Shabbat is over, and another week begins. We spent this past Shabbat with a family of friends - a nice couple with their four little children - and talking with them left me deep in thought.
Our friends are a religious family in their thirties. They live in a nice comfortable home with a small garden and a big mortgage. He is a software engineer; she is a teacher. Both are happy with their lot and are really very nice people and dedicated parents.
Their day begins at 6 AM. By 7:30 the whole family is out of the house. The children are dropped off at preschool and daycare, where they stay until around 16:00. They have lunch and some afternoon activities there, and after they are picked up by their mother, they are driven to some more extra-curricular activities almost daily. At around 6 PM they get home, eat dinner, and are in bed by 7 to begin everything all over again the next day.
Am I the only one who feels this is a little too much?
In contrast, our day begins at a leisurely pace around 8 AM. We get up, feed the animals, have breakfast and do the chores, and engage in a wide variety of activities until lunchtime. If the weather is nice we may go out for a walk or work in the yard. We may settle at the table to quietly draw or write. Legos are taken out, dough is on the rise, a friend stops by for a visit. Questions are asked. "What do you think will happen if we mix bicarbonate and vinegar? Are all the germs gone from my hands now that I've washed them?"
I can honestly say we don't sit around and get bored. I feel our days are pretty full. But suddenly I was hit with the full impact of what it would be like to juggle home, work, and four children aged 5 and under with their all-day-long activities. I don't think I could do that; so I was left wondering - is this nice well-meaning Mom doing too much, or am I not doing enough? Am I lazy, or is she over-active? I suppose the answer is neither - our lives are just very, very different.
There's a very neat Hebrew word used to describe a child's or adolescent preschool/school occupation. It is "misgeret", which literally means "frame". So, it figures a school and extra-curricular activities "frame" the children's (and, by the by, their parents') lives. And to me, somehow, it seems excessive that a child's entire day should be "framed", from the moment they get up and until they go to bed.
I won't even touch the question of money right now (and rest assured, preschool and daycare and extra-curricular activities for four kids cost a bundle in Israel). Suppose I could easily afford to put our life in such a nice shiny "frame". Would I want that? No, I guess I would not. I guess I'm just not a fan of "framing" altogether.
Obviously we do have our limits. We chose to have them by choosing to live as Orthodox Jews. Our lives move to the rhythm of seasons, holidays, and days of the week. We get up, work, eat and sleep at reasonable hours. But not every hour and every minute we live is scheduled. We live at a gentle and quiet pace. Perhaps I am spoiled to have it - the more I think of it, compared to what others have, the more I consider it a luxury. But I love it; I cannot help it.
Tomorrow we will begin all over again. We'll feed the chickens and read children's books. I'll look up at the sky and decide whether I should hang the laundry inside or out. I'll see the school bus pass by. We will, probably, learn something new.
I'm looking forward to it.