I became frum when I was 15, and my husband was raised frum, but not as yeshivish as our kids. We’re thrilled that our children found their path in avodas Hashem, even though it’s much more yeshivish than ours. We support their decisions. But we don’t support “support.”

We believe that if you’re old enough to get married, you’re old enough to figure out your finances. My husband and I have been working since we were 12. We put money in savings and have never received handouts from our parents.

I’m told this world no longer exists, but I have a hard time selling my son “to the highest bidder.” I want him to find a girl who is his soul mate — poor, rich, baggage, or otherwise.

My daughter also wants to marry a long-term learner, and I’m told it’s up to us to make that happen. I get it; this is “how it’s done.”

But we don’t believe in it, nor frankly, do we have the money for it. Don’t misunderstand — we’re happy to give what we can, but $2,000 a month is just not happening. We hear of people going bankrupt and taking unmanageable loans to support their children —because to refuse is to sentence the child to matrimonial suicide, G-d forbid.

How do we navigate this reality?

Stymied by Support



Dear Stymied,

The last time I dreaded answering a question this much was when I was asked about sending pictures with résumés. Dread, because I feel the pain of parents who feel they must compromise their values to take care of their child.

This question, however, differs significantly: Unlike sending a picture, which has little moral palatability, supporting Torah learning in and of itself is a lofty and most-desired goal. So while you may value financial independence, you’re not being asked to compromise yourselves. Hold this thought, because it will become important soon.

What you’re experiencing here is a clash between two deeply cherished values: Fiscal responsibility on one hand, and love and concern for your child on the other. To further complicate things, you believe the two are tied. You believe that promoting fiscal responsibility and autonomy in your children is actually an expression of your love for them. You feel that coddling them would be harmful.

Yet you also recognize that you’re no longer parenting your children in the context of your home alone. Once you send them into the broader world to be evaluated as potential marriage partners, other people’s values suddenly make an appearance and become a factor to consider. You no longer get to make these decisions based on your beliefs alone. Well, you could, but at what cost?

So what’s a mom and pop to do? You do the same thing you do any time two cherished values come into conflict. You flip a coin.

Just kidding. What we need to do is trim the value until we get to the core of what’s actually important about the value. It’s then much easier to find common ground than when we make sweeping generalizations.

In other words, what about fiscal responsibility is most important to you? Is it teaching the value of money? Is it the satisfaction and self-respect that comes from the earnings of a hard day’s work? Is it an abhorrence of entitlement? Try to pinpoint what makes it so meaningful to you. Now, do the same with regard to caring for your children. What do you consider to be the marks of successful parenting? Your child’s happiness? His capacity to function independently? His ability to serve Hashem in a healthy and inspired way?

Once you clarify these answers, you’ll begin to see some overlap. Say you discover that your core issue around fiscal responsibility is that you abhor entitlement, and that your core value around parenting is raising an independent, menschlich adult. You’re then better suited to develop a plan of giving that embraces both those values. You can set parameters that don’t foster entitlement — such as sticking to a certain amount, which forces the couple to budget, as opposed to paying for ticket items such as rent and groceries, which would grant them much more discretion, yet may also lead to potentially sticky situations and possible resentment.

A cognitive reframe can also be useful here. Would you feel differently if you were paying for part of your children’s college tuition? Well, you might say, that’s an investment in their financial future; this is a bottomless pit that yields no financial fruit. True. But it’s a huge investment in the spiritual foundation of this couple’s home. Based on the opening lines of your letter, you’re proud of and support your children’s ruchniyus aspirations. And, presumably, you support Torah as well. When you think of your help in those terms, it’s truly an investment. Remember also, that this child was not free when they lived at home either. They were part of your expenses then and will continue to be so now.

As to the issue of not being able to afford the “going rate,” don’t worry about that. I’m in no position to determine where hishtadlus ends and emunah begins, but it seems to me that so long as you’re willing to provide in a reasonable and open-hearted manner, the actual amount is often negotiable. You’ll also want to be meshadech with like-minded people who see marriage as more than a business arrangement. I imagine you’d be turned off if the discussion becomes all about money and would find that such potential mechutanim are not for you in any case.

One final point. Your children are at least 19 when these decisions need to be made. I guarantee you they know how you feel about fiscal responsibility. They either have or haven’t adopted your beliefs at this point. You need not worry about teaching them about this anymore. Your assistance at this point, on whatever level you feel you can help, is an investment in your relationship with them as a couple.

It’s a lonely and abandoned feeling to start life alone, as a couple without support, in the context of our culture. We can debate back and forth whether societally we’ve done anyone a favor with this system, but that isn’t your question. Your question is what should you do? And I say, give. Give what you can, with an open heart, knowing you’re helping to solidify a fledgling bayis ne’eman b’Yisrael and strengthening the bond between you, your child, and your new child (by marriage).

Don’t go into debt, don’t do more than you can, but do what you can with an overflowing heart. That love, built on the foundation of responsibility that you’ve already laid, is sure to pay dividends for a long time to come.

Hatzlachah,

Sara



Sara Eisemann, LMSW, ACSW, is a licensed social worker and a columnist for inshidduchim.com. She also lectures on topics related to relationships, personal development, and growth. She welcomes questions, comments, feedback, and interaction at inshidduchim@mishpacha.com. (Originally featured in Family First, Issue 539)