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Born to Carpool

Born to Carpool

On being "just" a mother.


The glossy ad features an elegant, well-coiffed woman with a Mona Lisa smile and a state-of-the-art minivan in the background. The copy reads:

I wasn't born to carpool.
I never fantasized about spending weekends at the home improvement store.
I am a mother of two, but not just a mother of two.
I am more than the sum of my errands.

While I am usually not attracted to car advertisements, this one definitely caught my eye. With breathtaking bluntness, it hammers away at the very institution of parenting -- demonstrating that while I can admit to being a mother, I would never admit to being just a mother. Not only has the ad been designed to strike a chord within a large percentage of the population, it completely undermines my worth and value as a person. You see, I believe that I was born to carpool.

Before you attack my politically incorrectness, allow me to explain.

When God created Man and Woman, He charged them with the commandment to "Be fruitful and multiply." It stands to reason that God did not intend for Adam and Eve to simply go through the physical steps necessary for having children, then abandon their kids in the wilderness while they go out to yoga classes! The task of raising children was also part of the Divine Will, and it necessitates a lot of hard work. In fact, any parent will attest that more difficult than giving birth to children, is raising them.

Thus we find that parenting -- for both mothers and fathers -- is an exalted, God-given task. Yet the prevalent view in society seems to miss this point.

Why do so many of us fall prey to the feeling that parenting is a step down from a "real" job?

Why do so many of us fall prey to the feeling that parenting is a step down from a "real" job? Why is it that when a woman says she's a full-time mom, she is often dismissed as a second-class, intellectually-challenged creature? Even parents who work outside the home often struggle with the way they regard parenting versus their payroll job. How have we allowed ourselves to buy into the "bottom-line" ideal where fame and fortune are attractive, but sticky fingers and outings to the park are not?

Many are familiar with the famous story about a rabbi who once addressed a group of die-hard feminists. During the question-and-answer period that followed his speech, a cynical woman raised her hand.

"What does your wife do?" she asked witheringly.

"My wife?" he replied. "She runs a home for neglected children whom no one else wants to care for. She feeds and clothes these kids, meeting their every need. She provides transportation for them, well-balanced meals, and makes sure they receive adequate medical care."

The interrogator sat down, utterly defeated, and you could almost hear the rabbi's ratings soar.

He then added: "Those 'neglected' children are our own -- my wife is their mother."


The car ad speaks to the hearts of all the women of the world who feel that they do not want their identities tied up in mothering. They do not want to be known as "Josh's Mom"; rather they strive to be "Sally, the exercise fanatic," or "Ms. Smith, the business executive." It seems almost as if we are afraid that by focusing on being parents, we will lose our own worth as individuals.

Another sticking point is that many equate self-worth with occupation and/or financial status. The classic Jewish stereotype of "My son, the doctor" is a not-so-funny truism that many of us secretly (or openly) adhere to. The premise is that if someone has a good, high-paying job, s/he is worthy of accolade.

Parenting meets none of the above requirements. The pay is extremely low, the hours are incredibly long (i.e. 24/7!), and there are no promotions -- ever!

So why do we do it?

Parenting gives us the golden opportunity to become true givers. When we are born into the world, we are pure "takers". As we mature, we (hopefully) learn how to give, but there is always a limit as to how much we are willing to give. Parenting is perhaps the only relationship that requires unconditional, endless giving. When a child wakes up crying at night, no matter how tired the parent is, the giving instinct somehow kicks in. In parenting, unlike other give-and-take relationships like marriage, the giving is completely one-sided for a good many years, and requires a deep, relentless sacrifice that transforms a person into a sublimated giver.

Who is the ultimate Giver? God Himself. Thus, by granting us children, God grants us the opportunity to imitate His own ways through selfless giving.

Furthermore, parenting is a sure-fire impetus for parents, themselves, to grow and change, as they aim to shape their children into exemplary human beings. The best way to impart good values to one's children is to be a good role model. That means constantly working on oneself to be more patient, compassionate, giving and honest.

From a practical, concrete point-of-view, raising well-nurtured children is a parent's unique opportunity to ensure the future of the Jewish People. The continuity of our tradition rests in the hands of those who take upon themselves to educate and inspire their "next generation".

Aside from the very spiritually rewarding aspect of parenting, there are some clear personal gains as well. It is very clear that a parent who is focused on raising children has endless opportunities to enlarge his or her own life in the process. Whether by coaching Little League, coordinating a family vacation, or helping to research a project on volcanoes, we can't help but enrich ourselves personally at the same time that we care for our children.

Raising children together profoundly bonds a couple together. It is awe-inspiring that a husband and wife are offered the opportunity to partner with God to create and nurture a child. Caring, involved, growing parents will continuously grow in their own relationship as they reap the rewards of their shared giving. Not only do they share a deep connection due to their "full-time job", they also insure their own lasting legacy in this world, when their children carry on the namesake and life's work of their parents.

My commitment to parenting is not a flat-out exclusion of my own personal aspirations.

