A Letter to an Exhausted Mother by Rabbi Shais Taub
This past week Ami Magazine printed a letter from an overwhelmed and exhausted mother of several young children who wrote: “I have suddenly realized that I have no idea why I am doing what I am doing!…What is the purpose of all the extraordinary effort that I am putting into raising [my children] to become proper adults and good Jews?”
Here is Rabbi Shais Taub’s response:
Dear Tired Mother,
The greatness of motherhood is all too often underemphasized, and thus it becomes very difficult to feel that one’s sacrifices [as a mother] are truly worthwhile. Yet, if we were to think for a moment about even a fraction of the importance of motherhood, we would see that it is the most important function that a human being can fulfill, and, accordingly, worthy of any sacrifice that people make for any other goal in their lives…
Our Sages explain that Moshiach (Yevamot 62A) will not come until all the souls have descended into this world. By having children, we directly hasten the coming of Moshiach–may it be speedily in our days.
In short, every single child that you bring into this world brings all of us closer to the fulfillment of the very purpose for which Hashem created the world.
[Parenting a child requires, of course, the] immensely demanding work of caring for your children and raising them in the proper path. In order to appreciate just how lofty of a task this really is, consider the story of the prophetess Chana. After many bitter years of childlessness, Chana poured out her heart in prayer at the Tabernacle in Shilo. The result was that she gave birth to the prophet Shmuel. Once Shmuel was born, even when Chana’s husband Elkanah and the rest of the household returned to Shilo for their yearly pilgrimage, Chana remained home to tend to her child during his formative years, as it says “But Chana did not go up” and “she stayed home.”
Being that Chana was a prophetess, one can only imagine what kind of sublime experience she was privy to during her visits to the Tabernacle. Yet she chose to remain behind to take care of her child. From this we can begin to appreciate that a mother’s job of tending to her small children is loftier even than the experience of a prophetess in the Tabernacle!
Now I understand that sometimes this may not be the most compelling argument. Tending to small children may indeed be the loftiest occupation in the world, but not always is everyone interested in what is lofty. TO the contrary, sometimes people would rather pursue and have success in less sublime goals. That is only human nature, which is why I think it’s important to consider the following…Each of us has a spiritual side as well as a more ‘earthly’ side.
In order for one to be able to make the sacrifice of time and energy required to raise a child, not to mention putting other life goals on hold while engaged in raising children, one must ‘conquer’ his or her own ‘earthly’ side. If one looks at the situation from a strictly material perspective, the task may appear excessively demanding. But if one can look from a spiritual point of view and ask, ‘What does my soul say. How does my soul view this thing? Then it becomes clear that raising children is worth every inconvenience in the world.
If one will only conquer and subdue the earthly calculations that make being a parent seem like an inordinate burden, he or she will discover that there is nothing in this world as rewarding, important and worthwhile as being a parent.
Ultimately, of course, often only after the passage of decades, one comes to see how even from a material perspective all of their sacrifices for their children paid off. There are many people (sadly, far too many) who look back at their lives and wish they had spent less time working towards other goals and more time raising their children. The opposite, on the other hand, is basically unheard of…
I wish you much nachas from your children and, needless to say, nachas from your very own self, as you continue this worthiest of occupations–raising the next generation of Jews…
With blessing, Rabbi Shais Taub