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The Case for Motherhood

I'll never forget it.

I was at the doctors office and the older, frum nurse was chatting with me.

She wanted to know how many kids I had and what were their ages. You know, the usual. But then she wanted to know if I wanted more kids. When I said I want as many as Hashem will give me she asked me,

"But why do you want more kids? Don't you want to DO something with your life? Oh right, you wrote a book, so you did something."

I was floored.

I have a bunch of kids and she asks me if I want to DO something with my life??

I responded that having a child with a medical condition is the ultimate "doing something". I asked her why is it more valid for me to work as a special education teacher with other people's children then to dedicate myself to my own child who is differently abled and will blossom the most under my own care?

When I take my child and try to get him the best medical care and the best therapists and then I watch him respond, that is the ultimate success.

And when bez"h I hope to celebrate at his graduation or his Chupah, there will be no bonus or raise or fireworks. But the fireworks will be in my head, because only Hashem and I know the amount of effort I've put in to raise this child. And Hashem and I will celebrate.

I want to take a moment to acknowledge and validate those who are still waiting for their children to respond to medical treatments or for their child to get married or to follow in their ways.

I did learn what the Rebbe has to say about Peru Urivu. This is something that is a huge struggle for my peer group. The trigger topic of the women in their 30's. Some of us want more kids and some of us want a break. But I what I think is missing from all the discussion is what Hashem wants from us.

In the Rebbe's Sichos, the Rebbe never says that using birth control is wrong. Sometimes, using birth control is the right thing to do. The Rebbe talks only about the negative effects of family planning. The idea that we are somehow in control of our family.

The truth is we don't get to control our family. How many women end up with unexpected pregnancies? Or want more children then they have? Or want more children but must use birth control because of the circumstances? Or want children who are perfectly healthy? Or at the very least want kids who eat dinner without a fuss, do their homework promptly and don't fight?

We want so much to be in control so we try.

We think that if we would just get our kids the right therapists, or the healthiest food, or the best teachers then our kids will turn out perfect. We have plans for how we want our families to turn out. We pressure ourselves so much as mothers to be as perfect as possible so our kids turn out as perfect as possible. And sometimes that stress to be so perfect makes it hard for us to want a bigger family.

But we don't control our family. We don't control its size, it's shape and how our kids turn out. We can only try. And sometimes we might wonder, why try? Isn't it easier not to?

Then we learn the Rebbe's Sichos. The Rebbe empowers us as mothers. The Rebbe tells us there is nothing more important than being a mother. The nurturer of her children. Not that we are in charge of how they turn out. We are only responsible to nurture them.

When you make supper for your children, that is earth-shattering. When you sit on the floor and read a book there is confetti flying. When you say Shema with your child at night, all the Melachim are watching you and giving you a standing ovation.

Something I learned from many years of teaching is that while I can give handouts and guide parents on their parenting journey, yet each child is a reflection of their parents and the love and care and discipline that a parent gives cannot be replaced.

But all that giving and nurturing doesnt seem like "real work" . Sure you have kids, but what do you really do?

It doesn't seem glamerous because the world at large doesn't recognize having children as glamerous. It's up to us to recognize how important it is to have children and take care of them. To support those who are having many children.

We should not expect mothers to do it alone. "It takes a village," is more than just a saying. If you are out somewhere and you see a mother with a few young crying kids, offer to hold the baby while she is trying to find the diapers or the snack or put on the coat or whatever else is happening. Or maybe she is shopping in Empire Kosher with a bunch of kids because she forget to get something for dinner. Offer to entertain the kids. Make silly faces or ask them what they learned in school today.

I was talking to a couple from a secular background who chose not to have children so they could be free to "enjoy" life. I told them that society needs children in order to survive and while they may have chosen to "enjoy" life instead of contributing to society, at the very least, they could be helping and appreciating those who are raising the children of the future (the ones that will be paying their social security funds in a few years). She thought about it and agreed.

Yes, it is super, difficult hard work. But it's important hard work.

Until recently, I never really understand the idea of Ki Adam Eitz Hasadeh. But then I got one of those MagicGrow Aerogarden kits. I had to set up the soil, add food and change the water. Then I had to keep the pot clean, and keep refilling the water and adding food. My kids and I waited every day for it to grow. We were thrilled when the plants finally grew and then I was able to add the basil and thyme to my cooking. Unfortunately, we went away for Sukkos and all the plants died. It was so devastating but also made me live the experience of how hard it is to raise flowers. To nurture them so they thrive and develop.And sometimes, a harsh storm comes thats beyond our control and the flowers take a hit and we have to nurture them again. Sometimes that happens with our children too. Our job is to water them, nurture them and feed them. We can't prevent all bad things from happening to them, but we could be there for our kids.

And what could be more rewarding work than that?

Whenever I pass my elderly neighbors tending to their flowers, I tell them I love the flowers and hope to have a garden one day but right now I'm growing my children.

I'm here to tell you that it's ok not to be perfect. If your kids shoes are on the wrong feet, if someone steps on the baby, if you forgot to bring a snack with you and everyone's grumpy, if you didn't realize it was vacation and sent your kid to school (true story!). It's ok if your flying and everyone is staring at you because your kids are being kids and they have forgotten what kids are like.

Just keep doing what your doing. Hashem chose you to be your children's mother. This is a Shidduch that Hashem made himself. You are the best mother for your kids. (Although, sometimes even the best mothers need help and guidance) At the end of the day, nobody can raise them better than you.

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