Keeping Secrets // Telling my family had too many drawbacks

as told to Chaya Altman

The first person I called to share the good news after I found out I was expecting was, of course, my mother.

“But don’t tell anyone yet,” I warned. “Shlomo and I are still keeping it a secret.”

“Of course not!” my mother reassured me. “Your secret is safe.”

Within a week all my siblings knew, and there was a deluge of congratulatory calls. Everyone shared their pearls of wisdom about pregnancies and offered their help. It was very sweet to see how excited my siblings were, but honestly, I was quite upset. I was still early on and wanted to keep my pregnancy under wraps. It wasn’t like my mother intentionally told anyone, but with enough hints and comments everyone figured it out. One sister figured it out when my mother asked what doctor she used because she wanted me to use the same one. To another sister my mother confided how she hopes I won’t be as nauseous as she was, and my mother asked a third sister who lived near me if she could send over supper.

My mother couldn’t understand the fuss when I told her how upset I was. “They just figured it out. Besides what’s the big deal if everyone knows? It’s only your family. When I was pregnant everyone found out the first week. Tatty and I were so happy to share the news with everyone.”

My mother can’t keep a secret even if she tried. It never occurred to her to keep things hush hush. My father had shared the same attitude. Growing up I loved it. I knew when my parents were closing on a new house, when my siblings went on dates, and when they were expecting a child. But now that I was married I didn’t like my news broadcast amongst family members. My husband is also private by nature, and we tend to keep things to ourselves.

When I told my mother I was looking into a house, every one of my siblings checked it out on Zillow and offered their opinion if it was a worthwhile buy. My father also informed my brothers, and they too called my husband with their views on the purchase.

One thought the neighborhood was terrible; another thought the price was ridiculous, and a third couldn’t understand how we would be able to hack it financially.

I was mad, but my husband nearly hit the roof. “This is our house, and we don’t need your siblings’ input.”

I thought twice before confiding in my parents about anything. Although I loved my mother’s advice, sometimes it wasn’t worth the trade-off of having my privacy invaded. By my next pregnancy, I shared the news a little later on when I was more comfortable with my siblings knowing. I didn’t inform her when I was having a hard time getting my child into school, and I didn’t let her know when my husband was having a delicate surgery that he wanted to keep an absolute secret.

Then came time for shidduchim. While I didn’t need to inform my mother about events that didn’t concern her, I couldn’t keep it a secret that my son Moshe needed a shidduch. And besides, I needed my mother’s input. She knew a lot more people than I did and could instantly tell me if something was worth looking into.

So when the name Friedman was mentioned, I casually asked my mother what she knew about them.

“The Friedmans are dolls,” my mother gushed. “Mrs. Friedman is a Rubinfeld, and her parents were very chashuv. I think there is also some money there. If they are interested you should definitely look into it.”

I thanked my mother and then hung up the phone to do some serious investigating. My sister called an hour later.

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