My husband and I grew up very differently–I in an Orthodox household that celebrated every single Jewish holiday, and he in a Reform one that acknowledged Passover, saw Rosh Hashanah as a good excuse to make brisket, and suffered through Yom Kippur.
When I began dragging my husband to family gatherings for holidays he’d previously never even heard of, he was a good sport about it–and he still is, when those holidays fall on the weekends. But for the past number of years, the holiday calendar has been particularly cruel to those of us bound by limited time off and jobs that don’t close for Jewish observances. And this year is no exception.
Now I’m not particularly upset about spending my vacation days on the holidays this year, especially since we don’t have any major travel plans. But try convincing someone who grew up the way my husband did that it’s worthwhile using up all your vacation time to celebrate every single holiday our religion boasts.
My husband’s logic is that he works very hard (true story) and deserves to use at least some of his time off for either a real vacation, or for a number of much-deserved mental health days, during which he can relax, pursue a hobby, or even knock some things off our never-ending home improvement list. And I totally get it, so I don’t push him to take time off for all of the holidays, even though that’s what I try to do. But that makes it all the more difficult to create the atmosphere I want for my toddler.
To be totally fair, my husband never misled me in any way with regard to celebrating holidays like Sukkot or Shavuot. Back when I was pregnant, we did talk about Judaism and its presence in our lives, and in many regards we actually started out on the same page despite our different upbringings (we both consider ourselves “traditional” more so than Orthodox, Reform, or any other denomination). We were already keeping a kosher home, and we were both into the idea of celebrating Shabbat weekly, albeit without many of the restrictions dictated by Orthodox law. And my husband agreed, from the start, that the major holidays were important and that taking time off for Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and at least one day of Passover would be a given. But whenever the topic of the lesser-known holidays came up, we always seemed to land on a different version of “we’ll see”–as in, “We’ll see how many holidays fall out during the week,” or, “We’ll see how busy work is when they come around.” And I really was OK with that approach–that is, until our son grew into a toddler and I found myself growing increasingly nostalgic for the many holidays I got to celebrate with my family as a child.
Now I’m lucky: I have wonderful, supportive family members relatively close by who make it easy to celebrate together. But that still doesn’t make up for the fact that as my son builds memories of these holidays, my husband is absent for many of them. And while he probably doesn’t remember exactly who was and wasn’t at the table when we all crowded into the sukkah last year, now that he’s over 2.5, he holds onto details and notices when key people aren’t around. This year, I’m afraid he’s going to notice that something—someone–is missing, because I notice it. I notice it, and it bothers me, and I’m torn between wanting to respect my husband’s decisions and wanting our family holiday celebrations to feel complete.
With regard to the upcoming holidays this fall, we’ve reached what I think is a reasonable compromise: My husband will take off one day for Sukkot and one day for Simchat Torah. But I hope that in the coming years, he might be willing to forego some more vacation days in favor of family bonding and tradition-building–and, of course, that more of the holidays fall on the weekends.