Dear Mrs Bluth,
I don’t think you have ever had to deal with a problem like mine, yet I have no place to turn, so I hope you can help me.
My wife and I have been married for twenty-seven years and have five children. The oldest two boys are away in yeshiva, so are not privy to what has happened. My two middle girls are suffering the most and the youngest will soon share their fate. And I? I have become the laughing-stock of my shul.
Let me explain.
After being out of work for a number of months, about a year and a half ago, I was offered a position of some prestige in a very large firm in another city. It was an amazing opportunity. I moved here and my wife stayed behind with the children so they could finish out the school year.
We came from a small town, and the move has been hard on my kids. It took them a while to make friends and figure out a new school system. Baruch Hashem, things seem to be falling into place for them. I love my work, which is very demanding, and I put in long hours to prove myself worthy of the position.
The issue seems to be with my wife. Since we moved here, she has begun dressing differently and acting more and more like our teen-aged daughters. I have also noticed that my older girls have been hanging out with an element of girls who don’t hold to the once-held standards of tznius and moral behavior that was the norm in our home.
When I told my wife that I did not find her tight, revealing clothing or her excessive make up at all appealing, she said that she wanted her daughters to feel comfortable bringing their friends home and fitting in with them. I pointed out that her efforts to look like a teenager were far from successful and made her the talk of the other ladies at shul, and the friends she had made early on in our move, but it fell on deaf ears. I can no longer walk with her on Shabbos or accept invitations from others, as I know the looks that I will get from the men I daven with.
Please, give me some idea of what I can do to show both my wife and daughters that they have become the neighborhood freak-show and are putting us in conflict with the members of our kehillah.
I feel your anxiety and want you to know that your situation is, unfortunately, more common than you think.
Moves from small towns to big ones can be very traumatic, for children in particular. Thus, some parents take the false path of supporting the wrong choices in order to make this integration easier. The fact that your children gravitated to friends with a lesser value system is because these girls look out for children like yours – they are the easiest group to infiltrate when you are the new kid on the block. The kids from good, solid homes where chinuch is the first order of the day, where the children are cared for, nurtured and put as a first priority, those are the girls your daughters chose to avoid because proving themselves a fit for this group is much harder. So the fault is not totally on your daughters, it is on a system that should be changed. When the hand of friendship is so easily offered, we latch on to the offer.
A great responsibility for this happening falls squarely on the front door of the schools and yeshivos who allow it to thrive, thus losing good girls and boys to outside influences and actions.
What tipped the scales was your wife. She missed the opportunity to stand her ground and help them find the right group. She became a “mommy-friend,” a mother who joins in with the teens and forfeits her role as mother/teacher/guardian.
I can fully appreciate your consternation and concern, however, the place to start is in the home. Your wife has to partner with you in reinstating and maintaining the original framework of your hashkafa and orientation. Show her this article and invite her to reach out to me and I will help her and you reclaim the home-life you so recently misplaced in the course of your relocation. Hatzlocha.