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This blog originally appeared on February 24, 2014 as part of the Religious Action Center’s blog series “Double Booked: A Conversation about Working Families in the 21st Century.” Double Booked deals with the many issues that affect working families, and features everything from personal stories to policy analysis. Visit the Double Booked portal to read more posts and subscribe for updates, or join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook with the hashtag #doublebooked. 

By Rabbi Andrea Berlin

As our nation prepares for a conversation about working families, I am struck by my own good fortune.  So many families with hard working adults struggle to manage safe and healthy childcare, financial solvency, adequate health coverage, meaningful work, respect at their job sites, and quality time with each other.  How fortunate my own family is!

andi berlin picMy children’s school has an incredible aftercare program in which I know they will be well cared for and well entertained.  And yet, I wonder…

We have amazing friends who are also often out of town for work.  We can all take each others’ kids overnight when any one family is in a pinch.  And yet, I wonder…

We can afford loving and joyful babysitters who drive our kids to their extracurricular programs.  And yet, I wonder…

I have a supportive husband who delights in my successes.  He is also quite patient, understanding my emails and texts are not due to

 my lack of confidence in his fathering, but rather my own separation anxiety.  And yet, I wonder…

I have a meaningful job which provides me the opportunity to use skills and experience in order to help strengthen communities and in which I learn ever new and dynamic material. And yet, I wonder…

Often when I travel I am training in retreat settings with other professionals dedicated to the same goals and values I have (almost like adult camp!).  And yet, I wonder…

And yet.  And yet, when I wake up in a hotel alone with no-one climbing in for a cuddle; when I hear my family’s distant voices on the phone distractedly trying to recap their days; when I know they are all sitting together over dinner, giggling, arguing, updating, discussing; when the kids are sick or have difficulty at school; when my husband attends his work functions or board dinners without me on his arm; when we whisper good-night at each other’s flat images on our iPhones; when my kids cling to me and ask me why I have to go; when my daughter writes a memo to work asking them to kindly let me drive at least one of her fieldtrips (I’ve been out of town for all them so far); when I miss her first ballet recital or my son’s soccer games; when this and more happen, I forget how fortunate I am and wonder if I should just scoop up my children and husband in my arms and promise I won’t leave again.

But, I cannot do this.  If I did I would lie.  I like my job.  When I am on the road the work I do is incredibly rewarding.  I am conflicted.  Are my children okay without me?  Yes.  It’s not about that.  They know I love them, they have a dedicated and involved father, they flex their independence when I’m out of town, and they see me committed to something I believe in.  Yes, they are okay.  But, am I?  Mostly.  But, sometimes…sometimes not so much.

If, with all the fortune we enjoy as a family, I am thus conflicted and struggling, I cannot even imagine the difficulties facing working families with fewer resources.  This is why the upcoming Summit on Working Families is so important.  My struggles are internal and imposed upon me by choice.  But for those without the luxury to choose, those for whom fear and worry drive their employment decisions, it is time for our nation to stand with them.  It is time for us to figure out how to shoulder the burden of survival.

And me?  I don’t mind living with the conflict.  It is a blessed, beautiful conflict.  I have too much richness in my life.  I try to balance all these incredible blessings.  And yet, I wonder…

 

Rabbi Andi Berlin is the co-director of the North American Commission on Rabbinic-Congregational Relations and the Congregational Network Director, West.  Rabbi Berlin came to the URJ in October, 2010 after 13 years as a congregational rabbi at Temple Sinai in Oakland out of her great passion for and commitment to the reform movement.

 


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