When the Child-Free, Career Woman turned 70

When the Child-Free, Career Woman turned 70

“…More Orthodox Jews marry; they marry younger, and they have more children than non-Orthodox Jews,” Dennis Prager writes in his article “Why Orthodoxy is Growing.”

“Among other reasons, many non-Orthodox Jews bought the nihilistic nonsense — and the Jewish dead end — of the zero population growth movement. And fewer and fewer of them believe that marriage and children are mandatory.

“On the contrary, many consider a successful career at least as fulfilling as marriage and family.

“It would be instructive to conduct a poll among non-Orthodox young Jewish women, asking them this question: “Would you rather have a great marriage and family or a great career?”

“I have asked this of many young Jewish women, and at least half have responded that they would choose the great career.

“Just this week the Huffington Post published a column titled, “6 Reasons Never to Get Married.” The author? A woman named Leah Cohen.

“It is hard to get further from Judaism and imperil Jewish survival more than having Jewish women value career more than, or even as much as, marriage and children.”

On Shabbat we hosted 2 women in their 70s who are retired journalists on an archaeological tour of Israel.

They were old college friends at Barnard who had climbed to the top of their fields, one as an award-winning international correspondent and the other as the managing editor of one of America’s most highly-regarded newspapers. Both of them, the editor implied, had chosen never to marry or have children in order invest their all in their demanding careers.

The editor said she had no regrets, she had loved her work and the newsroom camaraderie and the high of meeting a late night deadline yet again.

But during that part of the conversation her friend just picked at her meat and rice and sat in silence.

After our guests had headed back to their hotel, my 13-year-old daughter Hallel and I had a heart-to-heart over a sinkful of dishes.

Hallel said: “You know the woman who said she traveled around the world as a journalist? Well, every time Abba mentioned kids or family she started crying. I tried to signal to Abba to stop saying anything about family, why make her feel even more sad than she already is?”

Dennis Prager wrote, “I have asked this of many young Jewish women, and at least half have responded that they would choose the great career [over marriage and motherhood.]

But if he’d ask those same young women in 40 years?


  1. So true. When I was younger all I knew was that I wanted to be a Mom and a wife.
    When people would ask me what I wanted to be, I said I wanted to be a Mom- Many times I would get the response- yeh, but what do you want to do. The message always was being a Mother was not enough. So sad!
    Thinking about the Matt Walsh article you posted and what he said about Motherhood! He was right on!

  2. I always remind myself that while it’s true that right now, career women my age own a beautiful clean home and a closet full of beautiful clothes, and they are free to do whatever they want– in about a decade I might have all that as well. I’ll be able to do whatever I want, including turning my work into a full-blown career. But I will also have the expanding family b”H, “and that has made all the difference”.

  3. The most important thing to me was always to get married and have children. However, I also always knew I would go to university and have a career. There was no question about it, encouraged by my parents. The two are not mutually exclusive. I think it is very important that ALL young Jewish women today are encouraged to get an education and be able to hold down a job, professional or not, and not be dependent on a man their whole lives. I have seen too many young women who are married off at a young age, and if anything ever happens in their marriage, such as abuse, etc. they are unable to be independent and are often unable or afraid to leave because of financial reasons. The issue is not to have a career at the COST of marriage and children, but to create independent and self-confident women who are then becoming wives and mothers.

    • I’m tending to agree with you. A lot of the literature I’m reading lately seems to think you can be one or the other. Not so healthy when you love to work and it makes you a better mom. Currently working on perfecting that part time teacher and full time mother balance. Perhaps the key is to drop the ‘part time homemaker’ out of the equation…? Time will tell

  4. I attended an Ivy League College, and one of the alumni magazines did have such a survey of older women alumni who had risen to the top of their professions, some even breaking thru that “glass ceiling.” MOST of the respondents looked back and said they regretted that their career was at the expense of family. 1. Especially in times that do not always promise job security, what happens when an older woman gets down-sized and no one wants to hire her anymore. What kind of life does she have? 2. Very very few woman work at jobs that really make a mark on posterity — but mothers do. Even in the here-and-now, they are working 24/7 on perfecting their little corner of the world, in the finest possible sense.When you get to see your tribe growing up and reap nachas from these fine young individuals that your devoted efforts helped cultivate, that far outshines any exotic archaeological digs or editorial masterpieces or whatever. This is your share in continuity & eternity!

    • Ditto my alumni magazine, the respondents, lawyers, doctors, etc. regretted not having had kids at all or hardly knowing them and not having developped a continuing relationship.
      And this Leah Cohen, if I am not mistaken, was born to an Orthodox family but somehow left to become one of the original vehement feminists. If not her, someone similar, who managed to estrange also many of her feminist colleagues and lived her last years embittered and lonely.

  5. Tzipporahshara Sarah berger

    We should be able to have both! And while its hard now for me as a mother of young children with desires to invest in a fulfilling career, I know it’s only short term. I am a bit jealous of some off my secular peers that I grew up with, who are really making it professionally and are so financially independent. On the other hand, I have one cousin who is a hot shot lawyer, turning 40, not married, no kids. This is so sad.

    • Having both is not as simple as it sounds! While we cant go for extremes , a wise woman advised me, “You can have everything, just not all at once.”

  6. i don't know...

    this is sad for me as a frum woman. i desperately want children but am in a bad marriage and can’t feel safe that i can bring kids in to the world. do i want to be a career woman? NO. do i need to work? YES. do i have kids? NO. do i want them? YES.

    not always so clearcut.

  7. I’m 49 and secular, single with no kids, and it’s NOT sad! It’s what I want! How dare anyone describe someone else’s choices as “sad?” I always wanted to be an actress, and that comes first in my life. If I had a kid, I would end up like Judy Garland’s mother, living through the kid instead of living through myself. I want the spotlight, the experience of being on camera and on state, the recognition–for me, not for a kid of mine. Having the freedom to come and go at all hours and pursue this dream is the greatest gift. The world has 7.2 billion people; we can’t even afford to have everyone reproduce.

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