By Danit Schusterman for COLlive
Motherhood is one of the most fulfilling journeys life has to offer, and so is being a full-time Shlucha of the Rebbe, but balancing it all can be emotionally and physically exhausting. When there are so many things vying for your time and attention throughout the day, it is easy to feel as though you’re not excelling in any of your roles, at home or in your shlichus.
While the perfect shlichus-family balance may feel unattainable, I spoke with 5 successful mothers and shluchos to discuss some of their strategies that they use to maintain their sanity and purpose as full-time shluchos, wives and mothers. The wisdom and tips they shared can be emulated by all – whether you are on Shlichus or not.
Here are the 10 tips from Mrs. Chanie Chein of Chabad of Brandeis University in Massachusetts, Mrs. Mushky Feldman of Chabad of Iceland, Mrs. Leah Namdar of Chabad Lubavitch Sweden, Mrs. Tzippy Weiss of Chabad of Miami Lakes in Florida, and Mrs. Altie Wolvovsky of Sonoma County Chabad Jewish Center in S. Rosa, California.
1. Set a routine.
Leah: It really makes a difference to make sure to take our spiritual vitamins – like davening and saying Chitas as soon as possible during the day. This gives energy, calm and perspective for the day ahead.
Tzippy: I wake up very grateful to Hashem for what I have. I tell myself, ‘today will be a great day and I will do the best that I can’. I also make sure that I look put-together every day, even if I have nothing specific planned for that day. I get dressed nicely, put on makeup and get ready to face the day.
Altie: Family is a priority. After that, certain things that are a must like Shabbos and Yom Tov and certain community events, come next. First, do the things you enjoy and later the things you least enjoy. I always say that I will not regret if I had one less class or one less event, but I will regret not giving my children what they needed.
Chanie: To me, I need to give to my family first. The only way I can do this well is to invest in myself. We all have our own version of self-care and how we can fill ourselves up. I allow myself to take stock of what’s important and then I am able to bring a healthier self forward.
Tzippy: Many years ago, I decided that my family would come first. Well, specifically, Hashem, my family and then my shlichus. I feel that by putting my family first, the people in my community notice and respect the dedication I have to my family.
3. Work efficiently.
Leah: One thing that really helps when writing a daily checklist is to have 2 or more parts to the page: Family, Shlichus, etc. When you write down everything that needs to get done that day in each category, it really helps towards getting it done.
Mushky: Our Shlichus involves servicing the many Jewish tourists that visit Iceland. So we needed to set up an efficient system for them. We have a very resourceful website with all the information they need, as well as a system for Jewish tourists to order kosher food.
4. Be in tune.
Altie: I learn from others, but most importantly learn from myself. Be honest with your kochos (strengths) and with your community and set of individual circumstances and work accordingly with one thing at a time.
Chanie: Life is fuller and more colorful when we accept that we are all constantly evolving. We are evolving, our relationships with our spouses and children are evolving. To understand and accept this allows us to be more present with ourselves and our families.
Leah: Get cleaning help. The people who look like they have everything under control are the ones who have cleaning help! If you don’t have, get. If you do have, get more!
Mushky: If someone else can do it, let them do it. And don’t be afraid to ask for the help you need. I homeschool my children but we are having a girl come out to help us with that. When people in our community offer to help, I always say yes and delegate a job for them to do. If I see I need extra help with something, I reach out and ask people to help. The people in our community really like being asked to help as it makes them feel really involved. Oh, and get lots of cleaning help.
6. Stop comparing yourself.
Chanie: We should only live according to our own expectations, and not what we think other people expect. Don’t compare yourself to anyone – especially on social media. Become the person Hashem created you to be.
Altie: In life in general, don’t compare yourself with others. Just don’t go there. Focus on the things that you need to do and how you are going to do them.
Leah: I try to take a walk with my husband a few times a week. This is a very enjoyable quiet time that we have together. It is also good exercise and it’s lovely to be out in nature with the best company!
Tzippy: I write. I write poetry and make up songs. I enjoy singing. I make sure to get a manicure or a massage once a month.
8. Spiritual self-care.
Leah: I write to the Rebbe either by emailing my letters to the Ohel, or calling the Ohel by phone. Sometimes I will put it in a Sefer. We try to send the Rebbe Besuros Tovos as often as possible.
Mushky: I see my spiritual connection to Hashem through homeschooling and educating my children. I also feel very connected to Hashem when I share Torah with others. We try to make all our meals like a farbrengen and celebrate all the Chassidishe Yomim Tovim together with much enjoyment.
Altie: Do things that you like to do. I recently started a Torah class. I love teaching, it gives me a lot of chayus, it’s not stressful and it’s something I enjoy very much. I really try to stay connected to the Rebbe as it gives me tremendous strength to continue doing what I’m doing.
9. Be flexible.
Mushky: When we first arrived, we had no idea just how many Jewish tourists were passing through and needed our assistance. Same with the community. We realized quickly that we need to always be prepared for whatever Hashem sends our way. Recently, a plane flying from Poland had an emergency landing here in Iceland. There we 60 Jewish kids on board returning from a March of the Living tour who needed kosher food. We were obviously not expecting this but we were able to take care of these travelers while they were stuck here.
Tzippy: A few years back we took a family vacation. While away, there was an emergency situation with one of the members of our community and we had to cut the vacation short and go back and help the family deal with it. Our children understood that sometimes things happen that are unexpected and we need to be responsible and take care of what needs to be taken care of. It teaches the kids to “roll with the punches”, and that everything is by design of the Aibishter, we are not always in control.
10. Keep going
Leah: Sometimes I think that we are often a ‘Jack of all trades, master of none.’ None of us can manage everything at once at the same moment. There will always be one more thing to do. We need to just do one thing at a time… and Hashem will help it happen!
Chanie: It is fraudulent to say ‘“If only I knew the secret to balancing it all, I’d be less overwhelmed.” This is not true. Life is fluid. There is no REAL secret advice or solution. Life keeps moving, as do we. And if we just dance through it at our own pace, we will all be okay.
This article was first published in the COLlive Magazine – Shvat 5780 edition, distributed free to Crown Heights residents, visiting Shluchos and guests. Look out for your free copy in local stores and restaurants.