My husband and I are going through a divorce and my nine-year-old daughter is caught in the middle.
Maddy is an only child and we had a very hard time conceiving her. We made decisions together about how to raise her. Until recently, she has been raised in a kosher home. When we married, my husband had to learn about kashrut, as he was not raised to follow any dietary laws. We were happy for a long time and Maddy even attended a Jewish day school. Now that we live apart, he has gone back to living what he calls a cultural Jewish lifestyle. He no longer keeps kosher, while my home continues to be strictly kosher. He refuses to contribute to her Jewish education, so now she is in the public school system.
Maddy recently told me that her daddy took her to McDonald’s and asked why I wouldn’t take her there. I saw red! What am I supposed to do?
Losing My Grip
Dear Losing My Grip,
In light of all these difficult changes, I commend you for continuing to do the best you can for Maddy. It’s clear that you have her best interests at heart.
As hard as this might be to hear, your husband may also have his daughter’s best interests at heart. At one time, your values were in line, but now you’ve grown apart, and so have your priorities.
I suggest you enlist the help of both a rabbi and lawyer. The rabbi will guide and support you as you transition to having your child adapt to two different types of Jewish lifestyles. Maddy will learn that when she is with you, she must obey the rules of your home. A gentle and patient explanation of why you choose this over that will go a long way to making Maddy understand why things are different in her two homes. This must be a confusing time for her. Teach by example.
A lawyer will advise you on whether your husband must adhere to your original agreement on how to raise your daughter. Be prepared in case the law can’t impose your religious lifestyle on your husband. Never bad mouth her dad. Instead, use love and your strong commitment to Judaism to create a happy, safe and loving environment. Give Maddy the tools she needs as she matures and eventually makes choices for her own life.
I was at a restaurant with my kids on Sunday morning. We had just come back from dance lessons and both kids were wearing their costumes under their coats. Most people smiled at how cute the girls looked, except for one older woman. She walked over to me on her way out of the restaurant and told me how inappropriate it was to have my girls wearing provocative clothing like that in public. That’s the word she used – “provocative.” They are three and six years old and the dance school is in the same plaza. She made me feel horrible and made me question myself as a mom. I didn’t respond to her at all. I think I was in shock. Was this really so terrible?
Doing Right by my Kids
Dear Doing Right by my Kids
Anytime I venture out on a Sunday morning for breakfast, I see kids in dance costumes, karate gear and hockey outfits. This is not your problem, it’s the problem of the woman who finds something sinister in a mom taking her kids to dance class and then out for breakfast.
Don’t let the opinions of others sway what you know in your heart is right for your children. You are their mom. Don’t question yourself. This woman has no idea what your schedule is, what your challenges are or what your values are. Your kids were not offensive or bothering anyone and you even mentioned how many people smiled at how cute they looked.
There’s enough important stuff you have to be concerned about as a mom. This is not one of those things.