| Personal Accounts |

All in Good Time

Can we achieve lasting change? Can we revamp the times in our day and week that don’t look the way we want them to? Five women tackle their toughest hours


Every Yom Kippur the same thing happens: We make heartfelt kabbalos, determined that this year, we’ll really change, we’ll kick the bad habit that’s ruining our relationships or keeping us from being the person we want to become. And for a week or two, sometimes even a month, there’s progress. Then we slip back into old patterns, and on the following Yom Kippur, we wonder if there’s any point in even trying to overhaul our bad habits. Here, we follow five women who committed to overhauling a particular time in their day to see what worked, what didn’t, and how they achieved lasting change.


Up and at ‘Em

Turn back the clock — 5:00 a.m.

The Problem

I’m not a big exercise person. I’m not into sports, I hate the gym. But with a few simchahs coming up, I know I want to lose weight. I decide to do my regular diet: I’ve done it so many times before, and I know my pattern. Those first two weeks are a killer, then I start to see results.

Only I don’t. The scale doesn’t budge. In the meantime, my little sister, who has a baby even younger than mine, is dieting with me. Every week she tells me how much weight she’s lost. A month in, she’s reached her goal weight, and she looks beautiful. So I do what any sister would: I ditch her.

It must be my age. My 35-year-old metabolism isn’t what it once was. I clearly need to do something different.

I join a gym, but I hate going. It’s so not me. I know I have to work out, but how can I  make exercise a regular part of my day without overhauling my lifestyle or becoming a gym lady?

The Plan

I have some home exercise videos I once bought, but when and what and how can I do them? Where exactly am I supposed to work out? Living in Israel, I don’t have a basement, and my only option is the dining room. But my house is not my own at night — I go to sleep before my teens, who hang out till all hours of the night. And I really don’t want to exercise in front of them; one of the biggest issues I have with the gym is that I’m extremely self-conscious.

Then it occurs to me: Should I exercise in the morning? I wake my son up for davening at 6:30. If I want this to work, I’ll need to get up at five. And what about the noise? I can’t wake up all my kids.

I’m about to call off the whole plan when my 12-year-old son says, “Mommy, what about Bluetooth headphones? You can use mine.” I didn’t know that the item existed, let alone that I had them in the house, but I try them and they work. I’m out of excuses and things to worry about… so the next morning, I’m up at five.

(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 662)


Riding High

Turn back the clock — 9:00 a.m.


The Problem

Five years ago, I was diagnosed with cancer. My bus rides to work and back were instantly transformed: I davened and said Tehillim from the time I got on the bus till the time I got off.

But now, five years removed from cancer (G-d willing I should stay healthy!), and armed with a new Kindle and a US library card… well, all I was doing on the bus to and from work was reading, reading, reading. No more Tehillim.

I feel ungrateful. Like when I needed Him, I did what I thought was the price of His help. But now that the crisis has seemingly passed, I’m no longer saying Tehillim — most days I’m skipping Shacharis as well. I don’t feel good about myself, but I feel almost addicted to my reading, and powerless to stop.

How can I reclaim my bus rides — and my hakaras hatov?

The Plan

I’m usually a black-and-white, all-or-nothing sort of person. But those sorts of plans never last. So, for pretty much the first time ever, I don’t go all or nothing; I go “some.”

I decide to start davening again, but on the bus. That way, I won’t rush davening to catch my bus. On the bus I can take my time davening, and — here’s the catch — I’ll spend any time remaining in my commute saying Tehillim, picking up from where I left off the day before. This way, I won’t be tempted to rush through my davening to read my book — and I’ll be saying Tehillim again!

And on the way home, I’ll read my Kindle.

(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 662)


Fuel the Fam

Turn back the clock — 4:00 p.m.

