uggling has always been one of the top skills demanded of a mother. But it feels like the past decade has multiplied the number of balls we mothers are trying to keep in the air. We don’t just want to do “it” — whatever it is — we want it to be classy and memorable. We want to broadcast that we’re coping, excelling even, at whatever society has deemed the latest must.
This has been the decade of tablescapes; of perfectly sorted, labeled, color-coordinated toy closets; of streaming a steady flow of pictures that tell a story of the ideal life to all our nearest and dearest.
It was the decade when it wasn’t enough to be a decent wife and mother serving a basic supper in a slinky skirt and chenille snood. We were supposed to excel at all our roles. To be a creative entrepreneur during the week while serving exotic meals to a multitude of guests on Shabbos. And do so in clothing the same size we wore when we got engaged.
But there’s another movement, another face to this decade.
As editor of a women’s magazine, I read hundreds and hundreds of writing submissions each year. I get glimpses of our women at their rawest and realest.
And I’ve noticed a shift. We’re beginning to own our feelings, to be more authentic with others and ourselves. We no longer rush to patch things up with pseudo-solutions. We allow ourselves to give voice to the confusion, to admit to the pain. We seek fellow travelers on the rocky paths we journey and offer each other a hand.
We strive to merge nurturance with boundaries in our mothering, to give our children tools to navigate a world that gets ever more confusing.
We want to grow. We don’t want our Yiddishkeit to be a veneer; we want it to be real and alive and vibrant. We’re thirsting for more.
These two pulls — one encouraging us to don a mask of glossy perfection, the other clamoring for integrity, for accepting and dealing with the murky realities of life — can’t possibly inhabit the same space without wreaking havoc.
I believe we’re headed for a showdown, both internally and societally. At some point, the two drives will collide.
As this decade draws to a close, I watch the two roar forward, gathering steam. And I wonder what the next decade will bring.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 790)
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