Holiday davening and small children

Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are very important times in the yearly calendar, times that even those who aren’t very religiously affiliated go to synagogue.  It’s no suprise that a time like this can become confusing for mothers to navigate – how does mothering young children and going to shul fit together?

I can only share my own decision – everyone handles this differently.  I believe there’s a time and season for everything, and the expectations we have of ourselves have to change accordingly.  For me, that means that as long as I have young children, my way of serving H-shem/G-d can’t be to spend long hours in synagogue.  H-shem sent me these children to raise to serve Him, not just on humdrum days of the week but at times that are deeply meaningful.  I believe my job is to mother them and to serve H-shem in this role – that no longer means spending uninterrupted hours in shul on holidays.  I choose not to enroll my children in the available babysitting at the shul because I don’t feel that’s the right environment for them on such a special day.  I can’t say that I would never consider it in the future, and I certainly understand mothers who make a different choice than I do.  But until now this has been my feeling, one that doesn’t seem to be widely shared.

Some mothers find time in their busy days to pray at home.  I’ve done that and continue to do that, but honestly it’s not usually inspired – probably because it’s usually when everyone is sleeping and I’m already at the end of a long day.  If it’s in the middle of a day, I’m sneaking the time during the naptime of the littles, hoping to get in as much as I can before they wake up.  What is most important for me is to appreciate whatever I can do and in whatever way, instead of comparing it to how I davened before children.  It may be different, but one way isn’t better than the other – the question is what is better for me at this particular time.

I generally go to shul for shofar blowing – I used to go at the regular time but that wasn’t relaxing because there’s the pressure of keeping everyone quiet.  Then I started meeting dh at the end of davening and being there for the second blowing.  I was blessed for the last couple of years with a neighbor who blew for the women on the block, but he just moved.  :(   That was especially wonderful two years ago when I had a week old baby and the walk to shul would have been physically taxing for me. 

Wherever you do or don’t daven this Rosh Hashana, I wish all of you a wonderful yom tova and a year filled with happiness, health, meaning, and abundance of all good things.  K’sivah v’chasima tova – may you each be written and sealed for the good!


2 thoughts on “Holiday davening and small children

  1. I was actually discussing this with my sister in law who just had her first a few months ago. She was talking about how awful she felt last Y”K while pregnant and how she wanted to chap her “last” Yomim Noraim davening in shul before she had other responsibilities. I told her I thought at that point one IS a mother, and if she doesn’t have the ability to stay in shul (whether it’s attending to the children who are born or taking care of one’s self while carrying a child), her responsibility is already that of a mother, and she shouldn’t feel guilty for going home in order to make it through the fast!
    I never had a R”H pregnant without prior children, but if I had, I might have had similar thoughts — at least make kiddush at home to raise my blood sugar a bit, and not feel pressured to be in shul the whole time…
    Kal V’chomer after our babies are born….R”H davening includes the tefilah of Chana to have children as that was what she was created for, and she didn’t go to the BHM”K for the regalim for the first couple years until Shmuel was weaned. This is a timely reminder that the avodah of mothers is to take care of their children, just like we ask Hashem at this time to treat us as an av does to a ben. And if you can chap some davening in, that’s a bonus, but honestly, I don’t feel like I should expect too much and be frustrated if I can’t do what I want.
    I did get some special second hand toys (dominoes and playmobil) to keep them busy for some time, but I’ll be right there if they need me. I might wait till I have other eyes to watch them to daven Shmoneh Esrei; I’ll see how it goes. But I won’t be upset at all if I don’t get much davening done. R”H is special enough that I’ll still feel the day, and I love hearing the shofar since it puts me back in that focus.

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