What about retirement for women?

December 7th, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 12 comments

Question:

I have read and heard much of your teaching on the reasons for not retiring. I understand this for a man, however, as a woman who has worked full time in high stress employment most of my life but has never wanted anything except to be a traditional wife caring for my husband, children and home, is it wrong for me to desire retirement?

B.L.

Answer: 

 Dear B.L.,

Since not everyone reading this has heard or read our teachings on retirement, we’d like to give a super-short summary of one of the main points. Our entire understanding of ethical capitalism is that people do well financially when they find ways to serve God’s other children. Money is the by-product of being successful in this service. For this reason, retirement means stopping to serve others, which makes it a bad idea. (There is no way to cover the content of two books, many articles and a number of audio CDs in a few sentences. Please look around our website if you are interested in going deeper.)

Now, to your question.

You are absolutely correct that there is a huge difference between men and women on this point. While a woman is capable of achieving great financial reward for her work, her essence is not tied into that achievement. A woman who builds a home and raises a family doesn’t need a paycheck to tell herself that she is accomplishing worthwhile and productive goals. That is not so for almost all men. Part of the definition of being a good husband and father is providing financially for one’s family. That isn’t part of the definition of being a good wife and mother even though many women in our times need to help out in that area. 

We bless you to be able to retire soon and devote yourself to your family,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

 

 

 

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12 comments

Kim Godsey says:

How many women would not think of serving her family as retirement? It also IS a job, obviously and an honored one. Perhaps not always in our culture, but in the Lord’s eyes. How blessed the families in the country would be if more thought that way.

rdlapin says:

How important it is, Kim, to be able to ignore the popular culture and live one’s life according to our own transcendent values rather than feeling influenced by the crowd. The word “Hebrew” as in Abraham the Hebrew means someone willing to stand opposite everyone else.
Cordially
RDL (The Hebrew)

Doland Bourgeois says:

I agree. She is still serving god’s other children; her husband and children.

rdlapin says:

Right Doland, exactly.

Margaret Wood says:

I don’t believe that retirement from the workforce has to mean that you stop being productive or finding ways to to serve others for either men or women. I believe that there are many ways to contribute after retirement.

rdlapin says:

Absolutely Margaret
But then of course you wouldn’t really be retired would you? Retirement means no longer doing work valued by others and confining your energies to things like golf
Cordially
RDL

Susana Beveridge says:

Thank you for publishing this Q&A.
I recently retired myself, 6 months ago, and since I agree with your teaching about retirement I was feeling bad about it. Perhaps it would be helpful to specify that there is a difference for men and women in this area.

rdlapin says:

Not only is there a difference between men and women, Susana,
But just because one has retired from a particular job doesn’t mean that you are now prohibited from evermore doing things valued by other people.
Cordially
RDL

Richard says:

In this day and age does that advice hold true if the man retires because the woman is the higher bread winner in the family?

rdlapin says:

Dear Richard-
That is an entirely different situation and apart from anything else I have to believe that for a wife to be putting in full work days while hubby spends his days in front of the TV or on the golf course will start feeling stale very quickly. I’d say it would stress the marriage.
Cordially
RDL

Claire says:

Thank you for validating stay at home mothers, especially homeschooling ones. I passed the CPA exam 8 years ago and was just getting ready to return to work (part-time) while my children were in school. I learned more about the Common Core and decided against it. I actually think the way things were being “taught” was part of the reason why my son was confused. I knew he was capable of much more so I decided, once again, to focus on my family first. I began homeschooling him and have been very thankful for that decision ever since. I would say the only difficult “thing” for me is that, at times, I feel uncertain of my future once my children grow. Before having children, I was a VERY type A personality who loved working. I had “big ideas” that were instantly replaced once I held my daughter for the first time in the delivery room. My grandmother was a very successful business woman during a time when that was not fashionable and she had a profound influence on my childhood. I loved her dearly and still miss her! I suppose sub-consciously, I identified with her and my grandfather. Well, now my time for being successful has greatly decreased because I am no longer 22 with the world before me. At 52, I have 6 years remaining to homeschooling my son as long as he continues to enjoy it. We don’t have the “big” house I always dreamed of, we don’t have the money, on one income, to take nice vacations as I had always planned, however I do have something more. I have a bond with my two children and husband. I have a smaller house that is paid for. We are able to still scrape by every year for our Roth IRA’s, and again, my son is doing very well (as well as my daughter who is in public school). My poor grandmother, on the other hand, had nothing but misery because her children were always fighting with one another (and her) since they were part of her business too. So, maybe in the long run, God did save me from my own “big dreams” At times, I just struggle with what I will never “be” and what I will do once my children move on. As an aside, I greatly enjoy both you and Susan. I just watched your videos on Ancient Jewish Wisdom and thoroughly enjoyed them. It may seem odd that, as a Christian, I learn more from a rabbi (and his wife) than I ever did from my priest. Blessings to both of you!

rdlapin says:

Dear Claire–
Susan decided to answer your question in her Musings, so please head over there and read the response. Good luck on your wonderful work–may it always bring huge rewards
Cordially
RDL

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