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Anxiety, Mental Health, New & Expecting Moms, Parenting, Postpartum Depression, Self-care

FACES OF MOTHERHOOD: A Jewish Identifying Mom’s Journey

Faces of Motherhood: Jewish Mom's Journey

This series is called Faces of Motherhood. If you’ve been following the series you’ll know that the aim is to shine the spotlight on motherhood and the diversity we find in across moms. 

This series is called Faces of Motherhood. If you’ve been following the series you’ll know that the aim is to shine the spotlight on motherhood and the diversity we find in across moms. 

This is in light of a poll that I created on my Instagram showing that the overwhelming majority of moms find that motherhood is a judgmental space. Actually, if we create a better understanding of each other, then we start to see that despite obvious differences, we are actually more similar.

In my journey so far through motherhood, I found this to be the case. On the surface moms, like anyone, may appear a particular way. However, once I got to know her experience or dug a little deeper, I found that I had more in common with moms I didn’t expect to.

Such an obvious point, but one that is easily forgotten. 

Don’t get me wrong, there is such a thing as ‘finding your tribe’. Not every mom you meet, you will hit it off with just because you have kids the same age. But, and this is a big but –you may find that you make quick judgements about moms based on basic paradigms, or surface-like info, BUT these conclusions may not be fully accurate. 

You may actually have not given the person a real chance. 

Let’s open up the doors for new members!

Faces of Motherhood
Faces of Motherhood: A Jewish mom’s journey

MARISSA’S JOURNEY THROUGH MOTHERHOOD

Meet Marissa, she’s a mom of two boys one 15 months and 3 years old. She lives in Ontario, Canada in a predominantly Jewish neighbourhood and identifies as Jewish. 

Tell us  a little more about your family’s cultural background and languages you speak.

I am Canadian, my dad is Israeli and my mom was Canadian, with European lineage. My husband is Israeli, with a Russian heritage. I speak English as my first language, though I have a strong command of the Hebrew. My husband speaks English and Hebrew fluently.

I think every mother’s journey is unique. We all have our own experiences that shape the way we mother and the values that we bring into parenthood.

With that said, a unique aspect of my experience is the fact that we are Jewish. Though I was raised in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood and am now raising my children in a similar environment, I recognize that we live in a Christian-influenced society and are considered a minority. As such, I have to ensure that my children understand that we are Jewish and are therefore different than their Christian counterparts.

This was the first holiday season where my oldest son (age 3) was able to understand that it is Christmas time, learned Christmas songs in daycare and enjoyed seeing Christmas lights. This was therefore, the first time where I have been presented with a challenge in helping him understand that we do not celebrate Christmas.

I always answered his questions but reiterated that we do not celebrate Christmas because we are Jewish. However, I made a point in over exaggerating the holiday of Hanukkah, which fell at the same time as Christmas this year. I made sure to play Hanukkah songs at home and teach him about the Hanukkah traditions.

By the end of the holiday season, he was able to freely say that we are Jewish, celebrate Hanukkah and do not celebrate Christmas. Though I don’t think he understands the concept of religion, I believe this is the beginning of the necessary foundation to identify as Jewish.

NAVIGATING THE WORLD WITH OUR KIDS THROUGH OUR CULTURAL EXPERIENCES

This experience this winter made me recognize the importance of instilling Jewish values and observing the Jewish holidays in our home, as it would be very easy for us to lose these traditions in our Christian-oriented society.

When my children are of age, I will be enrolling them in Hebrew school, which they will attend weekly to learn about the Jewish religion. It very much value raising my children in a Jewish neighborhood so that their peers will be Jewish as well.

Others may disagree with this, but I feel that it is important for them to associate with other Jewish children so that they can develop a sense of identity related to Judaism.  I think this helps to facilitate Jewish values and help them understand what it means to be Jewish.

As a mom, I definitely think being Jewish shapes my values and the way I am raising my children. I hope to be able to instill good Jewish values and allow them to recognize the importance of identifying as Jewish. However, I think I am just a regular mom who only wants the best for her kids, regardless of race, religion or culture!

