In our day, expressions like “personal growth”, “self-fulfillment” and “following our own dreams” are tossed into the air on a regular basis. We are constantly convinced that to be happy, we must do what we want, when we want; and that our children are better off seeing a “happy” mother a couple of hours a day, than an unfulfilled, frustrated one all day long.
I will not say that this doesn’t have a grain of truth. It is important that we grow and develop our personalities; it is lovely to dream, and to pursue goals. And yet it is crucial to remember – especially for young mothers like me, who are often bogged down by diapers, food smeared everywhere, and squabbling toddlers – that for everything there is a season, and that almost everything can wait while we raise a family. Our dreams are not gone; they are just put on hold, or on a back burner, while we do that which cannot wait.
Yet do I feel as though my morning has been wasted in vain? No; I actually am happy with every hour I spent. Not butterflies-in-my-stomach happy, not I-should-get-an-award-for-doing-this happy, but a deep feeling of contentment all the same. I knew I was doing what must be done, and I knew I was coping with the tasks that were meant for me, just as they were coming at me, one by one. Someone has to take care of my family; someone has to wipe that floor after the toddler had her “accident”, while explaining to her what she should do to prevent it from happening next time.
My other option would be giving my children over to the care of someone else, so that I could be doing something else, supposedly something neater, more respectable in the eyes of others, more accomplished. Yet the “lowly” tasks involved in childcare cannot be eliminated – they can only be transferred, usually to someone who does them for money, not for love and duty, and thus does not put her heart into them. In a point of view that has become prevalent, yet still seems bizarre in my eyes, such an arrangement gives more social consequence to both women – the wife and mother who leaves her home, because she does paid work; and the daycare provider, because she does paid work. The ones who usually miss out are the children.
And so I know that this job was created for me, and should be done, whenever, if at all, and for as long as possible – by me.
I’m not saying I’m perfect all the time (or ever). I’m not saying I never break down, feeling as though I’m suffocating with the desperate need of silence, solitude, sober conversation; of doing what I like, and what makes me feel good, to refresh and renew myself. I do try and incorporate such moments during the day. There is praying in the morning; and writing on my blog when I have a couple of spare minutes – that is my “instant” writing outlet, when I cannot commit myself to something more lengthy, yet feel I have thoughts swirling in my head, begging to be let out. I write down ideas for hobbies, pursuits and recipes I would like to try just for fun, and once in a while I even manage to accomplish a new project.
But I do not feel entitled to do my own thing all the time.
I don’t look very far ahead; for as long as I can see into the visible future, toys will always be scattered on the floor. Fights will always break out. Butter will always get smeared all over the table. For hundreds of times every day, I will have to repeat “don’t touch this”, “don’t shout, I’m trying to listen to Daddy” and “stand still if you want me to help you put your shoes on”.
In my mind I know, of course, that some day it will all change. If all follows its due course, someday I will have more free time to do all the things I dream about. It will not necessarily make me happier or more fulfilled; it is a statistical fact that rates of depression are higher among the relatively affluent Westerners than in “primitive” societies that live simply and slowly. All I can hope is G-d will guide me and help me doing what I need, can and should be doing, for the benefit of my loved ones, and to distribute my time, energy and work in the right way, in every period of my life.