Why is She Smiling, for God’s Sake?

Why is She Smiling, for God’s Sake?

“Do I have to come?”

That was my first reaction yesterday when the school secretary asked me if I would be willing to come in this morning to meet with a bunch of people from the “religious education board” who would be visiting. I didn’t want to give up a morning of my mightily treasured and therefore carefully guarded JewishMOM.com work time, but it was a personal request from the principal…No way out of this one. Major ugh.

But in the end, I was SO happy I was able to attend the unforgettable event that took place at my daughters’ school this morning. Turned out that this “religious education board” was actually a delegation of the dozen or so most senior and influential supervisors of religious education in Israel. And for some reason, they had decided to visit my daughters’ school to discuss the topic of educating girls.

So there I was, sitting at a table with my eighth-grader, Hallel, and her friend, and their teacher, and the woman who directs religious elementary education for the entire Jerusalem area, and her boss, the rabbi who oversees religious elementary schools for the entire country. And these people who oversee hundreds of thousands of students wanted to know what little Chana Jenny thought about this cartoon:

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We were instructed to have a discussion about the first thought this photo triggered, and for me the first thought that came to my mind was: That smile! How does this mother who is juggling so much manage to smile like that?

The teacher at our table, who is a very busy mother and grandmother and teacher, was skeptical. “It’s a fake smile, With all that pressure on her, how could she possibly really be smiling?”

But the rabbi, who is probably one of the busiest people in Israel, felt otherwise: “I often notice that the busiest people, people who are always running around and doing, doing, doing are actually the happiest people of all. They feel a sense of purpose, they feel needed. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be a woman who works outside of the home who feels that joyful sense of purpose. I think of my mother and my daughter-in-law, both of them stay-home mothers who felt and feel great joy and a sense of mission in their pressured lives as wives and mothers…”

And as I ruminated over these two opinions, the pressure that kills a smile vs. the pressure that puts one on our faces. Volcano pressure vs. diamond pressure….I looked down at the photo and realized it looked familiar. Very familiar. This smiling juggling woman is the JewishMOM.com logo!

Ahhh, to be able to live a life of Goldilocks pressure… To insert into our lives just the right quantity of pressure, not too much but not too little. And to find within that pressure light and joy and sense of mission. So that within our pressured, juggling JewishMOM lives the smiles won’t be fake.

They’ll be from our heart, from our gut. Real smiles, IY”H.

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4 comments

  1. 1) I absolutely love your logo! Who is the artist?
    2) You wrote a very moving piece about being the frier with the bat mitzvah group mothers. I was surprised to see that you still feel that way. That article really helped me though, and now I go around with a mantra in my head, something that I heard from Rabbanit Yemima Mizrachi, “you need them more than they need you”. (From Pirkei Avot)

  2. the logo is by shoshana motzen (email link below) she is amazingly gifted! In the end I decided to take out the part about being a freier, that wasn’t really what I felt.I felt more like– the school has done so much for my kids, how could i turn down a chance to help them out when the need a favor from me?

  3. Chaya Rivka Carasso

    Chana Jenny,

    It was no coincident that you were asked to represent Jewish Moms at that meeting and to remark on the drawing, and all the rest. Hashem planted you there to promote Jewish Moms even more, to make all women who read your blog aware of the importance of the Jewish Woman/Mom.

    The Biala Rebbe wrote 2 books about the Jewish woman. In the preface of one, he writes, and I paraphrase, how essential the Jewish woman is to Judaism because she keeps the home, encourages her husband, educates the children, and is the daily keeper of the Jewish way of life. In an age where women are not given or do not demand the respect they deserve, it is heartening to realize how essential women are, and in particular, the Jewish Woman/Mom.

    Thank you

  4. Wow i loved it! I needed this so much! I live in a city where the maid helping at home 6/7days a week is the rule, but i dont like it and now i’m in charge of a big home with 5beautiful children my husband and myself… I dont stop. All the day doing things for the family but that sense of purpose, of akeret habait, and my mission as a mother and wife is my fulfilling feeling, even if othe people dont understand it! Thank you so much

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