Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kipper, Sukkos – this is the time of the year to pause, take stock, and think about the year ahead. Of course, the best way to do all that is by making sure the small but important details are taken care and you can concentrate on the big task at hand.
Comfortable clothes: As I’ve gotten older, I’ve discovered an under-rated pleasure – comfortable clothing and footwear. Forget the fashion show in shul, or trying to fit into an inspirational dress in a size that you find yourself tugging on throughout the day. Buy clothes that fit well, are of a pleasant texture, and move with you. When you select your shoes, make sure you can stand in them for a while, without any toe pinching. Wearing clothes that are comfortable and make you feel happy and energetic is very conducive to the introspection we hope to attain.
This pertains to children as well. When buying clothing for your children, make sure they want to wear those outfits, and it’s not just you who wants them to wear them. Having outfits your children are excited to wear cuts down on the hassle of trying to get them dressed and out of the house on time for shul.
Guests: During regular Shabbosim, I like to spend time together with my family, catching up on our busy week, and, therefore, we don’t always have guests. Yom Tov time, though, we always have company. However, I am still struggling to balance my desire for company with realistic expectations as to how my table and menu should look. All too often, high expectations can lead to major disappointments.
It’s important to think carefully about the number of guests you can handle with an appropriate amount of effort and still tap into the beautiful Yom Tov atmosphere we hope to create in our homes. After all, having lots of guests and a beautiful table but a stressed-out mommy is kind of missing the point, right? I write this tip in the hopes that I can keep it as well!
Sleep: This brings me to my next tip – adequate sleep. There is nothing more likely to ruin your holiday than exhaustion. Allocate time to sleep just as much, if not more, as you plan your shopping and cooking time. Sleep is crucial, not something expendable. So, if having the night meals with guests extends those meals to a late hour and you know your little ones will be waking you up at the crack of dawn, then avoid having guests at night. If you know that if you put the roast in the oven at eight, you will have to wait until midnight to take it out, then don’t make the roast at that time. Whatever you need to do to make sure you get those solid eight hours, make sure you do. Your family and your body will thank you.
Prayer and reflection: This time of the year is all about prayer, but what if you just aren’t feeling it? The obvious answer is: Do it anyway. However, the best way to get yourself into a reflective, introspective mood is by learning and delving into the meaning of the chagim. No time to learn or go to a shiur? Well, you are in luck! There are literally millions of incredible shiurim available via phone, website, or app. Listen while you go about your business, and feel your inspiration go up tenfold.
Provisions for the little ones: While you’re deep in a three-hour Shemonah Esrei, what are your little ones doing? Hopefully not pulling on your sleeve, because you’ve prepared wisely by either buying some new toys and/or books or hiding a few old favorites and only allowing them to play with them while you are davening. If you go to shul, don’t forget to pack some snacks, as you don’t want your children to be the only ones without a snack bag.
Realistic Expectations: This is by far the most important element of a successful, meaning holiday. You know, better than anyone, what your family dynamic is. Don’t assume that anyone will change overnight and simply go along with your wishes. Instead, assume that everyone is less likely to meet your expectations. If your teenager doesn’t go to shul all year, don’t expect her to sit in shul for hours on Yom Kippur. If your toddler hasn’t managed to sit by the table once yet, she won’t start on Rosh Hashanah, despite the fact that you have decorated the table with apple place settings. With reasonable expectations, you will be happy with what works out, and understanding of what doesn’t.
I wish you a beautiful and meaningful Yom Tov and may all your prayers be answered.