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Aug 19 2014

Yes, You Can Be Too Close to Your Mom

By at 10:01 am


I have worked with retired “senior” adults for many years. The other day a woman I had never met came in sobbing about the loss of her mother over a year ago. This was not the first time I have been surprised by the intensity of grief experienced by an older woman over the death of a very, very old mother.

But it did pose the question: Can you be too close to your mother?

A few weeks ago, the same thing happened with another woman in my office. Years earlier, someone else told me she had never married or fulfilled her potential because her mother insisted that she take care of her until she died. I recall a man who slept on the floor next to his old mother’s bed in case she needed immediate attention during the night. She lived a long life and by the time he got up off that floor, he didn’t have much else. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 31 2014

Do Jewish Moms Smother Their Kids With Too Much Love?

By at 12:31 pm


Do we, as Jewish mothers, love our children “too much”?

Arguably, the fact that I react to that statement by saying, “There’s no such thing as too much!” says all you need to know. Of course, I also feel that way about fresh-out-of-the-oven chocolate chip cookies.

The question is inherently posed by “The Jewish Daughter Diaries: True Stories of Being Loved Too Much By Our Moms,” edited by Rachel Ament. It’s a quick-read book of essays that vary widely in quality, but are all about the experience of being a daughter to a Jewish mother. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 21 2014

When Your Worst Parenting Fear Comes True

By at 2:31 pm


Since the moment I found out I was pregnant for the first time, I have been terrified of stairs. My anxiety about falling down a flight of stairs peaked after my first daughter was born, and looking back, I see now that it was just one symptom of the post-partum anxiety I didn’t realize I was suffering at the time.

In the mental health world we refer to them as “intrusive thoughts”–those upsetting or disturbing images that seem to come out of nowhere. They’re a hallmark of depression and anxiety, and in the weeks and months after each of my daughters were born, they came on fast and furious. Most of the intrusive images involved one of my girls dying; I wrote them off as yet another symptom of becoming a neurotic Jewish mother. But I just couldn’t escape my fear of the wooden staircase inside our house. I was terrified of falling down it while holding one of the girls; I obsessively donned a pair of thick cotton socks with rubber grips on the soles each time I had to walk downstairs, even in the heat of summer in a house without air-conditioning. I would walk slowly and carefully, taking each stair as if it was covered in ice.

It’s been four years since my second daughter was born, and the anxiety has dwindled down to average Jewish mother levels, on the high end of neurotic. But I’m still scared of the stairs. I still walk slowly down them, and I can’t stop myself from reminding the girls to slow down, look ahead, and pay attention each time they step off the top step. I always feel ridiculous for doing it, of course, and I try to tell myself to calm down and stop nagging, but I just can’t seem to keep my mouth shut. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 8 2012

Free Stuff Alert: Hot Mamalah Schwag

By at 12:30 pm

hot mamalah lisa alcalay klugAre you a hot mamalah? Lisa Klug thinks you are, according to her new book, Hot Mamalah: The Ultimate Guide for Every Woman of the Tribe. The book is full of humourous essay, illustrations, how-tos, and recipes for the modern Jewish woman.

In honor of its publication, we are excited to share not one, but two giveaways for you to enter.

First is the Hot Mamalah Package Giveaway hosted on Modern Tribe. The prize here is valued at $300 and includes copies of both of Lisa Alcalay Klug’s books, Cool Jew and Hot Mamalah, as well as some amazing goodies from ModernTribe and a gift card to boot. This contest will be ongoing through November 28 and you can enter up to 16 times. Enter here. Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 25 2012

Would You Compete On A Show Called Jewish Mum of the Year?

By at 3:40 pm

world's best mum trophyI have complicated feelings about reality TV. On the one hand, I love me some 19 Kids and Counting, not to mention Top Chef.

On the other hand, I am fully aware that the shows are miles from reality, and that watching these shows is enabling deeply messed up people to get even more messed up as viewers judge them based on creative editing and producing designed to make everyone look like a horrible person. People seem to go on TV thinking it will change their lives for the better, and while that is sometimes the outcome, it seems far more common that things get worse, with the added scrutiny of millions of eyeballs. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 31 2012

Are Aly Raisman’s Parents Stereotypical Jewish Parents?

By at 4:00 pm

aly raisman parents qualifiersAmerican Olympic gymnast–and, by all appearances, nice Jewish girl–Aly Raisman qualified for the womens individual all-around gymnastic final at the Olympics Sunday night (doing her routine to Hava Nagila, yet!). Big news–but apparently not as big as her parents’ reaction.

The video of her parents’ reactions as Raisman was doing her qualifier round has gone viral, and was posted here at Kveller as well as everywhere else in the world [ed. note: the IOC has blocked all footage on copyright grounds]. Raisman’s parents are transparently stressed out as they watch their daughter. They constantly fidget in their seats, looking, as one commentator noted, as though they were in dire need of a restroom. They move back and forth as though being shaken in a kaleidoscope, their eyes 100% trained on their daughter. They mumble and mutter encouragements (possibly dropping one f-bomb) in a Tourettes-like stream of words. Vanity Fair called their parental reactions “hilarious” and “SNL-worthy.” When watching them, anyone can see that they are clearly completely focused on and invested in their 18-year-old daughter’s performance, finally letting loose with a relieved yell at the end of the routine (thank you, Mr. Raisman). Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 11 2012

Being a Jewish Mother…to Everyone

By at 10:04 am

how to be a jewish mother book coverI was at a party a couple of weeks ago, and started chatting with a lovely young woman, a cousin of the hostess. She was in graduate school, getting an MFA in painting, and worked as a ballroom dance instructor to keep food on the table. Her boyfriend was a musician with a small but loyal local following. I was enjoying talking to her so much, and then she mentioned in passing that her mother had died when she was 3.

