We Differ About Our Daughters // The Father Demands Respect and the Mother calls that Servitude

Moderated by Rechy Frankfurter

Dear Ami:

My husband and I have a different take on the amount of household help we should expect from our children. We have three daughters, ages 12, 14 and 16. They are good girls with very busy schedules and they work hard in school. Each of them has some responsibilities in the house, and they never give me attitude. In fact, they’ve devised their own trading system, so if one girl can’t do her job—let’s say she’s supposed to prepare everyone’s lunches the night before—she’ll switch with another girl and set the table for a week. My husband doesn’t believe in specific “jobs,” and he also thinks that their tasks are just token ones and they should have more responsibility.

His main complaint, though, is that he insists that the girls should help as long as there is work to do. He gets very upset when they’re just sitting and reading a book or talking on the phone and I’m working. He thinks it’s disrespectful. I tell him, “Look, she did her job and she can now relax.” But he believes that if a mother is still tidying up or ironing or whatever, then unless a girl is busy with her schoolwork she has an obligation to pitch in. In his opinion, girls are supposed to feel uncomfortable relaxing if their mother isn’t. I disagree. I believe that the household work is mine. With Hashem’s help they’ll have their own households to tend to later, and as long as they have some responsibilities now that’s fine. It’s come to a point that it’s creating a lot of tension in the house, because he’s constantly making demands on them. They’ve even started to feel resentful, complaining that “it’s a crime to relax in this house.”

Another bone of contention is that my husband wants me to sit at the Shabbos table and have our daughters serve the meal. This is how things were done in his parents’ house, and he believes that it instills respect. I don’t agree. I am the mother, and I’m supposed to serve with the help of my daughters. To me, it smacks of turning your kids into “servants.” In general, I think our differences stem from my husband’s “old-world” approach, where there’s a tremendous emphasis on showing parents respect in a very formal way.
Am I supposed to make sure to finish all my housework when the girls are in school to avoid this friction? Regarding Shabbos, even though I don’t agree with my husband’s approach I offered to compromise, with one meal being served his way and one my way. But he says that I’m missing the point, because it’s all about respect.

Isn’t my husband taking this respect thing too far?

Yours, Concerned Wife and Mother

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