even "know" that I daven. When they were home last year for months it was really the first time they saw me davening and I have tried now to switch my morning schedule so that I daven before they go to school.
Sure, its more hectic for me. But I've already seen a change in their attitude towards davening and I'm pretty sure that's why.

(Sorry I know this didn't really answer the OP. Sorry for going off on a tangent Laugh)
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honey36




 
 
 
 

Post Sun, Jan 03 2021, 10:18 pm
srbmom wrote:
Quote:
Yes, if your child needs something that comes before davening, that's why I specifically said doing something EXTRA for your child.


I this case, I would say daven.
So much of our childrens' relationship with Hashem comes from what they see us do. There is no better way to get a child to appreciate davening than to daven yourself.
I used to daven after I got all my kids off to school but then I realized that my kids don't even "know" that I daven. When they were home last year for months it was really the first time they saw me davening and I have tried now to switch my morning schedule so that I daven before they go to school.
Sure, its more hectic for me. But I've already seen a change in their attitude towards davening and I'm pretty sure that's why.

(Sorry I know this didn't really answer the OP. Sorry for going off on a tangent Laugh)


Yes, it didn't answer the question, but further proved my point- many mothers feel their priority is their kids ruchnius, that's why it was so I important to you that your kids see you davening, even though it's just as beautiful when you daven without them watching b/c your own ruchnius is just as important. I'm not saying you did the wrong thing, either way davening is always great, and your killing two birds with one stone when your kids watch b/c your both benefiting.
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Genius




 
 
 
 

Post Sun, Jan 03 2021, 10:19 pm
honey36 wrote:
Yes, if your child needs something that comes before davening, that's why I specifically said doing something EXTRA for your child. Like you can either spend this time working on your relationship with Hashem or doing something not necessary for your child, but will improve that relationship, like making them a fancier lunch instead of a plain sandwich or something.

My question is not if a women should have an identity, rather what is the priority here, her identity/ personal growth or her children.

I am also towards the women prioritizing her own personal growth, but what I see from other women I'm close to is that basically everything they do is for their kids. I don't think it's their fault, it just happens that kids are very overwhelming and we lose sight of the fact that we are people too, and our own growth matters just as much.

If it will enhance your relationship with the child I’d still pick the child because I believe that’s what Hashem wants me to do. I still work on my own identity and connection in my own time. I can listen to shiurim when I do mindless housework or work on my middos. I don’t think it’s ever an either/or situation.
Women have to make a mindful decision to build their identity. Whether they’re busy with their kids or busy building their career or busy building their social media persona people have the option of building an identity or otherwise numb themselves.
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Genius




 
 
 
 

Post Sun, Jan 03 2021, 10:21 pm
In other words, I don’t feel like the kids take away from the moms identity but these moms choose to be busy with the kids so they don’t have to build their identity.
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Malkqueen




 
 
 
 

Post Sun, Jan 03 2021, 10:50 pm
Genius wrote:
In other words, I don’t feel like the kids take away from the moms identity but these moms choose to be busy with the kids so they don’t have to build their identity.


This is what I was thinking when I wrote my above post. Many women wrap their sense of self around their kids, and then have an identity crisis at age 50 or so when their kids no longer depend on them for everything, because what am I if I'm not a mother? A good outcome of this identity crisis is building a sense of self; a bad outcome usually manifests itself in an overly (and often inappropriately) involved mother in her adult children's lives.

OP, to get specific about your question, I think its a constant balance. You have to weigh - will making a nicer lunch for my child be more helpful to him than spending that same time on myself being helpful to me?
(This brings to mind the very poor shtetl mother who found an egg, and instead of dividing it among her 6 kids went and cooked it for herself. Her kids asked "what are you making?" and her answer was "I'm making a healthy mother")
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honey36




 
 
 
 

Post Sun, Jan 03 2021, 11:20 pm
Malkqueen wrote:
This is what I was thinking when I wrote my above post. Many women wrap their sense of self around their kids, and then have an identity crisis at age 50 or so when their kids no longer depend on them for everything, because what am I if I'm not a mother? A good outcome of this identity crisis is building a sense of self; a bad outcome usually manifests itself in an overly (and often inappropriately) involved mother in her adult children's lives.

