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I was sitting at a wedding, trying to strike up a conversation with a friendly bubby near me. I casually blurted a question that was sitting very heavily on my heart.

“When your kids were little, was it hard for you to be home alone with them on Shabbos morning?”

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She was silent for a full minute. She looked at me in wonder, and I shifted in my seat. Finally, she exclaimed, “No! I loved staying home with all of my kids on Shabbos!”

I felt like I was alone. In the past, I’d posed this question to other mothers, and they’d all echoed what this bubby had also said.

I wondered: Why was I the only one who felt that way? Why were women shocked when I expressed that Shabbos was the hardest day of the week for me?

It wasn’t difficult because of the physical work. I could make fewer dips, buy whatever food I needed, and get more help.

Instead, it was hard because as a creative person, sitting still on Shabbos, being home alone with my kids with no stimulation and not feeling like I had an outlet for creativity, was incredibly difficult.

On Shabbos morning, my kids would be engaged with their Magna-Tiles and Mentchies, and I would feel antsy. It wasn’t just boredom; it was a lack of stimulation. I live in Crown Heights, which doesn’t have an eruv, so I couldn’t go anywhere with my little ones. My friends were also at home, so I often didn’t have adult company until my husband came home from shul. I spent hours and hours without interacting with anyone my age.

I remember asking a mentor for advice, and she suggested that I ask two girls from a local chesed program to come and watch my children for an hour on Shabbos. It made me laugh. While I appreciated her advice, it wasn’t a great solution because I ran the chesed program in my school. I saw no chance of finding two girls interested in coming to my house on Shabbos morning. But even more importantly, I didn’t see it as the “thing” I needed. I was searching for something, but what was it?

After talking to many people, and taking their advice into account, I came to a conclusion: I realized that the primary change I had to make had to be internal, not external. The process, which took time, taught me how to lean into what Shabbos is all about.

Hashem created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. The whole point of Shabbos is to learn how to just be, and to have a break from the constant need to create and do and accomplish. The reason I was feeling frustrated was that I was so used to output that I didn’t know how to input. I had to learn to work with myself.

I needed stimulation. I needed to do something with my brain! And I needed to learn how to stimulate my brain differently on Shabbos. So, once my kids were set up and playing nicely, I decided to spend time learning on Shabbos.

I learned things that required concentration, not just short bits of inspiration. I sat with seforim, went through topics that interested me, from questions about Torah and science to delving into deep topics of Torah and chassidus, and leaned into the inherent holiness of the day.

As long as I was looking outside of me, I was never satisfied. I was so defeated. But as soon as I started feeding myself with really deep and meaningful inspiration, I felt a shift.

Of course, I still had kids around, and that meant having constant interruptions and often a change of location. But I realized that if I wasn’t able to create for the outside world, I had to dive inward to feel a sense of calm and peace.

Suddenly, once I shifted my perspective and practice, the itch to paint or write or create faded, and I started looking forward to Shabbos. It’s an entirely different pace for me, but I realized how helpful and necessary it was for the rest of the week to have that break. It might not sound so earth-shattering, but the cumulative effect of learning and deepening my connection to Hashem and Shabbos really was impactful. It affected me on every level, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

I don’t have that pit in my stomach when I think of Shabbos anymore. I don’t have that same anxious feeling of not knowing what to do with myself. It’s not an exaggeration to say that I see the actual benefit of disconnecting from “create mode” to “be mode,” and how crucial it is even for all the creativity the rest of the week. I thought that “be” meant literally sitting and doing nothing, and that didn’t work for me. But learning without immediately writing or expressing was a form of “being” that really worked.

Here’s the amazing part: I thought that focusing more on spirituality would take me away from the mundane and physicality and make me less interested in the tasks that I needed to do, but it actually redirected me back. The inspiration made me appreciate the beauty of Shabbos more and the beauty of making a Shabbos meal more.

Yiddishkeit is all about the value of the mitzvah and elevating the mundane, and I was finding deep satisfaction. The inspiration that the table I was setting or the dressing I was mixing became infused with purpose and meaning. Feeding my mind helped me have what to think about, so my brain wasn’t a runaway train thinking a loop of negative thoughts. It even helped me be more present with my kids, in the sense of feeling satisfied internally and being more available to read stories to them or play.

I realized that in a sense, as Jewish women, life is one beautiful cycle. We are immersed in physical and mundane tasks, and feel a yearning and thirst for depth and inspiration. And then we fill our minds and hearts with inspiration, which redirects back to our essential role as Jewish women, dealing with the real world. Until we need to come back up for air, and continue the cycle of invigorating our hearts and minds with soul food that really works.

Recently, I was sitting on the couch on a long Shabbos afternoon. Two of my kids were playing with Legos, and the other two were sitting around talking. I had an open sefer in my lap, and I put it down to chat with my big boys. My heart felt so full. I couldn’t believe that I was experiencing Mommy Heaven on a Shabbos afternoon, just like I heard the other mommies describing. I’d finally discovered how to enjoy Shabbos, and know how I’ll answer a young mother when I’m a bubby.

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Sara is a prolific author, with over 150 articles on www.thejewishwoman.org, 26 children’s books, and two books for women, "Close To You" and "Thought Streams."