Question & Answer With Dixie Yid - Balancing Roles
A Simple Jew asks:
On a few occasions, I have witnessed examples of working fathers still attempting to play the role of traditional nuturing mother because of their distate to sometimes have to play the stricter masculine role that a father is often required to play. Instead providing the counterbalance of gevura, this type of father will attempt to replicate chesed exhibited by the mother so he never has to be viewed as the "mean" parent. Rachel Arbus once wrote, "Parents need not act in the same manner - but they must have similar philosophies and a common goal."
Do you think it is possible that a chesed-chesed type of parenting style can ever be successful? Also, do you think it would be possible that a chesed-gevura parenting style with flipped roles with the father as the chesed and mother as the gevura be successful?
Dixie Yid answers:
Actually, I think that I would turn your whole question on its head. Rather than assuming that the mother is the chesed (kindness) role and that the father is the discipline (gevurah) role, I would put those in reverse.
We know that kabbalisticly speaking, the male side is the side of chesed and the female side is the side of gevruah. This is seen in the relationship between Avraham and Sara, where Avraham was the constant manifestation of chesed, even to his son Yishmael, who was negatively influencing Yitzchak, his true spiritual heir. However, Sara was the "stricter" force of gevurah that knew when to say "no"
Also, in Tehillim 103:13, the pasuk says, "כְּרַחֵם אָב עַל-בָּנִים רִחַם ה עַליְרֵאָיו," "As a father has mercy on his children, so too may Hashem have mercy upon those who fear him." This pasuk identifies the father as the more merciful parent.
I see this same breakdown of traits in my own home as well. My wife is the one with a better sense of limits, a stronger gevruah side. Whereas I am the pushover, the one who the kids know they need to ask first, if they want to do something they know their mother would not allow. I think that I fall more on the chesed side not only because I am out of the house more than my wife (who also must unfortunately work), but also because that is my natural nature. I think that in our house, it is not the perfect balance. Since I do not take on the trait of midas hadin (strictness) too often, my wife feels that she has to compensate in the other direction, lest the children lose a proper sense of boundaries due to my indulgent nature.
In my home, we definitely have a chesed-gevurah dichotomy, but the problem our parenting is still not balanced enough. I lean too far to the chesed side, which in turn requires my wife to compensate by leaning farther to the gevurah side. The better plan would be for me to show more gevurah to balance out my trait of chesed.
I will admit, though, that the feeling of guilt for not being home enough due to work and law school, that you mentioned, still does apply in my case. And I think that this guilt explains why I am having a hard time balancing my exaggerated sense of chesed with some gevurah, and turning my chesed shebachesd into a gevurah shebachesed, where chesed is still the dominant trait, but where it is tempered with the right balance of gevurah which I lack.
As to your first question, I think that it would be difficult to be difficult for a chesed-chesed parenting style to be successful. I can't imagine how bad off my kids would be if they had two parents like me! One has to have a sense of Mishlei 13:24 "חוֹשֵׂךְ שִׁבְטוֹ שׂוֹנֵא בְנוֹ," "one who withholds the rod hates his child." The damage done by an unadulterated chesed parenting style from both sides would be great. This is exemplified by Yishmael, who was considered the psoles, the chaff of the Chesed-dominent parenting of Avraham Avinu.
May we all merit to have balance in our own lives and in our parenting!