(Names Changed as requested)
I have had many responses to the article highlighting the dilemma that occurs when couples remarry in their senior years and want to pursue their dreams and move to Israel. Couples facing the dilemma described the emotional reaction from their children, family and friends, along with the children’s fears of losing their parents’ financial and emotional support because of the new marriage. Below are the last comments from readers on the issue. I believe they give a little different perspective.
Laurie discusses her feelings when her mother remarried: “When a parent remarries, either after divorce or death of a spouse, the children have a very hard time adjusting, especially if this new spouse has a family, as well. It might take years before everyone finds his/her place in this new situation. But it is well worth the effort.
“From my own personal experience, it is not worth losing the remaining parent that you have. This is your parent, and nothing will change that – not even a new spouse or a new family. It is true that your parent might have some added obligations now that he/she is remarried, but wouldn’t anyone have added obligations when getting a new job? I wonder how many children would complain if the parents decided to occupy themselves completely in work, to forget the pain of loneliness. It is probably the insecurity of the children about their parents’ love for them that makes them act this way, somewhat like a very young child’s fears, jealousy and acting out when a new baby arrives. These children should grow up and realize that the love of parents for their children is forever even if, just right now, they are preoccupied.
“My siblings and I all went through some very hard times after my mother remarried, and we all dealt with it in our own way. When I was able to, I tried to refocus, adjust and think clearly. I realized that I felt happy that my mother was happy and not alone, and that is what I tried to focus on when certain situations arose, because truthfully, it is my mother’s life, not mine. It is my mother who would have to go home to a lonely home, not I, and not my siblings. It is my mother who would have to spend every Shabbos at someone else’s home, so as not to be alone, etc. We each have our own families. So who are we to judge? My mother and I are very close, and I think that she is close to all of my siblings as well. I think that none of us make outrageous demands on her time and, in turn, she is there for all of us just as she has always been.”
Ruth’s perspective: “I think that each situation is of course, different, and no two families are the same, so each situation must be judged individually. That said – there still is some area of commonality to all situations like this. In my opinion, the new couple should try to build a life for themselves, a life of happiness and fulfillment. Isn’t that why they got married at this stage of the game? Obviously, each one has obligations to his or her children; however, that should not interfere with their new life together.”
On the issue of money, Tova writes: “The couple has to be able to distinguish between a real need for help from their respective children and pure manipulation from their children. For instance, you wrote that each one of his children has now told him that their mother had promised them help with buying a house. In my opinion, this is a manipulation tactic on their part. Why had they never mentioned this before? What if the father, G-d forbid, had lost all his money in a bad investment? Would they then tell him about this same promise from the mother?
“It would be a totally different situation if one of the children were to come to the father and explain that he just found a house and it is a great deal and the mortgage rate is great…. I’m sure the father would have an easier time coming to a decision in such a situation, and he would probably feel good about it too, and probably his new wife would agree. However, the situation that is described in the article is not like that. The children are trying, unfairly, to manipulate the father. This is against Torah. This is not called honoring one’s parents. There is no Halachah that directs a parent to leave money for his children. However, there is a Halachah that children owe respect to their parent, which does include providing the parents with monetary expenses, if necessary.
So I would advise the parents to sit down with an outsider, if they find it is too difficult to detect whether this is manipulation or not, and then act accordingly. Or if they have a rav whom they trust; perhaps he could help them differentiate between what they have to do and what they don’t. Maybe he could even approach the children and talk with them as well.”
Michal adds: “We need to remember that making aliyah is a mitzvah. How can we ask our parents not to fulfill a mitzvah because of our needs?”