What's Inside Your Drawer?

Photo courtesy of Flickr.com user Pammy LZ


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If you read A Chanukah Wave you know that Chanukah is a real struggle for me. But over the years, I’ve taken steps to make it a whole lot better than it once was…
When I was a kid, I looked forward to vacations from school more than anything else in the world.

But for many years as a mom, there were few things I dreaded more.

The school-less weeks of Succot, Pesach, Chanukah, and summer vacation used to be so terribly awful for me since I absolutely need a few hours every day on my own. I need time to think my own thoughts and write my own stuff and answer your emails and get my endorphins flowing on the treadmill.

But for years, inspired by guilt, I would push myself to be like all those model mothers spending every moment of these vacations with their children at the museum and the zoo and the Jerusalem Forest.

And then two or three years ago, after too many miserable vacations, I did some soul-searching and I realized that I as a person must have at least 3 kid-less hours a day to function. At the very least, I need silent, focused time to write, to exercise, to rest.

And I decided that I was going to do everything necessary to get those hours for myself.

Since then, every vacation I have recruited visiting grandparents, babysitters, my older children, etc. in order to make sure I get my three hours a day—no matter what.

The truth is that I still do feel sort of guilty that I’m not joining those model moms with the camcorders by the penguin exhibit, but the guilt grows less and less as the years pass because I know that if I have those few hours for me, then I am a good mom. If not, I am not.

And in the end, I also see that our new way of doing vacations is a win-win situation for my whole family. While I still struggle a lot with vacations, if I have time to myself I am a lot happier. And my kids are a lot happier that they get to do the fun activities they love, and still return home to a somewhat happy and relaxed mother.

It’s like my parenting teacher Dina Friedman taught us last week. If you are feeling resentful of giving to others, then that means that you are not been giving enough to yourself.

Or like Rabbanit Yemima Mizrachi taught us a few years back. Every mother needs a drawer of her life that is hermetically sealed just for herself. If she doesn’t have that locked drawer, then she won’t have anything to give to anybody else.

My locked drawer is my computer/exercise/rest time. Another mother’s drawer might be time to work on her art, or on her career, or to spend time with her friends.

What is your hermetically sealed drawer? Leave a comment to share what you need to give to yourself in order to be the best mom you can be…

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  1. so, what do you do before your kids are old enough for school?

    I can’t imagine having 3 solid hours a day to myself! I gotta admit, I wouldn’t mind it! but it’s not optional for me. I have 3 kids, one of which is 18 months. We homeschool, have an super active toddler, I have a 6 yr old on the spectrum and my husband works from home… I also don’t have any family anywhere nearby to give me a break. But, I have found one saving grace – I make everyone take a rest time when the baby is taking a nap for 1.5 hrs. They can read or play or whatever, so long as they don’t bother me. To be honest I usually have to play catch up on chores – but sometimes I sneak in writing or reading (my outlet). When I can’t do that sometimes I stay up too late (like last night) but it makes me cranky the next day.

    anyhow I’m glad this works for you! I’m just hoping it doesn’t set the bar too high for readers who would LOVE alone time like that but don’t have that option available. Maybe for those people they could do like I do and have “rest times”.

    • You sound like you have your hands full! I think this is part of what this article is saying: having the strength to realize what you really need (not necessarily time away from the kids for you, maybe other things!) and working to figure out some way to make it happen.

  2. Do you read my mind? I was just thinking about what I need to be able to survive. I have to grow and I feel terrible for just wanting to sometimes leave my husband with the kids and become a hermit!

    I have my art that I have to get to. I started drawing on linen enveloped that have some “tooth” to them to hold chalk pastels and I began writing to a friend and only do snail mail with this dear person. This was my saving grace until a fire hit and my artistic ability evaporated. I am slowly getting back to it by making myself draw for 10 minutes a day on newsprint.

    I started knitting but shared that with the kids and now they invade my time, but I get books on CD to listen to and we have some fun down time together. This is actually nice, but now knitting isn’t “mine” any more.

  3. Well done for writing this! I know so many moms, myself included who feel so guilty needing to have that time alone to give ourselves what we need. I used to walk past moms on the street who I know never take (and don’t seem to need) a break and I used to feel so bad. I need my two hour daily dose, I used to feel guilty about taking a babysitter to make sure I got that time, then my wonderful husband pointed out that if we did not spend that money on babysitting we would be spending it on therapy because I get to a point, if I can’t do my child-free thing, that I am miserable, angry and cannot cope. Some moms, I am sure, are happy with their choices and priorities that come before taking a babysitter and having childfree time, but many others are not feeling that way. Needing and getting time for ourselves is often not a luxury but a necessity. Your post carries a vital message, col ha cavod!

  4. will you write another post on guilt-free mothering?! we need more of that!!

  5. Its so importanat to encourage this point- that everyone needs private time, and whata better idea to give that time a purpose. I was told by my rebetzin that in order to be a sane happy giving mother and wife I would need to go out with my husband once a week- even just for coffee or a 1/2 hour stroll, and one night a week to hear a shir and one night a week window shopping or some kind of hobby that I would enjoy….ok, so I listened 100% the first year, 80% the following and so on…I still enforce the date thing but some weeks it just doesnt pan out- but the alone time, once a day- and for a purpose- Its a challange I so badly want to take! Any tips on nailing the time and purpose?? I like a lot of things but I feel like this website and 2 others are my outlet or drawer, and the time I spend on them is usually when i stay up later than I should or I steal some time in the pm when my kids are busy entertaining themselves with makebelieve…

  6. Hi Chana. Such important Torah to re-learn. My drawer is full of yoga, drinking tea and studying midwifery. I am such a supporter of this part of mothering that I use it as a tag line for my tea business: “when a mother takes care of herself, everything else gets taken care of”.

  7. After too many years of ignoring my own needs – my drawer now seems empty. Gone are my days of crocheting, writing, drawing, even reading for pleasure. This post reminds me to start refilling my drawer a little at a time and hopefully refueling to have more mommy energy.

  8. Hi Chana,
    I just came across this post. It’s so timely, not just because it’s almost Chanukah, but because the things in your drawer may have shifted or changed since losing your mother. As you plan this Chanukah for your kids keep in mind your own needs.

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