The Great Mom Journey (plus Book of the Month- Let's Face It!)

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Last week, my neighbor brought me a photograph. I looked at it, and identified it right away as a photo of myself with my 2-year-old son Yoel. But then I noticed the photo’s date- 9/3/99 in fluorescent orange. So I inched the photo a bit closer to my nose, and realized that I was in fact seeing myself, ten years ago, with my now 11 year-old daughter Hadas.

It was pretty shocking. The child I was taking care of ten years ago looks exactly the same as the child I am taking care of now. The “me” then looked exactly the same as the “me” now (give or take a few pounds). And overall, everything looked exactly the same, so that from that photo I was holding there was absolutely no way of knowing, aside from that fluorescent orange date, that an entire decade had passed in the middle.

Which was a funny feeling. Funny strange, not funny ha-ha. What have I been doing for these ten years I thought as I squinted and looked at my 27-year old face in that photo. Ten years later, I am still wiping the same little noses, still changing the same wet sheets, still offering the children a choice between veggie hotdogs or humus on rice cakes for lunch. Looking at that photo from a decade ago, I felt like a person who had dreamed of setting out on a journey, on an Odyssey, only to discover that she had wasted the past decade wearing out pair after pair of expensive running shoes on the treadmill in her basement.

But then my indignant JewishMOM pride buoyed to the surface of my consciousness in protest, and I remembered the book I was re-reading, our second book of the month, and one of my all time favorites: Let’s Face it!: The 8 Essential Challenges of Living by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller and Sara Yoheved Rigler (Targum). Let’s Face It! is a travel guide for the inner journey that I, and every single mom and human being is on right now, which gives a step by step accounting for the accomplishments of this past decade, which I had mistakenly reported as lost.

The stations of our inner journeys are the challenges we face in life: 1. Suffering 2. Happiness 3. Relationships 4. Parenting 5. Anger 6. Self-Change 7. Prayer 8. Death.

I loved so much of this book, which is heavily underlined, and decorated with enthusiastic asterixes all over the margins. But the sections that were of particular interest to me were, of course, the sections on Parenting and Relationships. And this was my favorite JewishMOM quotation of all:

Women, since the advent of the Women’s Liberation Movement, have been defensive about defining themselves in terms of family roles. In the seventies, the women at the vanguard of the movement claimed, “I’m not Glenda’s mother or Harry’s wife. I’m myself.” These women find that the act of defining themselves within a role is narrowing and diminishing. In truth, of course, each of us is an immortal soul which is infinitely greater than any role. The actualizing of our deepest self, however, takes place through interactive roles and our responses to the challenges of relationships. Seen in this light, family roles can and should be broadening, whereas a person who defines herself by her independence runs a risk of an egotistic life in which reality is defined exclusively in terms of herself. What could be more narrowing and constrictive?

The woman who resists being defined as “Glenda’s mother” may be a consummate pianist or a brilliant political analyst. None of these other roles, however, can touch areas within her deepest self that intimate relationships can touch. Therefore no role can catalyze inner growth more than the roles of spouse, parents, child, or friend.

Wow! Isn’t that amazing? It is through our most intense relationships, including motherhood, that we are able to experience the greatest personal growth. Having a child and raising him, with all of its ups and downs, and tears of frustration and tears of joy, is, on a spiritual level, just like boarding the Trans-Siberian Railroad in Moscow and riding it all the way through the tundra to the distant Sea of Japan.

Which means that for the past decade I, like you, have been on an honest-to-goodness journey. Not the frequent-flyer kind or the exotic stamp in your passport kind, but the true kind. The mom kind. The kind of journey during which my location doesn’t change, but I do.


  1. debbie shapiro

    Beautiful, so very true and so well written. May you continue to climb m’chayil l’chayil.

  2. Ramesh Soleymani

    Thank you for such a beautiful words. There is not a day that goes by I am not reminded about how lucky I am for my four beautiful and thoughtful kids. They would not become who they are had I not chosen to take care of them over being an out-of-house working mom and having a 9-to-5 full time job.
    However I must tell you that I also battle with what it would have been like if I had choose a full time career over being an at-home mom and how we would have more money and we would be able to give our kids more things. But that’s what it would be- THINGS-
    not love, which is at the end of the day what every child needs and yearns for from his or her parents. So I choose to give them just that and that’s why they are who they are.

    Thanks for reminding me of that

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