Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Question & Answer With Chana Jenny Weisberg - A Recipe For Parenting

(Picture courtesy of

A Simple Jew asks:

The Chofetz Chaim once taught,

"Success with children is 100% based on Divine help. All the efforts we expend are only so that when we come before the Heavenly tribunal we can claim that we tried. But ultimate success is in G-d's hands. Therefore, my friend, remember - one must really pray for his children."

The Steipler Gaon noted,

"There are two ingredients to raise wonderful children: fifty percent tefillah and fifty percent shalom bayis."

What is your initial reaction when reading each of these quotes? Have you developed a "recipe" of your own for success in raising your children?

Chana Jenny Weisberg answers:

“Every parent in this room is a juggler,” Rebbetzin Rivka Marga Gestetner told a gathering of neighborhood parents a few months ago. “The mistake we all make is that we tend to think we are juggling a few balls: career, marriage, children, and home, let’s say. But, the reality is that every parent in this room is juggling thousands of balls. Raising children, for example, on its own is thousands of balls: keeping track of the dentist appointments, who prefers which sandwich in his or her lunch bag, helping your daughter with her math homework and your son with his reading.

“It can be overwhelming because it IS overwhelming. The reality is that some of these thousands of balls are going to crash to the ground. Your main job as a parent is to make sure that none of the important balls in your life hit the ground.”

When we choose which balls must never ever fall on the ground, among them must be Shalom Bayis, in accordance with the sage advice of the Steipler Gaon. I recommend that every married couple set aside time for a weekly date, for example, to laugh and communicate with their spouses without the distractions of children and ringing phones and urgent emails.

Another ball that we must never ever drop, in accordance with the wise teachings of the Chofetz Chaim, is our connection with Hashem. We should make Hashem our partner in our lives, talking with Him and requesting His guidance and assistance as we drive our children to nursery school and sit down at our desk in the office and sit down with our family for dinner. In other words- at all times.

Another ball that I believe should absolutely never ever fall to the ground is our own happiness. I believe that after Shalom Bayis and Prayer, there is no other single factor that has a greater impact on our children. When parents are happy, the home can be a happy one. When parents are happy, the children can be happy. When parents are happy, that creates the vessel for Shalom Bayis and Divine assistance.

The first step towards becoming a happier person and parent is self awareness.

Once every year or so, I find myself slipping. The morning rush suddenly seems so stressful that the thought of the thousands and thousands of morning rushes ahead of me feels like an impending landslide. The afternoon with the children is colored in gray and stretches on into eternity. By the time the children are in bed, the mess and clutter that await me make me start dreaming about a trip on my own to Bali for the next…well, decade.

When this happens, I know that I have been juggling too many balls. I know I’m going to have to let some balls crash, so that I don’t. That is when I sit down and write up a “10 Things I Need to be a Happy Mother” list. Over the years, these lists have changed, because I have changed, and the needs of my family have changed as well.

My most recent list included:
-2 more hours of cleaning help a week.
-Babysitting help in the mornings for my 9-month-old so I can work.
-Going on a walk by myself every Monday evening
-A visit every Rosh Chodesh to the Kotel.
-Bedtime at 10:45 every night

This list involves handing a cleaning lady one housework ball. It means passing a babysitter a babycare ball. It means handing my husband the Monday bedtime ball. It means dropping the last minute emails that usually get sent off between 10:45 and midnight ball.

After I made up my last list of 10 happiness requirements, and made the arrangements to put them into action, the impact on my attitude and my home and my children was revolutionary. The morning rush suddenly seemed not so rushed. The gray afternoons transformed into technicolor. The clutter all of a sudden seemed not so awful. Who cares so much about a little mess, anyway? We are raising a growing Jewish family here!

As devoted parents who want to do the best for our children, we tend to think that by taking time out to take care of ourselves and our needs, we are neglecting our children.

But the opposite is true. When we neglect ourselves, our children suffer. When mom and dad are happy, everybody can be happy. When we are thriving, we enable our precious children to thrive as well.

Chana Jenny Weisberg is the author of the newly-released book One Baby Step at a Time: 7 Secrets of Jewish Motherhood and the creator of the popular website


At February 6, 2008 at 8:44:00 AM EST, Blogger Alice said...

Great advice.

At February 6, 2008 at 1:08:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree about the happiness. But what about women who have no help from family and can't afford help? Then they have all the cleaning, cooking, children, husband, etc. etc. to handle all by themselves. My mother didn't have help and she managed. Neither did my grandmothers, and so forth. Yet in this generation, it seems that women just get crushed without it. It is a fault of this generation. I am one of these women who asked my husband for a once a month housekeeper, and even that... But, I'm still managing and I'm still happy. In my opinion it's easy to be happy with paid help and babysitting, and going to the Kotel (which I only get once a year on my birthday because we have to borrow a car, etc. etc.) but what happens when that's not an option? How can a mother breathe and be a better mother then?

At February 7, 2008 at 1:51:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

nice article ...thanks for furnishing us with such useful advice:)..

At February 7, 2008 at 6:17:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous, Thank you so much for your insightful comments. You ask a difficult question. What I wrote is my own personal advice about what I've found works for me. It's tough to be a mother, and I admire every mother who finds a way to stay happy - whatever her methods are. Every person comes with different "baggage", and challenges and skills, and there's no single trick that works for everyone.

I would still encourage, however, every mother who is struggling to make up her own happiness list. This might be difficult depending on a woman's personal situation, but I am certain that any woman who davens for direction will figure out ways to improve her situation.

The things on this list do not have to involve spending money. I have 5 friends, for example, who decided that they wanted to spend less time cooking, so each night one mother cooks for all five families. Another mother of several small children decided she wanted to go to shul on Shabbos, so she and a friend take turns watching each other's children, so each one can attend shul every other Shabbos.

Other happiness ideas that don't cost money:

-Taking a regular walk

-Saying Tehillim fifteen minutes a day

-Sharing housework with older children

-Setting up a daily 10 minute chavruta with a friend by Email or phone

-Setting aside 15 minutes a day to read something you love to read

These are just suggestions. Every woman and every family is different. But I believe that every mother who turns to Hashem will find the direction she needs to be an "Em Habanim Smecha!"

Chodesh Tov!


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