Latest update: March 6th, 2012
Changing Winds Among Genders
I’d love to have your take on the various aspects of women in the workplace today, and the changing roles and attitudes of the genders.
For instance, I’ve noticed that many of the women in fields like business and law have become more stressed and somewhat masculine, i.e., more aggressive and less gentle, while those women who work in traditionally female fields, such as teaching and occupational therapy, have retained their femininity and Jewish warmth.
In the secular world, more and more fathers have become the primary/stay-at-home caregivers to their children because the mothers are making a better salary. I’ve now seen a number of men in the frum community do this. It also seems to me that some men develop self-esteem issues when women do better in the workplace, and some men find it hard to find their desired jobs because of the many women who now fill the job market.
Yet I’ve also read about how some women respect men who have more income than they do. This is even when the women are professionals, setting up a scenario where some single women will only consider such men, even though they may not be what each really needs, and even though this limits the number of potential partners.
On a similar note, though not as big a deal, I now see frum married women using hyphens to connect their maiden names to their husbands’ last names.
Are you simply a keen observer or do I detect more than a hint of nostalgia for the days when man was the sole breadwinner and woman retained her femininity and was adept at homemaking?
In actuality, this scene may have been more prevalent in the secular world than in ours, where women – especially the wives of Torah scholars or those involved in chinuch at minimal pay – actually earned a livelihood or supplemented the family income by using their skills in various ways without having to leave the home.
Fast forward to today: although many wives/mothers do double duty by assuming a job outside of the home, a good number contend that the juggling is well worth it — not only for its financial benefit, but in helping them maintain their sanity. As one young working mother, who recently had a couple of days off and looked forward to spending quality time with her 3-year old, sheepishly confessed: when the gig was up her nerves were more frayed than when she needed to rush through the breakfast routine, get her toddler off to school, rush out to make it to work on time and rush home to bond with her little one before his bedtime.
Besides having grown accustomed to her daily routine, she feels that getting out and immersing herself in a whole different environment offers her a fresher perspective of the home front and makes coping with her duties at home much more manageable.
As for woman’s femininity vis-à-vis her vocation, does the latter really influence her womanliness? Or is it vice-versa — her particular nature ultimately determining her career choice? The attorney-in-the-making, for example, has habitually shown him/herself to be the assertive kind; the occupational therapist was always known as gentle, patient and loving, etc., etc.
Respect is a huge factor in any relationship; respect is earned; yet it can unfortunately be allowed to disintegrate. Needless to say, maturity and growth (in the right direction) ensure a deepening of respect, whereas a lack of maturity can have the opposite effect. Take the struggling husband who is unable to bear his wife’s out-earning him; he gripes and sulks until he succeeds in losing her respect; or the lazy hubby who takes full advantage of his wife’s career success and makes no effort to pull his own weight. Her respect for him will corrode (unless a mutually satisfying arrangement defining their respective roles is negotiated; e.g., he takes on the role of Mr. Mom while she plays the part of breadwinner).
Singles who won’t settle for anything less than a professional or well-to-do marriage partner may or may not have a good argument for their “picky” preference. One can’t blame the professional woman (who worked hard to get to where she is) for being wary of the freeloader.
Neither can one take issue with the career woman who dreams of taking an extended hiatus down the road to devote herself to motherhood and/or sets her sights on early retirement and wants to assure the viability of her options.
The Gold Digger, on the other hand, has always been on the shidduch landscape and, one suspects, will always be.
The reasoning behind the frum married woman’s connecting her maiden name to her husband’s last name is usually purely PR-related rather than an assertion of her independence. For the accomplished woman who has earned her degree, established a career, and put her name “out there” before marrying, adopting a hyphenated surname is a no-brainer.
You mention stress as a downside to woman’s advancement in the corporate world. The fact is that demanding circumstances can produce stress in any environment, the home included, in both male and female. That said some individuals are better able to handle stress than others.
As far as women replacing men in the workplace, only a man who feels inadequate believes himself displaced by woman. The bright and quick-witted (in Yiddish geshikt) male or female is always in demand.
In summation, a mature couple revels in one another’s successes. Oh, and about those idiosyncratic singles that “limit their number of potential partners,” let’s keep in mind that after all is said and done, G-d runs the show — and He manages to catch us by surprise quite frequently.
Thanks for sending your intelligent comments our way.
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About the Author: We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.
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