As the working mom of three kids, a five-year-old and two-and-a-half-year-old twins, most of my week-day mornings go something like this:
6:30 a.m. - I’m awakened with three yells of “Mom!!” and two kids running into the room. We spend the next hour hanging out together, playing, and watching television. Toward the end of the hour I attempt, repeatedly, to get the twins’ diapers changed and get everyone dressed. I’m only somewhat successful.
8 a.m. - I prepare and serve breakfast to at least two children. The third is running around the house or hiding in an attempt to escape getting dressed.
8:30 a.m. - With all three kids strapped into their car seats in the minivan, we’re ready to head to preschool.
8:45 a.m. - After 15 minutes of negotiating, threatening, and bribing the children to sit in their car seats, we finally pull out of the driveway and are on our way. Although this is certainly progress, at least one child is crying or screaming about something. Unfortunately, the “something” and the upset child change daily, and the noise and unhappiness usually last for the entire ride to school.
8:55 a.m. - Once at school, we walk – well, two actually run – to the building. A different two fight over swiping the security pass to get into the building. The oldest child loses patience and walks himself to class. I follow, schlepping my own overflowing purse, three backpacks, and, often, a bag of some other random item needed during the day by one of the kids or me.
As I walk in the door of the preschool and hear many tiny voices greet me with “Hi, Rabbi Stollman!!” I try to eke out a smile and a hello in the midst of my own exasperation with our morning routine.
9:10 am - By the time I make it do my desk, I’m sweaty, frazzled, and exhausted. I debate whether to turn on my computer, drink coffee, or go back to my car for the bag I forgot. I decide on the first option, and get down to work.
And then it’s Friday.
In some ways our routine is no different. Amidst the whining about going to school after a long week, we still have to get up and out of the house.
But today we wear our special pre-school shirts for the schoolwide tot Shabbat with the clergy.
Today I will visit my oldest child’s pre-K class to teach Judaics.
Today we will have challah for snack.
Indeed, today feels a little bit different – sweeter and more celebratory.
Although I work every weekend and, as a busy mom I don’t have many days off, I know that tonight we’ll pause. We’ll slow down. Even though we cannot easily eat dinner together, we’ll sing and light the candles, taking a break from all the craziness to welcome Shabbat into our home.
And then it’s back to the craziness: feeding the kids, bathing them, and getting them to bed, before my husband and I finally sit down to eat. Best of all, though, I know the sweetest secret of the week: Tomorrow we won’t race through our usual morning routine. We’ll lounge in our PJs a bit longer before we venture out as a family on Shabbat, the only day all five us can be together to play, run errands, and hang out.
Sometimes we go to an indoor play gym, swimming lessons, or a park. Other weeks it’s a birthday party or a visit with friends and our local family. When the little ones nap, we all get a much needed rest before we head out for more activities and then dinner. Most of all, we pause, take a breath, get back to basics, and spend time together.
It is our Shabbat.
It isn’t always perfect, but for right now, it’s the best we can do.