Ask Wendy

Jewish World Review Oct. 19, 2001/ 2 Mar-Cheshvan 5762

Outside world hits home; money and mommies

By Wendy Belzberg -- In the past several weeks, my husband has decided to pursue a new career. He says he doesn't know what he wants to do but that he needs to make a change - now. We have two small children and no financial cushion. He began talking this way after the bombing of the World Trade Center. I feel as if his sudden change in plans has more to do with the outside world than with our personal lives.

A: Your husband may be having a traumatic reaction to this new world we are all struggling to define. I would encourage him to take his time before making a life change, however desperate he may feel. He may also want to consult a mental health expert, a business analyst or both before making such a major decision.

On the other hand, irrational times call for irrational measures. The recent tragedy may have given your husband the push he needed to see his life in perfect focus. He may be waking to the reality that life is short and unpredictable. If such a realization does not make one rethink priorities and life choices, then whatever small "lesson" may have been gleaned from this huge disaster is lost - on all of us. It may be that your husband has intuited a lesson we should all learn about what is essential and what is not.

My sister and I are best friends. We are both happily married to men whom we love and respect, and we each have two children. My sister's husband is a successful businessman and makes a lot of money. My husband is a teacher. We cannot afford to buy our children everything we would like them to have. My sister often shows up with beautiful clothing and extravagant toys that my husband and I would not be able to afford. I do not have a problem with this. My husband, however, feels he is being slighted and criticized.

A: Money has come to represent success, power and entitlement in our society, and it can be as complicated for the "haves" as it is for the "have-nots." Add a male ego to the stew, and it's easy to see how the pot might boil over.

This is not an argument about your sister's largesse, your husband's ego or your imperative to provide designer clothes and toys for your children. The only thing that matters is your children. Is there enough food for them to eat? Are they dressed respectably? Do they know they are loved? Is there enough stimulation in the house to spark their imaginations and creativity? If so, your husband is more than adequately providing for their needs. But if extravagant clothes and toys for your children are that important to you, you may want to consider becoming a two-income household.

Teaching your children that their happiness is not dependent on money is one of the greatest gifts you can bestow on your children - not to mention the importance of living within one's means. You and your husband are not charity cases. Birthdays and holidays provide opportunity enough for your sister to lavish her nieces and nephews with extravagant gifts. The rest of the year is off-limits, and you should say so.

Ask Wendy a question -- any question --- by clicking here.

10/12/01: Vacation separation; Risk present for past?
09/20/01: Secular servants; Time to tie purse strings?; dog breath --- literally!
09/07/01: Too much Torah?; Name-dropping rabbi turns off worshippers
08/30/01: Jewish 'godparents'?; summer homework
08/02/01: Have wife, won't travel; 'dis' --- as in 'distant'
07/26/01: Grandparents not invited to bar mitzvah; what to do about older sister's foul mouth; nuptial narcissism
07/19/01: Bad mannered, uncouth ethnics; lookin' for love
07/05/01: Faithless Rabbi; my wife won't let me retire; I'm in relationship limbo
06/21/01: New customs for assimilated Jews?; the business of friendship; aunty is a bad role model
06/13/01: Our friends have become political traitors; Is it love?
06/06/01: Teaching kids about the Creator, when parents aren't observant; 'wonderful woman' 'fesses up about her broken engagement; How do I find a matchmaker for my 'beautiful daughter?'
05/31/01: Couple he fixed-up is in a nasty breakup; overwrought over ring
05/16/01: The gift was counterfeit; settling for the daughter; the lush and the ostrich
05/02/01: 'Jew questions' and falsifying faith; magic marker mayhem; I want kids
04/25/01: Anti-Semites everywhere?; shilling for gifts; my kid is the 'weakest link'
04/05/01: Celebrating when Passover is inconvenient; What's wrong with the name 'Melvyn,'?; Difference dilemma: Husbands and wives and Passover observance levels
03/19/01: 7-4=insensitivity?; baby showers and tempting fate; Splitsville before or after marriage?
03/12/01: Passover party-pooper; slapped by a moral dilemma
02/14/01: Human 'mutts,' getting over it, same-sex kesubas
02/08/01: Bar/bat mitzvah blues, homework he-l, from potty to potty-mouth
01/24/01: Naughty neighbor, unprofessional colleague is dead, I'm a Jew, now what?
01/15/01: Rabbis who won't; when the rules of the 'game' change; ungracious grannies
01/08/01: My kid hates Hebrew school; Stay single or abandon heritage?
01/02/01: A Jewish Grinch? Baby bigots and when grandparents call it quits
12/18/00: Babes in Chanukah Land; my husband the kvetch; bad hair marriage?
12/04/00: My niece is a no-goodnik, when lifecycle events become dangerous, Orthodox v. Reform education
11/28/00: My ex is ruining my kids' souls; the mouth that won't stop
11/21/00: Battling brothers; how to keep a nanny
11/08/00: OY VEY! my son wants to become Orthodox; kiddies should avoid family therapy
11/08/00: Rabbi v. therapist, grandparents bearing gifts, I want my son's teacher for a sister-in-law
10/24/00: Let him enlist?, 'My son the actor'? Eating with the 'help'
10/10/00:Tipsy teens, protective spouses, kosher common-sense
10/03/00: I'm not Jewish --- not that there's anything wrong with it; mezuza machlokes; when granddad has cancer
09/25/00: I can't take Rosh Hashanah! Something for nothing? My husband needs a dinner mate
09/18/00: 'My kids' Jewish education stinks', boyfriend bandit, and single mother not by choice
09/11/00: Bris brouhaha breaks my heart, LET ME SLEEP! --- and Why can't I hold a job?
09/05/00: Righteous anger, 'dissed' daughter --- and how not to make a match
08/21/00: When one spouse becomes more religious than the other; "But the cleaning lady is part of the family!"; Why He invented 9-month gestation periods
08/21/00: 'Fessing up to granny about abandoning one's people, non-kosher sis-in-law, and 'my niece is marrying a loser'
08/14/00: Marrying 'in' for questionable motivations; Should a do-gooder be reimbursed?
08/07/00: Communing with the clouds, betrothal, and banishing bosses
07/28/00: Small-city guys, self-centered siblings
07/21/00: When a child takes religion seriously, marriage obsession, and guests who just don't get it
07/14/00: Divorcing brother-in-law, uncampy kids, and a dot.comer who makes it big time
07/07/00: Hypocrites, reality checks, and the 'real estate challenged'


© 2001, Wendy Belzberg