OP, to get specific about your question, I think its a constant balance. You have to weigh - will making a nicer lunch for my child be more helpful to him than spending that same time on myself being helpful to me?
(This brings to mind the very poor shtetl mother who found an egg, and instead of dividing it among her 6 kids went and cooked it for herself. Her kids asked "what are you making?" and her answer was "I'm making a healthy mother")


I agree there needs to be a balance. I dont think the story with the egg goes well with this theory though, because at the end of the day she's making a healthy MOTHER. Again, I don't think what she did was necessarily wrong or right, but the focus is that she is just a mother, and that's it. This is an extreme example though.

For a more relatable example, it's like a mother taking time for self care- let's say exercising, just so that she can now be refreshed and be able to be a better mother when her kids come home. This is great, but she should also have in mind she's exercising for herself as well, b/c she's also a person! Not everything she does is just for her kids.
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Genius




 
 
 
 

Post Sun, Jan 03 2021, 11:22 pm
honey36 wrote:
I agree there needs to be a balance. I dont think the story with the egg goes well with this theory though, because at the end of the day she's making a healthy MOTHER. Again, I don't think what she did was necessarily wrong or right, but the focus is that she is just a mother, and that's it. This is an extreme example though.

For a more relatable example, it's like a mother taking time for self care- let's say exercising, just so that she can now be refreshed and be able to be a better mother when her kids come home. This is great, but she should also have in mind she's exercising for herself as well, b/c she's also a person! Not everything she does is just for her kids.

Does anyone disagree with you?
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honey36




 
 
 
 

Post Sun, Jan 03 2021, 11:54 pm
Genius wrote:
Does anyone disagree with you?


Probably not, it's just something I was thinking about. I think everyone agrees a mother has to have her own identity, but I don't think people focus on it as much as they should.

Like with the self care. They say their doing it so they can be a better wife/mother, but they should also have in mind that it's just for themselves sometimes as well. I think everyone would agree with this, but I feel some people don't put it into practice enough b/c their so overwhelmed with their role as a wife/mother.
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zaq




 
 
 
 

Post Mon, Jan 04 2021, 9:12 pm
Malkqueen wrote:
I think that not only CAN a woman have an identity outside of her children/family, but she SHOULD. So much of a woman's "midlife crisis" or "existential crisis" can be answered by having a personal thriving relationship with herself/Hashem/Judaism, outside of caring for her family. This is also true of women who never marry/have children/raise children - if the entire goal in life is to birth and raise children, then you are invalidating the life of someone who didn't merit that.
Thumbs Up Thumbs Up Thumbs Up

Having your identity tied up in any one thing makes for an unbalanced life and an unhealthy person. A cane is helpful for people who have trouble walking, but a cane with four legs (preferably rubber-tipped) is a whole lot more so.
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ggdm




 
 
 
 

Post Tue, Jan 05 2021, 9:28 am
It is very easy to be absorbed in your children when they are small. Also, society sometimes looks at you as a "bad mother" if you work "for fun" or pursue your hobbies with small children in daycare. We also had a few threads about "women only talk about kids". So it is sort of expected in society at a certain point to be absorbed in your children. And that is ok - if you like that. It should also be ok at that stage to still pursue your own interests, if you want that.

No matter the first stage, at some point, children don't need this "being absorbed" any more. And at the latest then the mother should find something else for herself. It is not healthy otherwise. And you cannot expect to be involved with grown children or grandkids. What if all your children move somewhere else or never marry? Healthier to have something else. Of course, don't ignore the children/grandchildren, but don't make them the sole purpose of your life.
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