Wednesday, May 11, 2011

I am Not Ungrateful

I feel the need to clarify this point:  I am most grateful that my mother dropped everything to help me, there was no way I could have lifted Raphaela or gone grocery shopping alone.  I have, throughout this week, told my mother how much I appreciate her coming, and the obvious sacrifice (emotional, physical and financial) she has made for me.

I also feel the need to clarify this point:  I do not feel guilty in any way that I chose to move to Israel 14 years ago, or that I continue to choose to raise my daughter here.

There is a reason I moved 6,000 miles away from my family, and idealistic Zionism doesn't cover the explanation.

Without going into unnecessary and painful details, for every moment that my mother has been here for me and helping, it has been an endless barrage of criticism, from my posture to the way I dress, to my attitude toward men, to the way I am raising Raphaela and the manner in which I relate to my work as a Chiropractor. My computer is too slow, the water in my apartment is not hot enough, my phone charger isn't doing a good job, and I should have moved out of my apartment before I ever moved in.  The newspaper I read is "too left wing."  Even when the doctor gave us her expert opinion on Raphaela's walking, my mother continues to go around the house muttering, "Why don't you take her to a physical therapist?" Once she feels she has had her say on one issue, she moves onto the next one, and then observes that I seem to suffer from low self-esteem.  Go figure.

My mother's tantrum on Yom HaAtzmaut morning showed me that after experiencing a taste of my life, in which I alone manage myself and Raphaela, she has no deeper understanding or appreciation for its difficulty, and its rewards. 

And so I address my faithful blog readers who have implied either directly or indirectly that I am being bitchy, petty and ungrateful:  in this circumstance of being incapable of taking care of myself, I am doing the best I can, while trying to respect my mother according to the halacha even when she cuts me down and disrespects me as a person and as a mother.  Isn't that the essence of that famous/infamous phrase, "good enough parenting"?


midlifesinglemum said...

On this point - I am in total agreement with you. Good for you to have found the solution (moving to another country) that enables you to keep up the family connection whilst maintaining some semblance of sanity.

Amy Charles said...


Look, we're trying to point out that given the situation you voluntarily put yourself into, whatever the reasons, you are at this moment exceptionally lucky. You don't have lots of money for buying childcare; you don't have a support network there that can come in and take care of RR while you heal. But your mom showed. You may find her psychologically difficult. But the fact is that you've had many many hours now of RR care out of her while you've been healing, and she paid big bucks to come do it for you, gratis. Personally, I think every other consideration, including whether or not she understands you, or whether or not you like what she says, is at this moment trivial by comparison. You are well enough to bitch about these things online because she came through. Which means you should stop bitching about her now, because it's making you sound tres Westchester.

(I mean you do realize that many of us would never in a million years get backup like this, yes?)

Your mother is not to blame for the fact that you didn't plan for events like this, and wound up reliant on her running halfway around the world to help you. Nor is she responsible for the fact that you have no backup for her, that no one's coming in to relieve her. If you're not happy with how she's treating you, whose fault is it? She's there and she's overworked because....

I'm being a little hard on you, because I hear too, too many SMBC advocates cheering women on: "You can do it!" Well, sometimes you *can't* do it, and sometimes the periods of disability are quite long. People get sick, appendixes burst, worse things happen. But I've yet to hear those facts dealt with realistically in SMBC advocacy.

With luck, for you, there won't be a next time till RR's much older and much more self-sufficient. But this is something, after recuperation, that you really need to think about. Not just think, but talk to people -- reliable, responsible, non-flaky people -- and ask if they'll do for you, if you need help with RR during a long illness or surgery recuperation. You need a local support network of several people, at least some of them well-connected to other support networks, who can get you through times like this. And it'll take work & time to develop and maintain.

I would also very seriously consider taking the posts about your mother's stay down. In my view they're ungracious, given her willingness to put out for you. But -- in a much more practical vein -- you may need her help again sometime, like it or not, and I can't imagine she'd be eager to run for you like this again if she saw what you'd written. Unless she's used to hearing this from you, and...why should she be?

Ariela said...

I agree with Amy Charles. I like you and your blog and admire your courage. But take the bitching posts about your mom down.

Ariela said...

