A few weeks ago, I received the following email from a regular KOAB reader:
I feel pretty good about my time management skills but the frustration I have is that as observant Jews- we have so much more to do!
I love my Jewish life but I have to be honest that (especially during Pesach recovery) I sometimes resent having to cook so much! I meal plan weekdays and shabbat but I am always thinking about shabbat and chag and it can be a burden.
I hate staying up till midnight cooking for shabbat on Thursday nights after I just cleaned up from regular Thurs night dinner (which is always simple stuff, like veggie burgers or omelets but still….) I work on Fridays and even in the past when I didn’t, I resented that the whole day became about cooking! I also find that I have lots of guests on Shabbat, which I love but is sometimes a lot of work.
For me, and I’m sure for other women like me, the question of finding time to exercise for example, is complicated by the responsibilities associated with living a shomer shabbat life.
What advice do you have?
There’s no doubt that the Jewish “rhythm” adds a complicating factor to anyone trying to streamline and simplify their schedules. As I recently said to a non-Jewish friend of mine, cooking for Shabbat is likely making Thanksgiving dinner x2, 52 times a year.
Only on Thanksgiving, you can use electricity.
One way we have simplified our lives is by keeping Friday nights almost exclusively for our family. We rarely have guests Friday night — especially since we tend to bring Shabbat in early so that our kids can get to bed at a relatively decent time.
I also make very simple meals for our family Fridays, like chicken fajitas, chicken or burgers on the grill, or spaghetti and meatballs. And I serve fresh fruit for dessert, rather than baking something elaborate.
I know this won’t work for every family, but if you can get your spouse and kids on board, it will significantly reduce your Shabbat burden.
My friend Jessica, who is a full-time physician, married to a full-time architect, with three boys five and under, has come up with an ingenuous system that works great for her family. Each evening, she makes one thing – main course, side dish, dessert, challah. She triples or quadruples the recipe, so her freezer is always stocked with the full components of a Shabbat meal.
If you have the evening hours with which to do this, I think it’s a great option.
But more than new systems, frankly, I think as women, as families and as communities we need to get better about giving ourselves a little bit of breathing room.
Lechem mishneh is a requirement. Four course meals, with six salads and two main course options is not.
No one can do it all, all the time.
Ask yourselves: What must I do, halachically? What do I want to do, personally? What’s important to my husband? My children? Me?
And – most importantly – What can I let go of?
I’d love to hear how you all balance the responsibilities of “life” with the requirements of “Jewish life”. Do you feel like you have a good balance – or are you careening toward burnout?