I spent my first night away from my 3 1/2-year-old ever this past Friday night. How does Mayim Bialik spend a night away, you may ask? Maybe in Vegas? Or a girls’ weekend at the spa? Wrong and wrong again. I spent my first night alone at a Shabbaton. All by myself. Well, me and about 500 other people.
I attended and spoke at a super funky gathering of Jews of all backgrounds and observance levels (in an environment friendly to even the most stringent Jew) called Jewlicious. It’s been around for eight years and they also are an online presence. People like Matthue Roth and Esther Kustanowitz and Matisyahu and peyos-wearing gartel-wearing black-hatted Rabbis who are also in rock bands are Jewlicious people and I wanted to be one, too. And so I was, alone for the first time since Fred was born. And did I mention the festival was on the Queen Mary, the largest antique ship in the world which docks in Long Beach, California and is sort of amazingly awesome? Well, it was. Me alone. Jewlicious. Queen Mary. Long Beach.
I have written about my love for Shabbat at Kveller before and I have also written publicly about my increased observance over the past several years. I got to keep and remember (shamor v’zachor) Shabbat 100% with halakhically-appropriate adjustments to my accommodations. To come from a background where I never observed Shabbat to feel so comfortable and thrilled to celebrate it this way was very powerful, and I was reminded again of how much of a gift Shabbat can be. I got to study, learn, pray, attend lectures, and speak with Jews from all backgrounds and interest levels. It was a really special and very Mayim-way for me to mark a momentous occasion and process of growth in my life as a mother.
Swooning over religious-observance-of-Shabbos-aside, here are the things I did the first time I was away from my kids:
1. I woke up at 6 a.m., but I didn’t get out of bed until a whole hour later.
2. I ate a vegan cupcake for breakfast. In bed (that’s what I got up to get at 7 a.m.).
3. I went back to bed after breakfast.
4. I attended a lecture and stayed the whole time. And then I even stayed after to talk with a few people! Try doing that with two small kids!
5. I slept with a ton of pillows all around me, and one between my knees (it’s good for my back) in whatever sleep position I wanted to. No one pushed me, tugged at me, or whispered, “Roll over, Mama, I want your arm.” For that matter, no one murmured in my ear, “Me need peepee” or, “Nummies, Mama, Nummies,” either.
6. Not to be gross or anything, but it has to be said: I got to use the bathroom stress-free and without a child on my lap for the first time in 6 1/2 years (since my first son was born).
7. I ate way more than I should have (and I ate sitting down every single meal!) simply because I could, seeing that there was no one needing me to take them potty or feed them or stand up and take them somewhere. I may not eat again until next Shabbos.
8. I took a proper Shabbos nap for the first time ever in my life, since I took on the observance of the kind that merits a proper Shabbos nap after my first son was born. Amazing.
9. I shamelessly name-dropped that I know the Maccabeats no less than eight times.
10. I felt like me again.
Here are the things I felt the first time I was away from my kids. Not all of them make rational sense, mind you…
1. Like I was shirking responsibility.
2. A little panicked in the drifting into sleep stage. A little bit like: “Dude, where’s my kid!?”
3. Thrilled that I was observing Shabbat in a way that pleases my soul.
4. Blessed to have children at all.
5. Guilty for getting a night away from my kids… Yes, I felt guilty even though my husband has gotten many such nights away.
6. Grateful that my husband is a good caregiver and a competent and loving father.
7. Blessed to have things people want to hear me say about being Jewish, being an actress, and being a normal person full of complexity, tension, and dreams.
10. Like me again.
There was a lot of emotion this weekend. I get very weepy when I hear Carlebach melodies. I am very moved by spirited learned women speaking words I never knew I could connect to. I love my faith and I love stories from the Talmud and I love the Kabbalah references I understand and also the ones I don’t. I love laughing and chanting and singing, and closing my eyes and imagining the world as I would design it were I in charge of designing it. I love connecting to all kinds of Jews, and it makes me really happy and fulfilled to connect that way.
I missed my kids, and I simultaneously didn’t miss everything about them or everything about me with them. I wish I could be the relaxed and laughing and fulfilled Mama I was when I closed my eyes this Shabbos. I wish the light and bliss of Shabbat could fill me up every time I feel dark. But it doesn’t. One day it may, and what I can do is keep working at it by studying and learning and praying so that the person I was at Jewlicious and the person I am not at Jewlicious is closer to the Oneness I seek to draw near to.
I thought of this prayer once I got home and put my boys to bed and prepared for bed myself:
Hashkiveinu, Adonai Eloheynu l’shalom.
V’ha’amideinu, Malkeinu, l’chayim.
Lay us down, Lord our God, to peace.
And lift us up, our Sovereign, to life.