Dear Chana Jenny: I’m Happier at Work than with my Kids

Dear Chana Jenny: I’m Happier at Work than with my Kids

Dear Chana Jenny,

I was hoping to get your advice about something I’ve been struggling with for a long time.

I have been blessed with 2 wonderful kids. And I really do love being a mother.

But I am writing because I feel very guilty that I don’t enjoy my time with my children more. The sad truth is that I find I actually enjoy working more than spending time with my children. At work (I run an online business from my home) I feel upbeat and stimulated and effortlessly happy. And with my kids, I frequently feel bored or distracted or downright irritated with them.

It’s not because they aren’t amazing kids. They are. It’s not them. It’s me. Any ideas about what I can do to feel more inspired as a mom?

Thanks! J. from New Jersey


Dear J.,

Thank you for writing! I want to tell you first of all that you are definitely not alone. I think that what you are describing is very, very common. In fact, just this past week, my parenting teacher Dina Friedman of the Chanoch Lnaar Parenting Course confided that she loves teaching more than she loves many aspects of her mothering life. And that, she explained, is totally OK. In the following edited excerpt, Dina describes how she manages to remain guilt-free and highly inspired as a mother even when motherhood requires her to do things she does not enjoy….

Imagine if someone told you that you should love spending all day taking care of your kids, but you notice that you actually love working more. Your problem is not that your emotions are deceiving you. Your problem is that you are judging yourself for not living up to what someone else says you should be loving. This doesn’t mean that you don’t have a responsibility to take care of your children, even though it isn’t your favorite pastime. You do have to take care of them. But you don’t have to force yourself to love caring for your children more than anything else in the world just because you have to take responsibility for your kids and for their wellbeing.

In other words, honor yourself and honor the things that you love. They are giving you information and feedback about where you should be spending your energy.

I am going to say something right now, and I want you to think about this deeply: Imagine if everybody loved being with their kids more than they loved doing the work that they do in addition to being a mother. Where would we get the dedicated principals that we have in our children’s schools? What would be if those principals would be sitting at work wishing that they could be home with their kids because they love that more than running a school?

How do you think this parenting course would look if I was just sitting here thinking, “I wish that I wasn’t teaching so that I could be with my children right now.” You better believe that I enjoy being here teaching you just a little bit more than some of the activities that I do with my kids, because otherwise I wouldn’t have the strength to run this parenting course. But I love teaching this course, so that’s why I do it.

What would we do if our teachers didn’t love being in the classroom—yes, sometimes just a little more than they enjoy being with their kids.

There’s a reality here that I’m trying to present to you. There are things that you love, and they’re not necessarily the things that someone might have dictated to you that you are supposed to love them.  So what happens then to the things that we have to do as a mother? Because I am obligated to take care of my kids, and I actually do spend time with my kids in the park and I do bake cookies with them, even though I’m not especially inspired when I’m doing those things.

And in general, how do you help yourself to do the things that you don’t love doing, and you know you want to do them or you have to do them, whatever the case may be.

What you do is you take those things, and you connect them with what inspires you in life.

For example, when I’m sitting in the park with my kids, I’m watching my children play and I’m letting it be a learning experience for me. I’m not only interested in the sandcastles and so on. I’m watching how my children are interacting, and I’m learning from that, and I’m connecting what I’m learning to the class I’m going to be teaching that week. And in that way sitting in the park is very inspiring for me. And when I’m baking cookies with my children, I’m doing the same thing.

And you can do the same thing. What is it that you love doing? And then link all of your obligations that you don’t enjoy so much, but which you have to do, with those things that you love. And watch how you can put your heart into every activity you’re doing…

If you do this, you’ll see that you’ll find inspiration all over the place throughout your day, and you’re really going to jump out of bed in the morning, because when you do what you love, you’ll want to get up, and you’ll want to do what you love.

What is this good feeling I’m talking about? I’m not talking about instant gratification. I’m talking about the feeling that tells you that something is Emes (truth) for you. I’m talking about a feeling of open-heartedness…I’m talking about that absolute knowing that something is true for you. It’s calming.  It opens up your heart with love and gratitude to the magnificence of this world that you live in…It makes you want to sing. It fills you with love and it flows over to everyone.

You want to share it with the world…

Image courtesy of Shoshana Motzen


  1. Yoni Schlussel

    Beautiful! Every mom should read this!

  2. I don’t know about this – Whilst sometimes I would rather being doing something else than looking after my children, it’s rarely working! I enjoy my work and I enjoy spending time with my children but I don’t think I could say (except maybe on very bad school mornings) that I would rather work than look after them. I was just about to say, particularly if you are a teacher – why would you prefer to look after someone else’s kids than your own, but then I remembered when I had 2 little ones, and was pregnant with another 2, going into school early, so that I could drop my toddler into the creche – but then I went into the staff room and had some time to myself, rather than straight into a classroom. Now I am a WAHM, I can look after my children and work at the same time, or alternatively, not do both!

