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Fear, Inlaws, and Religion


Adom

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My wife and I are expecting our first child this summer. We are incredibly happy and will be telling family and friends soon. Unfortunately, there's a dark spot. My wife is afraid she'll be dis-owned by her mother once it's announced that we don't intend to raise the child in the Jewish religious faith, but rather in a secular manner.

 

The decision was actually easy for us to make once we discussed it. There will be no synagogue membership, kosher dietary restrictions, or faith-teachings in our family's future. That's not to say there won't be Jewish stories, foods, or fun celebrations! We just figure that if the child wants to explore any religious interests, it's best that they develop their rational faculties first - we don't want to indoctrinate them with faith.

 

The expected fallout with the in-laws is the frightening part. In particular, we're expecting a lot of coldness, anger, and criticism from my mother-in-law... a woman with a history of emotional/mental instability. This is going to be very hard on both of us, but especially my wife. We expect her mother to respond with a lot of histrionics. I'm of the opinion that we should be gentle but direct, and refuse to engage in any arguments from her about this. It's our decision, not hers. We want her to respect our wishes as parents, but we expect that will be a tall order for her. My wife is afraid her relationship with her mother will be ruined, and therefore she won't be able to see much of her more level-headed father (whom she's quite close to). The mother is already a bit sour on me, on account that my father is not Jewish.

 

The main points we want to make are:

 

- We do want to raise our child with good values, and religious affiliation isn't necessary to do that

- We do want our child to be aware of their ancestry and heritage

- It's important to us not to pass on superstitions as truths

 

Has anyone here been through something similar? We could use some advice on this one.

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Wikes! I have never had to deal with this but I think you and your wife should plan out what to say. Your wife knows her mother and what she will say so you can even role play to see how the conversation will go. Do not be afraid to cut it off if things get out of hand, "Ok, we are going to go so everyone can calm done. We love you. Goodbye." Simple,easy, clean, no judgement.

 

I actually really support this way of raising children. Good luck!

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My family is extremely strong in a religious faith and I haven't raised my kids in it. There wasn't a discussion needed because my parents already knew I'd "fallen away" from the religion but they did ask if I was going to have my child blessed in the religion when I was pregnant and I just said "No". It hasn't been much of an issue. I know they disagree with me but I knew it wouldn't cause a falling out so although my situation is a bit similar, it's still different.

 

When you talk to her, point out you don't want it to interfere with your relationship because you're looking forward to her being the grandma. As a labor and delivery nurse, I see how families (especially the grandparents) look beyond many things they disapprove of for the sake of the new baby. They realize the parents ultimately control who the baby sees and don't want to muddy the waters and be kept from their precious grandbaby so hopefully you have that in your favor.

 

Congrats on the baby!

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