My Husband Doesn’t Help in the House and That’s OK by Tamar Nizri

My Husband Doesn’t Help in the House and That’s OK by Tamar Nizri

Over the last few weeks I’ve mentioned life coach and mother of 8 Tamar Nizri several times. This year, her community and home in Amona were destroyed, and since then (as she mentions in the article below) she and the other displaced families have been living together in dormitories while awaiting permanent housing. This article originally appeared in Hebrew in the magazine Pnima.

Tamar Nizri writes:
A father’s help in the house, what a sensitive topic. As a person whose husband is almost never home during the week, for years I struggled with the fact that fathers all around me return home in the afternoon and take an active part in the family experience of raising children.

From the playground bench in Amona my eyes were filled with yearning as I saw a father who returned home at 5 and took his children on a bike ride, and the husband next door who always had to be home for bathtime and bedtime.

From my window on the second floor of the dormitory [where she and the rest of Amona’s residents have been living since the expulsion], I am filled with wonder and awe at the fathers who spend afternoons with their children, what an unfamiliar reality. It took me years to accept that my husband is not.

My husband is not the type to come home at 5 in the afternoon. I won’t find him on the floor doing puzzles with the kids like “her husband,” I won’t see him doing baths or combing out lice. And no, it’s not possible to blame his work or the heavy workload, he’s just not like that.

In the past my tendency was to focus on things that are inaccessible, to see who has what I don’t. I would feel down about my miserable fate and about my loneliness as a married woman who functions on a daily basis like a single mother. I waited for the feeling of partnership in the Shabbat preparations, when, finally, my husband would be present in our home.

“What can I do? That’s the reality, and one needs to make peace with it,” I said to myself as I patted myself on the shoulder. “At least I spend a great deal of quality time with my children. What a heroic and holy mother I am, what would they do without me?”

Over the years, and after thousands of conversations with incredible women, my point of view developed and widened. With each birth I got smarter, just like everyone says. And I understood that all the ideal pictures, which teach me how an ideal father is supposed to behave, and how partnership between parents is supposed to look, and how a Shabbat table is supposed to look, and whether our bank account should be joint or separate, all of them, for the most part, only weaken us. We make comparisons, did we meet the criteria or not?

In the dormitory cafeteria in Ofra [where all Amona evacuees eat together] there is a hidden storm taking place. On the outside, everything looks nice. The families of Amona are sitting there at their Shabbat meal. But inside, everything is registered and written down. How long we waited for Abba for kiddush while every else already washed their hands, how their children cuddled with their parents and how those ones sang, while words of Torah were heard from the table to the right, and how they succeeded in keeping all the kids at the table.

The spies went to spy out the Land, and with fears and anxieties we returned. They are giants in comparison with us, and we are grasshoppers. The comparisons, the “what should be,” leave us weak, not good enough, and feeling that we are lacking.

Without the ideal picture and without “what should be”–maybe everything in truth is OK?

My husband isn’t a full partner in raising the kids, but who decided we need to be the same? And on the other hand, despite his absence in the afternoon, he takes full responsibility for maintaining the cars, does the shopping, and seems to be, and this is what I believe, exactly as he is, the very best father and the most perfect fit for my children.

If I am being honest with myself–and this will stay just between us, OK?– this situation is very convenient for me. Bathtime and bedtime are quite easy when it’s just me doing them. There is calm in the afternoon, the division of responsibilities is clear. No expectations–no disappointments. And besides that–I have a quiet evening and a little free time to myself until he comes home.

So they won’t have memories of doing puzzles with Abba, but the fridge is full of good things thanks to him and the sandwiches that Abba prepared will do the job no less well.

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11 comments

  1. JewishMom

    I want to clarify why I posted this–and it’s not because I think husbands shouldn’t help.

    I posted this because nearly every married woman wishes her husband, at least in some small way, would be different than he is. And this feeling magnifies when we compare our husbands with her husband and her husband and her husband.

    I think Tamar Nizri is an example of someone who has learned to stop comparing, to value her husband’s strengths, and to be truly happy with her husband, despite the obvious challenges.

    And I think that’s a valuable lesson for all of us, no matter how much our husbands help out or don’t help out in the house.

  2. Thank you for posting this. I hope you don’t get backlash on it because it really spoke to the depths of my soul and gave me chizuk.

    • JewishMom

      b”H, I’m so happy to hear, I also found it very powerful and mechazek

  3. Backlash? This was so great!

  4. Well done Tamar, you have obviously learnt a lot about life. You are correct, you have no reason to compare your situation to other peoples’. Every family and every couple have their own problems, of course, because none of us is perfect. And Hashem in his wisdom has given us the problems we need, and the problems we can cope with. I’m sure if you could see inside some of the other families which seem so perfect to you, you would see problems that you would rather not have. I think often of the story about women hanging out their clothes to dry. If everyone would hang out their tzorot on a washing line, and you saw everyone else’s you would run as fast as you could to gather your own stuff back again. Stay strong and stay happy with what you have got and thank you for sharing.

  5. dear tamar and jenny, what insight~may you go from chayil to chayil this is a “must read” for all moms.

  6. Hadassah

    And to keep it all in perspective- We have to appreciate and be grateful for all the good and not focus on what is missing. Dina Horvitz is a wonderful role model for us.

  7. Hadassah

    I meant Hurwitz. And for those of you who missed it-her husband has ALS.

  8. I Love it…i think it takes time until We accept the difference between the Kind of help or relationship We want to receive and what our family /friends /sorround in reality can give…We must be happy and appreciatte the other people skills and no to pretend they give us the same way We can do it!! That is the reason We are different and must tolerate and learn from everybody.
    In my family, the first years my husband was indeed Very implicated in the child raising…bathing, gan pickup, playground, cooking…We share q lot of house work…also the outside work!!
    Over the Past years We moved from spain to Venezuela, baruj Hashem the family grew as the work pressure… I am a stay home mom and miss a lot my husband at home and his help…but i learned that now he also helps…a lot! But in a different way..as the time and skills alow him.
    It took me time realizing that he is the same helpful husband…but now in some other ways! Baruj Hashem.
    And in case someone doesn’t have either kind of way..We have to remember that, besides the “heavy duty” being more time With the Kids is a blessing

  9. Wow. I thought this was going to be one of those ra-ra for the Im-so-holy-because-im-a-balabusta articles. Instead this was a story about a woman pushing her boundaries of acceptance of her lot in life, a lesson for us all, always.
    Actually, this really WAS an article about a holy balabusta, come to.think of it, the real deal.

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