By rabbi Oshrat Morag
Dedicated to all mothers; whether biological, spiritual, or any other form.
I am a feminist, I write about feminism and I teach about feminism. I am against patriarchal social structures, definitions and control. I am for equal rights for women, LGBT, and other oppressed groups. When I recently watched Jon Stewarts’s video on the Daily Show, about the political responses to Hilary Clinton’s future status as a grandma, I was horrified. Watching further in this video, I realized how much farther we have to go to get rid of these biased reactions to women and men’s behaviors and motivations. For all the oppressions and deeds of unjust society I wanted to go out and change the world- but couldn’t find a babysitter.
What I am about to share is personal and it is something I am not proud to admit even to myself. However, I decided to share because I feel, or maybe hope, I am not alone.
Hi, I am Oshrat and I am a mother of four. I am also a rabbi and a PhD candidate. A lot has been said and written about the challenges of women today- managing career and motherhood, becoming “superwomen”, working twice as hard yet being a “good enough mother”. In between the solutions style “lean in” and “recline back”, I find myself frozen. The dissonance in my life bothers me; how come a feminist like me falls into the cliché routines of patriarchy? How is it that I assume gender roles? I am the one my kids turn to first with everything they need, I am the one who knows their schedule, I am the one who remembers class birthdays, I am the one who wipe the tears when they are hurt. Two month ago I had my forth child – so I am again the one who wakes up at night when the baby cries and I am the one who is tired all day long. I don’t say this to complain and I don’t share this to say something about my partner. I love my kids; I went through many IVF cycles to have them. I want to be there for them, I want to be involved, yet “feministically” it troubles me that I have to pay the price.
In recent years life circumstances have brought to live in two different cultures.
When my two older boys were toddlers we moved to Cincinnati for my PhD. My partner had to keep his job in Israel and went back and forth in order to spend three weeks with us each time. That meant that the kids were with me most of the time as I was juggling between graduate school and preschool. My boys (ages 5 and 3 at that time) used to say “Our mom is a Rabbi, she studies to become a Doctor, she is a Teacher and a Mom” with a naïve admiration, not even realizing they were including Mom as a profession. I was proud I could juggle all that but I worked hard.
When my partner received a job offer in Argentina we moved with him. In order to continue working on my PhD and because of language barrier I could not assume a job here as a rabbi (I teach at various organizations here but nothing permanent). In the time that we are here my two little ones were born. So I am home, still juggling between my work on the doctorate and taking care of the babies, however now my older ones say: “Our mom used to be a rabbi, now she’s home”, or “when I grow up I want to be a mom because they don’t have to go to work”.
It doesn’t matter that I explain to them that my work is at home while they are at school. What they see and mirror for me is that dad’s job comes first (and by the way, when we were in Cincinnati people always assumed that we moved because of my partner’s job and were very surprised to learn we moved for MY studies), that if you are home it’s not a “real” job and that even when I want to change the world (go out and teach) I need to make many arrangements around the kids’ schedule.
Some people tell me it’s a matter of time and I could change things when the kids are older- and in fact I see female rabbis with older kids who blossom. Some say these are the choices I made and they have consequences. While that might be true, my experience shows me that any choice I make includes my “motherhood” as a factor. Society communicates to us that the home and the kids are women’s responsibilities and I am probably a victim of this socialization as the next girl.
But I wish I wasn’t such victim. I wish I was free of the confusion in my life between what I believe in and what I actually do. Frozen between “lean in” and “recline back”, all I want to do is stand on top of a mountain, stomp my foot down, let my hair loose and sing from the bottom of my lungs “Let it go”!!!
Happy Mother’s Day