A funny thing happened when my son was born. I was lucky to have a great group of friends who had babies around the same time. When the loneliness of being a new parent set in, I could give them a call and make plans to go for a walk together or meet for a playdate.
It was great to have people I could talk to about diapers and sleep training. There is nothing more helpful than advice from a trusted mom friend (except for maybe great hand-me-down kid’s clothing).
As our kids grew, our conversation shifted from swaddles to puzzles, from teethers to Magnatiles. I love to talk about my kids because they are the most important thing in my life right now. There is nothing more pressing or real than a baby fever, or a preschooler learning the difference between “M” and “W.”
But something was missing. I had the distinct feeling that my parenting-based friendships could be deeper. It’s not that I wanted to talk about the news or a popular TV show; I did want to talk about the kids. I just needed a different kind of conversation. I wanted the chance to talk about what it means to be a parent in this complicated world. And I was especially interested in thinking about this question with other Jewish mothers.
So I set out to create a way for Jewish parents to have those deeper conversations I was searching for. To have a chance to explore the multiple demands and values that are constantly tugging at Jewish parents. To explore questions like: What from my own parent(s) am I trying to pass on to my kids? Is there ever a time when I should prioritize my own education over my kid’s education? What does it mean to raise a child as Jewish?
I reached out to Kveller, and together we created a four–part course on Jewish parenting using Project Zug, an online learning platform from Hadar. It’s not a book to read at home alone, and it’s not about watching lectures. It is a way to meet and connect (digitally, or in person) through exploring what it means to be a Jewish parent.
So, how does it work? The course uses a “havruta” model of learning, which means two people take the course together–reading texts to each other and then discussing the ideas. Each of the four sessions offers a Jewish text, guiding discussion questions, and a very short (less than 10 minutes!) high quality video. Participants access the source-sheets online and then “meet” via Skype or any video chat technology (if you are learning with someone local, you can also meet IRL). You can learn with a friend, or sign up on your own and let us match you with a learning partner.
With this course, you can develop a real relationship with another mom raising Jewish kids–get to know another single mom, another parent in a small town, another recently converted parent, etc. You tell us who you are looking to connect to, and we will do our best to make the match (like a dating site, without the stress of dating!). Or you can use the course to stay connected to someone you already know: your best friend who lives in another city, your sister or brother, a mom-friend from the park. You may even want to learn with your own spouse, using the questions to guide important conversations about what your goals are in parenting together.
And here is the key: everything is pre-recorded, which means it is all available for you to learn AT ANY TIME. Parents, especially parents of little ones, are busy in totally unpredictable ways. Each family schedule is different. So, we built a course that you can use in any way or time that works for you. Online learning means you can learn from anywhere, at any time–even late at night when the kids are asleep (no babysitter needed!). You can learn in-person during a play date or with your regular Mommy & Me group (Like LeanIN circles, but for Jewish parenting).
It can be hard to start conversations about the big questions of parenting. It was hard for me. Even when I knew my friends would be interested, and probably also struggled to add purpose and depth to their parenting, I could never figure out how to bring up these big questions. I never knew how to move from “Which store has the best deal on bandaids?” to “What does my Judaism have to do with my decision to make time for myself?”
I hope this course will offer you and your friends a way into these deeper conversations. I invite you to sign up by yourself, or call that friend and ask them to join you. Putting this course together has helped shape my parenting as well as my relationship to these Jewish stories and texts. I hope you will learn with me this fall.
The cost is a sliding scale: $36-180. You pay what works for you.
The fall cycle starts November 13, 2016. Registration is open at: www.projectzug.org.