When I walk into the grocery store with my three little boys (one hanging off the side of the cart, another running up the aisle, and the baby likely fussing in the carrier), I often get unsolicited advice. Usually, I smile and nod and ignore as I’m likely not even listening because my brain is so used to constant noise and requests and complaints that it’s all just a constant hum to me of background happenings.
One comment however really did sting.
“Don’t lose yourself in motherhood, they’ll go to college one day and you’ll have nothing”.
If the Pandemic has given us one grace, it was a hiatus from random comments in the grocery store. Still, these hurtful words did hold some truth. I actually think of them often on a Shabbat morning.
When we can wrangle our crew to synagogue it’s only for Tot-Shabbat and while I do love a good rendition of BimBam (who doesn’t!) I can’t help but miss some of that sacred energy I could capture in a traditional service. How close I could feel to God and to my own thoughts and prayers.
Of course, watching my children enjoy Tot Shabbat (or at least the cookies and juice afterwards) is its own sacred joy, but I still miss some of the spiritual moments I lose in motherhood.
This is the “both/and” philosophy of life because emotions are messy and always overlapping.
Part of this yearning for a more adult spiritual connection is also based on missing the access I had to spiritual Judaism when I was younger. Summer camp and USY made spiritual connection part of my routine and there’s really no perfect replacement in adulthood.
I’m nostalgic for how easy and accessible those moments were.
Honestly, I missed Havdalah most.
The candlelight beneath the stars, holding the hands of my best friends as our eyes teared up, carried away by the beautiful melodies and human togetherness of it all. I decided I should try to convince my husband and kids to do Havdalah with me. This is one of those things where ‘more religious’ families might be in the habit of doing Havdalah weekly but the ‘average’ North American Conservative Jew likely wouldn’t, and it’s hard to institute something new.
I attempted it…but it was a spectacular failure. To be fair, trying to institute anything around bedtime on a Saturday night is just poor planning on my part.
I almost gave up until one Motzei Shabbos the kids’ bedtime routine actually ended early, my husband had something he needed to do and I found myself alone and free on a Saturday night. So I got out my Havdalah candle, some wine (ok that was probably already out), and some spices, and I did my own Havdalah ceremony all alone in my backyard.
Did I feel awkward? Yes! Did I share it on my Instagram account to somehow feel less odd standing at night in my backyard singing to a giant candle? Also yes!
Turns out, I freaking LOVED it. It was my own form of spiritual self-care.
I had never considered doing Havdalah alone or turning the ritual into a personal moment of reflection each week. It stuck, I continue to do Havdalah most weeks, and sometimes I even end the night with a bubble bath and an ice-cold jade roller on my face.
That’s living my best Jewish life today.