You have HOW MANY Kids?!

You have HOW MANY Kids?!

Mrs. Gotthelf rolled down her car window and called out, “Hey Jenny, I heard you’re back home for your sister’s wedding…Tell me, how many kids you got now?”

Mrs. Gotthelf lives down the block and has known me since I went to kindergarten at the same elementary school as her daughter Margie.

“Seven,” I tell her.

“Oh my goodness!” and she shook her head and drove away.
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I ran into my old next-door neighbor Mrs. Levy at the swimming pool. She’s walking around in her bathing suit and I’m in my “swim-dress.” Funny. I feel so normal wearing this in Israel and so Taliban-ish at the Mt. Washington Swim Club where I spent a large percentage of my childhood sunbathing and playing shark.

“How many kids does Danny have now?” I ask her. I haven’t seen her son, Danny, in over twenty years, but we were once classmates.

“Danny’s got three kids!”

“Oh my God! When did THAT happen?” I gush.

“You’ve got some nerve…” Mrs. Levy teases me, “Look at YOU!”

Right…I forgot. Look at me. The Orthodox Snow White.

Seven kids…I’ve got seven kids.

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Back in Nachlaot, I don’t often feel like I’ve got so many kids. I know two families with fifteen kids, and a whole bunch with over ten.

I know women ten years younger than me with seven kids…they’re just getting started.

So coming back to Baltimore and seeing others’ surprise, even shock, at my seven kids has reminded me….wow! I’ve got seven kids, and that’s a whole lot!

My husband’s back in Jerusalem with four of our children, and during our daily Skype call I notice the noise, the commotion, the borderline chaos that those four children cause. And on most days I am mothering three more kids than that…

Being here makes me appreciate how hard it is to do what I do, and what an accomplishment it is to end the day in an upright position (as I occasionally do).
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Back here in Baltimore I see that people don’t really get it.

You have seven kids?! Why would you do a crazy, nutty thing like that? Couldn’t you have become Buddhist or Hare Krishna or Bahai (like that nice Cohen boy from Greenspring! AND he’s a hand surgeon)…

Why did you have to become “Orthodox Jewish” and have baby after baby?

But the funny thing is that the fact that my old neighbors DON’T get why I’m doing this makes me get it even more.

What brings me more joy, more nachas, and fills me with deeper satisfaction and awe than these kids?
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Every few months a Chassidic man from Beitar stops by my house to sell books he publishes about the Jewish holidays in order to raise money to marry off his children.

“I’ll tell you the truth, Geveret Veisberg, we don’t have any money, and,” he tells me, “my son is getting married next month. But, baruch Hashem, I’m a billionaire. I have ten children.”

And being in Baltimore, surrounded by people who have no idea why I’m doing what I’m doing reminds me I’m a billionaire too, B”H.

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27 comments

  1. LOVE IT!

  2. Just saying, I’ve got 4 remarkable kids, bli ayin hora, but it doesn’t get any easier now that most are married B”H. They still need a lot of time and mental energy. To say nothing of the costs, there’s no such thing as low mantainace when it comes to kids.

  3. Chaya Rivka Carasso

    People comment because most take it personally. If you have more children than they have, they compare. And if you have fewer children than they have, they compare. Unfortunately, many people judge their own worth by the standards of others. In the end, as in everything important that takes place in our life, it is Hashem who decides how many children we need to have and raise.

    Comparing ourselves with what others do or have is of no value. You have 7 children, I have 3. My son and his wife have 6; a friend has none. Even though it looks as if we decide to have children and how many or not, it is Hashem’s choice.

    Thank you for a wonderful blog. I visit it daily and love reading the stories and learning about so many amazing Jewish families. And now you are letting us know about your Baltimore visit with your family and former life. I find this beautiful too. Thank you.

    • JewishMom

      thank you!

    • “Comparing ourselves with what others do or have is of no value. You have 7 children, I have 3. My son and his wife have 6; a friend has none. Even though it looks as if we decide to have children and how many or not, it is Hashem’s choice.”

      And EVERY SINGLE ONE we have makes us a billionaire. Just because Hashem decides that what someone needs to fulfill their tafkid in life is 2 kids instead of 10, that doesn’t make them any “poorer” than the one who has 10. There is a fantastic shiur by Rabbi Ezriel Tauber that touches on this topic – see http://www.kolhalashon.com/New/Shiurim.aspx?Lang=English&Path=English|EMusar|R7060|R7060-8&English=True

      • JewishMom

        so true. every child is priceless. every mom a billionaire.

