Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Calmer seas... Marriage-level fight averted, but do we want more children?!?

It is not much fun to blog when things are going well, but for those of you who were concerned that the shalom bayis between my wife and myself was shattered, fear not -- we talked it out.  Well, we fought it out peacefully.

Her issue with me is simply that my best effort is not good enough for her to satisfy her need for me to support her emotionally and otherwise after she gives birth.  I do work really hard and she acknowledged that she knows that I try really hard to help her after she gives birth, but time and time again, I have failed her by becoming overwhelmed myself by the extra burden which I am unable to handle.

That is a sad reality, but for some reason, she gained a new understanding from our "fight," namely, that I know my best isn't good enough and I feel terrible about it.  I guess she didn't understand before this fight that I really do care and am troubled by my failings with the past births of our other children (each one having a different story where I somehow dropped the ball because I got overwhelmed by the circumstances).  However, I am not punishing myself about it nor am I denying that I get overwhelmed easily when taking over household responsibilities which deals with handling, bathing, feeding, or playing with kids.  As much as I absolutely LOVE my children, I simply have a lower tolerance for stress than she would like me to have, and so I get overwhelmed easily.

I don't know if this is because I am coming from a broken family where there was trauma and a divorce, or whether I am simply the type of guy that shouldn't have children.  Who knows, it is too late to breach that topic after already having created and raised a large and amazing family.  Plus, I am happy with the meaningful life decisions I have made, and I am grateful to my wife for picking up the slack where I lacked, and for allowing me to have such a family.

Whatever the cause of my inadequacies, I am still a proud father, a good husband, and I work my butt off trying to be the best I can be, even to the point of pushing myself into overwhelm, and then continuing in the state of overwhelm for as long as I can tolerate the uncomfortable feelings before I shut down and must step away from the fun experience of parenting (usually to retreat into my office or some dark place metaphorically where I can "de-fuzz").  I am also very helpful, to the best of my abilities.  Obviously my wife would chuckle at the "to the best of my abilities" part, but as she says, "[T]here are many things that you are really good at, and there are some things that you are absolutely terrible at.  Handling stress with children playing, being wild, crying, or screaming is not your strong point."

Anyway, in hindsight she says it is because of my inability to do what she needs me to do that she is unwilling to have more children, and she is saddened by this and she blames me for this reality in our life.  While I am hurt by such a hurtful statement, I am not denying that she is wrong for feeling sad; I am also sad for us because I feel as if she is jumping to a false conclusion.

Where I differ with her on this topic is that I believe that if we were to have more children, for the week or so after my wife gives birth, I would once again do everything in my power to be there for her, to take over her responsibilities in the home, and to go FAR outside my comfort zone to take over both her responsibilities and maintain my own (or simply to shut down and/or minimize work with the law firm for a few weeks), and she'll just deal with my shortcomings as they likely will show up yet again.  But then this time will pass, she will get angry at me again, we'll have another major set of marital-level fights, and things will once again go back to normal.  I am okay with this, but she is not okay with this, and I don't necessarily disagree with her because our current lifestyle of me ending work at 6am when she wakes up does not lend itself to growing our family further than we already have.

I don't think the issue is that we don't want children, because in theory, I *too* want a large family (I actually think that we already have a large family, and I am happy with the children we have been given thus far).  I also don't think the main issue is that I wouldn't be there for her immediately after the birth.  Being realistic, I think the real issue is that I don't think it is healthy to add more family members to an already stressed situation where I am simply not home or around each morning and afternoon to help my wife with the kids, and I don't think that my wife should have the burden of raising the kids, cooking, cleaning, and doing homework all on her own.  And, this is not a "get a maid" issue -- my wife is well aware that I encourage and even would support her getting as much help as she needs to manage our large family.  The reality is that I do run a busy U.S. law firm alone now crazy hours (because I am running it from Israel), and I am not a regular father than leaves at 8am and comes home at 5pm to relax with the kids, do homework, eat dinner, and put them to bed. Yes, I do help with the household chores, and I do dishes, wash and fold laundry, I put the kids to bed, I love them, and I handle all the family's financial matters, but between myself and G-d, I am not present enough for my kids in the mornings before school and the afternoons after school to support them in their Torah learning, nor am I there to provide them help with their homework, and I don't feel present as a father to be able to say to my wife, "yeah, everything is great!  Let's add to our family since we already have everything so well under control." For this reason, namely, that I cannot support my wife with the daily tasks of running the family and raising the kids, I don't think we should be adding more children to the mix of our already active family.

We *are* both overwhelmed and stressed with the new move to Israel, and growing our already large family further is not an active goal of ours.  However, we will always welcome a new member to the Strickman family with open arms whenever he or she decides to join us, and/or when Hashem blesses us with another child.

...On an unrelated note, as far as shalom bayis is concerned, I *do* need to get an office outside the home, if not so that my wife appreciates and feels that I am actually working every day to make us the money that we are making, then for my own sanity of getting out of the home and feeling like I am accomplishing something in life.  I am very self-critical and I do not compliment myself or my achievements, and so it is very easy for me to get depressed in life feeling like I am a failure, or that I am not accomplishing something in my business life.  Working in my pajamas with the kids yelling outside my door while I am on a conference call is not only unprofessional, it is also destructive to my own confidence and my sanity.  I need to feel like someone who is actually working a business, and although I *am* running a successful law firm from an office in my home in the middle of Israel, I don't feel the "official'ness" of my law practice where I eat, sleep, play, and say Shema with the kids in the same place where I run my grueling law practice with its long hours, its stresses, and its harsh mental requirements.

NOTE: Image taken from Pixbay, CC0 Public Domain, Free for commercial use, No attribution required.  Link.

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