Jewish Mothering: To Worry, Or Not To Worry, That Is THE Question


I want to start by stating that I do not like to perpetuate stereotypes. They are unfair exaggerations of behavior, physical or emotional characteristics. That being said, there is often a kernel of truth that underlies the stereotype, that breathes life into its surrounding imagery. To wit: the Jewish Mother. What comes to mind when hearing that phrase? Overbearing? Neurotic? Meddling? Over-involved? Prone to throwing massive quantities of food at one’s offspring?   Although I am both Jewish and a mother, I like to think I’m none of those things (although I do admit to the last). But truth be told, I do possess elements of all those characteristics.

One common phrase that triggers most Jewish mothers is hearing, “Everything is fine, but…” over the phone from a teacher, camp counselor, youth group leader, other parent, etc.   I can’t count how many times I heard it while my kids were growing up. And now that they’re adults, I hear their version: “I don’t want to worry you but…(insert crisis here)” I heard it recently from one of my angels, in a text, natch, and of course I calmly and reassuringly responded. I even made the mature declaration that even if I were worried, I could manage it and never did I want my child to be afraid to come to me with a problem. But the voices in my head were screaming, “Oh my God! Should I come there? My poor baby! How can I help????? I want to fix it for you!!!!”

Now, I am not suggesting that Jewish mothers have a corner on all the worry. Not by a long shot! But when I talk to my non-Jewish friends about how they handle the crises of their adult offspring, their responses are much more…um…restrained. I suspect they also have voices in their heads but on the outside, they seem more matter-of-fact, more in control of their emotions. HOW DO THEY DO IT????? And even when I can control my exterior, my insides are so fired up and loud, it’s all I can to do keep my head on straight. And sleep? Oy, forget about it!

My mother used to tell me that the worry never ends, no matter how old the child. Becoming a parent means a lifetime of it! But she also told me that at some point, you have to have faith that you provided your kids with the tools they need to navigate their lives. And for the areas where you’ve made mistakes or fallen short, there’s always therapy! See? The stereotype is true!

Okay, enough about me. Here’s a picture of Bentley out for a walk.

IMG_4356Shabbat Shalom, everyone!

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