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Dec 3, 2012

Dating: Traditional Vs Feminist

Every not-so-often, I get a suggestion from someone -family, friend, a random disgruntled date -that I should probably go for a woman who is more traditional.

Personally, I feel conflicted. On the one hand, I was raised in a very traditional family. My Mother felt a deep sense of responsibility and fulfillment in taking care of us kids, cooking and creating a home environment, while my Father was the breadwinner and head of the household. On the other hand, my family also has some distinct non-traditional leanings. My Mother has more formal education than my Father, while my Father was more than happy to change my diapers and get to cooking/cleaning when he got home from work and my Mother was busy (either playing with us kids or with work/school). In many ways, I'd like to think my parents were flexible in their roles.

But there's more to it than that. I saw bits of both the traditional and non-traditional relationship in my parents. Truth be told, I think I absorbed a value for both, and I want both -or parts of both. Which can all be very confusing, since at times they seem to be in conflict with one another. On top of that, I grew up exposed to American culture and media, which has a whole other set of values and expectations for relationships. Of course it's not so simple, and I'm working through my own values. 

As much as I feel conflicted and confused about my expectations and values, I can imagine that it might be just as conflicting and/or confusing for women. So I'd like to throw a question out there for all the ladies out there: Do you experience a similar conflict for yourself? How do you deal with it?


  1. I don't have any conflict. I know what my ideal is, and I hope the future will be able to accommodate it.

    I want to raise my own children. I came home from school to a mother there, and I want to be able to give that to the next generation.

    That does not mean that I am not capable of higher intellectual thought. I expect to be able to have deep conversations with a future spouse, yet still be able to cook food that people actually want to eat.

    I often get flack, from potential dates or even other people who insist that I should have a career. One thing I know is that it is not easy taking care of kids. I am physically incapable of having a full-time job and providing children with the attention they need.

    So no conflict. I know where I stand.

  2. There is a beautiful Akeidat Yitzhak: Adam calls Chava 'isha' and after she gives birth he proclaims her 'Chava.' There is a great article which does a better job at explaining this akeidat yitzhak, I took some key phrases from it:

    "The first name given to woman, isha, is related to the name given to man, ish. This reveals that a woman, like a man, must develop her spiritual and intellectual potential to the fullest. A woman must cultivate a relationship with her Creator and use her mind to its fullest capacity. Only then, asserts the Akeidat Yitzchak, can a woman fulfill her second role as Chava, 'mother of all life', a role which crowns the role of isha.Yet the Akeidat Yitzchak seems to suggest even more - that how a mother works on herself prior to birth is bound up with bringing the soul of a child into this world. By giving your child the best you that can possibly be, you empower him or her to be the best that he can be - starting with the spiritual journey he makes into this world. Stated more gently, every woman has a vibrant contribution to make to this world whether married or single, whether blessed with children or still waiting. And every mother has more to give her children, spiritually and intellectually, than she's ever imagined."

    That being said, I think women can do many things at many different times. Though my priority will bs"D be my husband and my children, I also hope to accomplish many other things, before, during, and after.

  3. I'm not a woman, but as a guy, there's an internal conflict. I would like to have a wife who is educated, but allowing for it, I think I'd prefer that she takes care of our children. A lot of people have been trying to rid me of the notion that a single income family is practical nowadays, but I don't like the idea of my children spending its formative years with a nanny more than with its parents. I'd prefer a tighter budget, within reason, and my wife taking care of our kids, than plenty of money and kids that barely see their parents.

    As PL said, I always came home to a mother and it's important to me that my children someday do the same.

    With all that said, I want my wife to have her own goals and dreams, and if she feels that includes a career, so be it.

    1. I get the same line about the "single income impossibility," but from what I have seen, in many cases the couples do not practice responsible spending. Multiple cars, vacations, eating out, etc. Then, of course, child care, which is not cheap.

    2. Undoubtedly there are those being fiscally irresponsible. But I don't think that's the norm. I know too many people who used to live with single incomes and in recent years have been unable to do so. Young couples and middle-aged incomes alike.

    3. "I want my wife to have her own goals and dreams"

      Like I mentioned above, having goals/dreams doesn't mean that they will take precedent over the most important role, which is being a wife/mother. A woman can do things before, during (to whatever extent) and after. I don't see it as a contradiction, though of course, you can't do two things perfectly. At times, you will have to choose one.

      There is a great article by Anne-Marie Slaughter, a hero to feminists prior to this article, which basically says how you cannot have it all:

    4. In every other country but America, the price of living is very high. Really, really high. But they seem to managed very well, many without two incomes. There, kosher food costs a fortune, never mind our one issue, tuition fees.

      It also behooves singles to save up accordingly, and plan for the future. Rainy day funds should come back into vogue.

