I just read a beautiful post by Baby Lox, called, 'Supermom?'
I can certainly identify with her juggling metaphor, as it is exactly why I chose it for my own screen name!
Someone once told me, of an erev shabbat she spent, in frustration with the lack of "perfection" in her family. It was one of those days, when everything went wrong, and she felt particularly inadequate. All the kids were squabbling, nothing was ready on time, she had over-committed during the week, and had demanding guests due for Friday night dinner. She was squeezed on all sides from the stress; most painfully from the self-induced variety.
She decided to go out for a walk to calm herself, rather than yelling at someone or breaking something.
Since it was a Jewish neighborhood on a Friday afternoon, it was filled with many houses where families were getting ready for Shabbat. The windows she passed all seemed lit from within, acting as frames of a film strip replete with idyllic erev-Shabbat family scenes.
It seemed that each house glowed with beautiful erev Shabbat preparations. She glimpsed mothers brushing their daughters' hair, adolescents setting tables, fathers and sons rushing off to shul tying their neckties as they trotted out the doors, all accompanied by the intermingling of the wafting aromas of so many shabbat dinners.
She stopped walking, and sighed, trying to steady herself against her disappointments. She started to cry in frustration. Why couldn't she have what everyone else has? Why was running the family so difficult? Why couldn't she be organized, calm, in control of her family life? Why couldn't she enjoy this time? Why did it have to be so hard?
After a bit, she realized that the nagging, negative internal monologue began to repeat itself. She and she made an effort to tune it out, imagining turning down the volume dial on the squeaky, noisy, ranting radio in her head.
Concentrating on taking deep, stress-reducing breaths, she started to tune in to the family sounds around her. As people left for synagogue, through open windows, across alleyways, she began to listen to the sounds of erev Shabbat falling on her community.
"Hey, Miriam, GET OUT OF THE CAKE! THAT CAKE IS FOR THE GUESTS"
"OH NO! I forgot to bathe Ephraim!!! "
"EEEEEma! Josh has a dirty diaper!!!"
"PUT that DOWN!"
"Wait! Who forgot to put a liner in the trash can?!!"
She looked around, realizing that coming from those same perfect houses, was the sound of families stressing about getting ready, feeling the weight of the sunset deadline, calling out to the second floor from their kitchens... Many of these were almost the same sentences she called out earlier to her own children, in the same tone of voice.
She chuckled to herself, recognizing the universal sound of getting ready.
Then, she looked up at one house and peeked in its lit window. It was bathed in the beauty of erev Shabbat. The candles were in their holders, waiting to be lit. The challot were resting under an embroidered cover, in the center of a beautifully set table. She could see a teenage girl, helping tie the bow on the back of a smaller girl's dress. A boy was sweeping in the kitchen.
She thought of knocking on the door of this house, but decided to use her key instead.