Doc - the only thing your loyal readers can judge the situation on is what you tell us in your blog. That being said, it seems that actions speak louder that words. You didn6't write about any of the "good guys" (Safta shira, the lesbian couple etc...) helping out. The only person who dropped everything (at tremendous physical and monetary expense) and came to the rescue is one of the blog "bad guys"

OK and now a practical solution - you need a suport network - move to a yushuv. We have a system in my yishuv to help people in times like that. It seems like a SJMBC needs such a support network. Also, the kids on yishuving grow up with and consider their peers siblings. That would be great for an only child.

koshergourmetmart said...

I agree with Amy - we (your readers) comment only what you you write on your blog posts. You have written only negative comments of your mom (even today with "My mother's tantrum on Yom HaAtzmaut morning"), what she says and does and until now we have not read a single word of praise or thanks for what she has done for you and RR during what must be a very trying time for you. You want your mother to feel for you and to see your what you are going through yet you have no empathy for her when she says she is tired. In terms of your mom being critical that is what mothers (parents) are. My mother still talks about my hair a recurring theme from when I was single - how it looks to messy, should be restyled etc. When I stayed overnight at my parents and it was supposed to rain told me I should leave my kids at the neighbors to be sure I would not drive in the rain that was forecast for that day. Your mother's comments are not expressed out of hatred or dislike (she would not have come to help you if that were the case) You do not have to listen to them or follow through. Her bonding with RR (which is something you wished for) seems to be a small price to pay for listening to her. When someone does something nice for you, it is inappropriate to repay them with meaness. I agree with the others-take down the negative remarks about your mother during this visit. Writing such negative things about your mom after what she has done for you is NOT kibud em respecting your mother according to halacha and if your mother does see your comments your relationship and the budding one b/w your mother and daughter may be ruined. She dropped everything to come to help you leaving her life, commitments, husband and other family members all for you.

Frayda said...

I get what everyone else is saying but I have your back. This blog is your place to vent and work out your feelings. Just expect that people are going to respond with their perspective on your issues. You don't have to change or think differently just because people don't agree with you but you should take advice into consideration if there are multiple sources saying the same thing. I learned this lesson the hard way.

Sandra said...

I have been following your blog for six months now, and this is my first post. I love reading your blog. I'm Jewish, but not religious, and I follow your blog mainly because of the SMC aspect. You inspire me as I "think" about becoming an SMC. I appreciate your honesty and connect with your vulnerability. You are real in a very filtered world, so I have to respectfully say that this is your blog and yours alone, write whatever it is you feel or think! Forget the criticism from your blog readers, they don't have to read this if they can't handle your truth. Continue to be true to you, listen to your voice, and keep writing! I am Grateful for this blog and appreciate that I feel less alone on the SMC journey because of moms like you.
P.S. Your daughter sounds precious, and you're lucky to have each other :)
Shabbat Shalom,

Amy Charles said...

Sandra, it isn't that we can't handle her truth. I'm sure that being with her mom is lousy for her on many levels. However -- and this is something you should pay attention to if you're thinking about becoming a SMBC -- Doc set herself up for this by having a child on her own, without money, in a place where she has no strong support network that could've come in instead of her mother. And she's very lucky her mother was able/willing. So's Raphaela.

These illnesses and emergencies happen, and they happen with some frequency as we get older. There are reasons why insurance premiums go up as we age. I realized with great sadness this spring that my years of bike commuting are probably over: I'm reaching an age where the reflexes slow, eyes adjust more slowly, bones get more brittle, and accident rates go up sharply. I can't afford to break bones falling off a bike. If I break my wrist or collarbone, I can't type, can't earn a living. So? I walk instead, and stick to riding in parks or in the gym.

You really need to think about what you'd do if you had a 1-year-old and an emergency appendectomy. Are there people who can take care of the baby round the clock while you heal? Don't just guess; ask them if they'll promise to drop whatever they were doing to come help you. In other words, you need to ask them if they'll be backup parents, backup family. If their answers are "I'd like to, but I really can't promise," -- or if they promise but you know they're flaky people who don't keep tough promises -- then no, you don't have a safety net.

The SMBC literature disturbs me because it really does not deal realistically with these events, and I think it encourages women to walk themselves and children into very real and serious trouble. You will note that many of those books are written by women who do have money and very strong family support. If you don't have those, I'd discourage you. It's no joke, being alone and in trouble with a young child. People do not chronically climb out of the woodwork to help, and when they do, they want to help on their terms, not yours. Which may not work all that well with your life or the way you're raising your child.