Monday, January 04, 2016

Disparity in work responsibilities - Living in Israel, Working in the US.

Okay, so only four views on the last article, probably all were me reading my own blog.  I logged in this morning looking for some kind of feedback about the marital issues, as they are my life, and without a marriage, the life I have built for myself crumbles.

I woke up this afternoon upset.  Why?  Because yesterday, my wife stormed into my office upstairs in a rage accusing me of being a bad father and not supporting her during our last child's birth.  Mind you, if I did anything that she claimed I did, it was in April of 2014 (almost two years ago!).  When she stormed in, not remembering ANYTHING about what I allegedly did or did not do, I smiled, supported her, agreed that what I must have done was terrible, and moved on.  But then it didn't stop.

Later that night, she continued on about how angry she was at me, and how I was not supportive, and how she cannot have any more children with me because she knows that it would be the same here too in Israel, and that I would be just as unsupportive.  Again, now slightly annoyed that she's harping on something that I really didn't think happened, I continued to be nice without arguing with her.

Then later in the evening when I gave her a kiss on the head, she shrugged.  Now this was late in the evening, and she was still angry with me?!?

Okay, at this point, I got mad...

I concede with full apology that literally a day or so after our second daughter was born (child #3), that I left for a week to study for the bar exam.  This needed to happen, and I passed the bar exam, and from this effort alone, I supported our family for many years (and I would not have passed without doing this).  However, because her parents were unwilling to assist my wife, she had to take care of three children on her own, for which she never forgave me.  But then, totally sensitized to her need for support, on child #4, and on child #5, I was certainly there, taking on extra duties and going to the extreme to support her in her recovery.
 Then I remembered the circumstances surrounding this last child.  She just had the baby, and Passover was right around the corner.  We discussed and agreed that we would NOT be hosting her family as we had done in past years, and that we would be going "out" to the communal Passover seders provided at the shul.  That way, she wouldn't have to go through all the terrible burdens women go through when preparing for the seders, and we could "take it easy" and let her recover.
But then she went against our decision and invited her entire family over.  She thought she could deal with it, and I warned her many times that it was a bad idea and that she should cancel.  As a result of her decision, I don't remember the details, but I do remember going nuts trying to take care of everything to assist her while at the same time, working the law firm, she stressed herself out and it ended up being a very negative experience.  As usual, nobody in her family helped her with the seder (I don't remember if we even flew my mom in to help, but I think we did, but she did not stay for the seder because she had to get back home), and the seder was a very negative experience because yet again, everything fell on my wife's shoulders.

So last night after communicating to her my dissent to her accusation that "I even made her drive the kids to school and bathe the kids when she got back from the hospital," I thought to myself, "yeah, this was one of the things she did as part of her responsibilities."
I remembered now our fight about asking her to bathe the kids when she got back -- it was a few days of absolute exhausting hell running around all day and night back and forth from home (taking care of the four kids) to the hospital (bringing her kosher breakfast and meals) to let her recover (then running home, picking up kids, spending the day with them, putting them to bed, also running the law firm, then running to pick up and drop off dinner with my wife at the hospital, staying with my wife until midnight), etc., etc.  It was an exhausting marathon.
Finally when I brought her and the new baby home from the hospital, she was totally normal and rested, walking around and talking as if she were fully back on her feet.  I, on the other hand, was ready to collapse from exhaustion.  So I asked her to bathe the kids because this was something that she always did.  Yes, I should have done this too, but I had my limits, and at that moment, I did not understand that this would be a big deal for her.  Apparently, it was a big deal, and I did not hear the end of the insults, calling me "subhuman" among many other hateful names for weeks afterwards.

Okay, I screwed up, but what does it have to do with NOW, almost two years later?  

So she was triggered by something her friend said, and she was upset that if we had kids, she again would have the same problem with me, and that I'm such a piece of shit father that she wouldn't be able to recover in the hospital because I wouldn't be there for her.  I cried inside because that statement really hurt.

This is not the right time to mention it to the blog, but in Israel, my work schedule is 4pm-4am (or, 7am-7pm CST), or more realistically, it is 6pm-6am Israel time because of the time I need to "get to work," and because I take off Fridays and Sundays altogether, so I only work four days each week.  Us needing to do this (running the U.S. law firm from Israel) was a CONDITION that we discussed at length before we decided to leave to Israel.  As a result, I wake up most mornings between 11:30am - 12:30pm.  I have coffee, I sit down to say hello to my wife, and then I "hang around the home" sometimes with the kids, sometimes in my office until it is time to get to work again.  This is a killer schedule for me, especially because I find myself to be a slave to my home since I work in our apartment (yes, I am looking for a place to work outside the home), and because my work day only starts after I am totally exhausted and wiped out from a few hours of activities with the kids running and screaming.  It is also a punishing schedule for my body, because I force it to stay awake when it wants to sleep at night.  So when its bedtime for the kids (~7pm'ish), my real work day begins.  In short, with this lifestyle, I feel like a zombie most of the time.

So she's right -- if we have another child, it will be very difficult for me to support her because yet again, I will need to alter my SLEEP habits (as I do over and over, and this takes a large toll on my health), [and it would be a difficult few WEEKS, not days, since my wife is insisting next time on going to a "new baby hotel" that she says women apparently go to in order to recover while the men take over all housework and continue their jobs (a feminist, anti-male, and sexist idea which I think is horrific because it negates all the work we men already do even when they come home after a day or so from being in the hospital giving birth)].

