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The Kichels: Is it Time?


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    So I know the Kichels about the men completely not listening to the women was just a joke, but it’s given me the opportunity to share something that bothers me quite often with the larger frum community because I am very curious what others would think of this.
    I’m 22 (and dating) but my biggest fear about marriage is this idea that women should take care of everything and men are somehow incompetent and must be babied and built up but can’t act like adults, can’t even pay attention to their wives, and women should just take it and do everything because “that’s just men.”
    I’ve had many people, mainly women, tell me that I can’t expect help around the house from my future husband and no matter how much I hate to cook, I will have to do it anyway because he can’t help. Not only must I cook, but I have to cook certain foods that nauseate me because he will want it.
    I think I’m the only one who feels this way but I’m not sure I want to get married if it just means having to do double the work and never being allowed to ask for help. I really do not understand why we have and perpetuate the idea that men are incompetent and wives are annoying whiners just for needing help.
    I would love to hear other people’s take on this.

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      To the young woman who’s scared her future husband will never help out at home, I don’t know who you are getting your information from, but I really don’t think you have to worry about marriage meaning “double the work and never being allowed to ask for help.” If your husband is a halfway-decent man, he will be eager and happy to serve as an equal partner in building a home together.
      I, too, find it strange when men are portrayed as wimps who are incapable of childcare or housework. Because the husband I know (and many other men too) is sometimes better at juggling it all than I am! A real man is strong and capable and will take great care of his wife and family.
      Wishing you hatzlachah on your dating journey, and may you find a man who will make you laugh that you were once “hesitant about marriage.”

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      Dear Dating 22-Year-Old,
      Your letter made me feel frustrated. Who’s been feeding you all this nonsense? I wish I could take you on a long walk and explain some things to you.
      Here’s what I would want to tell you: A bit about my own incredibly helpful husband of over ten years, who spends Friday afternoons in the kitchen cooking for Shabbos, and while he’s a serious learner who isn’t home so much, is always totally available to help with the kids when he is home. About my father, who cleans for Pesach and helps serve the Shabbos meals. About my friend’s husband, who does the shopping and makes his kids eggs for breakfast.
      I know different husbands have different comfort levels vis-a-vis help in the kitchen, with the children, and with jobs they perceive as the woman’s. And I’ll be the first to say that I think it’s so important for woman to retain clarity that when her husband helps at home, he is helping with her responsibilities, the same way a woman who works to bring parnassah is helping her husband with his responsibilities.
      But the specifics of a man’s comfort level with shopping or cooking aside, the point is this: When a woman asks her husband for help, a person with good middos will help! If you are lying on the couch in early pregnancy terribly nauseous and ask your husband to help with supper because you’re not up to it, a husband with good middos isn’t going to say, “Sorry, that’s your responsibility.” He might make grilled cheese for the two of you, he might order pizza, he might ask his mother for help if she lives nearby, but he won’t just dump it on you!
      As for all the woman who are telling you that men are incompetent and don’t listen and don’t help — I’m not going to deny that they are experiencing that if that’s what they told you. But I wonder: Could they possibly have chosen to stick to the role of the martyred, no-one-helps-me-ever wife? Men aren’t good with hints. But did these women ever go over to their husbands on a bad day and say, “I’m having a hard time. Can you please do such and such, just for today, so I can rest?”
      Ask them. Maybe the answers will surprise you.
      Wishing you hatzlachah in finding your zivug hagun soon, and all the joy a healthy Jewish marriage brings.

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      Thanks for a great magazine. I’d like to respond to the letter writer of “Double the Work” in response to the Kichels, who keeps hearing that men don’t help their wives:
      You’re obviously talking to the wrong people! Marriage is a tremendous brachah, and any ben Torah who is a baal chesed and baal middos will help out at home as much as he can, given his scheduling constraints. Just read the gedolim biographies or go into the houses of those who espouse these values.
      Of course everyone has different jobs that they do, and for practical reasons, many women spend more time on housework/cooking than men, but in a marriage based on Torah values, spouses help each other when they’re overwhelmed.
      I’m not writing from a modern or feminist perspective at all, but just from the perspective of someone whose husband and sons are bnei Torah who help out in the house. If I’m overwhelmed by childcare or household tasks, I just speak up and they lend a hand.
      My older boys can cook Shabbos on their own and often cook one or two dishes to contribute to Shabbos when they’re home, and my husband often helps out with tidying up. We work together so my husband and boys use their time efficiently and make Torah learning their first priority, but there are times where they can fit in helping around the house, and they do.
      On my end, I try to push myself so that they can maximize their time for learning, and on their end, they try to push themselves so that they can help out; we build each other up and don’t keep cheshbonos about who did how much housework.
      The Kichels are appreciated and beloved, and they enable us all to take a lighthearted, happy look inside frum society, but ultimately we each build our own realities and our own chinuch in our own homes.

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      In this past week’s inbox, a letter writer shared her feelings of unease regarding being told that she “can’t expect help around the house” from her future husband. I too am a girl who is currently in the parshah, and I too have heard about this reality many times. I would, however, like to offer a different perspective.
      As maaminim bnei maaminim, we know and believe that the Torah — which includes Torah shebe’al peh — is our guide to life and is the absolute Truth. What does the Mishnah tell us about a wife’s role in the home? “These are the tasks a woman must perform for her husband: She grinds (the flour), she bakes, she washes, she cooks…” The Mishnah also says that if there is someone else (specifically, a maidservant) available to do these tasks, then the wife does not need to do them. However, it is clear from the language of the Mishnah that if there is no maidservant around (or, in today’s terms, if your cleaning lady doesn’t stop by on a daily basis), the responsibility for getting household tasks done lies with the wife.
      So yes, “no matter how much I hate to cook, I will have to do it anyway” — but that is true because it is your job to be the one who does the cooking, not because your husband “can’t help.” As Torah Jews who believe that men and women have different roles — not as indignant, confused feminists who believe that household responsibilities should be split fifty-fifty between husband and wife no matter what — we declare without apology that the ultimate responsibility of keeping the kitchen running belongs to the wife.
      However, as far as I know, most Torah Jews do not believe — and nowhere in the Mishnah does it say — that a wife is “never… allowed to ask for help.” When a married woman tells her single counterpart not to expect help from her future husband, I don’t think the married woman means that she would hesitate to ask her husband to wash a sink of dishes if she was feeling completely worn out one day. It just means that she doesn’t expect her husband to help unless she really needs the help, and that otherwise she accepts full responsibility, day in and day out, for doing the laundry and mopping the floor and baking the brownies. Not because she is a martyr, not because men “can’t act like adults,” not because men “can’t even pay attention to their wives,” but because it is ultimately your job and not your husband’s job to do these tasks.
      In cases where the wife cannot do all of the household tasks on a consistent basis (maybe she gets overwhelmed easily, or she just had a baby, or she is the primary breadwinner and just can’t do it all), of course a wife should ask her husband for help and of course she should expect that her husband will step up to the plate if he can. But otherwise, the wife is the one whose job it is to “take care of everything” that the Mishnah lists. That is our way.
      Another single girl who hates cooking but plans to do it anyway