On Monday evening, December 12, Emet Outreach featured a Zoom shiur with Rebbetzin Devorah Kigel on the subject of “Mommy Versus Wife.” It’s a tremendous challenge today to be a fantastic mother and a fantastic wife, when you are torn between the needs of both your children and your husband.
She shared that life is not meant to be a bowl of cherries. Life is sometimes hard. You have to go into it knowing that this is the nature of motherhood, as well. You can feel incompetent. She acknowledged that you might do great the whole day and then lose it at the end of the day. We need to give credit to ourselves for the rest of the day.
The Hebrew word for mother, eim, has the same root as emunah. Children learn about emunah from their mother. “Kids learn about G-d from their mother. When a baby cries, there is someone there who will make things better and will care for its needs. She added that Hashem always listens to us. “So, it’s a big job we have. Motherhood includes transmitting emunah to your child.”
She taught that your children are bashert for you, and you are bashert for your children. Hashem doesn’t make mistakes. Clearly, your children needed you to be their mom. Each child comes into the world with your code imprinted. They know how to drive you crazy. They are bashert for you because they help you to grow. People don’t grow when life is a bowl of cherries. When things are challenging, it draws out your latent potential. When your children misbehave, you model for them how to handle it. Your reaction shows if you grew or if you need to work more on yourself. This applies in marriage, as well. How do you react when your husband does something you don’t like? This shows you where your character traits are. She pointed out that regular kids with normal problems can still be difficult. We were created to give and to imitate Hashem. He sustains people even if they spit at Him. Kids say hurtful things or act unappreciative, but we still do everything for them.
“Whenever we imitate G-d, we become closer to Him.” She taught that motherhood is the best Petri dish for this. We take care of our children when they aren’t grateful, just as Hashem does this for us. “Being a mom is the ultimate in giving.” The secular world often demeans motherhood and marriage, and the focus is on self-fulfillment. Kids “cramp your style.” In the secular world, giving isn’t valued. Judaism teaches that there is no greater role than to be a giver. Hashem created the world so that most animal babies are self-sufficient while human babies are helpless. This forces us to become bigger givers.
The favorite tool of the yeitzer ha’ra is to make us feel discouraged and depressed. We must not fall into that trap. She added, “The main thing to remember is to be less hard on yourself.” The vast majority of us are too hard on ourselves. You have to have compassion for yourself. Our greatest challenge is working on our simchah – our joy in life. Do something every day that makes you happy and nurtures you. If there’s no gas in our tank, the car won’t go. We can’t function without self-care.
The yeitzer ha’ra wants us to have a connection to the body. The body wants to be comfortable. Our goal is to train the body to live with our soul.
Women today are more stressed and more stretched thin than women of any other generation. It used to be that when you were home, no one could reach you. Nowadays, everyone is reachable at all hours. She emphasized the importance of banning phones from suppertime and bedtime. Leave the phones downstairs at night. She noted that we wear a million hats. We are working and being a mom and we can be stressed out and overwhelmed. It is hard to be b’simchah like this. Her first advice is to see where you can cut back. Many jobs let you work remotely. You may need to cut back on what you do for the community. “Chesed is chesed, even if the people to whom you are giving share the same last name.”
She encouraged mothers to be confident in their ability to say no. This means saying yes to what needs to be done at home. She said that “it’s totally okay to say that I’m saying yes to a prior mitzvah, which is taking care of my family and myself.” She urged mothers, “Make space to fill your tank and to take care of yourself.” Also, do not compare yourself to others. This is a good principle for life. We all have our own strengths, and we are all on our own highway. Everyone has a different tolerance level for stress. She taught that our avodah is to work on things that don’t come naturally and to put in our best effort. We can’t control results. We do our hishtadlus and pray that everything will turn out beautifully. We have to realize that we are not in charge of results. Hashem doesn’t expect us to be perfect. Only Hashem is perfect. When we make a mistake, it is normal. Everyone makes mistakes. It is part of the human experience. It’s important for children to see that their parents make mistakes. We can share with them that we are working on this. So, we need to put in our best effort and realize that we will make mistakes. Also, we have to remember that kids are resilient.
She shared some practical pointers, which include getting as much cleaning help as you can afford. Also, alone time with mommy is a gamechanger. It can be just 30 or 40 minutes. In addition, if your husband can help with bedtime, that would be great. Get older kids busy and put your younger children to bed so they receive some alone time. This bedtime alone-time is often when you hear what happened during the day. If you can procure chesed help from the local girls’ high school, that is also very helpful.
Encourage children to do what they can independently, according to what is age appropriate. Have a mommy mentor whom you can call for advice when you need it. Call people who have gone through what you are going through. For example, if you are making a wedding for the first time, you can call parents who did this. The main thing is that you shouldn’t feel that you have to be isolated. Every day, daven and ask Hashem to help. He is our biggest cheerleader. We need to ask Him for help with everything. Children should see us saying blessings out loud. “Spirituality should be part of our household.”
She also recommended that parents have a date night once a week. Don’t have phones on the date and don’t talk about business like money matters or the children. Do what you did before, when you were dating. Arrange for a girl to come babysit every week on the same day, unless you call her to cancel. This eliminates the frantic billion phone calls to try to find a babysitter. Date night should be nonnegotiable. You need quality time together outside of the house.
The lecture was informative and nurturing, and extremely helpful for women juggling motherhood and being a good wife.
Devorah Kigel can be contacted at www.devorahkigel.com
By Susie Garber