Rules for Raising Girls

post by Jessica

Courtesy of Facebook (where I seem to get most of my news, sports updates, engagement, wedding and birth announcements, etc), I read a series of articles that I have really found interesting about rules for raising boys and girls. Given some of my previous posts, I’m sure none of our readers are particularly surprised by that.

In general, I thought her rules were really good. For instance, for boys “Relationships are important and he needs to be faithful and monogamous.” and “Teach your son laundry, vacuuming, dishes and dusting.” My personal favorite though, was teaching him to dance…and letting him dance in a pink tutu if he feels like it. Her reasoning was great “Either he’ll grow out of it or he’ll never struggle with his identity.”  And for girls, they’re all fabulous, until, of course, you get to number 19.

 19.  Don’t let your daughter marry young.  Encourage her to get out and see the world, live on her own and figure out who she is and what she wants in a partner before she settles down.

I don’t think she meant it as an attack, but I think she might be reacting to something else.

Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand her fears. In general, I think people unconsciously have some old fashioned expectations about marriage, left over, I suspect, from a time when you started having sex when you got married and there was no such thing as birth control. If you get married, you must immediately settle down, buy a house (or move into a bigger apartment), and start pumping out your 2.5 kids. Yesterday, if not sooner. No matter how old you are. So, this reasoning goes, if you get married young, you’ll be saddled with all of that immediately. I have friends who did that – and it’s particularly hard on the wife. Just out of school, small child in tow, very little work experience and struggling to establish themselves in any kind of profession. Possible, of course, just hard.

But that’s not the only model of marriage. I found my partner early, and we understand this part of our life as exploring together. Figuring out who we are and what we want out of our lives. And we made a commitment to do it together. Is it hard? Sure! Is it harder than figuring out all of that stuff and then trying to find someone who fits into your 1200 routines that you’ve developed? I don’t think so. My husband and I have talked about this a lot. When we got married, he hadn’t thought about being a rabbi very seriously. I had a vague idea that I wanted to go back to school. So, we’ve been working to figure all of that out together. And eventually, in a while, we’ll probably start looking for a slightly bigger apartment for a slightly bigger family. Are my experiences different than if I stayed single? Absolutely. But I do think it was the right thing for us. .

Getting married young isn’t for everyone. But I think age shouldn’t disqualify someone from marriage. So, my rule 19 would read something like this.

19. Don’t let your daughter get married before she’s out of college. And encourage her to see the world and find herself before she starts obsessively looking for a mate. But, if she finds someone in college (like lots of us do), make sure they plan on having time together as a couple to live their lives before they bring children into the picture. And for heaven’s sake, make sure they’ve been dating for at least a year before they get married!

So, what do you think? Other rules that need changed? Rules you’d add?


7 thoughts on “Rules for Raising Girls

  1. See I still have a problem with that rule. I mean no offense by this, I can even see where you are coming from… time as a couple without children can be a huge blessing and give you time to work on yourselves… but it doesn’t always work that way. My beliefs about (ie against lol) birth control probably have a lot to do with this… but I have no regrets about having children early in our marriage. Of course I was older and had finished college so that may play into it some too.

    • I appreciate that, especially with certain beliefs about birth control! I know children right away wouldn’t have been right for us, and I think for people who don’t have problems with birth control, it’s good to realize that marriage and children don’t have to go hand in hand immediately. Especially if that belief is going to keep people from getting married in the first place! 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

      • I have amazing friends who married young, used birth control but still had kids. And like I wrote in my other post, their lives weren’t on the same EXPECTED socially imposed timeline as everyone else. I think this was harder for them than anything else. They compared themselves to everyone else and saw people who were being carefree and having fun at their age when they were married and changing diapers. But I bet most of those carefree people would have loved to meet the love of their life at a young age.

