Chavi Cohen is a young mother of two, living in Cleveland, Ohio. A Harvard graduate with a penchant for reading through meals and seeking out intellectual stimulation, she’s always trying to find a happy medium between mommy and me. On her blog Harvard Housewife she writes about connecting to herself, her friends and family, and her choices in life.
I was reading an article in a Binah magazine a few weeks ago which described one woman’s first anguish and then self-satisfaction at having given up a promotion years earlier because she believed the hours and responsibility would interfere with mothering her children. She was dismayed that someone who was less qualified than her got the promotion and further upset that maybe, with all her skills and qualifications, she should be rising to some top professional position as the promoted friend was.
While reading this, I couldn’t help but think of my own marriage and self. I recently took a Myers-Brigg personality test. I came back as an ESTJ. In short, (you could Google it if you really want), this profile is the leadership profile. 60-80% of corporate CEOs are this profile, as are numerous presidents, Sandra Day O’Conner, Colin Powell and tons of lawyers.
The test administrator told me, upon reviewing my results and knowing that I have two children, that not only is this a highly unusual profile for a young woman (I knew I was weird!) but almost no person possessing this profile could happily be a stay-at-home mom.
Funny, that’s what I told my husband-to-be on our third date. Fresh from the yeshiva world and his wild transformation to observant Jew, he was convinced that all frum women were either nurses, babysitters, OTs, PTs or accountants. Working for Congress and raising money, and, gasp!, working with men, did not ring authentic.
Although I did like him a lot, I had to be honest. I said,
“Well, that’s just not me. If you’re looking for someone like that then I don’t think this is going to work.”
Evidently, he put aside his reservations because we got engaged four weeks later…
For me, there is immense personal satisfaction in doing something well. At the same time, I know I’m not wired to be home with my kids all the time. I would go crazy. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a good mom (if I say so myself) and love my kids to pieces. But actually playing with them, or reading the same book 20 times can exhaust me rather quickly. Yet, strategizing an approach to a donor, putting together a really compelling message for an organization or writing a killer proposal leaves me with that “job well done” feeling.
And here I have to give credit where credit is due. Knowing my husband’s initial feelings on the subject, we could have been in for a rocky ride. And in the beginning it was a little tough – not gonna lie. But some of the greatest pleasure I get out of my marriage is when my husband supports me – REALLY supports me. Whether its holding down the fort when I go for a quick day business trip – or urging me to ask for a little more responsibility at work – or putting up with me when I’m working and not doing household chores – that’s when I really feel like he gets me and I really feel appreciated and part of a wonderful partnership.
And I’m not the easiest wife to put up with. I forget napkins every time I set the table, I hardly dust and I definitely don’t clean toilets. I get frustrated easily when my toddler is just acting like a two year old and sometimes just have to remove myself from the situation and let him take over so I can keep my cool. I am known for using the phrase “I really don’t know why the baby is crying so much!” as code for – “PLEASE save me from this screaming child before I lose my mind!”
And amazingly, most of the time, he’s ok with that.
I’ll admit it. I’m the type of person that would take that promotion the woman lamented over in Binah. And my husband is the type of person who would support me doing it. I can support my family, support myself and my own needs and be supported, all at the same time. Isn’t that what we should all be striving for?
Believe it or not, when describing my husband, the test administrator said –
“yes, that sounds like exactly the type of man you would marry. Most men would run screaming from you, but he fits your complementary profile. He gets you and he’s ok with who you are.”
Now while I wasn’t too thrilled to hear that most men would run screaming, I’m glad my husband didn’t. And I’m glad that there’s a beautiful level of acceptance and understanding that forms the backbone of our marriage. Just goes to show that although we might think the Binah lady’s decision is the right one as far as hashkafa and religion goes, really, there’s an even greater answer I think – one that is intensely personal and depends on just what type of personality you are!