Rabbis Without Borders
Rabbis Without Borders is a dynamic forum for exploring contemporary issues in the Jewish world and beyond. Written by rabbis of different denominations, viewpoints, and parts of the country, Rabbis Without Borders is a project of Clal – The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.
This morning I had a major “Mom Crisis Moment.” (MCM™) This winter has literally been the worst in terms of colds/viruses/flu in our house. I have two kids a 4-year-old and a 1.5-year-old, and no matter what we do, the colds bounce back between them and then to us. As someone who has an immune disorder, I often catch something from the kids and then I am sick for weeks. Fun times in this house. Does anyone want to come over?
But this time was different. We have truly had the worst week: My older daughter got hurt and needed six stitches in her forehead. Okay, strike one. Next, after spending six hours at Children’s Hospital being exposed to God knows what, she spikes a fever..101, 102, 103…and last night 104. Okay, strike two. Now, for the final and worst strike: I have a work trip to NYC — an important one, one I have been planning for the past few months. In my line of work with Online Jewish Learning, I do not travel much. However, I had five meetings booked in the next 36 hours. I had to go. But what could I do? How could I leave my kid when she was so sick? Enter mom guilt stage left. I finally got my kids to sleep and then the final blow arrived: My nanny texted that she had a fever and would not be coming to work. Oh, and after I wrote this my husband’s car literally caught on fire out of nowhere. Seriously?! No one was in the car, thank God!
Um, universe — can you stop it now?!
This is something that I struggle with all of the time: how to balance my work with my personal life, with my “Mom life.” “Mom life” is unpredictable, and you have to learn to roll with the punches. Work life, at least for me, is pretty predictable. When the two bump heads and collide, however, I lose my footing. To put it lightly, I do not go with the flow. It is not in my DNA. So what do we do when our worlds collide?
We are in the midst of the Book of Exodus… We all know what happens. We receive the laws that will govern not only how we function as individuals, but also how we interact within our communities, our inner and outer circles. For me, these laws help us better understand the way in which we conduct ourselves in our personal and professional lives. What it does not tell us is what to do when these worlds collide. That is where we have to make the hard decisions. This is where we have to dig deep and find our inner strength to see the big picture, not the day to day tough stuff. Easier said than done, right?
Enter Purim: I actually feel like Purim comes at this time of year to tell us to stop taking ourselves so seriously — that life is about the big picture, the Esthers fighting Hamans, rather than the fact that we are stressing about our kids’ Purim costumes and that we do not have enough time to bake Hamantaschen. We have to focus on letting go in life and try to make time to have fun. I sound like I practice what I preach, but really, this is as much for me as it is for you.
So how can we stop focusing on the small things-stressing over an email, an inconvenient work meeting, an annoying phone call, and focus on the big picture? How can we try and find some sort of life balance whether we are working or not, parents or not?
Two weeks ago I spent three days with an amazing group of Rabbis Without Borders at the RWB retreat. I felt bad about being away from my kids, but you know what? This Rabbi Mom needed some “me” time. In three days with this awesome group, I was able to refresh and come back feeling more in control. I was able to focus on my kids and not check my phone. I was able to do work and not feel AS guilty about not being home with them. We cannot take ourselves too seriously and stress about every little thing-life is too short. As a good friend told me last week, “The days are long but the years are short.”
This Purim I am going all out — I am dressing up as a blue M & M. Yeah, you read that right. A piece of candy. My daughter asked me to, and you know what? I want to have fun, let loose, stress less, and live fully in the moment with my family. How much longer is my daughter going to want me to dress up with her? So yes, the work meeting conflicts are tough, car fires are unfortunate, and the flu wipes everyone out in our house… but I wouldn’t trade this crazy experience for anything. If I stop and really focus and am present in the moments that I share with my family, I may feel less guilty when work takes me away from them.
Exodus teaches us about our people’s journey from individuals to that of community. We all are on our own journeys-whether it is work, family, health, etc. The Israelites questioned God, what they were doing in the desert, and whether they were on the right path. We too may question who we are, what we are doing, and if it is all worth it. Let us each find the strength to recognize the small sparks of beauty in our daily lives, the value in the work we do, take ourselves a little less seriously, and embrace the mishegas (craziness) this week on Purim and beyond. Because really, we could all loosen up and enjoy life just a little more.