See, the thing is, it’s not that Pesach by itself is so overwhelming. If all we had to do was make Pesach, it could be done. But the reality is, life doesn’t take place in a vacuum. We must find time for the really big chores, and the small ones, while doing everything else (insert your own to do list here).
The best way to get everything done is to make a list of obligations, in order of importance. Big jobs, such as cleaning bedrooms, can be broken into smaller jobs – do a closet one day, the beds another, and then delegate whenever possible.
Be careful not to minimize the help of others, such as when your husband or kids finish a chore, even if they might not have achieved the same results as you would have. There is nothing like a big hug and glowing remarks to positively reinforce the experience and make them want to do more. Don’t forget to loudly express how much they are helping make Pesach, and how nice everything will look once it is all done.
If you have older kids, I would suggest hanging a family calendar in a prominent place, listing when you expect to get certain rooms and tasks done. Give yourself space for possible derailment of your carefully set plans – I would give each task at least two days, just in case something, let’s say a simcha, comes in the way of getting chores done.
I also like to keep a copy of the schedule on my phone and work calendar so I can see what needs to be done once I get home that night. Then, as I accomplish each task, I cross it off the list. It’s pretty much the most satisfying feeling possible.
After each section of the house is completed, don’t forget to reward yourself and the children for a job well done. It can be as simple as a special treat, a healthier and more invigorating dance party, or simply set-aside time to play games or read books together.
However, with all that said, I do need to add one caveat: sometimes, we just need to say no, to ourselves, our spouses, our family and even our children. Think carefully about what is truly essential and important to do versus what you feel required or pressured to do. Although there is a lot to be said for just saying yes, and seeing where experience takes you, if you are feeling overwhelmed and distracted, you need to de-clutter your to do list just as much as your closets. When someone asks you to do something, think carefully before actually agreeing. It’s much better to say, “No, I wish I could,” then say yes and be irritated all the while.
Hobbies and creative outlets, however, are not one of those things that should be taken off your list. As the saying goes, all work and no play makes Jack not just a boring boy, but also supremely unpleasant to be around. Make time for things that give you pleasure, whether it is going out with friends, relaxing with a good book, or an evening with your spouse. A little rejuvenation goes a long way to keeping you focused on your goals.
As an aside, this concept of being careful with what we agree too should not be limited to only hectic times on the calendar, but it is a useful tool for juggling our overly-scheduled lives, whatever the season.
Now, back to our pre-Pesach cleaned homes. It should be noted that even with all our carefully laid plans, we can still become discouraged and despair of ever finishing the big task ahead of us, and losing sight of the big picture, i.e. making our house appropriate for the great festival of freedom. This is when we need to put down our rubber gloves and cleaning sprays, take a deep breath, and get inspired.
In our digital age, inspiration is literally at our fingertips. Find a blog that speaks to you by googling things you’re interested in, such as Judaism, working moms, etc, and bookmark it, so you can read an article when you’re feeling stuck in a rut. Most blogs send out e-letters that you can save to read as needed. You can also play Jewish music, a guaranteed pick-me-up, or listen to a shiur. There are thousands of free shiurim to be found online, and many are on the real meaning of the holiday. I actually make a point of always having a shiur or lecture playing while I’m in the act of cleaning so that it can help me turn a mundane job into the higher purpose it is meant to serve. Now if that sounds overly sentimental, write down or articulate your own reasons for the scrubbing, cleaning, shopping and cooking.
And of course, the very best way to re-energize yourself: create your own list of accomplishments and revel in what you have already achieved. You’ll be eager to keep adding to it.
So, my dear sisters in the trenches, remember. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. And who is tougher than the Jewish women of today? Just give yourself a little juice to keep on ticking and when you sit down to your Seder table, whatever form it might take, have a sense of pride in what you have achieved.
Oh, the capabilities of the Jewish woman. Few are like her.