My only regret about “The Patriarchy”, is that I’m really not as much of a patriarch as I’d like to be. On a recent family trip, I was overwhelmed once again by the deep emotional satisfaction of being surrounded by my wife, children, and now grandchildren.
Although starting my adulthood as an enlightened, modernized soul, as so many who grow with age, my perceptions and values transformed. This primarily transpired as a result of experience and more abruptly, the birth of my first child. When he came into the world, everything shifted for me — an innate sense of responsibility emerged from somewhere (where was that hiding?), along with a need to provide and ultimately protect my new family. My wonderful wife and I dropped the pretenses of her going to work while hiring somebody else to raise our child, and we both committed, for better or for worse, to being a single-income traditional home. Five more children and 25+ years later, this is still our basic setup.
To be honest, the burden was literally crushing. One blog-post can never retell the stories (horror) of trying to provide and protect, of needing to pay the bills, of ensuring an adequately-sized roof was over our heads for all this time. While the stress was beyond verbal expression, it managed to show itself in many, many other ways — hospital-sized back pain and subsequent surgeries, binge eating, addictions, emotional depression — basically full-on PTSD which I’m still recovering from to this day.
And yet, throughout all this time, I never doubted the value of my efforts. Never once did I entertain the thought of throwing in the towel, or abandoning my ship. How could I? So many souls were seemingly dependent on me. And on a deeper-level, my relationship with G-d taught me that ultimately, providing for and protecting my family was my greatest privilege, the role through which I could be like Him.
G-d wears many hats — an infinite number, actually. One of which is “Father”. The ultimate creator, providor, protector — ultimately responsible for everything and everybody. This is one of the ways G-d creates relationship and intimacy with his creations. And this is the blessing & curse of G-d’s first human creation – Adam. If you want to be like Me, knowing good & evil, then, just like I, you must embody this journey as well. You must create, provide and protect. Only then will you experience true good, and be grapple with true evil.
This is the paradigm of “patriarchy” that I grew up with. My father, may he rest in peace, role-modeled this mission for me. He worked, provided for and protected for his family for decades while my mother ran the show at home. Although I could never relate at that age, I could see the struggle he went through, every day. Balancing work and family, responsibility with pleasure, and community needs versus personal privacy. It is interesting that in a world filled with dual-income families, he raised three men who followed in his footsteps and created families of their own with the same structure.
At the dinner table, with the Chanukah candles aglow, I sat back watching my family connect. My beautiful wife, children and grandchild, laughing about their day, telling stories, reliving memories, sharing thoughts. Flushed with deep emotion, a voice in my head said — “Be grateful that you played a part in creating this — it is your greatest privilege, and ultimately your greatest pleasure.” And for that moment in time, everything was perfect in my world.