Monday, June 4, 2007

A Working Mother in Israel

Is it hard to be a working mother in Israel? I think it is hard to be a working Ima anywhere. Honestly, I haven't been an Ima anywhere else so I don't know if I can objectively answer the question. Yet, prompted by a comment on a previous post I'm willing to explore the theme.

The Israeli workforce is relatively family friendly (especially compared to the US). As a graduate student in Biology I work from 8:30 AM till 3 PM so I can get home on time to pick my daughter up from Maon (daycare). I remember doing a summer internship in Sloan Kettering where a newly married post doc admitted to aiming for 12 hour work days. A social worker I know (whose daughter in law is a biologist) claimed that biology is a greedy profession (along with the rabbinate and medicine). There is always more to do, an article to read, a PCR to run, some DNA cloning to work on, buffers to make . . . And still in Israel many women work in the field and are home to pick up their children, especially religious ones. Often they have understanding husbands, but 95% of the time they are home with the kids by 4 PM when most Maons or Tzaharons (after school programs) end. From what I hear from friends in the states you can't do that in most professions except teaching. Furthermore, its wholly acceptable to stay home for any of the holidays that your kids get off for: Lag Baomer, Erev Chag etc. In America I always remember my parents using precious few vacation days for actual Yom Tov, taking off Chol Hamoed was rarely an option. Taking off for sick kids is also well accepted. So jobs in Israel are often sensitive to Imas.

In terms of surviving on low salaries, it is hard for some to make the adjustment, but you have two choices. Either you can try and import your previous lifestyle here, or you can create a new one. If you forever try and live in Israel on Chutz L'Aretz standards then it will be hard. There is a certain culture of materialism that I'm happy to have left behind. I enjoy new clothes and fun kitchen gadgets, but in the US I find myself shopping (not for food) three or four times a week. Here I buy something when I need it. Salaries might be low, but that means that there are less expectations to have lots of stuff and I don't think people suffer as a result of it.

Of course being a working Ima is hard. You wake up early to get ready and your kid(s) ready. You get to work and feel like you need to make the most of your time because you're there less time than the men and single women. You rush home and try and have quality time with your family and prepare a healthy supper. Bath, bed, stuff around the house, maybe a few minutes to yourself and then sleep. The next morning it starts all over again. It is difficult, but I don't see why it's different than anywhere else in the world.


mother in israel said...

I agree. I have a friend, a radiologist, who works from 8-4 each day. She even lived across the street from the hospital. She was able to take six months off after her youngest was born. None of this hurt her career prospects.

Also, you can easily get a Jewish babysitter. Even a religious one.

Annette Berlin said...

Actually, though my husband's salary is about 65% lower, we actually have more discretionary income here, than we had in the US.

Our lifestyle in incredibly simple here:

no more cars
no more expensive school bills
no more maid
no more high personal allowances (there is very little to buy!)
no more high mortgage
no more high insurance premiums etc.

Best of all, no more keeping up with Jones'...the Jones' are broke!