You're Not the Only One

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Here is the 3rd post from a 7-week series of excerpts from the book of the year Mothers to Mothers: Women Across the Globe Share the Joys and Challenges of Jewish Motherhood by Julie Hauser (Artscroll), a collection of honest and colorful interviews with 30 Orthodox mothers sprinkled with insightful and inspiring mothering advice from respected educators and rebbetzins.

Enjoy this week’s excerpts:

It’s Only Me by Rebbetzin Yitty Neustadt:

When couples know, it is between us and our Creator, we are the ones together, with our daas Torah [rabbi] that we go by, that is when they are going to do their maximum and their best.

But as soon as people start comparing, sharing, and giving out, then there is a weakening. One of the strengths that a woman gives to her home is that she is the fortress. And a fortress is closed. It doesn’t have windows, doesn’t have cracks in the walls. It’s open on top, and that’s where the ammunition gets delivered, with everything they need. Or, they have a locked, sealed door to go in and out of when they are safe. This is how a Jewish home is supposed to look: husband and wife, and God. And nobody else’s business is into my business, and mine isn’t into anybody else’s.

I believe the weakness in this generation is because there are a lot of comparisons without having any knowledge of what is truly behind the scenes. Ladies, I must tell you what I hear. Sometimes I speak at seminars with all these well dressed and posh, posh people listening. I’m talking about women who look really good, and you see them with their babies and their carriages, everything looks so expensive and comfortable.

Until I sit down and I hear what goes on in their private lives, and then I hear churban Beis HaMikdash [the destruction of the Temple] underneath everything. There is so much suffering, so many issues to be dealt with. Individually. And yet, there is this funny saying in Yiddish, “Everybody thinks that everybody else is smiling.” “It’s only me!” The grass is greener on the other side.

This lady was crying to me, “Only I’m miserable. I see my friends walking down the street, they all look so good, so happy; I’m the only one in misery.” And I said to her, “My dear, if only you would know what appearance YOU give out there, that everyone is looking and saying, ‘She’s living it up, she has it all!’

What I have to go through, that’s between me and God. All these people are so happy, it’s only me who’s not.

The “only me” is every single one of us.

Heard on Kol Haloshon, published with permission from the speaker.

Excerpts from interviews with two mothers…

Rena: A child of the 60s, enjoys gardening and herbology. From Florida, living in Israel

I once called up a well-known rebbetzin. And a kid answered the phone, then put the phone down, and he obviously got distracted and forgot to call his mother. So I am waiting, and waiting, and I hear her, yelling in the background. It made me feel like, if I do that too, once in a while, it doesn’t mean I am a failure as a mother; her kids turned out fantastic! She’s a wonderful person. So, I can be human too. It’s nice to just get a license to be human.

Sheryl: In transition as her childbearing years end. Exploring career again. From Boston.

My daughter is like gold that just has to be polished. And it was so funny, because someone was watching her who was so frustrated with her own kids. And she said, “You’re so lucky, they’re such easy kids!” And I’m smiling, because I’d been in the principal’s office all day about the older kid, up all night with the younger kid, and this person just saw the one that’s easy. That’s my gift to compensate for the other ones.

That’s another turning point. I got to the point of walking into other people’s houses and feeling so inadequate, seeing how well they were doing and how well I was not doing. I suddenly realized that my gift to the world was this: No one ever walked into my house and felt she was an inadequate housekeeper! And that was a gift I gave to other women!

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