by Michelle Nevada
It’s mother’s day, and I’m tired. In fact, I’m so tired, that I have to classify the different types of tired that I feel, just so you’ll understand.
First, I’m physically tired because of the kids. Yes, you were expecting that, weren’t you? So, I gave it to you first. It is hard to have young ones when you are an older mom. Yeah, I know you see those great articles about mothering over 40 and think, “Wow! It is easy to be an older mom! Anyone can do it!” Don’t fool yourself.
I get up at 4 or 5 a.m. with the little ones, then, just as they are ready to settle down for a morning nap—say around 7 a.m.—I have to make lunches, find several pair of socks, look for shoes and backpacks, change, buckle my sleepy little ones in their cars seats, and jump in the car to drive my school-aged kids to school.
After battling traffic and car-pools, and dropping two sets of kids off to two different schools, I am back—unbuckling little ones from car-seats, getting them breakfast, cleaning up from the morning whirlwind, and starting the laundry. This, in addition to writing (which I do when the baby needs to nurse—no time for anything that isn’t multi-tasking!), looking for some full-time work that pays, and trying to stay ahead of what is going on with friends and family.
My day is spent in the kitchen preparing or cleaning up meals, in the living room folding laundry, and in the bedrooms trying to straighten up before putting the little ones down for a nap and using that time (maybe 15 minutes on a good day) to either get a shower or do some yard work (I can’t do both). Then either one wakes up or the other. They can never sleep at the same time for an extended period, and usually they wake each other.
Before I know it, it is 4 p.m., and I have to jump back into the car, the traffic and the carpools to retrieve children. I stop by the store sometimes, when I have enough money for groceries (milk is how much??), then it’s back home to lean on the children about getting the mounds of homework finished that the teachers never cease to assign (I guess they think our children don’t have any need to exercise, recreation, or family time).
Then, maybe if I am lucky, I get dinner on the table by 8 p.m. so they can eat it and get a few minutes of TV or playing games before heading to bed at 9 p.m.
My husband returns (he’s just as busy as I am), my little ones want to go to sleep (finally), and I make his dinner. Then I am up again, cleaning the kitchen and setting up the coffee for the next day. I usually get to sleep around ten, and I can tell you, I NEVER have trouble falling asleep.
I’m tired emotionally. There is never a day that goes by that my husband, my kids, my friends, or my family doesn’t need some emotional support. They are sad, or their friend is angry, or their teacher is threatening to fail them, or they are tired, or hungry, or sick, or frustrated. I listen, I commiserate, I offer solutions, I make calls. I do what I can, and I make a lot of mistakes. I know I do. Is my child really sick, or just wanting to skip school today? Is my husband angry with what I said or how I said it? Did I snap at him or the kids or my friend? Is my mother OK? Should I worry about what my sister said? Am I nagging my teenager too much, or not enough? What are they fighting about now? Did I just hear something break? How long has he had this sore throat? Did I say goodnight, or did I just fall asleep? Does anyone care? Do I care enough? Every day is a labyrinth of self-doubt and draining emotional battlefields.
I am tired spiritually. Someone told me that if you don’t pray with “kevonah” that it doesn’t count, that you are saying a blessing in vain. I guess I am saying a lot of vain blessings then, as I don’t have any time to find my well of spiritual depth. I barely have enough time to wash in the morning, let alone say a blessing with such intensity of feeling that it could be considered “kevonah.”
I remember praying that way. I remember reciting Shemah and the Amidah with such intensity, you would think the entire existence of the world hung in my words—but that was a different time and place. Now, if I get the Shemah out, I am lucky. I don’t think I said the Amidah since . . . sigh . . . since . . . . Oh G-d. I am such a bad Jew! I beat myself up about it. Here I am, trying to keep my family going, trying to keep a kosher home, trying to make my way through the day, and I can’t even take a few minutes to pray? What is so hard about that?
I resign myself to the well-worn and oft-recited, “Women don’t need to pray.” But we do. We need it more than anyone. We are giving so much all the time that we need to recharge our batteries in a big way.
I can say that it’s harder for me to pray lately. After all, if I’m not the perfect Jew, I’m not a Jew, right? There is such a black and whiteness to being Jewish lately, and if I’m not some sort of Haradi, I’m not good enough to pray to G-d anyway. If thousands of sincere converts can be called non-Jews, who am I to say that my Jewishness is OK? I’m not a convert, it’s true, but maybe there is some small problem with my background—maybe one of my relatives way back didn’t say their prayers with the proper kevonah either.
Besides, I’m a woman. No self-respecting ambassador of G-d with their black hats and black topcoats and their long peyote would ever look at me, let alone speak to me in my disgusting display of femininity. If that attitude is so apparent, and so clear, and so prevalent among the Haredim that run the religious courts of Israel that they would wrestle women off of busses, then what would I expect Hashm? Obviously there is some giant flaw in me that I am a woman, so why should I expect to be treated with anything less than contempt from G-d as well?
On top of the obvious problems that I don’t say my prayers with the proper kevonah (when I say them at all), and that I am a woman, I am also Sephardi—which is an additional problem, of course. We are segregated from the “Good Ashkenazim” in schools, we are supposed to only marry the bitter dregs of their religious youth, and our Judiasm is, of course, suspect along with our rabbis (unless, of course, the rabbi has been renamed by the Ashkenazim and adopted as one of them with some nifty abbreviation like “RAMBAM.”
Finally, I am politically tired. I am a Zionist—the worst kind of Jew. I care about Israel, about the land, and about the people. I need to know that I have a homeland, and that it has not been given away to those who would use it to launch weapons against more Jews. I am tired of reading that one group or another will pull out of the coalition, then they don’t. I am tired to reading that the PM will resign, when he doesn’t. I am tired of courts that don’t care about the law and soldiers used as pawns against their own people. I am sick of hearing about good Zionists arrested for defending themselves, or young girls having to sacrifice themselves in the name of justice. Why do I care?
I should just give it all a rest, but I can’t. I’m a mother, and it’s mother’s day.