Wednesday, December 5, 2007

When the Cup runneth over

Businesses today like to talk a lot about multi-tasking.That's a business euphemism for having to do at least two things, both at the same time. Mostly it's at least three things, sometimes more. And people wonder why their lives seem so over-full.

Frum Jews, women in particular, have been multi-tasking for centuries. Just lately, however, the load has gotten even crazier. When someone frum says "I have a million things to do today," they just might actually have them. Whether they can do them all is another story.

What happens when you overload a bowl or a plate? It hits its maximum saturation point and then the contents spill over. If the contents are hot, there is the possibility that you can get burned. Some may spill onto the floor, causing the danger that you could slip and fall. Some will splatter all over, leaving you with a big mess to clean up. Some may leave a stain. Some stains can be removed easily, some take a lot of work and multiple washings to remove, and some stains never come out. Some stains will need professional dry cleaning to be removed, if they can be. Because some of the contents are now inedible, you may run short of the dish, leaving some people unsatisfied or even hungry.

Our lives today are those overloaded plates. Just as there is a limit as to how much will go on the plate, there is a limit as to how much we can stuff into our lives before things begin to spill out. And when we overstuff our lives we can get "burned," we can have a huge mess to clean up, and there may be some "permanent" stains, stains that may require professional help to try and get out.

Speak to young married frum women and men and you get the picture of plates that are not only overloaded but that are cracking under the strain. What's on that plate? Wives who are in college for a degree that will allow them to make a decent amount of money since they have to be working. The same wives who are working already. The same wives who are also mothers. The same wives who bear the brunt of the responsibility for the home and for any family or friend social interactions. Husbands who are sitting and learning full time. Husbands who are also in college full time. Husbands who are also fathers. Husbands who are working and going to college full time. Husbands who are learning, working part time, going to college part time, and who are fathers.

Any two of the activities above would cause the plate to be in danger of overflowing. But most young married couples today have way more then just two. I have purposefully left out another important "job" that young married couples have: forging a strong bond and developing a loving relationship. I have left it out because too many couples place it dead last on their to-do list.

Shalom bayis problems among young married frum couples are far higher today then they were back when I was young. There are certainly more divorces as a percentage of the population then there were back then. Some like to excuse this by saying that divorce had a higher social stigma back then. They also come up with some real cockamamie other reasons for the shalom bayis problems. A lot of those problems are blamed on women because they "don't know their place." I'm not touching that idiocy at the moment. They also place blame on our leaning too much towards the craziness evident in outside society.

Back when my mother was getting married a boy had to show that he already had a means of parnoseh. This was pretty much the case when I was of marriagable age as well. Boys had to be doing something or they had to be preparing to do something. And by this I don't mean going to college--I am referring to graduate school. Neither boys nor girls were encouraged to get married before they had a means of supporting themselves. There were yeshivishe couples even back then in the dark ages, but they were far, far less in number. And, perhaps of more import to this discussion, those "yeshivishe" boys were not sitting and learning for the first 5 or more years of their marriages because there was no rule that said they had to.

"But I have to do all of this," you answer. "I don't have any choice!" Is that really true? Or is it that we are all following some society "rule" that decrees that our choices are to overload our plate. This rule has now decreed that girls of 18 or 19, not yet truly ready to help out with family finances and with a "full plate, not fully mature, are already in the shidduch parsha. Boys as young as 21 are also in the parsha, despite their having not finished preparing for the life they are being asked to live. Maturity, the kind needed to make a successful marriage, is not even figured into the equation.

There is a solution, a real one. I am not the first to suggest it. We need to move the age of marriage up for girls. Unless a girl has finished college or is in her last semester, if college is her choice, she should not be looking for a husband. And yes, we need to move the age of marriage for boys. Until they are not finished with their full-time learning/college they should not be looking for wives. The end result would be more stable marriages. "Overloaded plates" would have far less on them. Klal would lose nothing and gain everything. Married couples would still be very busy, but establishing the solid footing for their marriages could finally come to the forefront. And as a very real side benefit, if the age of marriage was moved up, couples would be closer in age when they started dating and when they married, thus narrowing to almost nothing the percentage of women who cannot find a shidduch today.

Men and women have a chance of handling their lives with aplomb; boys and girls do not. How do we put this idea into practice? Girls and their parents, will have to go first. They will need to say firmly "Our daughter is not getting married before she is 21." The boys will have no choice but to fall in line.

No, this is not "Purim Torah" I am expounding. The season is Chanukah, a time for renewal, a time of miracles. We need to believe that it can be done, and it will be done. It can be done " b'zman ha'zeh."


Anonymous said...

You need to read your post on horse racing. Most of the girls like to run in the pack. You would have to make it clear that the winner is the one who starts later and finishes strong across the finish line. I'm all for this. I like dating women not girls.

Anonymous said...

On Chanukah some people play kvitelach. The winning hand in that game is to get 21. In shidduchim 21 id almost being out of the game. If we say girls shouldn't get married before 21 we have to make sure people see that as being a "winning" age.

Anonymous said...

You mean you want people to be mature and responsible when they get married? What ever will you think of next.

Anonymous said...

Maybe someone should also think of some way to help the couples that are already married and are drowning because of overload. They can't turn back the clock and start over at an older age.

Bad4shidduchim(in exile) said...

I wish I had time to give a proper response... ;-)

It gets to the point where if I'm not frantic, I don't know what to do. Can someone have a busyness addiction?

Anonymous said...

My wife and I have promised ourselves that we are going to figure out how to be less pressured and less busy, but first we have to find some time to figure out how to do that, and we can't find any.

ProfK said...


If there is such an addiction, you share it with millions of people. Maybe we need to start a self-help group, sort of like AA for alcoholics. But it is sort of like Tuvi says--when will people find the time to start the group and then attend the meetings? Just would add more things to do to an already overfull schedule.

Anonymous said...

I can see now that I was way too young to think about shidduchim when I came back from sem. But I didn't see it then because everyone else said I was ready to get married. So what did I gain by starting then except for some tense years and lots of agmas nefesh. Maybe if the rules were different some of us could breath easier.