This year, we have been blessed with a series of three-day yomim tovim. That means six lavish meals, plus snacks and breakfast, copious amounts of yehi ratzons, four days of constant cleanups, piles and piles of laundry, and the sinking feeling that the dishes will never end.
There may be a sharing of the burden in some families, but fair or not, the bulk of the work generally falls squarely on one person – the mommy. One look at the calendar is enough to make the strongest woman feel woozy. How is it possible to tackle all the chores these upcoming yomim tovim require, coming so soon after the mad rush of getting the kids settled into school?
Frankly, even for someone like myself who usually relishes the opportunities of special meals and a houseful of guests that Yom Tov brings, the thought of the upcoming list of chores from the shopping to the cooking to the setting-up to the cleaning-up, not to mention the wrangling of the always helpful children, was stressful enough to consider finding a place to crash for the holidays. But then, a recent incident convinced me that by going one step at a time, it is possible to tackle the impossible.
My husband and I had a wedding deep in the boondocks, and we drove for two hours through mountains and beautiful green vistas. The bride was beautiful, the hall was breathtaking and the company delightful, but keeping the two hour drive in mind, we were forced to leave early, getting home just before one o’clock in the morning. I sheepishly woke up my 15 year old babysitter, had my husband drive her home, washed off my mask of makeup, and collapsed into bed.
Naturally, the next morning, my children decided to wake up extra early, and my poor husband, battling a nasty cold, just couldn’t be relied on to take over, as he generally does. So I dragged myself out of bed, doing my best not to be terribly annoyed, and took the kids down for breakfast.
It was going to be a long day, I thought, already imagining my struggle through the workday and the overwhelming task of taking the three children to a doctor’s appointment scheduled later that day.
Then my daughter, my little angel from heaven, said, “Mommy, let’s fold clothes!”
Now that sounded less fun than usual, because she wasn’t talking about folding the regular loads of laundry, she was talking about huge plastic bins upon bins upon bins of baby clothes, a veritable mountain of hand-me-downs for boys and girls from ages newborn to eight years old, which had been passed around by four plus families. This vast collection of clothes had been languishing in my basement, along with other indispensable debris, until we decided to finally utilize that wasted space and renovate the basement. That meant the day had come to deal with all the junk that had been gathering dust for years, waiting for me to get around to it. Everything had to come upstairs, and I had gone through most of the clutter – half empty cans of paint, old furniture we’ve long replaced but couldn’t seem to part with, and plant food we inherited from the previous owners.
The one thing I had not managed to get to was the baby clothes. The formidable pile of bins had been upstairs for four days, piled around my dining room and living room, just waiting for excitable toddlers to topple over. In my defense, I had perfectly valid reasons for why I hadn’t gotten to them yet, but that did not negate the fact that they were sitting there, staring me in the face at 5:45 in the morning.
Well, what else did I have to do for the next two hours? “Sure,” I said. “Let’s start.”
And so we did. With my daughter’s eager help, I tackled four overstuffed bins, combined them into two, and filled three garbage bags with perfectly good baby clothes that I marked with the appropriate gender and age and found willing recipients for.
Let me tell you, when I saw those bags of clothes, and the nice dent we made in the pile (only thirteen more bins to go!), my mood completely changed. I felt energized, and with a lift in my step, got my kids dressed and off to camp and me off to work. My husband was still sleeping, which was a good thing, because I was going to need his help later that day when I crashed.
But as I went through the day, it hit me. Just starting the chore, and crossing off a little bit at a time, gave me energy to do more and more. As the saying goes, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
When we look at our list of things to do, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed and feel like it’s just too hard! There’s no way we’ll get through everything in time to make a nice Yom Tov. But what if you just start? Write your tasks in list of priority, and cross off each item on your list as it is completed. Don’t forget to look back at what you already accomplished. Seeing what was already done will give you the motivation to do more and whatever you don’t get around to…well, there’s always next year.
Shana Tovah to all and may the holidays bring only joy to our homes!Pnina Baim
About the Author: Pnina Baim is the author of the Young Adult novels, “Choices,” “A Life Worth Living,” and a how-to book for the Orthodox homemaker, “Sing While You Work.” The books are available at amazon.com.
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