“Ima!” wails 3-year-old Noam, “My finger has a booboo!” Running towards the kitchen, where I’m chopping vegetables for my children’s snacks for school,he shoves his chubby right index finger in my face. That means that I’m supposed to kiss it. I kiss it. And all is well.
Nary a moment passes and 4 1/2-year-old David’s screech can be heard from the bathroom, “Ima, wipe! Wipe, wipe, wipe!” Ok, so we all know what that means…
I’m ambushed as I exit the bathroom with David in tow by Avi and Uri who hug me and thank me for preparing their lunches every day. Wow- that was random!
Random- but nice..
Back to the red, green and orange peppers before me, I become pensive. It’s almost Family Day in Israel. Let me tell you a bit about this national holiday’s fascinating history:
AN 11-YEAR-OLD CREATED A NATIONAL HOLIDAY
Meet Nechama Biedermann, a feisty 11-year-old girl growing up in Israel of the 1950s. Her claim to fame is the serious letter she wrote to the Haaretz Shelanu children’s newspaper, suggesting they create an Israeli Mother’s Day on the date of Henriette Szold’s death. Lo and behold, the newspaper accepted her suggestion and inaugurated
the fledgling holiday in the next issue.
The final part of the Haaretz Shelanu write-up reads: “Remember, children and fathers: On the second day of the month of Adar 5712, we will celebrate the first Mother’s Day in
the State of Israel. That day, don’t let your mother stand in line, cook, or do laundry; you will take care of all these tasks. That day, try to make your mother proud.”
THE IDEAL WOMAN OF THE 1950s
Touching poems, songs, stories and character sketches were featured in the Haaertz Shelanu’s pre-Mother’s Day editions. When reading these submissions to the newspaper,
one can easily pick up on the way society viewed the ideal woman in the 1950s: She must be young, put-together, modest. She should be an excellent housewife, adept at washing dishes,
laundering, child rearing, organizing, economizing and, of course, cooking and baking. She should be an aproned waitress, serving steaming hot soup to her delighted husband and children.
Children were encouraged by the staff writers to take a good look at themselves and their behavior towards their mother over the past year: Have they respected and honored Mommy enough?
Do they appreciate her enough? The young readers were also told to pity mother for all the exhausting work she does for the family. All in all, the fledgling holiday was a day assigned
for appreciation and guilt.
Today a retired microbiologist and proud mother and grandmother in her seventies, Mrs. Biederman is still proud of her contribution to the State of Israel.
SHIFT FROM MOTHER’S DAY TO FAMILY DAY
However, in the 1980s, Mother’s Day was abolished (under feminist pressure) and Family Day was created on its ruins. More women had entered the workforce, had dedicated their livesto their careers and felt that valuing motherhood was a hindrance of the past.
I work at a Judaica shop and witness behind the scenes what people buy online, at the last second, as an afterthought, for mom on Mother’s Day. The cheapest rhodium Jewish star necklace with a note. This might be the only day of the year that certain Bubies are remembered by their children and grandchildren.
THE WARMTH OF A MOTHER’S GLANCE
On the other hand, I also pick up on the way my 66-year-old Dad and his brothers, all successful company owners, run to visit their mother, my Savta, at Maimonides Geriatric Hospital.
In her younger years, she was a powerhouse of a woman, helping Sabba run a huge manufacturing business, taking care of the kids, hosting guests, keeping her 3-story home spotless and baking the most delectable food in town. Oh, yes- she was a regular gym-goer and always wore heels and tailored mini-dresses. Now, her usual state is sleep. But her 60-something children’s days are brightened when she opens her eyes and a flicker of recognition can be perceived.
And I’m sure that’s the way my children feel about my glances and smiles of approval. I think my love for my kids is transferred through the cream cheese I spread on their sandwiches.
They feel my love in the way I scrub L’Oreal Kids shampoo into their hair. And of course, when I kiss their booboos! It gives them a sense of security.
EMBRACING OUR MANY ROLES AS WOMEN IN THE 21ST CENTURY
The “Mommy is Just a Waitress” theory is so not supported by me. I just don’t buy it. Is there not something special about bringing life to another human? Raising a human being, not a productivity machine? Am I really here in the world just to work, work, work, make money till I drop?
Honestly, I’m tired of the productivity movement.
I find the new Mommy Blogger trend so appealing and refreshing. On hundreds of Mommy Blogs all over the internet, hundreds and thousands of Mommies are experiencing shifts from negativity to positivity. Learning how to take the drive that transformed the Israeli Mother’s Day to Family Day, and then taking it one step further. Maybe to Incredible Juggling and Balancing Act Day !
Because that’s really the point. Taking the traditional female role- and loving it. And taking our new career woman role- and loving it too. Making our lives into a beautiful smooshy blend of tons of wonderful unconventional opposing forces.