It was all I could do to stop myself from yanking her to my breast right then and there. “My daughter’s 3,” I blurted out. “It’s, like, my worst nightmare that something would happen to me and I wouldn’t be there for her.” Read the rest of this entry →

Mar 24 2011

My Toddlah The Dahktah

By at 1:16 pm

Last night at dinner my daughter happily announced that she wants to be a doctor when she grows up. You’d think this would make a Jewish Mama’s heart burst with joy, wouldn’t you?

Actually, I was a little heartbroken.  (And not just because I’d much prefer she grow up to become a billionaire tech nerd.) I’m afraid my daughter’s new found desire to become a doctor has little to do with her interests (which are currently focused on puzzles and all things pink), and more to do with how much time she has spent with doctors in the two and a half years since she was born.

Don’t get me wrong –she’s a healthy kid (poo poo poo), and I feel very blessed for that.  But she’s also had her fair share of accidents and illnesses.  At 6 months old she pulled a cup of hot coffee on to herself on Mother’s Day, causing second degree burns on her left leg.  My husband insists the scars are barely visible, but I can’t help but notice them each time I change her diaper.  Over the course of the next year, she had over a dozen ear infections and multiple bouts with croup (Fortunately, we only had to go the pediatric emergency room once–she thought it was a blast because they had Barbies in the toy room).  When she was 20 months old, she sustained a fracture to her leg–this mishap took place on Father’s Day, which was also one day before I was due to give birth to baby #2.

Thank goodness little Rose decided to show up almost a week late, because we spent my due date in Children’s Hospital, getting Frieda’s leg casted from toe to mid-thigh.  (She got a blue cast.  I was still under the illusion that I could prevent pink-mania from invading our home. Oh, how naive I was.)  Not four months later, we were back at the hospital, getting tubes put in her little ears.  And just two weeks ago she finished a course of antibiotics to treat strep throat.

I’ve done my best to help her understand all of it.  We’ve read numerous books about going to the doctor and the hospital.  We talk about it when she brings it up.  I’ve also tried not to make a big deal about it, but the truth is that the medical world, and everything that goes along with it (doctor’s appointments, hospitals, and medicine) have been a big part of her life, and I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about it.  There are certainly advantages.  Frieda gulps down her medicine as if it were candy, and she gets just as excited for a trip to the doctor’s office as she does when we go to the indoor play space.  Having her rattle off the names of her pediatrician, otolaryngologist, and orthopedist is a great party trick.  And most importantly, she’s still a healthy kid.  She hasn’t had any ear infections since she got her tubes (her younger sister is carrying that mantle), her leg is totally healed, and the burn scars will fade.  But I still worry.

I’m not sure exactly what I worry about.  My husband often reminds me that all of this has been much harder on us than it was on Frieda, and he’s probably right.  She’s had lovely, kind, competent doctors, and she’s a smart, resilient kid.  I suppose I have vague, nebulous fears that her latest bedtime procrastination technique of asking for medicine even though she’s not sick will develop into a lifelong hypochondria that plagues her at every turn.  Like every parent, I just want my daughter to be healthy and happy.  And if I can’t have that, I’ll take a reserved parking spot at the pediatrician’s office.  And maybe my own mug in the breakroom.

Mar 18 2011

What I’ve Learned From My Jewish Mother

By at 2:03 pm

Lili's mom

In honor of my mom’s 70th birthday today, I’ve composed a little love note about the lessons I’ve learned from her so far. Happy Birthday, Mom!

Fight Like a Bulldog for Your Family. I am not exaggerating when I say that my mother has brought my father back from the brink of death several times. And it’s always been about making sure that he had exactly what he needed—the right people, the right tests, the right medicines—exactly when he needed it, no matter how many people she had to fight and how many enemies she made. It’s heroic.

Be Yourself, Always. Since I can remember, my mother has been marching to the beat of a different drummer. For at least five years of my childhood she wore her hair in a giant bow on the top of her head. She wore purple sequined hats to back-to-school night and bright yellow dresses to weddings. Over the years her style has toned town, but the lesson has remained: if it makes you happy, and it doesn’t hurt anybody else, do it.

Work Hard at a Job You Love. My mother worked as a teacher in a preschool handicapped classroom in the inner city for most of my childhood. Her work was incredibly challenging and she often came home drained, sometimes from the children and more often from the politics of city school system. But she was always home by 4pm, and despite having a rewarding career was also very much present for us, deftly navigating the work-life balance before anyone had put a name to it.

Marry for Love, and Brains. Despite my mother’s plea that I marry for money, her two husbands have been uncommonly smart, and not particularly wealthy. Much to her and my father’s joy and chagrin, I found my own genius to marry, a grad student with a dangerous love of lifetime learning. And I wouldn’t trade him for all the businessmen in the world.

Shop Much, Spend Little. To the untrained eye, my mother seems like she spends a lot of money on “stuff.” Perhaps even like she’s obsessed with shopping. But looks can be deceiving. You see, despite the fact that she loves to shop around for cute little things for herself, her children and her grandchildren, she hardly ever pays full price. For anything. So where’s the real money going? Simple: simchas, high school education, college education, help with down payments, generous gifts, and the like. She may have a room dedicated to her costume jewelry, but it’s always been clear where her values are.

What have you learned from YOUR Jewish mother?


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