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Being a Jewish Mother Defines Everything I Do

Being a Jewish Mother Defines Everything I Do

I am a mother. No, wait – I am a Jewish mother. I am also a lot of other things, but being a Jewish mother defines me. In my opinion, anyone who says otherwise is either lying or has achieved a level of balance that has been impossible for me to obtain.

Though being a mother does define me, I ask that you not judge me based on that, considering that my 4-year-old is quite the sassypants and curses like a sailor (I swear I’m trying to clean up my language!), and my eight-month-old is currently wearing a helmet on his head to correct a flat spot I am certain was caused by my allowing him to sleep in the swing early on one too many times. (Is the Jewish mother guilt obvious enough there? Because I can go on….)

Anyway…

Every decision of every day is made with my children at the forefront of my brain. For me, this has meant a tremendous amount of sacrifices and compromises in the first four years of parenthood. This means that tough choices, professional and career decisions, have always been made with my two little ones in mind. I not only want a career that is conducive to having young kids, but I want one that will make them proud as they get older.

I want them to see their mom in a position that is beneficial for their family in obvious ways, but also important to the values that we, as a family, take seriously. And this family, my family, values religion.

We value being Jews who are free to worship our beliefs.

We value the importance of Jewish education.

We value the ability to be involved in the vibrant Jewish community where we live.

My first job, which I held proudly for seven years, was as a classroom teacher at a Jewish day school. I loved introducing God during class discussions and using the Torah to help debrief challenging situations and the troubling times that we live in. I loved watching the smile light up on 9-year-olds’ faces when they were chosen to help lead Torah service or Kabbalat Shabbat. Most of all, I loved knowing that I was having an impact on their Jewish education, something I hold dear to my heart and have already started to impart to my own children.

Still, I struggled with putting my own kids first when I had a classroom full of students I loved as my own – so my teaching career came to a halt. The decision to leave the classroom was not an easy one. I struggled and waivered, but ultimately I had to do what was best for my family.

And then I veered off course for a bit: I took a part-time position helping in the development office at an Episcopalian school. I enjoyed my work and knew it was impactful for the school, but I couldn’t ignore my internal conflict. I knew, deep down, that my family and my community would never benefit from this work. The work was fulfilling, but not in the way I needed it to be, not in the way that I could tell my kids their mother had done her part to ensure that our Jewish community continues to grow.

I’ve since found a job that directly benefits the Jewish community where I live, by serving as the membership and outreach coordinator at my synagogue. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and I strongly believe that village should be rich and diverse, and at the same time be full of people who have the same values as my family. Where better to seek out that village than within your own community?

I take pride in my job and in showing families that they have a place where they belong, no matter what mood their children happen to be in that day. I take pride in allowing young professionals the space and opportunities to showcase their strengths, to give them the opportunity and space to network and connect with like-minded people, and to show them the importance of stepping into leadership positions within the community. And I take pride in watching my young kids smile alongside lifelong members of the community who mirror those smiles right back at them.

To me, this job comes with great responsibility. Helping my peers get involved in creating an environment where Jewish families wish to belong is something I can proudly explain to my kids when they’re older. I can show them the importance of being an active member of the Jewish community and the lasting impact of those who have done so before us.

I can’t ignore how lucky I am to be able to pursue a career that is meaningful, spiritually fulfilling, something worthy of explaining to my Jewish babies. Yes, being a Jewish mother defines me, encompasses me, and drives my every decision – and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

Jill Patir is the membership and outreach coordinator at Congregation Emanu El in Houston, TX, where she lives her husband Sam, daughter Talya, and son Ryan. Jill is a University of Arizona graduate, a former Jewish day school teacher, and a mother of two. She'll write a book someday, but for now, she channels her thoughts and ramblings into blog posts for The Huffington Post and elsewhere.

Jill Patir
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