Often, in the course of my conversations with parents of young children, there comes a moment when one of them sheepishly says, “we try to do shabbat, but it doesn’t always happen.” They usually mean that they don’t light candles on Friday night, and that Saturday is just a herculean effort to keep their kids busy. So I ask, “what would make it feel more like Shabbat?” Answers range of course, but the great majority of them fall into something along the lines of, “more rest.”
Before the pandemic, many of our weekends were full of playdates, social and family engagements, leaving us very little time to actually rest. On weekends, we often feel as though we have to do everything as a family, especially if that concentrated family time isn’t possible during the week. What if, instead of doing everything together for those 48 hours, we build in time for each parent to have a break? I have one friend who does this quite well. Each weekend they figure out a half a day that she can take for herself and another for her husband. It narrowed the windows of time to be together with friends, but it kept them both feeling taken care of. If the pandemic has taught me anything, it is that I love my friends and family, but I need to love myself first and foremost, or I’ll have nothing left to give.
This week in the counting of the Omer we turn our attentions to the divine attribute of foundation, yesod. If our foundations are worn, then structures we build will fall. Shabbat rest is a radical act of self-love, but also a practical matter of keeping our foundations strong. Shabbat rolls in on Friday night and exits slowly on Saturday, but if that timeframe doesn’t work for you and your family – find another one that does! There is power in living by the Jewish calendar, but toddlers and infants rarely care about calendars (nor can they even conceptualize time!) so do what you can with what you have and create pockets of rest, moments of Shabbat, for yourself and those you love wherever possible.