I’m tired of people thinking I ‘retired’ from my job as a rabbi because I’m a mom


If I had a dime for every time someone asked me why I “retired,” I would be a very rich woman. Please, let me set the record straight: I am not retired, I did not retire, and I don’t plan on retiring any time soon. Since when does leaving your job to take care of your family equal “retirement?”

I would say that this transition, if it had a (good or appropriate) name (and don’t get me started on the term “off-ramping”), is quite the opposite of retirement.

It’s been almost three years since I left my post as a rabbi at a dynamic and vibrant congregation to be a mother full-time. My third child had just turned one, and I felt a profound tug towards home. I wanted to spend more time with my young children; I wanted to be a firmer anchor in their lives. And so I decided to change gears and veer away from the path I had paved since ordination.

At the time, I wrote:

“I am not retiring or taking leave of the rabbinate. On the contrary, I will continue to be a rabbi in every respect of the word. My pulpit may focus on different issues and my congregation may be a bit smaller, but it is a vital rabbinate all the same. The Torah I teach will likely be rooted in sports and toys and imaginary friends; it will be filled with itsy bitsy spiders and twinkly little stars and soaked in laughter and tears.  It is the Torah of motherhood, and while I’ve spent part of my days studying it up until now, I’ll now spend all of my days immersed in it.”

These days, I am wholly immersed in the Torah of motherhood, from the moment I wake up until the moment I go to sleep, and often many moments in between. And as magical as so many of these moments are, there are just as many that feel, well, not so magical.

As the primary caregiver, I am the point person for all things child-related and, most often, the first responder for diaper duty, tantrum defusing, meal prep, and all the other glam aspects of stay-at-home parenthood. And while I don’t adhere to any particular dress code or leave home to go to an office, I take great umbrage when the totality of what I do is not classified as “work.”

Parenting is work. Motherhood is work. Raising children is work. It must be understood that leaving a paid position to take care of one’s family is still a transition from one job to another. One job may be part of the “work force” as it is most traditionally defined, but the other is also, most definitely “work,” despite the lack of benefits, the absence of any salary to speak of, and the general lack of esteem given to such domestic roles. Child rearing is intensely challenging, utterly demanding, and downright exhausting work.

Full-time parenting is certainly not akin to “retirement,” and any mere suggestion of the pairing is actually quite offensive. (If only a full-time parent could fill his or her schedule with golf and tennis, pickle ball and pinochle!). Moreover, just because a parent leaves his or her job to care for family doesn’t mean he or she is abandoning their career! Leaving a job doesn’t mean vacating the work force forever. The path out is not one without a return; and yet, far too often, the return is near impossible to find.

It aggravates me when people assume that I left my career forever when I stepped away from the pulpit. It frustrates me when I find myself fielding questions as to why I “left the rabbinate,” and how I’m taking to “retirement.” It’s maddening, it’s demeaning, and it’s short sighted. Not only do I picture myself returning to the rabbinate, I don’t feel like I ever really left.  I am still a rabbi, even in my primary role as a mother. I am still a rabbi in the way I think and the way I act and in the way I raise my children.

I may have stepped away from a traditional career path, and I may have left the every day work of a pulpit rabbi to do the every day work of a “mother rabbi.” But far from diminishing my rabbinate, it has enhanced it tremendously. I believe I am a better rabbi now than I was three years ago.

And yet, until we as a society legitimize the work of the parent, I, and many others like me will remain on the outside, looking in—when we never should have been ushered “out” in the first place.

This article was reprinted with permission from Kveller.com, a fast-growing website for smart, savvy moms looking for a Jewish twist on parenting. Follow Kveller on Facebook and sign up for daily digests here.

Mayim Bialik launches her own website


After acting in two major TV sitcoms, earning a doctorate in neuroscience and gaining a following as an online writer, Mayim Bialik has already accomplished more than most do in a lifetime. But that doesn’t mean she’s stopping anytime soon.

In her next move, “The Big Bang Theory” star and four-time Emmy Award nominated actress launched her own website on Tuesday. The site, named GrokNation – a reference to the classic 1961 sci-fi novel “Stranger in a Strange Land” – will feature Bialik’s commentary on the news, popular culture and personal and Jewish topics.

Bialik has been doing similar writing for JTA-affiliated Jewish parenting site Kveller for five years. She announced and described her new venture on the site.

“When things happen in the world that are outrageous — rape, abuse, immorality, women held to unfair standards — as a writer, I feel the need to write. I want to reach people. I love to touch people. I hope my brain and everything it produces can help someone think differently, act differently, or react differently,” Bialik wrote.

“What I really want to do is share the way my brain works with more people in a more daring and inventive way … I want to get past stereotypes and name-calling and be thoughtful in our analysis of serious and important topics, and I want to really explore how complicated most issues are.”

Bialik, who was awarded her fourth Emmy nomination last month for her work on TV comedy “The Big Bang Theory,” emphasized that she will continue to write for Kveller and that she wants her new site to feature additional voices in the future.

Mayim Bialik divorcing


On Thanksgiving, a day that Americans celebrate with family, and friends Big Bang Theory” star Mayim Bialik took to her Kveller blog to say she's divorcing her husband, Michael Stone, after nine years of marriage.

“After much consideration and soul-searching, Michael and I have arrived at the decision to divorce due to 'Irreconcilable Differences,' ” Bialik wrote last week. “Divorce is terribly sad, painful and incomprehensible for children. It is not something we have decided lightly.”

The couple have sons aged 7 and 4. Bialik, who has chronicled her parenting style online for years, denied it had any relation to the breakup. “The hands-on style of parenting we practice played no role in the changes that led to this decision; relationships are complicated no matter what style of parenting you choose,” the former “Blossom” star wrote.

Bialik went on to say, “The main priority for us now is to make the transition to two loving homes as smooth and painless as possible. Our sons deserve parents committed to their growth and health and that’s what we are focusing on. Our privacy has always been important and is even more so now, and we thank you in advance for respecting it as we negotiate this new terrain. We will be ok.”

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