  4. Personally, I don't feel that it is so much a conflict as a finding of balance. I have many goals in my life, as well as passions and interests. Some of them are family related, some are academic and some are social, but I want to do them all and as such I will strive for them.
    I do not view my many goals in life as being in conflict. Conflict occurs only when two things are in opposition to each other, but who is to say that any two goals or ideals are mutually exclusive?
    I hope that when I marry, my husband and I will support each other in accomplishing our goals and pursuing our passions, not stifle one another with our predetermined notions of what we should each be doing. When we meet we'll figure it out.
    I do want to be a working mother. There's no conflict there, just extra work and less sleep. Besides, I honestly believe that I couldn't be as good a mother if I were a full-time mom. How would I be able to demonstrate to my children the value of fulfilling your goals or of community service if I dedicate all my time to them? And if I do have the ability to make a difference in the greater world out there, how could I ever justify failing to fulfill that tafkid? I would never put my other goals before the needs of my family, because my first loyalty and responsibility is obviously to them, but still I feel that they would be better served if I was also engaged in the world outside of my home.
    My job is not to worry about choosing which ideal is best and sticking with it. My job in life is to take all the talents G-d gave me and use them to the best of my ability towards whatever task is set before me. Only G-d knows what opportunities may lie ahead. Life is exciting in that way! Does it really matter who's paying the bills and who's changing the diapers as long as everyone is happy and fulfilled?

  5. I feel very conflicted.

    I am a woman who wants a career. I find it extremely fulfilling, and not just because I am a woman and a feminist and therefore, "look at me, I'm working just like a man" (because there are women like that...) But because I love my career, I love helping others and it is part of my life's mission.

    On the other hand, yes, I want children and a family and to make a beautiful home. As someone who grew up with a mother who worked full time, and found time to cook/clean and take care of us... I saw her do it all, and it's amazing. I don't think it's easy, but what I do hope is I find someone who understands me and is willing to work with me so that both my dreams and goals, and his of course, are fulfilled, because otherwise, it doesn't work.

    I have dated men who think what they want is a career woman, an intelligent/educated woman. When in fact, they themselves did not realize what they wanted was a more traditional woman. These men, and please do not take offense, turned out to be extremely selfish. Because in the end, my experience was, that they cared more about their ideal world, and their ideal home, then being with a woman who has many things in her life, who feels fulfilled by many things and supporting her in her happiness. I also found these men to be needy (ironically) because while they didn't realize it, any time attention was deviated from them, they couldn't handle it.

    What I've ultimately learned is that life is just not black and white. People are just more complex than that. From what you're saying however, I do think its really important that you assess what it is that you need. Figure it out, because until you do (and I hope this does not happen), you will hurt many women who you think are what you want/need.

    1. I have encountered women who expressed similar expectations to those you described about some men.

      You're right, life isn't black and white. We don't have all the answers and I don't know exactly what I need. In fact I think it's a tad ridiculous to know in advance exactly what we will need for the rest of our lives.

      But I do believe in building a relationship, and that a strong relationship with flexible partners allows for changing needs and roles. Truth be told, there are much more important things to me in a relationship and marriage than whether the person is roughly more or less traditional.

    2. That sounds very realistic, but I wonder where the conflict comes from for you? You seem to be a grounded, flexible person who is looking for the same in a woman.

      I also think that you are 100% correct about knowing exactly what you need for the rest of your life. On the other hand, I often find that relationship experiences help shape or define what we come to realize we need. I have often realized that I need certain things after a relationship ends and I think about what went wrong. And so, I have been reading your blog. It's interesting, you seem to be very introspective and in tune with yourself. But a part of me wonders the extent/nature of your relationship experience. Dating and relationships are two very different entities. You obviously think about these issues a lot, but some if it seems kind of vague. I think you are trying very hard to figure out what you need, and it's confusing for you.

      I find that some of it sounds a little... textbook. Real life is messy. Sometimes we need time and the benefit of experiences to teach us what we really need. While dating can be very complex, exhausting and even frustrating at times, it is a more simple situation compared to a relationship, in which you have to tackle more difficult/long-term issues together because there is a deeper emotional investment in the other person. As someone who has mostly had relationship experience, and not much dating experience, I can't help but think about the limitations of my own experiences, but also just some of the differences between what you learn in dating and in relationships. And your blog makes me think about that.

      But as for feminist vs. traditional? I feel conflicted because I want the best of both worlds :)

  6. I always look at the possibility of working part-time, in the mornings so that I'l be home when the kids come from school. I'm in graduate school for a career that is very flexible so it shouldn't be much of a conflict for me. I see myself as a future soccer mom so a full time career would probably not allow for that.

    My own conflict comes in when people assume I am a feminist, career-oriented woman based on the university I am attending. I went to one of the more prestigious universities for both undergrad and now for grad school, not because I am looking for a top career, but because I enjoy the intellectual stimulation and its something I can spend my time doing now while I am single (and also because I received a very generous scholarship and financial aid...I would probably have gone to a different school had they offered me the same).
    People make it seem that being a traditional housewife yet enjoying intellectual thought is a contradiction...which its not!

  7. @Snowtowngirl, I feel you and I get the same rap. I purposely chose my field because of the flexibility/intellectual stimulation that it provides... and it could function as a nice income either as a supplement or on its own, should the guy still be in school or want to learn, etc. For some reason at face value it gets taken the wrong way, even though I'm the oldest of 10+ children lol and I think I know a thing or 2 about balancing a lifestyle.

    At the same time, if a guy wanted to take the sole responsibility for parnassah and have me raise the kids, I would be thrilled. (My mom works part time, it's great) Degree in the background just in case it's needed somewhere down the line, and I have it for my own knowledge. Unfortunately I have yet to meet a guy who offered this kind of support- it's usually the worst of both worlds where they don't bring much to the table and therefore neither can I....?