MORE ON MARISSA’S EXPERIENCE THROUGH MOTHERHOOD…

Q: Age you had your kids.
A: I was 29 (though it was only 45 days before I turned 30), and 31 years old.

Q: Marital status, if you’re comfortable sharing. Comments.
A: Married for five years.

Q: If you are in a relationship, how do you feel having children has impacted you and your partner?
A: Having children has definitely changed our relationship, as expected. We have less time to enjoy one another and have therefore developed more of an appreciation for the moments that we are alone.

I think it has allowed us to grow stronger as a couple, as we have been forced to face a number of challenging situations that have really tested who we are individually and as a unit.

Q: What’s your journey overall been like as a mom so far?
A: This is a good question. I think this is a very complicated question,and cannot be truly addressed in a short paragraph.

My journey has been filled with ups and downs.

Through both of my Maternity Leaves, I struggled with postpartum anxiety and bouts of depression. This was very challenging at times. There have been many dark moments over the last three years, which were exacerbated by the absolute exhaustion that accompanies a baby (a level of exhaustion that I didn’t even know was possible!).

However, my children are also the biggest source of happiness in my life. The love that I have for them and they have for me is indescribable and it makes every dark moment absolutely worth it.

I feel I have grown a lot as a person since I had my kids. They have taught me more patience (though I think I become more frustrated than ever before), they have taught me to care less about what others think and to just be more confident in myself as a person.

Q: What do you feel has been the biggest joy?
A: The biggest joy has been watching my children grown and learn. There is something amazing about watching little people learn about the world around them and practice new skills. Their laughter lights up my life. My youngest is also now at an age where he is starting to play with his older brother – watching the two of them interact, play and laugh together brings me a level of joy, words could not describe.

Q: Biggest challenge?
A: Night wakings. Enough said.

Q: Biggest learning?
A: Everything is a phase. Nothing lasts for too long, especially in thefirst couple of years. I think this is a learning that I can apply to life in general. Everything is constantly changing and a phrase that I like to apply to many events is “this too shall pass”.

Q: If you could do anything differently with regards to parenthood, what would that be?
A: I wish I didn’t allow so much screen time. Though I am not completely against kids watching TV, I wish I set more of a limit when my older son was younger. I don’t allow him to watch TV all of the time – I try to engage him in other ways. However, he often demands it and I just don’t have the energy to always say no or I need to get something done and cannot play with him at that moment.

I also wish I didn’t yell as much as I do! I think limiting screen time more will be easier than decreasing how often I yell. LOL.

Q: What was your relationship like with your parents?
A: My relationship with my parents was great! I grew up in a very loving, supportive environment.

Q: Anything you would do differently compared to what your parents did?
A: I try to serve my children less processed food than what I ate as a kid.

Q: Stay at home mom, working or combo?
A: Working mom, but I have a lot of flexibility in my job.

Q: Proudest moment.
A: Watching my little guys grow into smart, loving little people.

Marissa tells her story of her journey through motherhood so far.
Marissa and her family

POSTPARTUM MENTAL HEALTH 

A big thank you to Marissa for sharing an honest glimpse into her life as a mom and touching on some serious issues. Being a mom is though. It doesn’t matter what cultural background you come from. This experience brings us together. 

Marissa talked about some important things like mental health. Also a topic that binds us all together. Postpartum mental health is necessary to discuss openly and getting the right support is key. If you too are struggling with your mental health postpartum, please know you are not alone. 

Please seek assistance in your network and local support from a mental health professional if you are comfortable. 

In the meantime, please also check out resources that might be of assistance. 

SHARE YOUR MOTHERHOOD EXPERIENCE 

If you’d like to share your experience as a mom, please drop me a line with what makes your walk through motherhood unique. 

There is so much diversity in motherhood.
Diversity in motherhood

Please do comment below if you can relate. Don’t forget to follow the series on Instagram and Facebook!

Be good to yourself, 

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