Open Letter: Not about baking cupcakes, more about coronavirus

Utter regression at a time I need strength. At least I waited until the kids were sleeping. (Not that I’m judging mommy breakdowns when the kids are awake.

WE NEED to use this crisis for positive change (photo credit: REUTERS)
WE NEED to use this crisis for positive change
(photo credit: REUTERS)
It’s 2 a.m. and I’m crying. Hysterical, really. “I’m fine,” I whisper through the phone. “The kids are fine,” “everything is okay,” I squeak between whimpers. “It’s just that... there – are – noooooo – egggggggsssss!!!” I wail, and then proceed to wipe my running nose into my sleeve like a toddler.
Utter regression at a time I need strength. At least I waited until the kids were sleeping. (Not that I’m judging mommy breakdowns when the kids are awake. And I’m not saying I’m not guilty of daytime tantrums, too.
But truth be told, this wasn’t my first middle-of-the-night breakdown in recent days. I confided to a friend that I was worried about my business, our finances, and she wired me $118 to pay for my Shabbos groceries. I was mortified. She said she wanted to give tzedeka. I returned the $118 and cried even harder. I am not a charity case, I just need eggs and I’ll be fine. I called someone else this time.
The issue is, for lots of us working moms and serial entrepreneurs, our stress didn’t begin with this pandemic. It began long before coronavirus. A long, long time ago. I always say unless you join the circus, nobody teaches you how to juggle. And we working moms have been performing a juggling act like the best of show performers since we had our first kid, went back to work, or never even took maternity leave (for us small business owners) and had to figure out how to navigate this circus called life.
We all think our neighbor who bakes the best babka, our friend who is a CEO, or that glamorous fashion blogger mom on Insta has got everything completely under control (while coiffed, made-up and wearing statement heels). Even when she tells us otherwise, we don’t believe her. We believe what we want to believe, and on some level we always tend to believe everyone has “got this” except for us.
Not true! We all have our high points, those times when we actually wish the cameras were rolling to catch our moments of family bliss: baking cookies, game nights, long talks around the dinner table, the kids intently doing homework without poking each other’s eyes out with a pen.
And then we have our moments where we scream so loud the mom down the street, around the corner and up the block can hear us. Times when we haven’t showered for days, wearing the same clothes, moving through life paralyzed, like the walking dead, trying to accomplish more, only to realize it’s 2 a.m. and there is nothing more to do but cry over eggs.
I AM going to take a turn and different approach with this letter than most might expect from my byline.
I am not going to fill the rest of this space with tips and recipes for Passover on budget, four-ingredient Seder menus, fun family Seder games, edible 10 Plagues or Passover menus for two. You can find all that on my recipe site, in my emails and on my social handles.
I am also not going to pretend I am some rebbetzin, holy spiritual teacher or life coach here to help you navigate through these truly difficult, utterly challenging and completely unprecedented times.
I am going to just come at you exactly as I am. A woman whose daytime pajamas are doubling as nighttime pajamas and tripling as tissues.
I am a wife and mother (daughter and sister).
I am a ba’alat teshuva, who left behind an illustrious career in television for the never-ending pursuit of a meaningful life in the Holy Land.
I am a serial entrepreneur and small business owner who invests in her business before herself in a vain attempt to grow a media empire.
I am a woman who often neglects herself and her relationships in the name of career – ignoring the trend toward self-care.
I am a human being who falls asleep at night feeling like a failure, realizing I could have been a better daughter, wife, mother and citizen of this world.
I am a person whose faith, trust in God and joie de vivre waiver, on a regular basis.
Despite or perhaps in light of all of the above, I have something to say that I think is worth reading.
My message is simple. All that stuff above has to change. Because if it doesn’t, then I missed the message of this pandemic. If I don’t change in at least one tiny meaningful way, or in (God willing) a 100 tiny meaningful ways, then I have lost.
Because I am pretty sure this plague was not set upon humanity so I can bake DIY Disney-character cupcakes with my kids. That’s certainly a happy side effect of this ordeal, but if my faith, my relationships and my character are not improved, then there is really no hope of me getting out of these pajamas anytime soon.
Oh yeah, sure, sure, the world might return to “normal,” but with no change I’ll just continue sleepwalking right through it.
The writer, Jewish food and lifestyle expert, is famous for sharing Jewish comfort food with fans worldwide. Her global media brand includes her website, which features over 10,000 recipes, and the viral @JewlishbyJamie how-to videos with almost one billion views. Today Show regular, seven-time best-selling cookbook author and mother of six, she is known as the “Jewish Rachael Ray” (New York Times) and “Queen of Kosher” (CBS).