The Happiness War

I spoke with a mom this week who is drifting around in the Jewish mom doldrums. “This sounds awful,” she confessed, “but when I am with my kids, I just don’t feel happy. I’m in a good mood at work or when I’m on my own at home doing housework etc., but when I’m with my kids, I am just waiting for the moment they will fall asleep. Even though I try to pretend to be happy and upbeat for them, in my heart of hearts when I am with my kids I feel mostly depressed and bored.”

While we don’t often admit it, I think these feelings are common for moms.

In his amazing book Happy Women Rabbi Shlomo Aviner describes the war that every mother must fight in order to stay happy. He writes:

G-d will help you, but in order for that to happen you must, first of all, help yourself.

“How can I help myself?” you ask.

In every way possible. This is an all-out war, a war on all fronts, and like in the army, you must use all available weapons.

So too, in order to be happy, you must use all kosher means, and all the kosher tricks at your disposal. These tricks don’t get to the root of the problem, however they will solve it for the time being:

Listen to music

Read good books

Listen to interesting classes

Take trips and go to fun events

Eat delicious (low-calorie) cakes

Drink cans of juice

Talk with your girlfriends until 3 AM (even though you still haven’t cooked anything for Shabbat)

It doesn’t matter! Your husband prefers a happy wife and a meal of sandwiches over a royal meal served by an angry and mournful wife. Food is not such an important thing. Anyway it disappears and it’s as though it never existed.

It’s much more important that you make yourself happy.

These tricks don’t solve the problems at their root and they don’t remove the difficulties and the crises…but these tricks can cause us to forget our problems, at least temporarily, so that it is possible to take care of the them. Just like the car mechanics say: “You can’t fix the engine while it’s under pressure.” First of all, we need to remove our negativity.

To make ourselves happy is a matter of life and death, literally, because happiness can add years to your life.

From Nashim Smechot by Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, Sifriyat Chava, 2001 (translation by CJ Weisberg) Reprinted with permission from Rabbi Aviner Shlit”a.

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