Recently I made a bad judgment call which left me standing outside my apartment building hot, dehydrated, and hungry. My load of unpacked groceries that needed to be hauled upstairs was in direct competition with my son who needed to be picked up from nursery school. Leaving the groceries, I went for my son, who was ready for a nap and insisted on being carried the whole way. I hailed a passing neighbor, and the two of us managed to shlep the whole lot upstairs.
Once upstairs, I was still feeling the consequences of my poor planning. I rushed to unpack the dairy products, which had already been baking in a hot car under the Israeli sun for an hour. My sleep-ready toddler followed me back and forth from the kitchen to the lounge, his favorite picture book in his hand, his expression exceedingly baffled as his mother ignored his obvious and legitimate request for his usual pre-nap story.
Once upon a time, in the days of early motherhood, this entire experience would have left me guilt-ridden and self-critical. Instead it left me grateful.
Allow me to explain. Even in my state of stressed out hyper-drive, as I rummaged through sacks of groceries in search of dairy products on the verge of no return, I recognized this experience for what it was -- a bad judgment call; an experience in which I should have known better, and one I would not be repeating in the near future.
Rather than berating myself, I thought about the many women who are forced into this same experience by circumstance, and I felt blessed that this was an anomaly, and not my daily reality.
Our children need us to overcome our egos.
Young motherhood is a heady experience, as new mothers confront the weight of maternal responsibility. Yet mature motherhood requires waking up from the dream of our own omnipotence, and recognizing how even as mothers, we are constrained and limited by circumstance. Although we may wish to give our children the world, we cannot give more than our life situation allows us.
A couple that struggles with infertility issues may wish desperately to give their existing child a new sibling, but are unable to do so. A mother who struggles with a chronic and debilitating condition may wish to give her children more time and energy than her illness permits. A single parent may find the economic burden of supporting the family severely limits the time available to spend with the kids.
Each of these examples reflects an extreme case. Yet hidden in the abundance of our own lives lay equally challenging and constraining limits. It is incumbent upon us as committed parents to discover them, because the task of raising healthy and holy children is simply too much for us alone. Only the awareness of our limitations will bring us to the humility necessary to ask for help when we need it.
Help is available in our marriages, friendships, extended families, communities, synagogues, parenting classes, therapists' offices and most of all -- from God. But all of this help is dependent upon recognizing our own limits as mothers, and the ways in which we are products of our times, and our circumstances.
When we find ourselves facing the limits of our own giving, let's recognize that this is an opportunity to learn humility, and ask for help. Our children need us to overcome our egos, because their needs are not necessarily bound by our opportunities. And when we find ourselves aware of the ways in which we can give, let's recognize that our ability to give is itself the result of a direct, divine sent blessing.