I’m not sure how I’m doing as a mother. I mean, all self-criticism aside, I’m trying to take a step back, have some third-eye awareness and really look at my family life from an objective standpoint. 2018 was especially difficult but it was also the year of accomplishments. In 2018 I finally finished my Master’s degree while working two jobs, writing, taking care of two kids and tending to my husband/life-partner. It required finishing my thesis and taking my last class in 19th Century literature. Many of my friends would say things like, “I don’t know how you do it!?” A co-worker consistently whispered “Hey superwoman” as she strode past my cubicle and my brother told me I was “doin’ good” as he so eloquently put it with a slight Brooklyn accent. Still, overdoing it often felt like letting everything in my household fall apart.
In the fall we didn’t have enough funds to send Helen to her ballet class. She would have to wait for the winter classes when we could afford it again. Monday nights I would come home from my class so tired that Alma, my 1-year-old, would cry to be held and I would just cry with her. I was also teaching an English class to college freshman, many of them coming out of public school in New York and completely unprepared for college life. Many of them came to me just to talk about how scared they felt. Adrian (my hubby/partner) was so tired he would lie on the couch and let our girls jump all over him and laugh. He couldn’t move, it was the only game he could play that would entertain them; he called this game “corpse.”
One thing that kept us all sane was our commitment to celebrating every holiday on the calendar. For Adrian, a Mexican Catholic, the 12th of December and Christmas are big holidays. For me, an American Jew, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Hanukkah are the big ones. We all do Thanksgiving as a traditional celebration as well. With everything that was going on this past year, looking forward to the holidays was one of the most unifying family experiences we could share. Sure, Helen dropped play-dough all over the floor and Alma ate it. OK, Adrian left the bathroom door open and when I got home I found Peppa Pig and Cookie Monster having a tea party in the toilet. Yes, one day there was a buttered roll wedged in between the children’s books on the bookshelf, but Hanukkah was around the corner and then Christmas was coming!
When I had finished my thesis I still had to take one final exam in order to graduate on time. The test was for a professor whom I detested. When I sat down to take the final the professor handed me a blue booklet and asked, “Did you study? This will be very difficult.” When I handed her eight hand-written pages on John Ruskin I laughed and said, “That wasn’t so hard.”
I had two babies and finished three degrees. In the morning I feed my children, I get them dressed, I read to them, I teach them their letters and numbers and Spanish and English and Hebrew and…. John Ruskin may have been an art critic and a famous architecture connoisseur but could he sing all the lyrics to Moana’s “Let it Go” while flipping pancakes and studying deconstruction? Did Ruskin make sure that a menorah, a Christmas tree AND an interfaith wreath hung around the house and on the front door? Did Ruskin’s vision of faith leave room for different beliefs and different ways of praying? My teacher’s challenging tone did not stir me. The fact that I have committed to my faith-filled lifestyle and held onto it during the most trying times shows an allegiance to my family, even though I often question how I am doing my job as a mother.
So many things fell apart in 2018. Stress took its toll on my health and the health of my family. 2019 will be about getting healthy. On New Year’s Day I sat down on the couch for the first time and looked around the living room. My family is made up of so many colorful traditions. We have Hebrew letters on our walls, books in Spanish, religious statues, Jewish prayers, little Buddha statues that sit by the window. We believe in sitting at the kitchen table and being grateful for the food we have instead of asking what we need more of. This comes from the humble beliefs of both the Catholic and Jewish traditions.
I am no superwoman, no more than any other mother is. We all struggle with trying to do enough while still trying to take care of ourselves. We all question if our “good enough” is good enough. Those of us who work feel the guilt of leaving our children at home. Those of us who stay home feel the strain of not having time for ourselves. Those of us who have faith have something magical. Those of us who have two faiths pave the way for a more powerful magic.