        Unfortunately, I think there is a lot of pressure on Jewish women to have babies as soon as possible after marriage. I have been married for five years and sure, I wish that my health and finances (I am not one of those “G-d will provide” chicks though I have friends who are) had allowed me to have kids earlier but mostly, I wish that people hadn’t been pressuring me to have kids when I wasn’t ready or when I was very sick. I can’t tell you how many people thought that because I was too sick to work that meant I should stay home and have kids. Being a Mom is WORK!!!

        But I still point out, birth control isn’t 100%. For as many kids as I know who are planned, many were born in spite of birth control. But they weren’t any less loved for it. These parents wouldn’t take back any moment with their unplanned children. You know, we plan, G-d laughs and all that jazz.

        I think what sticks out to me most is that we are all told that there is some socially acceptable timeline for when things should happen depending on our communities, families, etc.

        My mother didn’t finish college so I was told to get married and have kids AFTER college and AFTER I’d established myself financially and independently. Well, I did all those things. I finished grad school a year after getting married. I also got sick very soon after meeting my bashert so all the time I’d worked to establish myself financially and independently went out the window. And I kicked myself for years because I hadn’t followed THE PLAN my mother had set out for me or the plan that so many women I know have. I am surrounded by women who follow a couple of different tracks.

        1. Start searching for a husband as soon as you finish high school. Start having kids right away. Become a stay-at-home mom or find suitable career and/or go to college.

        2. Start searching for a husband as soon as you finish college meanwhile establishing your career and financial independence. Get married, have kids right away.

        3. Start searching for a husband after finishing college AND grad school. Blah blah establishing yourself. Get married, have kids right away.

        Doesn’t something sound familiar despite everything all of us have written about birth control?!!! I have friends in the Jewish community who pointblank tell me they are in grad school or college biding their time until they find a husband. That’s an expensive way to bide your time personally. And the point is that no matter what plan you have, things don’t often GO ACCORDING TO PLAN.

  2. My mom’s rule was: “Graduate from high school, graduate from college. Marry a nice Jewish boy when at least one of you is able to support yourselves on your own, and have kids when you’re ready–though, it’s a good idea to wait awhile.” The “having kids when you’re ready” part is what I would add to your rule. I think every couple is ready to have children at different points in their marriage (or relationship, if they decide they don’t want to be officially married), whether it be for financial, educational, biological, or religious reasons. I know that I’m not ready to have a child at this stage in my life. Some people who are my age are ready for kids, and some have already had kids. It’s whatever you feel is right for you and your spouse. But….graduating from college (or at least some form of higher education) and being able to support yourself and your spouse are two things I think should apply to everyone :).

    • I think you’re right. I’d say “Get married when you’re ready and have kids when you’re ready.” I didn’t grow up in the type of community/family where I expected any family help after finishing high school so I knew I’d have to wait to get married. So I waited after I was finished with college and almost finished with grad school to get married.

      BUT hey, just after I got married and my husband was in school, we realized that the one person who was supposed to be able to support themselves (me), couldn’t because of serious health problems. Then my husband finished school and the economy went into the toilet. These things kicked whatever plan we were taught to follow in the gut.

      I kinda wish I hadn’t been so hard on myself about not being able to work when I got sick but I thought that there was a plan I was supposed to be following that was socially acceptable even if it wasn’t acceptable to me physically. I wish that I hadn’t been so hard-headed about accepting financial help when I needed it because I felt like I had to be independent financially even after marriage (especially since so many women get divorced and end up in poverty because they have no interdependent means).

      The main thing is I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do but what I THOUGHT I should do and I hope that mother realizes that she’s putting an enormous amount of pressure on her kids by already deciding what is the acceptable order for their lives.

      I know plenty of friends who have families who help them through college, help them through grad school, help them through their PhD and even help them financially after they are married and have kids until they are able to take care of themselves. I used to think this was crazy until I got really sick and I realized that the economy made it so that even my friends who had law school degrees and PhDs in careers that should have gotten then jobs didn’t. Even my friends who have jobs now are barely able to take care of their families which they had after following all the rules about becoming financially and educationally independent.

