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How I’m Staying Sane as a Mom and Rabbi

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Current state: Day five of no school as a result of the current coronavirus outbreak.

Kids’ status: “Educational” show watching has begun.

Mom status: Had a successful run to Michael’s yesterday and stocked up on arts and crafts supplies (which, if I’m being honest, will probably last us two whole days). The supermarket run was so extreme I can’t even open my fridge. I have enough mac and cheese to last me a year.

Work status: I am a mom stuck home with my three children under age 6. 

All joking aside, many of us are stuck at home with our children, unsure of when we will be able to venture back into our normal lives. We are cautiously optimistic and have set schedules for our children similar to school, have stocked up on arts and crafts, and have enough food to feed an entire zoo. Our homes may turn into actual zoos if this social distancing homeschool experience lasts longer than a few weeks! 

I do not know about your kids, but mine surely can turn into fighting cats — and that’s on a good day. “Mom, she took my Elsa doll!” “Mom, she took my markers!” “Mom, he is drinking out of MY water bottle!” and so forth. After the few weeks we are going to be home — or longer —  I can only imagine they will have morphed into wild tigers. 

It is difficult to know how we can handle being supportive parents as well as working parents. Whether you have a job or not is beside the point — to be productive and sane parents during this time is difficult. Our usual coffee dates with friends to help decompress are on hold for a few weeks. Many of us cannot take our kids out for lunch or to the park or the library. We now have many more hats that we have to wear — more balls to juggle — being a coordinator, teacher, and event planner as well. Working out is supposed to help us remain sane during this time — it is, after all, self care… OK, I’ll get to that after homeschooling and my own work gets done. Maybe during TV time?

So how do we keep our sanity while also enjoying this unexpected time we have at home with our children?

One way we can add some structure and normalcy to our lives at home is through connecting with others. This is hard to do since we cannot do playdates, go for coffee, or yoga class. I run an organization called Online Jewish Learning. We connect and learn with families all over the world, regardless of physical location. Right now, we can help our kids and ourselves feel connected through online social interactions and learning. My daughter’s kindergarten class zoomed this morning to see each other and say hi. Mom friends of mine are planning to get together online tonight, after bedtime, and drink a glass of wine and schmooze. Kids are playing games with their friends online, joining live storytelling sessions , and doing mitzvah projects such as making cards for the elderly while at home. By engaging together online — by connecting despite the physical disconnect — we can support one another and still feel grounded and connected to the institutions and people we value and love. 

So, while we are drinking our third cup of coffee  — OK, let’s be real, fifth cup of coffee — of the day at 11 a.m. (and sorry, mom friend, it is too early to have wine) let us consider ways in which we can keep our kids and families connected to the Jewish community. Synagogues are offering virtual services, kids are FaceTiming their friends, families are uniting over Zoom. My daughter and her friend jumped together on their respective beds while laughing and holding the phones. It is not how we connect, but rather that we connect. 

My kids miss their friends already, and it’s day 5, hour 3 of being out of school and stuck at home. How can you remain connected to your friends and family when our community centers are closed? How about parent meeting groups where we can learn Torah together, kvetch (obviously) and connect to one another during this social isolation period? It is important to feel part of a community even when we are physically disconnected from them. 

So while I listen to Daniel Tiger and Wild Kratts booming outside my home office (do not be too impressed, it is only day 5, My Little Pony and Paw Patrol will surely make their appearance by this afternoon), I invite you to connect with me and others in your communities. Let’s come together as moms, as parents, working or not, and support each other during this time.  

To quote one of the greatest teachers of our generation, Dad Tiger, when the times are getting tough and you are overwhelmed, exhausted, and counting down the minutes until it is socially acceptable to swap that mug for a glass of something stronger, “When you feel so mad that you want to roar…take a deep breath and count to four” and know, that your mom friends and Jewish community are here to keep you strong. 

After all, coronavirus has got nothing on Jewish moms!

Header image via ChristinLola/Getty

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