The Woman I Screamed At Last Week

The Woman I Screamed At Last Week

I’ve been a member of the same health fund for 22 years, and I’ve been very happy with it in almost every way.

But this past Thursday something happened that made me so furious that Josh and I seriously considered moving our business elsewhere.

Here’s what happened.

For the last two months, I noticed that my family’s monthly charge from the health fund has more than doubled. So I called up the health fund’s phone hotline to find out why. But when the woman on the hotline finally answered after half-an-hour on hold, she told me she could not give me this information, only my husband.

What?!

I told her that I had received similar information regarding billing from the phone center on several occasions. What had changed all of a sudden?

“Your husband is the head of your family’s health-fund account, since the bank account we take the monthly charge from is under his name, so I can only give this information to him.”

“That’s not true. My husband and I have had a joint bank account for the last 20 years. And I have always handled all matters connected to the health fund.”

When the woman refused to budge, I asked to speak to her supervisor. But after 20 more minutes on hold for the supervisor, the woman told me that the supervisor was refusing to speak to me; she would only speak with my husband.

JewishMOM, I hope that after reading my blog you know me well enough to know that I am not the kind of person who usually screams at others, but, oh, did I scream at her!

When I got off the phone, I was shaking. It was so frustrating, to know that I was right, and that I had a valid complaint, but nobody was willing to listen to me.

And for hours, I was upset about it, feeling so stuck. I sent a fax to my health fund’s complaint department, but who knew when they would respond? If ever…

And then I remembered a story from Henny Machlis’s biography, in which she shares a story she heard from her rabbi, Rabbi Usher Freund. Henny taught:

“Rav Usher’s four-year-old daughter had been eating chocolate yoghurt and she had it all over her face and all over her blouse. He took her to the mirror. He asked her, ‘What do you see on that girl?’

“His daughter replied, ‘That girl has chocolate all over her face and all over her blouse.’

“Rav Usher asked her, ‘And how are we going to clean up that girl?’

“She said, ‘I am going to wash my face, and I am going to clean my blouse. Then I will be clean, and that girl will be clean.’

“And, Henny explained, what do you we learn from that? If you ever see a fault in someone else, the fault is [probably] in you. The best way to clean up the other person is to clean up yourself.”

And I thought of this story, and I thought of the woman I had screamed at…

And within a few seconds, I completely understood. The woman at the phone center and her supervisor were unwilling to listen to my complaint. Even though my complaint was true and valid and deserved to be addressed.

And I, too, am also unwilling to listen to complaints– from my children. As soon as my kids start complaining about just about anything, I tune them out. I might nod and say “Ah-hah” as though I’m kind-of listening, but I’m totally not.

So I decided to work on that. To improve that aspect of my mothering.

Since I had learned on the phone that day what an utterly awful feeling it is to have a heartfelt complaint and to have it be ignored and belittled. And that is how I make my kids feel all too often…

So, end of the story, yesterday I called my local health-fund branch to figure out why the phone center is refusing to give me information. And the woman there told me which form to fill out to fix the problem (it took me exactly 11 seconds) and the problem was thereby solved, lickety split.

So, B”H, we don’t have to switch health funds in the end. But it was good we almost had to, since it helped my kids get a better Eema (IY”H) in the process.

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7 comments

  1. I do this ALL the time with my children. I know I need to do better, and I work on it here and there, but this was a great reminder of how important this area of mothering is. How awful to think of my children feeling the way you felt on the other end of the phone that day! Thank you for this week up call to work harder to grow in this area.

  2. BH
    WOWֱ! good lesson!!
    have a lovely day בע”ה

  3. What a powerful image to keep in mind! Thanks for the reminder!
    Why is it that we tune out kvetching? I have a very hard time listening to my kids when they don’t ask nicely, but when they’re very frustrated because they need something, it’s nearly impossible for them to talk without the loud, kvetch tone! And I expect them to be able to do just that!

  4. I am so guilty of this too. I have to remember that they are people too.

  5. It’s so hard for me to hear the kids’ complaining, because it makes me feel that I’m a lousy mother for not fulfilling their needs. And I get stressed out that I have to do what they want, and I can’t always do that. Sometimes I must tune out just for my own sanity.
    I have been taught that I can listen to their complaints and sympathize with them, but that doesn’t reflect on ME, and it also doesn’t mean that I have to act on it right away. Still tryng to really act this way.

  6. In my opinion, this is one of your best posts, And that’s saying a lot!

    Thank you for sharing this experience, and your lesson from it.

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