Another Baby?

December 21st, 2010

I am NOT having another baby right now. No big announcement happening here on the blog. Sorry.

But it is the conversation that I, and many of my peers, friends – and fellow bloggers – have to have. For some of is, it is a conversation we keep revisiting.

I realize that for some people it isn’t as easy as a conversation or just deciding. I also know there are plenty of times we have “the conversation”, make a decision, and G-d just has other plans.  For better or worse, as Scary Mommy puts it: “It seems like all I need to do is think about a baby and poof, nine month later, I have one in my arms.”

So there are those of us who have “the conversation” because we do think that we have the ability to decide,at least on some level.

The decision can be about a lot of things, and I am hoping that you will chime in about some of them. There are two things I hear most often. For some, it is a question of family size above all else. “How could I possibly handle more? I can’t handle what I have!”, for example. Or, “I always thought I would have X number of kids, but maybe that is just my ideas getting in the way of what is practically best for us.”

For some, it is the AGE thing… “well, I am going to be/am/am over  40, so it’s now or never!” I hear too. I am going to be 39 in March, and I guess, well, I fall in this category. I say I am done, but saying so when you still have time to change your mind is one thing…..

When I was in labor with my youngest child (who will be 3 this spring), my husband said to my doula “the next time, we will…”  There was no rest of the sentence, because I threw the birth ball at him.

Seven is a lot of children. (And any of you tempted to say, or even think ” six and a stepson” you will just have to read this post on the matter.) It is a lot.

Everyone has to do what is right for them, and for many of us that means not only having “that talk” with our spouses, but with a Rabbi.  But I do want to address those of you who are considering going from 2 to 3 or from 3 to 4, because this is a group of women I think I hear from the most.

Here is my two cents, which may be worth much less than that:

  • When you have two kids, you can have a lifestyle. I mean hobbies, vacations, date night… a lifestyle.If you want to maintain a lifestyle and choose to have a third, you have to stop and consider how close your parents live, how good a roster of babysitters you have, and how flexible you are. I believe it can be done, but with effort.
  • However, if you want or are willing to have parenting be your lifestyle, than three is nooo problem, because parenting is what your lifestyle will become. You will take vacations around the kids, and basically do what you do for and about them – at least for a decade or two.
  • … And if you have chosen parenting as your lifestyle, then four is really not a big change over three. Very often you can then have “team A” and “team B” for the purpose of logistics. Who is on which team is constantly in flux, but you can divide up the kids while doing  playdates/errands/ naps/baths/homework… you get the idea.  The kids have taken over the life, then house, the plans, so a fourth means more diapers and less sleep, but not much of an adjustment.

A friend recently related her feelings of still yearning, loving pregnancy and child-bearing, and wanting to enjoy yummy little babies. She is not sure if those feelings are a sign she should keep going, or just some biological stirrings that she needs to learn to contend with. Another friend told her of a woman in her fifties having a hysterectomy and crying, because for some, there is no magical age when that feeling just fades away on its own.

People often talk to me about this very personal issue, telling me that they wonder how can a person do what they do, times seven. “It seems so crazy!”

I tell them that it is crazy, and fun, and joyous and hard and full of love. That when I became a mom I wasn’t a patient person who could live with clutter or a lack of control. I had no choice but to become that kind of person along the way. I remain organized, I prioritize my expectations, I ask LOTS of people for help (and try to help in return whenever I can, ) and I am married to someone who LOVES babies, and loves kids and loves being involved with the poop-changing and bed-timing, etc., which is a HUGE factor in the equation for me.

My husband’s involved co-parenting is the primary, if not sole reason I have the family I do. However, it is precisely because he really does love babies that much, we do end up still having “the conversation“…..

What about you? Are you having “the conversation”???

Happy Mother’s Day

May 9th, 2010

Today I was blessed to attend a fabulous class by Rabbi Aba Wagensberg of Israel. I went to a beautiful brunch (a spread of food prepared by others), learned beautiful Torah from a wonderful Rabbi, and had the honor of driving him to his next destination, with an uninterrupted 90 minutes to talk to him. (I am proud to count him as a client of my firm at the moment.)

After some adorable homemade cards, a breakfast I didn’t want and adorable hugs, I ran past the DISASTER of a kitchen filled with the supplies used to make the adorable homemade cards and the breakfast I didn’t want, and left. By myself. I spent the majority of the day not mothering, which was the best Mother’s day gift I could have asked for. Sorry if that makes me sound like a terrible Ima, but this year that is what I needed.

The topic of the class was “Coping with Pain and Suffering”.  Rabbi Wagensberg reminded me that everything that we are given is precisely what we need in order to help us become the best person we can be.

