Dear Dr. Yael:
In your February 6 column you printed a letter from a husband who wrote about a problem in his marriage. He helped around the house and was a good husband, but his wife wanted him to be more verbally expressive.
I am that wife and it was with my consent that my husband wrote the letter. Since then, more people have written to you about this issue, and I agreed with a number of things that were said. However, I take issue with what the letter writer in your February 27 issue said. She wrote, “The husband needs to make some changes” and describes me as a woman who feels “I am served and deserve to be served.” That was incredibly painful for me to read.
Let me tell you and your readers about myself and our marriage. I love my husband dearly and I do everything to make him happy. We have a very large family, having been blessed with beautiful, healthy and bright children, who are very close in age and all under the age of 11. I do not want to be too specific, but they are a lively bunch. I work very hard to make sure they all receive what they need emotionally and physically. My husband is a great person – he works hard, is a serious ben Torah and never misses a minyan. Which means that I often feel like a single mother. He helps when he can, but he comes home for a brief amount of time and then runs out to learn and daven. I do lots of homework, bathing, feeding and putting to sleep – I also do a lot of cooking. We have full-time help, but she only cleans and helps me with the cooking and laundry. She does not work on the weekend which is a most challenging time for me. I am not a “prima donna.”
I make sure our house is meticulous and stocked with everything we need. Our children are dressed well and I take care of myself and make sure I always look good for my husband. Before he comes home for dinner, I put on my shaitel, some make-up and a nice simple outfit. My housekeeper may clean up, but she has little to do with my children and if my child has an accident and needs the bedding changed, I do it immediately.
My husband loves to invite people home from shul who seem to have nowhere to eat. So I never know how many to expect Friday night or Shabbos lunch. I prepare a lot of food and a variety of mains and side dishes. Some of the people he brings are not such desirable guests, but nebachs. I keep a close eye on my children, since I often know nothing about these people. I do not think it is so fair to bring home strange people all the time. However, because my husband feels it is a great mitzvah, I respect his wishes.
I may not work outside the home and bring home a salary, but my husband has very little responsibility at home. Having full-time help during the week allows me to focus on the kids and not worry about laundry and cleaning. I am always the one up at night to feed the baby and to help calm a child who has a bad dream. I get up early to send the kids off to school with a good breakfast, snacks, and lots of love.
Sometimes, I wish I could go to work and my husband be the one who stays at home to take care of the kids. Tell me Dr. Respler, do I sound like a “prima donna?” Do I sound like an “Advantage Taker?” Do I sound like a person who thinks “I’m special and deserve to be served”? Yes, I am grateful that I have full-time help and know that there are mothers who do not have this privilege, but I am far from spoiled!
Does this person who wrote that letter have a clue what my day is like? All I crave from my husband is more words of appreciation. This does not mean that I do not appreciate what I have. On the contrary, I am very appreciative of the help I have and of my husband in general. I just want the same in return.
Thank you for giving me the forum to express myself.
Angry At CW
Dear Angry At CW:
Thank you for writing and sharing with us. You sound like a true Eishes Chayil and akeres habayis. It seems clear you have your priorities straight and know what is important. I know that raising little children can be challenging, but “Hazorim b’dimah, b’rina yiktzoru. Those who plant with tears and hardship will reap great rewards.” You will be’ezras Hashem see great nachas, which will make all of this hard work worthwhile!
It is obvious from your letter that you are not a “prima donna.” I actually think that you need to find some time for yourself. Maybe you can find some teenage babysitters to help you with the little children, so you can have time to relax. Making time for yourself will help you feel better and may somewhat fulfill your feelings of wanting to be appreciated. Of course, it would also be fulfilling if your husband became more expressive about his feelings, but this will likely not happen overnight.
I think our letter writer judged too quickly and is influenced by people she met who do very little with their lives and depend heavily on outside help. As I often say, we cannot judge other people until we stand in their shoes. None of us know what others are dealing with and how much time they spend helping family or members of the community. Thus, it’s important that we be dan lekaf zechus and not jump to conclusions.
Hatzlocha with your family and your marriage and may Hashem always grant you the strength to continue doing all that you do!