What’s the difference between really messing up—and just feeling guilty? For harried moms, it can be hard to tease out the distinction.
So on Yom Kippur, when we get down to the business of atoning for our sins, it’s productive and affirming to do the work of sifting through our mea culpas and ask: When are we actually hurting others and letting them down—and when are we just transgressing against an imaginary concept of maternal and parental perfection?
So with help from my colleagues I offer you eight “sins” not to atone for this year.
1. Not being a perfect mom (or perfect Jewish mom).
Maybe you’ll never bake challah from scratch, or make it to synagogue on time (or at all!) with the kids, or feed them a meal that’s not straight out of the microwave. Maybe you won’t successfully limit screen time, or clean up that messy kitchen.
Here’s a not-so-secret truth: No one, not even the person with the Pinterest board, is really doing it perfectly. Embrace being “good enough,” being kind, and keeping a sense of humor instead.
2. Saying no.
It’s no great transgression to say “no” when asked to do things for school, synagogue, baseball, camp, or whomever—at the expense of your free time and sanity, or whatever work is more meaningful to you. Speaking of which, you shouldn’t atone for…
3. Wanting more for yourself.
Maybe you want more time to frolic in nature–with or without your kids. Maybe your professional ambition, like Nicole Kidman’s in Big Little Lies, is awake and hungry. Maybe you want a chance to pursue a passion that has nothing to do with anyone else. Guess what? This is called being human.
4. Feeling really angry.
It’s not good to get angry for an insignificant reason, to sit and stew, or to take anger out on others. But righteous anger on behalf of marginalized, oppressed people–anger at anti-Semites marching in the streets? Anger that sometimes our society is structured in a way that’s really crappy for moms? Anger about bad health care plans? This kind of anger is useful, if it leads us to try to make the world a better place.
5. Not missing your kids at all.
It’s no comment on your abilities as a mom if you enjoy yourself fully without any young ones in tow—or even actively relish the chance to skip the bedtime routine or school drop-off.
6. Missing your kids too much.
Perhaps you feel lucky because you got a great maternity leave when others don’t get anything at all, or your friends planned a special night out for you and your partner–and agreed to babysit! You are cognizant of how important it is to seize the moment, and then… argh, you miss the kids. There’s nothing to be sorry for when it comes to having confusing feelings. They are the essence of being a parent.
7. Hiding or crying in the bathroom.
No elaboration needed.
8. Eating too much babka at last year’s Yom Kippur break fast meal.
Seriously? Babka is the best!