But that brings me to the greater point that if she is feeling this way and bringing up these old arguments and accusations, then we cannot stay in Israel.  Back in the U.S., I had the ability to take over my wife's responsibilities if needed, and to maneuver around town to pick up food, arrange for things to happen, and handle anything that came our way.  Now in Israel, I do not speak the language, and I do not know my way around town.  But even more relevant, I am sensing that she does not see or appreciate the work that I do, and this is a problem.  Why?  Because it seems to me as if she gets into the habit of thinking that because Hashem provides the parnossa for our family, I am just a vessel that receives the blessings (and thus she negates ALL THE OVERNIGHT HOURS EVERY NIGHT AND THE HARD WORK that I do to earn the income we make).

She simply doesn't see me working, and all she sees is me waking up late (after she has made lunches for the kids, woken up early, gotten them breakfast, dressed, and then off to school), then she sees hanging around doing nothing during the day (after she just cleaned for an hour or so), and then she sees me isolating myself in my office when her day gets hard (just when the kids come home from school and the tough part of her day begins)

And, because she does not see, she does not comprehend the harsh circumstances of staying up ALL NIGHT EVERY NIGHT trying to focus and run the law practice (while she watches videos at night, relaxes after a hard day's work, and sleeps a full night's rest).  No fair, this is not okay.

Now if we were working together as I thought we were, meaning, she understands that we are both sacrificing to make this work, then yes, living in Israel can continue.  But if she starts the "you're selfish, I do everything" game again, totally negating all the months of work and sacrifice I have done thus far (and that I continue to do each night), no, I cannot handle this, and we'll have to leave.  And if we left, I cannot promise that I wouldn't blame her for not making our Aliyah to Israel work.  I do feel that if we left, our shalom bayis would suffer from such a blow that I am not sure we could ever fully recover.

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


Anonymous said...

Hey there, I've been subscribed to your blog for years and have read every post. I'm not Jewish but became interested in the culture when working at a yeshiva a few years ago. Your blog captivated me because you write so honestly about your marriage.

I'm sorry to hear things aren't going too well now. You two were on an upswing for awhile and I was rooting for you.

I'm curious why having more kids would even be a discussion at this point. You both sound exhausted. I can't even imagine how tiring your schedule is. Hopefully you can get an office outside the house. I think that will help you focus and help her perceive what you're doing as real work.

All the best to you, and thanks for continuing to share.

Zoe Strickman said...

I appreciate your feedback. We are still doing well, just the past few days were tough for us. From the orthodox Jewish perspective, contraception is allowed as an exception to the rule forbidding it. I am certainly not the expert, but it has to do with the story of Er and Onan, and the not allowing men to "spill their seed." Obviously there are permitted ways to use contraception, but in the orthodox view, a rabbi needs to be consulted for permission to do so.

Anyway, we ARE both exhausted, and the topic of having more children was discussed and argued merely as a hypothetical. She was simply reliving some of the past pains that she experienced when I wasn't able to be there the way she needed me to be there. Now being in Israel, her frustration was that the situation would not improve if a pregnancy happened again.

Anonymous said...

I've been reading your blog sporadically (always catching up) for years. Happy to see you're in EY. I've been married 30 years and have an empty nest, live in a Chabad community, consider myself Lubavitch, but don't limit myself to Chabad teachings. Always have had a marriage such as yours in that we are disparate personalities. Well, now that the kids are out of the house, we have had to really, really work on our shalom bayis, out of necessity. The thing is...both parties need to be working on their stuff, and with 6 kids, bli ayin hara, your wife is probably pretty exhausted to do that. Sounds like you are doing all you can. There is a great shalom bayis class on Breslov Campus website, archived, by Rabbi Meir Elkabas. He is very accessible and will call you or whatever to help. It give TONS of instruction for husbands. My husband actually doesn't like that the onus is pretty much all on the man. I'll tell you, I can't say for sure I'll never leave this marriage..I think about it. However, my dh is a well-meaning person, very hard worker, working on his avodas Hashem, so I work hard on making it work. That looks different at our ages than yours (we're decades older than you guys). About the matzav in the USA. I agree with you, but IMO, Israel has it's own set of issues (we can't make parnassah from there either). I used to be a "prepper" when the Bamster got elected, but have since really understood that Hashem is in control...everywhere. I do have bars on the windows, and "protection" against intruders, cv"s. Ultimately, it is very unhealthy to live upside down time-wise the way you do. The body wants to sleep when it's dark outside. You are not a korban. You can't sacrifice your health to such a degree, IMO. Have you considered Pittsburgh? It's such a normal Lubavitch community. It's a huge community of families in your age range. I had a girl in seminary there. Can't say enough good about it. And it's SO affordable. Hatzlacha raba to you in everything.

Anonymous said...

Oh Dear Zoe! I had read all of your blogs ages ago and every few months I peek to see if you are back posting. I was surprised that you came back and also that you moved to Israel. I am so sad to see that your marriage has never been a joyful partnership. It seems you guys are experiencing the same old stuff. I cannot quite figure out what brought you two together or what made you decide to get married...? Please do not have more children. Your children see and feel your sadness and experience it as well. More is not defined as better. You both need counseling if you want to have a partnership. You have one life. The years are ticking away. I would love to see you fulfilled and happy with your wife. Wishing you only good things,


Zoe Strickman said...

Funny that it seems that Blogger doesn't have a "reply" button where I can reply to specific comments. @Lea, having children is in G-d's hands, and all we can do is what we can as far as birth control, heterim, etc. The rest is up to Hashem and his sense of humor.

To the family that is slightly older than us, thank you for your comments. We have often spoke of Pittsburgh once our kids are old enough. If there is anything online that you could recommend on Rabbi Meir Elkabas, I'd be happy to look it up. We did counseling for a while and it was helpful. Hopefully once we have an empty nest, we will be kept busy by common interests, and love for the children and their children (and stories of the past and the difficulties we overcame).