Shabbat Goy: Married + 1

Individuals aren’t having babies for themselves, they’re copulating for the country.

By BY AKIN AJAYI
February 19, 2010 17:28
Shabbat Goy

shabbat goy kid 58. (photo credit: Pepe Fainburg)

I must be doing something wrong. I still haven’t had any luck in scoring my dream job, the one that comes with a flash company car, short working hours and with responsibilities limited to turning up at the workplace in a clean shirt every day. Clearly, my resume is in need of an update.

So I’m browsing through one of these job-seeking websites that teach one how to present oneself in the best possible light without actually telling any lies – “resume enhancement,” I believe it is called – when suddenly I understand what it is that I’m doing wrong.

“Include marital status and number of children,” the site instructs. Marital status I can live with, but number of children? Seriously?

I guess people in these parts take the issue of family life quite seriously. I mean, I’m willing to wager that Israel is the only country in the world where the country’s parliamentary website includes search parameters that allow for legislators to be sorted according to the number of children they have. (Interesting fact: 44 members of the current Knesset have at least 4 children. Remarkably fecund group of individuals. Perhaps they haven’t got better things to do with their time… but I digress.)

Me, I would rather keep my domestic arrangements to myself. But then, I also need to find some way of feeding myself and my family. So it seems that I’m going to have to swallow my objections and incorporate that timeless phrase, “married + 1” into my resume.

Every so often, the mother of my child expresses the desire to upgrade her status, as it were, and to become the mother of my children.

“You know that he’ll love a little sister,” she wheedles. “Four is such a nice round number.”



Frankly, I don’t get it. She know exactly how feckless I am when it comes to being a parent. More to the point, it was very very difficult for me to cede my position as our household’s number one* when the first-born came along; being bumped even further down the pecking order, to the point where my all-round uselessness as a father and husband will become manifest to all, fills me with horror. So, on grounds of ruthless self-interest, I’m holding out.

Reasonable, no? Apparently not.

WE ARE asked quite often, by family, by friends and by interested bystanders on the street (and yes, I am used to it now. No division between private life and public information. Such is life…) when we’re going to get round to having our next child. Not if, but when. Charming.

To be honest, I don’t actually know the answer to this question myself.** But it is so much fun winding people up that more often than not, I answer slyly with an emphatic, “Never!”

As a consequence of this stance, I’ve been accused of being cruel, callous and selfish (tell me something that I didn’t know already); irresponsible and inhuman (ditto); I’ve been solemnly informed that I will scar my child for life by making him an only child (as if having me for a parent doesn’t make this a given). I suppose I should be thankful that I haven’t been accused thus far of grand crimes against humanity for my intransigence. But there’s still time…

To be fair, Israel is a pretty good place to be a child, and in that sense there is no reason not to want to have a large family. The weather, the abundance of open spaces, the sensitivity toward the needs of children as members of the society, all make child-rearing very comfortable indeed. Most people have a genuine warmth and affection toward children of all ages; if I had a shekel for each time that I have been told by absolute strangers that my son is a “hamudi” (cutey), I wouldn’t need to tinker about with my resume, looking for the perfect job. I’d just dress him up in his Shabbat best and walk up and down Dizengoff with him every day. Even so, I’m not sure this means that I’m actually obliged to keep on producing them.

Unfortunately, it seems that I’m alone in thinking this way, and I’m not entirely sure why. Perhaps the population of Israel, collectively and unconsciously, subscribes to the biblical injunction to “go forth and multiply.” Given that you guys aren’t into proselytization, I guess it’s one way of trying to fill the four corners of the earth. Or perhaps it is the fear of what, with delicious understatement, is sometimes referred to as the “demographic issue”: To wit, that if the Arab Israeli citizens of the country continue to outperform – in one sense – the Jews, then at some point in the not too distant future, the Jewish State – as envisioned by its founders – will cease to exist. In this sense, procreation becomes political – individuals aren’t doing it for themselves, they’re copulating for the country.

It is worth pointing out – irrespective of any value placed upon this possibility – that this is unlikely to happen: According to figures released by the Central Bureau of Statistics a fortnight ago, the average Arab family is only marginally larger than the average Jewish family. And, in any case, birthrates have dropped precipitately all-round. It will take a very long time indeed to alter the demographic profile of the country through birthrates alone.


But all this is neither here nor there, as far as my domestic affairs are concerned. One good reason for not having another child is the really straightforward issue of not being able to afford it. Child labor laws being what they are, since I won’t be able to send them out to earn their keep, I will have to feed them and clothe them, at least occasionally. And as I started off by saying, I still haven’t found that dream job yet, the one that will help keep the child – or children – in a manner that we would like them to become accustomed. So I think I’ll just go back to “enhancing” my resume, but with the inclusion of at least one truth: Married + 1. Anything, after all, to make me more employable.

*I have never been my household’s number one. This is a convenient fiction that my wife humors, so long as no important decisions are involved.
**See footnote * above.


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