Much ink has been spilled on the “shidduch crisis” in Orthodox communities – the fact that a growing number of Orthodox young people remain unmarried, despite their best efforts. As a former journalist who is Orthodox, single, and 40-something, I’ve spilled much of that ink myself, and I’ve heard (and sometimes experienced) many sad and often appalling stories about navigating religious life as a single person.
One aspect of the problem is the entrenched notion in the Orthodox world (as in many cultures) that a person – especially a woman – is not a fulfilled, mature adult until one has a spouse, and preferably children as well.
Parents are clearly in the best position to offer comfort and shore up a single’s confidence – or, as is too often the case, to break it down with pressure, and even cruelty. No matter how young your children are right now, please be careful how you talk about singles around them, because you are letting them know your expectations for their future — expectations they may be powerless to fulfill. If your child – despite his or her intelligence, kindness, attractiveness and talent – becomes one of the thousands of Orthodox Jews who never get married, or who marry late in life, any negative words you have shared about being single may very well ring in their mind and chip away at their spirit.
Please consider these alternative messages, ones that will buoy the young people you care about through hardships, avoid preventable pain, and encourage them to feel happier as human beings and as Jews.
|Instead of saying . . .||
Say . . .
|“When you’re the mommy, you’ll get to decide when to go to sleep.”||
“When you grow up and live in your own house you’ll get to decide when to go to sleep.“
|“I saw Mrs. Cohen’s son in shul today. He’s still single. What a shame.”||
“It was so nice to see Mrs. Cohen’s son in shul today. What a bright young man.”
|“A woman’s avoda is to raise her children.”||
“Raising children is such an important avoda.”
|“Yitzi and Rachel have been married for 10 years and still no children. Nebach.”||
“Yitzi and Rachel are such a wonderful couple. Let’s invite them for Shabbat lunch next week.”
|“Are you meeting nice boys at college?”||“What classes are you taking this semester?”
|“Don’t go to medical school. What if you get married and have to stop working to take care of your children?”||
“Study what you love, and if the schedule becomes a problem, you’ll figure out what solutions work best for your family.”
|“You don’t know what love is until you have a child.”||
“The love a parent has for a child can be so profound.”
|“Im yirtza Hashem by you!”||
“May Hashem give you hatzlacha and shefa.”
|“Don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll find someone.”||
“I hear you. Dating is so hard and unfair.”
|“When you get married I’ll get you a new set of pots and pans.”||
“Now that you have your own kitchen, let’s get you new pots and pans.”
|“Don’t spend so much on new furniture. What if you get married and your spouse hates it?”||
“You have good taste. Your apartment looks lovely.”
|“If you would stop being so picky you would find someone.”||
“I’m glad you aren’t bowing to pressure. It’s better to be alone than to be in an unhappy marriage.”
And, most importantly, if you are ever tempted to ask your adult child — as a shocking number of people do — “When will you get married so I can get nachas from you?” please consider saying instead “I’m so proud of the fine person you have become. You give me a lot of nachas.” In fact, say it no matter what. Say it often. Married or single, everyone wants their parents to be proud of them.