What if My Teenager Got Dreadlocks? My Interview with Rabbanit Yemima

What if My Teenager Got Dreadlocks? My Interview with Rabbanit Yemima

This past Thursday, Rabbanit Yemima Mizrachi interviewed me on her weekly radio show on Reshet Bet. The Hebrew audio in this video of the interview is hard to hear. There’s a written English translation below. Or click here to hear the original Hebrew interview with excellent quality (starting at 13:00).

RABBANIT YEMIMA MIZRACHI: These are words that appear on the very popular website JewishMOM.com of Chana Jenny Weisberg:

“In English there is a famous saying “If Mom ain’t happy, nobody’s happy!” In Hebrew, the term used for a wife and mother, Akeret HaBayit, means the same thing. Mothers are the essence of their home. If we mothers are smiling, then that alone has the power to lift up an entire family. And since, like the human body is made up of cells, the Jewish people is made up of families–one happy mother has the power to lift up not only her own home but the entire Jewish people.”

RY: Good evening, Chana Jenny Weisberg!

CHANA JENNY WEISBERG: Good Evening, HaRabbanit.

RY: So you write for mothers around the world, in your widely viewed and read website, JewishMOM.com. So what was your motivation to set up a website like this?

CJ: OK, so grew up outside of Israel, in a family that wasn’t religious, in Baltimore. I grew up in a wonderful home, a wonderful family, a home of career women. I had, and still have b”H, a mother who is a psychiatrist. I had a grandmother who was a professor. And what I heard when I was a girl and then when I was a student in university was career, career, career–and also family, to be a mother is also a good thing…

Several years passed, and I married my husband, Joshua. And I gave birth to my daughter, Hadas, 21 years ago. And I had thought I would follow in the footsteps of my mother and grandmother, but suddenly…

RY: And you had gone to university…

CJ: Yes, I got a BA and then an MA from Hebrew University. But then I saw my adorable daughter, Hadas, and suddenly career, career, career fell to the wayside, and all that interested me was mother, mother, mother, and also a bit of career on the side…

RY: Career HaBayit [career of the home, a pun on Akeret HaBayit]

CJ: Very nice! So, I mostly stayed home with Hadas, and today, thank G-d, I have 8 children.

RY: And you are still at home?

CJ: Yes.

RY: And your mother and grandmother didn’t faint?

CJ: The truth is, there was something very interesting after I decided to stay home with Hadas, my mother recommended to me, “Jenny, maybe it’s a good idea to stay home with your kids until they’re all in 1st grade.” That was 20 years ago. I don’t think she expected that 20 years later I would still be home, my youngest, Yoni, who is only 4. But I think my parents, my mother, and father, see the value in this.

RY: Wow. What was your post that received the most responses?

CJ: Years ago, I posted a video I found about mothers and children. First of all, in this video, they interviewed the mothers, and asked them “Are you a good mother or not?” And all the mothers said, “I’m an OK mother” “I’m an average mother” “I’m a so-so mother.”

RY: Good enough.

CJ: Exactly, good enough. And then they interviewed those mothers’ children and asked them the same question. And all the children said, “My mother’s the best mother in the world!”
RY: And thank you, I would tell them, for not asking my children that question 🙂

CJ: And then they went back, and showed their children’s responses to the mothers, that they said they were amazing mothers, and all the mothers cried.

And I think that every mother can relate to this, I know I can relate. I’m JewishMOM, but behind the scenes, I’m not the greatest mother. But I think we can get a lot of strength from our children’s faith in us.

RY: Wow, that’s very moving. I would like some insights regarding teenagers. You said you have a 4-year-old, that’s nice. And a 21-year-old, that’s very nice. What about the ones who aren’t nice in the middle:)

CJ: I think that when you have little kids, you can dress them up nice, and everything’s perfect, and you take them to the playground, and everyone’s jealous of you.

And when you have teenagers, and b”H, I have wonderful kids, all 8 of them are wonderful (and listening to every word I say right now) but I think that when kids are teenagers it’s very important to make a separation between my ego and my children. My children are not me. And if my children do something that I don’t like so much, it’s not about me. It’s their life.

RY: He started it! 🙂

[Rachel Keshet: another guest on the show]: Even if they get dreadlocks?

CJ: Actually, my husband, before I met him, had dreadlocks. So it’s a family tradition. Maybe. We’ll have to see if my husband agrees:)

RY: There are a lot of lecturers and mentors and PhDs and psychologists that give advice to mothers. And you are a mother who gives advice to mothers. And that’s amazing in my eyes. But how do you know that the advice you give is correct?

CJ: The truth is that what I write and talk about is mostly about my experiences, and what is hard for me, and what inspires me and gives me strength. I’ve had this website for almost 10 years, I’m a mother 21 years, but I still don’t feel fully qualified to give advice. So usually, if I give advice, I quote Rabbanit Yemima or other mentors.

RY: You’re wonderful. You make us want to stay at home too! One more question, who says “Thank you” to you? I need my salary slip, where I can see all of my blood, sweat, and tears! My sick days. How much I traveled. Who counts your blood, sweat, and tears? Who notices at all?

CJ: I have a trick. And this is something that I do every morning after I send my children off to school and gan. I think of the day before, and I think of 10 successes I had. It could be that there was a stressful situation, and I coped well.

RY: 10 successes every single day?!

CJ: If you think about it, it’s not hard. Especially for you, HaRabbanit, but even for a regular person. A mother can remember how she prepared the food, or paid the electricity bill, or didn’t get angry at her irritating neighbor.

RY: It’s like my 10 commandments when I grade my own performance. Everything is about what I didn’t do. I didn’t murder anybody. I didn’t break Shabbat. I didn’t covet. I do have successes like that, now that you mention it:)

RY: Chana Jenny, if you there’s one thing you could tell mothers, what would it be?

CJ: I would tell them, you are amazing! You are holding up your family! And that, in my eyes, is incredible.

RY: Yes, truly incredible.

9 comments

  1. Amazing!! Such a pleasure hearing you! Could you send a link to that mentioned post?

  2. Recently I was thinking about what kind of mother I want to see mylsef as. There are all these parenting “isms” and “right” ways of doing things that then keep changing. I came to the conclusion that I want to be the kind of mother you talk about. Normal, imperfect but well-meaning and human. Thank you for being a role model for being amazing by being y ourself, normal, relatable. I really appreciate it.

  3. Beautiful interview.

  4. From the transcript it sounds as if the Rebbetzin has not read your blog.. I like that you don’t give advice or preach. Your oral presentations are real, down to earth, human, heartfelt, and not staged. Your present yourself as you are and it gives us humor, Torah values, courage, and inspiration. You should have strength and health to continue for many more years to come.

  5. The Rabbanit raises an important point – how do you gauge your success? Most of us who work either from home or out of the home do it to some extent for the money involved. I am really excited that your blog is increasingly popular and is widely read and liked on Facebook so I suppose that is one way of gauging your work.

  6. Beuatiful, thank you for sharing this! I reslly like how you focus on the positive of.ylurself and others with kindness and patience. These are really good tools for (trying) to be with G- d’s help, a good mom

Leave a Reply