Moms on Trial

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I was waiting in line to get on the bus to the wedding when people started yelling. When I craned my neck to see what had happened, I saw a young mom trying without success to push her baby carriage down the narrow aisle of the bus.

“What are you doing?!” the woman behind her was yelling.

“My baby’s sleeping, he’s only a month old. I didn’t want to wake him up…” she pleaded. The mom had an exceptionally gentle and lovely face, like a character from a Jane Austen novel.

“Do you never think of anybody but yourself?! What were you thinking!” Before long, the driver got into the fray as well. In the end the mother retreated off the bus with her baby carriage in tow, defeated and trembling.

Afterwards, as I folded up the mother’s baby carriage for her and put it under the bus, I told her “They are blaming you for being a devoted mother. Don’t pay any attention to them. You are amazing.”***

The young mom took her seat on the bus with her baby in her arms and seemed to recover from what had happened. But I couldn’t. I looked out the window and cried and cried, for that poor mom, having to suffer through this attack so soon after her birth. And as the minutes passed, and I kept on crying, I realized that I was no longer just crying for that mom. I was crying for all of the devoted and hardworking moms, who are so in need of more sympathy, support, and encouragement than we actually receive.

Here are a few ideas about how we moms can, at the very least, be a bit kinder to one another:

  1. The 90% Clean House- A few weeks ago I went to visit a friend, and I noticed that the room where our children were playing was in disarray- toys scattered, beds unmade, wall hangings off-kilter. This was unusual, since on a cleanliness scale of 1 to 10, if my house would get a 7 on a good day, my friend’s house would get a 9 on a bad day. Anticipating my question, my wise friend told me that she had realized a few months before what a kindness it is to leave her house a little bit messy when another mother comes over.

I think this is such a sensitive and brilliant way to make another mother, especially one like me who struggles in the cleanliness and order department, to feel a bit better about herself. Since, as the Ben Ish Chai teaches us, when one woman walks into another woman’s house, she ALWAYS starts comparing.

  1. “Did you know my husband does all the housework?”- In a similar spirit, my teacher HaRabbanit Yemima Mizrachi defines a bad friend as a person who 1. When you complain about your husband, she agrees with you, 2. She tells you how amazing, wonderful, and perfect HER husband is.

If you are fortunate enough, thank G-d, to have a wonderful husband- the type of guy who buys you lots of expensive presents, is amazing with the kids, has a steady and respectable job, doesn’t let you do any housework lest you break a nail while vacuuming, and in general is G-d’s gift to humankind, then I would highly recommend that you keep that information very much to yourself. You usually have no idea what challenges other women are really facing in their marriages, and what kind of blow it could be to them to hear about your new pearl necklace or your husband’s recent promotion or even the way your husband insists on washing the floor all by himself before Shabbat.

Ditto regarding your helpful, polite, adorable, and phenomenally brilliant children.

  1. Perfection is for Diamonds, not People- This year a friend with two teensy children (and another one on the way, bshaah tova!) stopped by with a special home-baked mishloach manot gift package in honor of Purim- the coffee cake smelled amazing and was still hot from the oven. I was pleasantly as well as seriously surprised to get the package since…it was June.

Once I recovered from my surprise, I was so impressed and touched by my friend’s thoughtfulness as well as by her admirable refusal to bow down to the idol of perfectionism.

If your children are healthy, happy, good, well-fed, and loved then you are succeeding at the most difficult and most important job a person could have – raising the future members of the Jewish people.

So, with that ultimate goal in mind, who could care less if the cake is store-bought or the floor’s dirty or the button’s missing. Forget about it!

Because many times, the most important person who needs to start being kinder to you, is you.

***The truth is that I think the people yelling at her were right, there was no room to bring a carriage onto the bus. But their yelling and anger were really excessive and unnecessary.

One comment

  1. I know I’m behind but this article popped up on a mornjng when I really needed it. As all Jewish moms (at some point) I am struggling with my cards in front of me right now. I have become unnecessarily critical of myself and my situation. This is the hand H’Shem lovingly gave to me and it is filled with brachas and hidden miracles. I see it’s time to stop looking at what’s missing and appreciate what is. (And most importantly I need to appreciate Myself and what H’Shem gives me the strength, health, and patience to face everyday. Thank you!

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