It appears that everyone wants to hear about large families (see yesterday’s comments).
So here’s my completely disjointed response to yesterday’s questions:
1. Some large families and some small families parent irresponsibly.
2. Some large families and and some small families find it hard to pay the bills.
3. Some Orthodox men begin their marriage by studying in kollel full-time (Kollel – a non-profit institution where married men study advanced Talmud full-time and receive a stipend to do so. It’s a Hebrew word that means “all-included” since the idea is that the families’ needs would be taken care of. Pronounced “KOE-lell.”)
4. Men who study in kollel receive a stipend for doing so. Many also receive help from parents.
5. Men who study in kollel typically do so for a temporary number of years (before they have a lot of kids) at which point they seek employment in the “regular” world.
6. Most kollel men that I know (agreed, this is anecdotal and unscientific) are incredibly helpful with bedtime, bathtime, grocery shopping, diaper changing, and the like.
7. Kollel life is not for everyone.
8. Using birth control is a concession in Jewish law, intended to be applied in certain circumstances and at certain times in one’s life. Using it too liberally or not liberally enough are both problematic in Jewish law, and therefore (weirdness alert) is done with the guidance and mentorship of a Rabbi – a huge factor in Jewish living that I talk about all the time (those of you who know me are smiling).
Is this weird?
Yeah, but if you have a Rabbi that you respect and are close to, there is seriously no more satisfying way to live life and make tough decisions with serenity, clarity, and wisdom.
Is it weird to talk to your DOCTOR about birth control? Sometimes, but you do it anyway, because you need guidance, right? Same deal.
I know Rabbis who have insisted that families use birth control even when they didn’t want to.
9. That having been said, having money or not is NOT a factor. The mother’s mental health is the key factor. Don’t you know people who have grown up with very little by way of materialistic stuff, but in a loving, happy home (whether large or small) who are so happy and well-adjusted?
Of course if you are incapable of supplying your family with basic needs, this is a problem, but chances are that will impact on the mental health of the mother.
10. Would you agree that many of the things we think we need money for are not our basic needs? Would you agree that our expectations are quite high? I know I’m in this boat. I think of how people were raised two or even one generation ago and am actually embarrassed.
11. Being poor is nothing to be ashamed about. The economy’s collapse proved that even really smart people with really expensive and impressive degrees could not scrape it together.
12. The reason birth control is not openly discussed in the religious world is because it is highly personal and considered immodest to be discussed casually. This is a good thing. The casual and open discussion of people’s most personal lives does not bode well for us. The first time a casual acquaintance asked me, “Are you guys done?” I almost passed out. That said, my friends and I all knew that it was there if and when we needed it, again, with the guidance of a Rabbi.
13. When you see families with “a lot of kids” – what do you think is their motivation? If they don’t seem to have enough money, or seem sapped and zapped, why do you think they do it? It can’t be easy, so what do you think is driving this?
14. Any husband who doesn’t help his wife is doing wrong in the eyes of Torah. This is true whether he thinks he’s doing a mitzvah by studying Torah when she needs him, or whether he’s off playing golf.
15. Tuition in today’s day schools is a very big problem, bigger than me, that people much wiser than me are trying to solve, and deserves its own attention. All I will say is that we, the parents, have created a monster by expecting a smartboard in every room, in-house, nutritious lunches, a speech, occupational, and whatever else kind of therapist available for free to each child in school, and many other amenities that were completely unavailable to the children of yesteryear. We have very high expectations, then reel at the bill. But again: this problem is way bigger than me, and I do not claim to have good answers.
16. I feel that raising a large family is the most ideal and beautiful way (again: when possible) to raise wonderfully well-adjusted, unspoiled children who will become the parents of the next generation.
Tips on how I, personally, manage my brood coming soon… 🙂