“Are you buying those potatoes for tomorrow’s lunch or for tomorrow’s dinner?” my friend Leah innocently inquired last night at the vegetable stand in the market.
I hesitated for a nanosecond, and then chose to swallow my pride and confess: “I’m actually buying these for the soup that we will be eating for the whole week…”
Leah’s eyes narrowed, her head turned ever-so-slightly, and her jaw dropped exactly as though she had just sighted a rare species that she had read about, but never actually encountered before. An albino turtle. A 3-humped camel. A sub-standard balabusta.
Her kids, Leah went on to tell me, expect home-made meals for lunch and then something entirely different for dinner every single day. If she ever serves leftovers, she explained, she has to whip up a whole new dish based on the leftovers so that her kids don’t throw a fit that she is serving the same meal twice. She was in shock to hear that my children gobble down leftovers the whole week. In fact, my kids are so used to this reality that they don’t even REALIZE that what they are eating would be considered leftovers by their better-fed classmates.
I decided not to tell Leah what my family USED to eat before I started making our gigantic weekly pot of something accompanied by a weekly monster-quantity of a grain of some sort. Until about a year ago, the Weisberg weekly menu consisted of Monday: french fries, Tuesday:scrambled eggs, Wednesday: oatmeal, Thursday: spaghetti.* Which explains why our current two huge pot solution is a major step up for the Weisbergs and their domestically-challenged Eema.
Of course, during this conversation with Leah I felt badly about myself, as I usually do on those rare occasions when I actually open up about my domestic dyslexia with other moms, especially baalabusta moms. You know the type. The kind of moms who not only bake challah for Shabbat, but who actually look forward to baking challah for Shabbat. The kind of moms who actually fold laundry a la The Gap instead of just balling it up and stuffing it into a child’s drawer. The kind of moms, like Leah, who are frying onions and garlic with thyme and taking fresh-baked spelt rolls out of the oven when you stop by their house at 1 PM.
What was funny about our conversation was that when I told Leah how much I admire Balabusta moms, like her, she didn’t really get why. And, in fact, what surprised me was that she actually seemed to admire me, and how I was handling the whole hyper-simplified cooking-for-the-family aspect of my JewishMOM life…
And then Leah said something really obvious and wise that I have been thinking about ever since. She said, “I am a very goal-focused person. My goal is children who will grow up to be good, curious, passionate, amazing, Torah-loving Jews. The rest of the stuff, the food, the spotless house, the externals, it truly does not matter so much. Every mom needs to find an arrangement that works for her and that works for her kids. That’s all. There are SO many different ways to be a good mom.”
After she stated her JewishMOM manifesto, it seemed as clear as a crisp, cloudless, starry Jerusalem night. A mother’s ultimate, central goal needs to be raising her children as best she can. The elaborate menu plans, the blinding bathtub faucet, and the homemade cookies vs. Entenmanns are the rainbow sprinkles on top of the icecream cone.
These external niceties are a great added touch, but not the point—-AT ALL.
Some mothers are more domestically inclined than others, and some are less domestically inclined. And that’s perfectly OK and not something for me to get all worked up and feeling inferior about every time the subject comes up. In fact, after this conversation with Leah, this point seems so incredibly obvious that I’m surprised that a short 18 hours ago I was foolish enough as to have feared otherwise.
*In self defense, I want to explain that this seemingly unhealthy menu plan was prompted by an appointment with a dietician who told me that in order to ensure that my kids have a balanced diet, they should eat three food groups at every meal. So even at my lowest culinary points, I would always make sure to do that. For example, I would serve oatmeal with a fruit, so that that meal contained three food groups: grain, dairy, and fruit. Lame, but not unhealthy.