    • Well maybe she enjoys working. That’s just the point of this article, Mrs. B.: it’s not about lending your standards to her situation, it’s about each person working out their own individual situation.

  3. thank you for this!! I have been praying for an answer to a struggle I have been having. I adore my children, and mostly I like being a stay at mom. but after a long hard sickly pregnancy and a very cranky baby, I am worn thin. I have 3 kids that need me but i am so depleted I can hardly fucntion anymore.
    I love writing. i mean i LOVE it. I feel good and inspired when I write. I like improving my skills, and editing my work and so forth. But I always feel guilty. My kids always act like they need 100% of who I am or they are being neglecting. slowly I am becoming resentful of them. (I’m not in a place financially or community-wise where I can ask for outside help at the moment, unfortunately!)
    I am up at 3am right now writing because I was scared if I didn’t then when tomorrow came I would resent the kids b/c I didn’t get to be “me” for a little while.
    your article reframes some of those ideas for me. I think if I felt less guilt I would naturally feel more giving to my kids, if that makes sense. right now I just feel they take and I have nothing more to give so I get annoyed. that’s no good for anyone.

    • JewishMom

      dear elle, after reading your comment, I SO HAPPY I posted this. I also found this so helpful!

  4. I have been thinking about this article all day. I want in on all this good info! How do I find out more about these parenting classes? is it a book? or only in Israel?

  5. Ok, I’m impressed. This is my first newsletter and I’m pleasantly surprised. To be honest, I thought this site was going to be one of those cheery, too good to be true portals that would end up making me feel bad about myself and my struggles with motherhood ( I joined at the insistence of a friend)… But this post shows me that it’s a REAL site for REAL mums with REAL struggles and no pie in the sky existence… I don’t want to be the misery that enjoys company, I just like to have a solid shoulder to lean on and reflect off every once in

  6. A while…..thanks for giving me something interesting to contemplate!

  7. Dear Chana jenny
    this is something that I have been struggling with for a while and this post really just gave me such clarity. Thank you for always talking about how difficult mothering really can be, it helps so much to knwo that other moms are experiencing the same things so we can learn from you an from each other. Does Mrs Friedman have a website or online course or even a phone in course? I would love to learn more from her.

  8. i am often asked this question, as an old “experienced” mother and because i am trained as a psychologist i guess people think i would know the answer…

    over the years, i’ve come to the conclusion that the benefits of mothering aren’t always obvious, and aren’t always as a result of loving being a mother. i really believe that children and parents bond just by being together, whether or not they find their interaction meaningful or fulfilling.

    to me, the best gift i am giving my children is the sense of trust and security in knowing i am a “constant” in their lives. they may engage me, demand of me, or rebel against me, but they are always aware that i am there. (this is especially important when they rebel. just imagine how bereft you would feel if you were swimming and wanted to turn around and “push off” from the pool wall–but the wall just disapears!) and of course, we all can imagine just how critical it is to have a deep-seated sense of security, it helps create our sense of selves, our self-esteem, and our ability to reach beyond our selves and create other relationships…

    so, on those (many) days i feel unfulfilled, feel i could’ve done something more significant with my life, i remind myself:
    today i created a bond and an everlasting sense of security for my child. today i gave him/her a gift that will build their future.

    talk about feeling fulfilled!

    • JewishMom

      thanks tamar, I really appreciate your sharing this. It’s a wonderful idea. I’m sure I’ll be thinking of this a lot in days to come!!

  9. Chagit Zelcer

    The concept of having to feel good about being with your children is part of the ‘terms and conditions’ to parenting that have become prevalent in our society. Rather in the Western (modern) world where if you don’t fit the bill you are labelled (or you label yourself) a not-good-enough parent. This is foreign to the Torah way where we our obligation is to raise our children to be responsible adults who will hopefully follow in our way. It is the children who are obligated to Kibud horim. No one can tell or measure how much love a parent can or should give a child. I’d like to share something interesting from my experience from parenting courses that I give (in the Shefer approach). I will ask a roomful of mothers “who here has guilt feelings?” (re children). EVERYONE raises her hand. Doesn’t matter if they are full time working moms or stay-at-home-moms. In the same situation I will ask who loves her children and of course ALL hands go up. How is that we love the children, do everything we can for them and still feel guilty! Confusing, right? It wasn’t always like that. Our parents worked hard to keep us fed and a roof over our heads, didn’t have issues of quality time etc, didn’t ask themselves if they love us enough. It was a given. And they didn’t feel guilty on a steady basis. Food for thought.

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