Sunday, April 27, 2008

How much of my life do I want to change (again)?

Probably every parent is mildly crazy to sign away 18-21 years (minimum) of her or his life to a strange, wrinkly baby who could turn out to be anything. But why should I stop there? Why not contemplate giving up a tenure-track University teaching position in the USA for a tenure-track position in Israel? Why not discuss long-term relationship plans with someone I met six weeks ago?

My life as a single mother in the USA is fine. I’m damned lucky in my daughter, community and job. Why would I want to change it in the most fundamental ways possible right now, after I’ve already changed it in the most fundamental way possible by giving birth?

Israel makes me feel alive, and it’s breathtakingly child-loving. Though G-d knows why I love it. I know very few people here; I don’t speak the language yet, unless you count fluency in shopping and talking to children in the park. I don’t even have access to a washing machine, and my kitchen is the size of a postage stamp. The country is one dusty, loud construction site, and the next war is always just a matter of time. But I do love it.

My job in the States is wonderful. Of course university professors are better paid in the USA. And can I really trust that I will, indeed, come up for tenure when Israeli University says I will (or even come up for tenure at all?) Tenure would mean job security for the rest of my life.

The relationship is also a puzzle. I’ve got a child: not an issue. Baby’s young, he says. She won’t remember life before him anyway. And, I hate to say it, but he’s already a far better father figure to her (and for me) than…others I could mention. Babydaddy’s 6- week Shabbat visit, for example, always includes his two-hour nap after he eats the lunch I make him. This guy GETS it. He pushes me into another room and plays with my daughter for an hour or two so I can study Hebrew, though he’s got three simultaneous deadlines in the next 36 hours himself and my mastery of the past tense isn’t urgent. (It’s already the past, right?)

My years his senior: not an issue. Yes, he’d like children (in addition to mine). But it just means we’d have to start sooner rather than later.

We know each other fundamentally, but not the little things. I know he is kind, thoughtful, patient and really smart. He thinks I’m gorgeous, brilliant and brave. Our levels of religious observance are the same, and our religious philosophies identical. But I’m leaving in 2 1/2 months no matter what (I owe my US University at least one more year), so we have to decide.

Those of you who are married to sensitive men and good fathers know how amazing it is to have a partner who’ll play with the children and do little things like take out the garbage and give you a foot massage without being asked. The first time he did each these things, it seemed nothing short of miraculous. I had to bite my tongue to stop at two or three thank-you-you're-so-wonderful’s.

I’m outrageously lucky to have these particular choices in a market in which academic jobs are scarcer than hens’ teeth (at least as scarce as single religious men who don’t care about age and who see excessive secular education as a plus, not a threat).

But changing your life in this fundamental way is surreal and terrifying.

I’ve got two more weeks to decide about the job. I’ll probably ask for an extension.


mother in israel said...

Good luck.

lsw said...

Wow. BIG decision, chica! Best of luck. It'll come to you.

I hope you both had a wonderful Pesach!

SuperRaizy said...

Wow, this guy sounds great. If he makes you this happy, then find a way to hold on to him.
Best of luck to you!

Ima Shalom said...

Seriously, he does sound like a really special man. I say if you have a chance to have the career, the guy, and the kid, and in Israel no less, go for it! This kind of change is good good good.

Maya said...

Thanks, everyone! If I were to freak out on the poor wonderful man because I've made the relationship public, it would be in keeping with my personality. But I still feel fine.