It is Still Too Hard to be a Working Parent

Opinion: I was a data scientist and mom. Then I had to choose.

Source: Why It’s So Hard to Be a Working Mom. Even at Facebook. | WIRED

Shanah Tovah, everyone. I hope your Rosh Hashanah was remarkable and moving, and that the Days of Awe are profound.

I wanted to break into your journey of teshuvah for a moment to share this short but provocative piece by Eliza Khuner, a data scientist who left her dream job at Facebook when she realized that her job was getting in the way of the most important parts of parenting.

As a father, I feel her pain, but in a different way. I blew it when my son was a toddler, working long hours at the office and traveling. I made the mistake of thinking that since I was able to be the sole breadwinner and my wife had a lot of help around the house with  the baby that I had done my bit as a dad. I was wrong, of course. I missed out a lot, and not just because I didn’t change diapers (I did, in my defense, empty the Diaper Genie.)

The good news is that I woke up just in time to save both my marriage and my relationship with my son. When my son was two I started working from home on half pay (and full work). I did that for a year, then quit my job. I started working for myself, and I have been working from home ever since. Even when my little firm was aqui-hired by my current company when my son was eleven, it was with the explicit assurance (which I did not have to work hard to elicit) that I would be able to work from home when not traveling.

The result has been incredible I have driven my son to and from school, picked him up from countless activities. I have known all of his teachers, cheered him at basketball games, shared the tension of robotics competitions, and spent countless hours talking to him and listening to him. I rejoined Scouts when he put on his first uniform, and have been his Den Leader, his Cubmaster, and now his Assistant Scoutmaster. We have been camping together, boating together, traveling together, and he is sixteen and we enjoy hanging out.

I have also had an amazing career – very different from the one I thought I had when he was born, but in so many respects a better one. And I can see now that the reason it was better was because of that balance, that choice to be a parent first, and whatever was on my business card second.

I say this not in sanctimony, not as a humble brag, but in wonder and gratitude. I am fully aware that not everyone has the opportunities that I do, or the choices that I had. But I want that for them, for all of us, because I think our children are improved, we are improved, and the world is improved when we are parents first, and whatever else after.

There is only so much we can do as individuals. The nature of work and of social expectations must change. I am heartened that my company and others are beginning to realize that parenthood and families need not be sacrificed on the altar of corporate success, but the exceptions prove the rule. We have a long way to go, and, with respect to Sheryl Sandberg, leaning in is not the entire answer. Indeed, I have reached the point in my career where I have come to realize that Sandberg is selling the same old Company Man join-the-rat-race-or-die snake oil that wound up destroying uncounted lives and families for the sake of quarterly returns for companies that mostly imploded in the last quarter of the 20th century.

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Evolution

A question, posed out of respect:

If Halachah was fixed and never meant to evolve over time, what is the reason for retaining “minority opinions” in Mishnah and Gemara?

 

Permission

I believe that G-d wants us to find the joy in wonder in every moment of our lives.

Might it be that the more we give ourselves permission to be in that state of joy and wonderment, the closer we will be to Hashem?

Ch-ch-ch-choices

(U.S. Air Force photo/Lance Cheung)

There are countless points during a man’s life when he is compelled to choose between doing what is right for himself and what is right for others – family, friends, the people you love, your community, your country, and sometimes complete strangers. The correct choice, almost without exception, is to choose what is right for others.

Almost without exception.

R. Hillel famously wrote “if I am not for myself who will be for me. And if I am only for myself, what am I?”

The essence of wisdom is being able to recognize the exception and knowing without a doubt that the choice for oneself is not glandular or rationalized, but true to a code that transcends both our petty desires and our ability to manipulate them.

The Kosher Cheeseburger

Rabbi Shai Cherry notes in his lectures that th prohibition against mixing meat and milk only applies to Kosher meat.

Of course, that does not mean that cheeseburgers are back on the menu for observant Jews: after all, we’re not supposed to be eating non-Kosher meat in the first place.

 

Criticize Well

If you are one of those people who is preternaturally compelled to criticize faiths and the faithful, that is your right (in America, anyway).

If you want your critique to be taken seriously, however, try focusing on one faith at a time. Indiscriminately lumping all religions together and then opening fire is lazy, imprecise, often wrong, and readily dismissed by anyone who does not already agree with you.

We all may look the same to you, and there are always similarities. But if the differences are important enough to keep us in our separate houses, they are important enough for you to understand before you join the conversation.