Walking down the streets of this Jewish town, I find myself to be a bit of a bumbling mommy; shirt disheveled, wig falling off; hey, it comes with the territory of having two little girls below the age of three,right? Except so many of the women here are so together, like it doesn't phase them that they have one child in a carrier, two hanging onto the sides of the double stroller, and two snozing in their seats. What gives?
There's gotta be a lotta reasons for why one mother has it so together and another is struggling to keep up. I'll blame partially the not as put togetherness on Midwestern mentality; we know how to keep it low key. My disheveled look is actually the new chic.
But another, I wonder, is how much more have women in this Jewish town been trained, been cultivated into their womanhood roles? How much have they been raised; in values, skills, and role models, to easily slip into their motherhood identities and responsibilities?
I look at my life, and I definitely don't think I was bred into this position. When I was 16, I was legpressing over 250 pounds, running with the track and cross country teams everyday for four years. I was taking every high level class I could possibly take, My public school was, to say the least, competitive, and I was of those pushing off, one of the least aggressive of the fast academic track bunch, if that is any indication of its intensity.My thoughts and values hovered around achievement and self-propellation. I was also part of numerous numerous clubs before school to, as they would remind us, " would look good on our resume". The college resume, was the ultimate goal of high school, and to college our eyes and hopes all turned. the Promised Land.
except after all that working, grunting, and achieving, college turned out to be one grand disappointment that left me searching for something else. where was i going now?, i wondered. i no longer craved good grades or filling my life with activities. I had arrived at my destination and I was lost.
After what you could call " soul searching" though I never called it that, I visited New York and then Israel (four times), watching the women in seminary with fascination. They just seemed so... feminine. I admired how they carried themselves and the dignity that overtook them as they carefully walked around. I followed that path, learning Jewish texts, changing my identity to my Hebrew name, getting married and raising children in a very Jewish religious neighborhood of Brooklyn. But the adjustment, from achievement oriented superstar, to feminine mother, has been awkward. It's like my nurturing muscles are limp from misuse and are slowing gaining strength ( one day to 250 pounds worth! )
And I wonder. I wonder if the transition is more awkward for the secular female achiever, bred to be out in the world conquering, without all of the skills within. To nurture the inner world of the home.
Which is not to say that Chassidic Chabad women are bred to "just" be "housewives". Of course, they are conditioned to help take over and turn the world upside down so it's right side up, and follow their talents, and grow. But I wonder to which the intensity of achievement is pushed in their schools for these women? To what purpose do they aspire, are they molded.
Regardless, it's been a fascinating ride. And if there's on thing that cheers me up when I'm pushing my dilapidated stroller with my wig falling off past a scrupously groomed mother of six it's this: because it's so awkward for me, so foreign, so difficult.... because my housekeeping, mothering, nurturing muscles are so limp from neglect and misuse.. because my mind and heart and body rage towards achievement still while I try to breathe it to settle down and re-prioritize.. I know that when I do attain the level I want to attain, when my muscles do expand and flex and grow, I know the strength they have from their hardships they came across will be much stronger than those who had it easier because it was how they were molded from the start.
So modern woman, caught between two (or many more ) worlds and struggling to find her own path blending the two, never fear- you will succeed. You will integrate. You will form the new modern, achievingly nurturable woman of the 2000s. And it will be beautiful. Oh yes you will.