Posts tagged " family dynamics "

How much of a priority is paternity leave?

January 21st, 2020 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 14 comments

The closing pitcher for tonight’s baseball playoff game is taking 3 days of paternity leave because of the birth of his daughter this morning. He will miss 2 games as a result.

Given that his wife had no medical issues with the birth, shouldn’t he be out there doing his job the next two nights?

Thomas P.

Dear Thomas,

We’re sorry to only get to your question now, although you submitted it closer to  October 2019, when Washington National player, Daniel Hudson, took paternity leave at the time of the National League Championship Series. However, the issue has cropped up before and since. This is not surprising when you consider that baseball teams are made up of men, many of an age when they are establishing families. In fact, baseball adopted an official paternity leave policy in 2011. Many players and officials made comments expressing the sentiment that baseball is important but family is more important.

That sounds warm and cuddly but it camouflages reality. These men are able to play professional baseball, not because it is important but because enough people enjoy watching them do so and are willing to pay for that privilege. As you suggested, this is a job.  Your local dry cleaner might close for a few days when his wife gives birth but he wouldn’t say, “Dry cleaning is important but family is more important.” The main reason he goes off to work each day is to support his family. If he has concerns that his livelihood might be imperiled if his store closes, then he will not take paternity leave but will stay open. If it came down to being with his wife and new baby for a few days or being able to provide them with a roof over their head and food on the table, there isn’t really a choice as to where his obligation lies. If baseball fans stopped attending games because their team, let’s say, loses the World Series because the star pitcher is off on paternity leave, the players will find themselves out of very lucrative jobs. That calculation should be an internal and unforced decision for the individual store owner or a baseball League to make. 

Having a baby isn’t the only time an emotional tug of war occurs. While birth is obviously a unique moment, understanding the intersection of money, marriage and family is a larger topic. One sometimes hears parents piously pronouncing that attending their child’s school or sports event is more important to them than being at work.  We do not automatically praise their priority.  If their economic situation is such that there are no financial costs to absenting themselves from work, they belong to the rarified ranks of the privileged few.  For many parents, being absent in the middle of a workday is just plain irresponsible.

As part of a Biblical understanding of marriage, the husband contractually commits to providing for his wife financially. That often gets overlooked in today’s society.  Though it may not sound either romantic or egalitarian, in reality, that remains one of the cornerstones of the relationship. She can support the family; he must support the family.

It doesn’t surprise us at all that as men opt out of financial responsibility and women shoulder career obligations, fewer people are marrying and having children. The percentage of American adults who have never married is now at an all-time historic high.  Those that do marry are having smaller families than ever before. Somehow, as family is elevated in theory and political polemic abounds promoting policies of maternity and paternity leave, fewer individuals are signing on to establishing a family in the first place.

Earning a living, of course, does not supersede everything else. The Jewish dry cleaner is obligated to close for Shabbat and various festivals regardless of the cost. In a similar vein, no one can conduct a fraudulent transaction and then claim moral kudos because the money was used to support his family.  Earning a living is not more important than family, it is part of having a family.

In general, the Biblical view leans towards what we call ‘ethical capitalism’. In other words, people should be free to make whatever commercial agreements they choose as long as they do not contradict any  Biblical or legal laws. Paternity leave is neither a religious obligation nor religiously forbidden. In that sense, it’s a choice best left to the individual employer and employee. We feel great concern at the government getting involved. Fans and customers, of course, have the power of controlling where and when they spend their own money. 

On this and so many other issues we do worry about a society focused on individuals obtaining more rights, entitlements and privileges while simultaneously insisting upon fewer obligations and responsibilities. Having a long-term view is essential so that what looks rosy today doesn’t bring a bleak tomorrow.

For it’s one, two, three strikes you’re out,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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How can I stop my kids fighting?

January 23rd, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance No Comment yet

A “Your Mother’s Guidance” post by Rebecca Masinter

I would like to share some thoughts in response to a question a mother on this group emailed me.

Here is the question:

I, thank God, have 4 children,  a six-year-old girl, almost five-year-old boy, almost three-year-old girl and an eight-month-old baby. I wanted to know if you can give some pointers on how to handle when children are fighting and when we, as parents should intervene or let the children work out the argument themselves.

There are two parts to my answer.  The first will be a few ideas on how to intervene in the moment, and the second is what can I do when my children are not fighting to decrease the amount of future conflict in my family.