  4. If u need a place to eat on shabbos in bmore, please email me. I would love to meet you!

    • JewishMom

      thanks so much, I think I’m set, but I appreciate the invitation:)

  5. P.s. Come to the other side of greenspring and you will see plenty of people with families your size

  6. We also have 7 children, b”H, and it doesn’t feel like such a lot, but my kids say, when we go out all together, people look at us. I didn’t realise what it looks like till I saw a (frum) family in the supermarket with “loads” of kids. I checked and saw that they had 7! Ah, that’s what it looks like! BTW one of the checkout ladies, when I had no 7 asked me how many children we had. When I told her, she was very enthustiastic. She’s a religious Christian with 5 children and told me what a blessing it is to have a large family….

  7. Hadassah

    Miriam Adahan writes that comparisons lead to ‘temper’. We can feel inferior or superior and as Chaya Rivka Carasso writes it is Hashem who decides how many and what type of children we end up with. I have an aunt who had ten by the time her oldest was Bar mitzvah! She ran such an organized liebedick but peaceful (no fighting, yelling, etc.) home that it inspired me. I always thought ten was ideal but Hashem blessed me with 8 (bli ayin Hora). Who would have thought that would include a Down’s Syndrome child(#3)? Or that the last three children would be born after I was 39?! Even if we are only blessed with one it is a treasure and a gift that is not truly ours – just on temporary loan, to nurture and care for until they leave home and live on their own. (The delicate balance of being a parent of grown children is not for this blog!)

  8. Motherhood

    The most valuable work,
    Gets the lowest pay.
    In this topsy-turvy world,
    Today.
    Receiving next to nothing,
    For all you do?
    Someday all will wish,
    They were as rich,
    As you.

    • Shoshana B

      Gorgeous! Bracha thank you x That’s entirely fridgeworthy.

  9. Ann Bar-Neder

    When I told my late mother in law that I was expecting our 3rd child, the eldest being 4 years old and the second only 10 months old at the time, she offered to help me “financially” if I decided I needed “some help” It took me a few minutes to realize that she was offering to help me abort the child. “How can one WANT to have one baby right after the other … and soooo close in age…..”, she exclained
    I never saw my mil in the same light again. My parents survived the Holocaust in Europe, and the thought of having children born IN ISRAEL was a נחמה and נקמה.
    Today most of my children are married… and all have children of their own, and I am a multi millionaire having such wonderful children and grandchildren. Some people will never understand why we choose to have (so many) children. I pity them.

  10. OMG!!!! You have seven kids? are you crazy – you’re not getting any younger, my dear! You must stop this laziness immediately, you hear? only seven kids when you could have had eight, nine, ten – what a shame…
    Love ya 🙂
    Yikrat

    • faith/emuna

      yikrat are you an english speaker?!?

      • JewishMom

        the famous yikrat friedman is israeli but spent a few years in the US and speaks fantastic english

        • faith/emuna

          that makes sense. chana/jenny i guess this means no chance of bumping into you at binyan shalem?

          • JewishMom

            just got back to israel, and definitely hoping to make it to binyan shalem (if I can find a babysitter…)

  11. chaia Lipa

    VERY CUTE and FUNNY! I REALLY LIKED THE LAST PART WITH THE MESSAGE THAT WE ARE BILLIONAIRES!! 🙂

  12. Jenny, this made me cry 🙂
    I often struggle with judgement from family and community as well- Im expecting my 4th and my oldest is 3.
    Your articles give me so much strength.
    I’m loving this whole series of posts from your American trip- fresh, original, inspired, and very moving.
    Thank you.

  13. Chana Jenny, this made me laugh!

    Couldn’t you have become Buddhist or Hare Krishna or Bahai (like that nice Cohen boy from Greenspring! AND he’s a hand surgeon)…

  14. Miriam G

    Wow, what a inspiring article! All of us, BTs have those situations that you described right and left. I am yet to make up a short but sweet answer to these questions. Me &my husband, both Russian BTs can’t believe we have SO many B”H kinderlach (not 5), while in our 30s-40s.
    The hardest part for me, that I feel the same way as the people asking me (I have HOW MANY?). I don’t feel it’s an easy mitzvah ‘pru urvu’. I still don’t believe those older women who advise me “to enjoy them while they are young, they grow up so fast”. Not yet at least.

  15. I have nine kids and I have had to return to work. People talk– I look like a I work out to maintain, but I don’t, and I certainly don’t have the shape of someone who has had any children. I just say, “Yes, I have been in the Birthing Olympics and won a few events!”

    I know too many people who have struggled with infertility and when I get asked, I feel really awkward about having so many, as if I managed to “take more than my fair share” of the children available in some realm, as if we could chose them. I get weird comments– how can I afford them, how do I manage. I know that they are part genuinely curious, and part gawking.

  16. This was a nice thing to read when my mother just said to me yesterday (we are also visiting parents in chu’l)…”I love your kids but I sure hope you’re not planning on having any more,” (not that it’s relevant but I have 4), and “Why would you punish yourself like that?” Sigh.

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