Wednesday, August 19, 2009

On Being Overscheduled

Modern life has brought many benefits with it, too numerous to list here. But along with the benefits have come a few glitches that many of us are suffering from. Perhaps one of the worst of these glitches is the over scheduling that most of us are living with. Rationally we know that there are only 24 hours in one day and only 7 days in one week. Rationally we know that sleep is required. Yet, despite our knowing this, we still try to pack into that 24 hours about 36 hours worth of activities. We sometimes take upon ourselves more than it is physically possible to do. Other times we don't seem to choose but have things thrust upon us.

Right about now some parents are facing or about to face a different aspect of the scheduling nightmare. Among our friends, three children got married this summer. Soon enough it is going to be yom tov time. And that's where the war begins. Who will get the kids for which yom tom? Some people have a minhag that the first year belongs to the kallah's side. Nice in theory but it doesn't always work out in practice. Things get more complicated because there are other married siblings and other muchatonim to have to work things out with. And those other muchatonim themselves also have other muchatonim, who also have muchatonim. Make a change anywhere along the line and a whole lot of people are not going to be happy.

Add in that some of our friends are already in the position where they are going to their married children for yom tov. What do you do with the newly married couple then? In theory it should be that the new younger couple gets invited to the married sibling as well. That's the theory. But sometimes that sibling just doesn't have the room to house another couple. Sometimes siblings get along better in absentia than crowded together in a small space for a few days.

One of these friends is facing the possibility that no children will be coming home for yom tov. They truly aren't happy about that. But trying to reschedule even one of their kids would require a world conference just to get all the "players" into one room to try to renegotiate.

A different friend thought to solve her problem by inviting the muchatonim for yom tov as well as the newly married couple. And it might have worked, only the muchatonim were on the schedule to have two other of their married kids for yom tov this time.

Once upon a time, when parents and married children mostly lived near each other, it was far easier to figure out meals to be eaten together over a yom tov. But today, when people live so spread out, where there are more children, requiring more scheduling, just getting together for a few days can be seemingly impossible.

At a time when we should all be joyful and full of yom tov spirit, some families are going to be nursing hurt feelings. I don't know that there is any easy answer to this scheduling dilemma, or even any answer at all. I do know that resentment and hurt make for very poor spices for yom tov meals. Anyone out there with any practical suggestions that might help?


Anonymous said...

Is it practical to suggest that people don't fret so much over where the kids are for yom tov, as if there will never be another yom tov or another chance to be together?

Is it practical to suggest that this is about the parents' pride and insecurity, rather than only the opportunity to spend time with their kids?

Is it practical to suggest that children who go to one side because the family insists, might feel resentful and that their own yom tov joy might be diminished?

Anonymous said...

I so agree with tesyaa. Yom Tov is not the only time we can spend with married kids. I asked my husband this morning if he knew where my son was planning to go for yom tov, to which he responded, "whatever." That attitude goes a long way for us in keeping things calm. Sometimes they come, sometimes they don't. We love them anyway.

Ruth said...

I think the kids coming for yom tov issue is probably more when they are newlyweds or in the first couple of years. Once they are settled down with a few kids of their own most of them want to stay home rather than to have to pack up an entire olam and move in with their parents for only a few days. At that point it may come down to only sukkot or pesach being an issue.

And yes, we want to be with our children for yom tov, but there's another reason that wasn't mentioned--the grandchildren. Once they arrive it's more about being able to spend time together with them.

I don't agree Tesyaa that this is about parent pride and insecurity. For us it's about staying physically connected to our children and our grandchildren. It's about seeing not just hearing. This sukkot we will be four generations sitting around the same table. There's a wealth of sharing, caring and memory making that will happen then.

And yes, the scheduling around all the families and muchatonim can be a pain, but a worthwhile pain.

anonymoously said...

I don't think the issue is so bad when parents have both single children and married children. Even if a married child doesn't come home for yom tov there is still family around the table. I think maybe the problem is worse if all of your kids are married. After spending decades with a full table to suddenly sit down to a table with only two of you must seem kind of strange. Honestly? I don't think I can remember how you only cook for two people.

Haven't got a practical answer except maybe to suggest that this be talked about with the kids way before a yom tov.

Faigie said...

Having kids get married isn't just a lifestyle change for them. It's also a big adjustment for parents. But going from all the time present to nobody being there is kind of harsh. You don't stop being parents just because the kids get married.

We stopped being the schedulers and handed it over to the kids. We told them that it could either be that all, some or one kid came home or that we went to one, the decision was theirs. We told them to exclude Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur--you're in shul most of the day anyway so there isn't the same emptiness at the table. Now they have to work with each other rather then my being in the middle. Whatever they decide is fine by us, as long as we have some family to celebrate yom tov with.

ynot said...

this may be too simplistic, but what's wrong with (married) children making their own Yom Tov seudos? Why is it a given that couples and families will run away from the holy anclaves of Yerushalayim, flocking to chutz la'aretz, when there's so much to be gained from staying 'home'.
It just adds to the falseness of 'kollel' if you live with one foot in your home country/town.
Your kids are married. They're adults. Let them be independent.
Just a thought.

Rae said...

Ynot, there is independence and then there is family connection. When kids live far away from their families, so that they can't see them on a regular basis and stay connected to what is going on in everyone's lives, that's not independence so much as breaking the bonds of family. It's pretty sad to me if the only way grandchildren can recognize a grandparent is in some wedding picture. Personally, the biggest best gift a parent can give a child is not what is purchased at Toys R Us--it's letting them bond with loving grandparents. It's letting see where they came from. It's the stories that Bubbi can tell and Zayde can tell.

Independence doesn't mean divorcing your family.

Anonymous said...

All this is assuming that all families are happy families and that kids and parents get along great. I couldn't wait to get out of my parents house...problems with the parents and with some of the siblings. No, we don't go there for a yom tov, we go to my in laws. And if not we stay home. Better then having a miserable holiday. When kids don't go home it can be for more and better reasons then the schedule got complicated.

Shalva said...

Sometimes there's a good reason why kids don't come home and it's not that they don't love their parents. My husband's minhagim and my father's minhagim are really different in some ways that make it hard for us to be together for yom tov, especially now that we have kids. My husband wants our kids to see his minhagim and to carry those on, not those of my dad. We had our parents here last year for one yom tov and my dad wasn't happy either. And he wanted my mom's chicken soup, and my husband doesn't eat chicken soup so I don't make it.

It's easier for us to take a week in the summer to spend together then to be together for yom tov.

Anonymous said...

Shouldn't there be a balance: Ynot has a good point in that part of getting married and setting up home is exactly that: being part of a new kehillah and building relationships with friends, as well as seeing family over the chagim.
As usual, things need to be done with sensitivity, and ultimately a spot of flexibility will make things work out!
Its never wise to be too hung up on minhagim which may relate to earlier times when there were fewer people to consider, and especially less siblings in a family.

ynot said...

I'd like to add that there is a certain tension over Y"T that is not conducive to relaxed family get togethers.
Don't get me wrong - as a kid I loved going to my grandparents for Pesach, but we didn't do it every year. In fact I have two Pesach memories spent with my maternal grandparents, and one with my paternal side.
My stronger, and fonder memories are spent at home, hosting tons of guests and benefiting from my parent's own way of doing things.
Recently we happened to have the whole family together for a Shabbos. No guests, and no simcha or chag to keep us busy and away from family time. Now that's a memory.