(One caveat is that what I will share now is intended in families where the children are pretty typical and evenly matched. Some of us have been blessed with children who have more complicated emotions and/or more of a tolerance for conflict and aggression and you have constant fights between that child and everyone else. In that case, there are different principles to consider.)

Firstly, let’s remember that children feed off of our emotions and stress so I think step number one is to not let ourselves get emotionally riled by our kids fighting.  We need to respond and not react.  We are humans and sometimes some arguments can push buttons of our own, but our kids need us to respond consistently and calmly, not emotionally.  This means for example that if your family rule is, “No physical contact when arguing,” you want to enforce it consistently, not just when you’re feeling impatient, tired, or stressed, or just when it’s an older kid hitting a younger or not just when it leads to hysterical tears.  You get the idea.

Another thought.  Kids can’t think and express themselves well when they’re emotionally upset. They need us to help give them the words initially and model to them how to express themselves.  You can do this by getting down at their eye level and asking each one, one at a time what they’re upset about.  Then, with a loving arm around them, you can role play dialogue for them to repeat as they take turns calmly expressing what they want.  You feed them the lines and let them copy them. What’s happening is that they feel understood by you and they’re learning to express their feelings and needs. As a bonus, they’re doing it in a way that solves problems!  If a child needs to apologize to the other, you can also feed them the words for that apology.  This isn’t a cop out for them — it is modeling how to disagree and how to apologize. Initially, they need us for that.

Now for part two. As in so many areas of our life, being proactive goes a lot farther than trying to just cope once we’re in tough situations.

Take some time to think through your children’s fighting patterns.

Are they often at the same time of day?  Over the same issues?  Between the same kids?  Following the same activity or routine?  When are your children most harmonious?

Sometimes we can change routines or dynamics in our home that lead to stress and create new ones that contribute to harmony. For example, if they fight while you prepare supper each day, think about what you can do differently so they are each happily occupied in soothing activities before you start cooking.  What patterns do you see that you can tweak to get a different outcome?

Here’s another way we can be proactive:

If your children are old enough, you can talk to them one-on-one about the recurring patterns you see in their arguments.  Maybe you and your child together can brainstorm alternatives and role play the way they can handle irritating siblings next time.

The flip side of that, is that when kids (and adults) are emotionally upset and aggravated, it is not the time to try to calmly analyze what went wrong and what they can do next time.  As ancient Jewish wisdom says…don’t try to calm someone when they’re angry.  Often, you will have to wait a while, until they have really calmed down, to lovingly discuss the fighting that went on before.  You can validate their experiences and their emotions and then discuss what they may want to try differently next time, both action wise and response wise.  I think it’s important to end by getting an agreement from your child that he’s willing to try something different next time.  (This doesn’t mean he will succeed at that, it means he’s willing to make an effort. That is something you can praise no matter whether or not he manages to follow through each time.)

For example, you may say something like this while snuggling with your son at the end of the day…

“I can see you were very angry and sad when the baby knocked down your tower.  I would be sad too if she knocked down something I built.  Do you want to build a tower next time when she’s napping so she can’t break it?” 

Or, Would you like to build a tower on the table instead of on the floor?

Even though it’s ok to feel sad and angry, it’s important to speak nicely to your sister instead of yelling.  She’s little and your yelling probably made her feel scared.  Do you think that the next time she starts to break your toys, you can come calmly and ask me to move her?”

Aside from trying to figure out patterns and what you can do to eliminate the stressors that often lead to fighting, being proactive before arguments and working through them with your children after they’re calm, there is one more secret weapon we have that I want to share with you.

That is yourself.  You are the magnet at the center of the family.  You are the one that each child wants to be with, to be like, to be loved by, and to be approved by.  Don’t ever underestimate your power as a mother.  Often, I find I can diffuse tension before a fight breaks out by “happening” to come into the room then and inviting one of the kids to hang out with me, do laundry, help with dinner, run an errand, whatever.  Or I “happen” to come  in to do something with all of them – distracting them with a story or a game.  Don’t let them sense you’re doing it to get them away from each other — of course you’re doing it because you love being with them! 

Neither I, nor anyone else, can ever tell another parent what to do as the nature of parenting is one of relationships and those are unique and distinct between each child and his or her parents.  This is at the foundation of any thoughts I ever share.  I can share my experience, I can share some of the principles that may be important here, but ultimately all I hope to do is start the discussion so that each one of us individually can have a springboard from which to start thinking through this question.  Pay attention to your reactions as you read my words. They are the keys to figuring out your answer for your family.  You are the expert on your children—that is why God gave them you as a mother.

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