And dare we mention the rewards? What about good old fashioned "nachas"? How about watching your children navigate through life with self-confidence -- knowing that you were responsible for making them feel good about themselves. Not to mention the hugs and kisses, the accolades of teachers and friends, the closeness, and the love.

My commitment to parenting is not a flat-out exclusion of my own personal aspirations. I can still be a thinking, creative, sophisticated person. It does not exclude me from being a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a teacher, a mentor, a writer.

That is why I can stand up and say "I am born to carpool" -- carpool being a code-word for all the various tasks I perform as a parent. And I revel in it, awash with the gratitude that God has bestowed precious children upon me -- and charged me with the responsibility and privilege of caring for them.

So while Mona Lisa is battling her insecurity complex about being more than the sum of her errands, I'm at the park having fun with my kids--fulfilling a large aspect of my life's mission.

September 10, 2005

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Visitor Comments: 17

(17) debm, February 18, 2008 3:51 PM

Its about value

One of the things I love the most about Judaism is that work of women is just as important as the work of men. Thus, being a mom and the keeper of the home is not only a job unto itself, its a valuable one. Its sad that people who live in the kind of culture that reads ads like this (no matter what religion) can't understand the simple idea that women's work is valuable!

(16) chana Sharfstein, November 29, 2005 12:00 AM

I liked the article but I do NOT like the title

Being Born to Carpool indeed sounds like a quite drab and meaningless role. Anyone can be in charge of a carpool, one just needs to be responsible, punctual,have a good sense of direction and good driving skills. Being a PARENT is a far more demanding and complex role. The article focused on the numerous responsibilities of parents and clearly displayed the writer's awareness of the role of a mother. In childhood we are chiefly takers however there is a reversal in motherhood when we become chiefly givers- giving of ourselves physically, mentally, socially, economically- endlessly giving. Oh but the rewards are beyond limits. The first smile of a baby, the first hug, the sharing of a broken potato chip- those are the rewards, the blessings, the riches of life. Our children give purpose and meaning to our existence. Anyone can be a chauffeur but being a parent takes great strength, ability, skill, unselfish love and the list goes on and on. Being a parent is an honor bestowed on us. Hashem is choosing us women to paticipate in creating a better world and bringing Moshiach. Thank you Hashem for creating us as women and allowing us to partake in the most challenging, meaningful and worthwhile task of raising a future generation.

(15) Hunter Spring, November 10, 2005 12:00 AM

Precious Transport

I love this page on carpool, Parenting is such a blessing. I feel I was born to carpool aswell that i started my company Precious Transport a carpool service for kids 6-15. do to my daughter is 12 and in middle school with no bus to take her to school they ride the city bus or walk. Carpool is in such high demand in are community. do to having over 200 families on are list we have to go by schools we only have 1 van. Saturn Relay is our vans. by december we sould have 2 more. I love it anything to keep our kids off the city bus and home safe at night. so many kids take the city bus at night after football or cheerleading or after school programs they are 11-15. thier should be more carpool service for just kids. Thank you. Hunter Spring

(14) Esther, September 16, 2005 12:00 AM

I was born to serve Hashem

While I hear the author's point, I would like to add that we were born to serve Hashem, not to carpool. I definitely hope that we are more than the sum of the errands we run. I hope that there is a lot more to me than doing the laundry, serving supper and washing the dishes. Yes, being there for my children, raising their self-esteem, teaching them how to behave appropriately, etc. is part of how I serve Hashem. Being a conscientious employee and accomplishing at work so that I can pay the rent/mortgage and bills is also part of how I serve Hashem. Being a caring wife and obedient daughter is also how I serve Hashem. Being a good friend, kind sister and giving aunt are other ways that I serve Hashem. I can go on and on. If we approach life with the goal of serving Hashem and glorifying his name, then whether we are stay-at-home moms, work-from-home moms or go-out-to-work moms is irrelevant. We each have to accomplish what Hashem set for us in life to do following the path that he designated for us, and for each person that will be a very different path.

In addition, the author’s bio states that she is a web developer and has recently published a novel, with no mention whatsoever of being a mother to her children. She may not be able to truly empathize with a woman who does not do anything other than care for her children and who at times feels like she would like to define herself as something other than Joey’s Mom. The author very obviously has a very busy life outside of caring for her children and is not in the same shoes of a woman whose entire life is made up solely of being a mother and at times feel like she would like to be more than the sum of her errands. I have a friend who is solely a stay-at-home mom, her entire day is given over solely to her family and home life, and while she is usually very happy being at home with her kids and I think it is wonderful and at times envy her, there are more times when she is envying me and wishing that she was something more than just her children’s carpooler.

(13) Chana, September 14, 2005 12:00 AM


While I find the article interesting and agree on many points with the author, I did find it a bit peculiar at the end. Throughout entire article she tell us how she love being "just a mother", at the end she says exactly the opposite: I am not just a mother, I am a writer, a friend, a mentor. I think it kind of diluted her point.

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