The Problem

I’ve never been an afternoon person. I can tell when one o’clock in the afternoon hits without even looking at my watch just by the slump I feel. Even a cup of strong coffee with a heaping teaspoon of sugar only gives me a short lift, and then I’m back to walking around with my eyes half closed, nodding off as soon I sit down.

But I have five children, kein ayin hara. When I get home from work in the late afternoon, my most important job of the day starts: motherhood. And obviously, if I’m tired, spaced out, and irritable, when I open the front door and am confronted by five children who all need kisses and hugs, a listening ear, supper, and a bath — well, all I want to do is close that door and bolt.

I need to revamp my afternoons. Even if I’m not excited and enthusiastic about coming home after work, I don’t want to feel a pit of dread in my stomach as I approach my front door.

The Plan

I’m ambitious by nature. Now is no exception. I list all the changes I’m going to make: be in bed by 11 p.m. every night to get a good night’s sleep so the afternoon slump is less profound; prepare supper in the mornings so when I come home, I can give the kids my attention; give everyone a hug when I get home; make sure to have a conversation with each kid about their day. And I’m going to take a coffee break 15 minutes before I leave work so I’m not hungry when I get home.

(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 662)


Put to Bed

Turn back the clock — 7:00 p.m.

The Problem

For some reason, I just can’t get myself to do bedtime. It takes so much energy to run a house, work, and be a mother, that by the time the end of the day rolls around, I don’t have the energy to fight. I give the kids supper, get them into pajamas…  and then just can’t bring myself to finish it off.

By the time my husband comes home, I’m dying for the little kids to go to bed. I meet him by the door with two words: “TAKE THEM.” If my husband’s not home, sometimes I just put one of the little kids in my bed. Other times, we’ll all hang out in my bed, schmoozing, playing games, eating snacks.

It can be kind of nice, but it just feels wrong — shouldn’t I be in their beds, putting them to sleep? All of a sudden I’ll look up and it’s 10:30, and I’m like, yikes! Go to bed, guys! And on the nights when I do try to put them to bed or offer to read them a book, I get, “No! I want Tatty!”

I feel like I’m failing as a mother.

The Plan

I’ve hated bedtime for years. There was one year when I challenged myself — it was my Rosh Hashanah kabbalah — to do bedtime with a different kid every day. I managed it for a full year, but it faded. Now, I don’t even know where to start. Should I be insisting on a specific bedtime? Tucking them in? This is too big for me to tackle on my own.

Luckily, Family First sets me up with parenting coach Simi Yellen, who’ll help me completely revamp my bedtime routine. I’m scared.

(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 662)


From Chaos to Calm

Turn back the clock — Erev Shabbos

The Problem

You don’t want to hear what my Fridays are like, trust me.

Every week, it’s the same story. I convince myself I’ll take care of everything on Thursday, but somehow, every Friday, five minutes before the zeman, I’m still cleaning. I always lay out the Shabbos tablecloth on Thursday, but I’m guessing “set the table” doesn’t mean taking everything from the table and shoving it on a chair.

By nature, I’m not very neat, and I’m not great at judging time, especially when it comes to cleanup. I’m also pretty last minute, so if I didn’t bake yet and there’s an hour and a half till the zeman, I’ll make a cake, not taking into account the time I’ll need to spend cleaning up. Or I’ll quickly throw together a tomato dish or another side. Even when I do my cooking on Thursday, I leave the dishes till Friday.

I barely make it to the zeman, and that’s what I’m hoping to change.

No, I’m not hoping — I’m going to change.

The Plan

I decide to get in touch with Azriela Jaffe — aka, the chatzos lady, who’s spawned a worldwide movement of women who’re ready for Shabbos by chatzos. If they can do it, so can I.

Azriela tells me that I need to change my mindset. Till now, I’ve been trying to do everything on Thursday night or Friday morning, but the last-minute things always got me. Azriela tells me that I need to work backward. Just because I could make the entire Shabbos in two to three hours doesn’t mean I should. My whole week has to change.

(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 662)

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