      If I could go back in time, I would have had kids for the few moments when I was healthy enough and yes (horror of horrors for someone who had their entire life planned out), I would have gone off plan. Because I know that a lot of us right now, especially graduates who can’t find jobs one year, two years or three years after graduation are feeling like life is passing them by and the plan has turned on them and betrayed them. They did everything right so why don’t they have the lifestyle they were “sold” and told they would have after years of toiling away at school and working hard at jobs that paid almost nothing because they were supposed to be paying their dues.

  3. I agree. I know plenty of friends who also share this rule for their kids and they come with enormous baggage usually. But gosh, if I had met my husband earlier, I would have snatched him up right away!!! I was waiting around for him for too long. Being on opposite sides of the country didn’t help!

    I agree that I think this person is coming from the POV you supposed. I have friends who share this rule for their kids because they LIVED getting married young, having kids young, even before finishing college or grad school or whatever else. However, when you look at their families years later, they are pretty awesome. Yes, many of them were on their own timelines that didn’t match that of those around them but they got things done despite the stress of being young, starting a family very young, etc. They are more mature than most people their age by a long shot because of it. They were able to start the large families they had dreamed of early without struggling with infertility issues.

    And besides, it’s up to your kids to decide when and who they marry! Anything else and you’re just turning into an evil in-law. I understand that in a lot of these cases, the parents are worried about how these newly married young couples are going to take care of them. Many need family help but I know a lot of them that scrapped by together. They were really poor but really happy together. And they got through it. They grew up TOGETHER.

    When I hear of couples who have shared 60+ years of marriage together, I am in awe. Yes, they married young and they got to spend most of their lives together and they wouldn’t take it back at all. For all the reasons you listed, marrying young can be hard but plenty of couples–even Jewish couples–wait to have kids after they are established, finished school or grad school, etc. Plenty of them don’t or don’t have the choice. Birth control, even today, does fail. But I don’t think that any of them are unhappy about meeting their bashert (soul mate) young so much as how things played out. There are many kinds of families and even if you marry young, you have many options.

    There are a couple of people I know who just got married either just after high school or just after finishing college. A lot of these couples have already been together for years. They’ve known all along that they would get married. And every single one had to deal with parents or yentas in the community who thought they were too young to get married. A lot of them are waiting to establish themselves to have kids, I hope because of their own choices and not pressure from parents unhappy with their decisions to marry early.

    The statistics for marrying early aren’t great, some people argue. But neither are they great for any age range. I know many of us would have loved to have met our bashert earlier and have shared more moments and more of our lives with them.

  4. Hi Ladies, it’s me, Jen. I’m the one who wrote the lists and I wanted to drop you a line and let you know my reasoning behind waiting to get married. You’re right, I’m totally speaking from my own experience. I didn’t meet my husband until I was in my late 20s and we didn’t get married until I was 30. My husband is nothing like anyone I would have picked when I was 19 or 20. I would have made a terrible error in judgement and I’m afraid I’d be divorced today if I’d married the boy I dated back then. I wasn’t mature enough to be married (although my parents were pushing – they were 19 and 20 when they got married and saw nothing wrong with young love) and I’m so glad I listened to my gut and waited for the right guy. I don’t doubt that my daughter could easily meet her future husband in high school or college and I hope that if she does it will work out for the best. I’ve seen too many of my friends who married young and are now hitting 40 and getting divorced – this was the other reason I emphasized that relationships are important. I think too many couples just give up when things get rough instead of digging in and working through it and I’ve seen way too many spouses cheating on one another. I married for life and I intend to work at my marriage so that we will stay married for life. I want my kids to do that as well so I want them to go slow and make good, sound decisions – and yes, have kids when they’re ready. I’m an old, tired mom at 40 to two little kids, but I’m a better mom than I would have been at 20.

    Thanks for reading and sharing the lists. I enjoyed poking around you blog too. I am a tiny bit Jewish (I have one grandfather who is Jewish) so I found your blog really interesting.

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