Mayim Bialik: Why the High Holidays Are Difficult as a Divorced Working Mom – Kveller
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Mayim Bialik

Mayim Bialik: Why the High Holidays Are Difficult as a Divorced Working Mom

It’s almost the Jewish New Year! Yay! It’s so wonderful; the leaves are starting to change color (yes, even in sunny Southern CA it happens a little bit), the air is finally starting to cool off (yes, even in sunny Southern CA it dips from our typical 75 degrees every day to 65 degrees a few days a week and 70 degrees the others…), and my mother is starting to ask, “What we are doing for the holidays?”

It’s time for the New Year and everyone is so excited! Well, that is, except for me.

Don’t get me wrong: I love the Jewish New Year. I love the foods we eat, the meals I share with my kids and my ex and my mom, the synagogue experience which I find incredibly moving and meaningful, and even my participation as Baalat HaTekiyah (the shofar blower). I’m also singing a few duets this year for the holidays, so there’s a lot to theoretically be excited about. And I am.

Just not all the way.

What I’m ultimately not 100% excited about is the fact that all of this happens against the reality of being a working mom. That’s right—even though I am an actor on a TV show and my schedule is certainly not as grueling as most moms’, I have a workplace I go to every day and a set of hours I am not at home or with my kids or preparing for the holidays. I’m also divorced, so my time with my kids is divided up based on my work schedule. I juggle a lot, as do many, many women in this country.

And just to be fully transparent, I don’t have a nanny and I don’t have a housekeeper and I don’t have a chef. I don’t want a nanny or a housekeeper or a chef. That’s not the issue. The issue is that the preparations for the holiday are mine. My kids and what I do with them and how they spend their time when they are with me—all of these things are my responsibility. Although my ex and my mom and I all contribute to cooking the festive meals we eat for the holidays, my list of things to cook and prepare falls on me. Did I mention I’m also possibly hosting everyone at my house?

And please don’t feel sorry for me; that’s not the point of this. The point is to highlight the constant tension that exists when you are a working parent, especially when you don’t have “help” like a lot of people do. Certain kinds of jobs allow for taking off extra time to prepare for holidays. Others allow you to work from home or adjust your work life so that it more closely matches the Jewish calendar…not my job. I don’t even get sick days…think about it: Actors don’t get sick days!

And so I approach this time of year with a bit of trepidation and with a certain amount of decision-making tsurris. I fondly remember the days before I was working when I made menus and decorated the table with wildflowers from the backyard, gathered in baskets by my two small children with their rosy cheeks and their broad smiles. The birds would sing, the sky was so blue; things seemed much simpler then.

Now, I plan menus via email with my ex and via texts with my mom. We divvy up the cooking and we plan around work hours and meetings and conference calls and so many things I never dreamed would be a part of my life. It’s always hectic now. It’s rushed—definitely not leisurely—and I barely get time to actually enjoy the process of preparing and cooking, which I typically relish.

I am grateful for my job and I am grateful for my ex who cares for our boys so well when I work. I am working on being excited for all that this fall brings, and hopefully it will bring so much sweetness that I barely focus on the feelings many of us feel when we can’t figure out how to be everything to everyone all of the time. Sometimes we just do the best we can.

Here’s to a sweet New Year full of connecting with family and friends, connecting to God or nature or the universe or whatever moves you, and finding peace with the lives we are blessed to be living, tension and all.

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