But this is also true for everyone we are given; our spouses and our children are just the challenges Hashem knows that we need to learn and grow. While he was addressing the serious, hard sufferings of this world people must deal with, I was also reminded on Mother’s Day that my children are the most amazing gifts in more ways than one.  They do teach me so much, and help me grow.  Each one is an awesome responsibility and often a huge enigma. But gifts. Not only for all of the good and wonderful things they do, but for the acting up, acting out, and just plain stumping me that occurs on a regular basis.

Having “abandoned” them for almost the entire day, sure enough my re-entry was met with a sudden list of traumas, complaints, boo-boos and of course “we’re starving“…..

…. thank you, Hashem, for the Mother’s Day gifts……

It says in Pirkei Avot that one should make for yourself a Rabbi. There are slightly different variations on how this is understood. However, there is consensus that a person can spend time with and learn from as many rabbis as they like, but should have A rabbi that gives them halachic rulings and advice. We are not supposed to shop around for opinions on each matter until we get the one we like. Or go to our “makel rav” (lenient rabbi) when we want a lenient answer and our “mahmir rav” (strict rabbi) when we don’t.

I am frequently amazed at how many frum Jews I meet who tell me that they don’t have a rabbi. They may live near a rabbi, or know several, but they don’t have one Rabbi that they trust completely, see eye to eye with on Torah, and not only are prepared to live by what he says, but feel elevated and stronger as a Jew through their psak (rulings.)

The common response I hear is that “I don’t know someone like that” or “I can’t find one” or “I like the Rabbi in my town/city/shul/yishuv I just don’t feel that we are 100% on the same page but it’s what I’ve got.”

This is so very sad to me.  I wonder why the Rabbinic leadership doesn’t encourage people to seek this out, especially in our digital day. The Rabbi of our community is my friend, teacher, role model. He is an amazing person from whom I learn all of the time. But my posek, my Rav is many many miles away, and most of my communication with him is “cyber-psak”.

We have the most wonderful Rav. I met him through my husband. I often feel through my questions and conversations with him closer to Torah, closer to Hashem. I just believe that is how it is supposed to be. I don’t know that his answers would elicit the same feelings in other people; that’s why we each have to make for OURSELVES a Rabbi.

His answers make sense to me, and make me feel supported. Even when they are not what I want to hear. They make me want to grow in Torah in mitzvot.  There are times when my husband and I just cannot agree on what is the right thing to do. And there is no worry, because he can give us direction when we reach an impasse.

I don’t understand why this process of finding one Rav both spouses really relate to isn’t a requirement or pushed part of the process of getting married.

There has been much concern from my non-religious and non-Jewish relatives and friends that I let my Rabbi do my thinking for me. That is absolutely not the case, but I do ask him to elucidate halacha and to clarify the role of minhagim (traditions) in our lives. (Not growing up with any religious family members on either side of the family means very few minhagim.)

Pesach time of year is one where I, like most, spend more time checking with the Rav.  And I never stop feeling tremendous hakarat hatov – appreciation – that we have him.

Someone posted this great article on facebook:  “How to do your Pesach Cleaning Cheerfully in Less than One Day” by Rav Aviner. It is a great guide. I hope to read it every year as a reminder, which means sending it to myself.

… I don’t buy it that one can or even should get it done in one day, and I have already posted that I like the spring cleaning as well as the cleaning for Pesach.  As of today I have unloaded about 10-15 bags of stuff we just don’t want or need anymore. Feels great. Someone else has given me an entire wardrobe for the 4 yo for the coming two seasons. (Thanks, Ronit.)

But the article gives a good perspective, and is blessedly brief. Of course the kitchen is only mentioned in a few lines and we all know that that is where the real work lies. I also think the article is specifically relevant for those living in Israel more than in the US. But Pesach, as all chagim are truly designed to be celebrated in Eretz Yisrael after all. There certainly is truth in the article for the rest of us as well.

Slow and steady seems to be working for me this year, more so in the past, as I juggle the schedule of a work at home mom.

I try – and it is always a goal more than an achievement – to remain focused on the removal of spiritual chametz as I clean and organize and prepare my house. That is, to remove grudges, old patterns, and the “yeast in mitzvot” which was explained to me this Shabbat by the very wise Rabbi Aaron Gruman, means that which allows us to get “puffed up” without doing much of anything. The combination of arrogance and laziness.

Someone created a facebook group called “facebook is chametz”. If one goes by Rabbi Gruman’s understanding as it was explained to me, then facebook definitely qualifies. It certainly allows me to become a) self absorbed, and b) very lazy  - all at the same time. I am going to try and stay fb free for as long as I remain chametz free this year.

I have been making a lot of  LISTS. Lists are what I do when I have lots to accomplish and no energy with which to do so. The lists help me organize that which I have to do, even if I am just too tired to actually do it.

I hope you are all making good progress; perhaps you are too busy to be reading my blog. :  )

I also hope you will let me know what you think of the article.