As soon as Purim ended, there was a palpable sense in the air that Pesach was on its way. Going into a major supermarket just a few days later, one could already sense the atmosphere shift and as Pesach gets closer, you can feel the tension and stress and anxiety building.
A couple of weeks ago I co-led a workshop on how to go into Pesach without stressing yourself out. The point about planning ahead won’t be of much value now, a few days before Pesach. But the other ideas are still applicable.
1) Perspective – what does Pesach mean to you? What kind of atmosphere do you want to have in your house? A person can get so busy doing the preparatory work that they don’t even think about why they’re doing it all!
My goal is to go into Pesach calmly and pleasantly. I want my family members to have positive associations for this time of year. I want to be awake and fully able to enjoy the seder along with every other person in my family. I want to remember the spiritual messages of this time of year and feel inspired and connected to myself and to G-d.
2) Know what is chometz – Differentiate between spring cleaning and Pesach cleaning. Dirt is not chometz. I’ll repeat that. Dirt is not chometz. Here in Israel it’s beautiful to see families everywhere getting ready for Pesach but seeing others doing things you don’t do can easily lead you to feel inadequate if you’re not doing the same things on the same schedule. Remember your goals and choose what to do accordingly.
3) Sleep – don’t think that you’re getting ahead by sleeping less to get more cleaning done. No, no, no. At the most potentially stressful times it’s more important than ever to get enough sleep. Everything in life looks better and more manageable with adequate sleep. When I start to feel negative, it’s almost always related to being overtired and I need to get myself into bed, pronto!
I’m trying to drum this into my older kids in their late teens and early twenties, who are all very busy right now with work and school. I remind them that when they’re rested they can get much more done the next day. Do they take my advice? Well, they tell me theoretically they agree with it! And they also tell me they appreciate my encouragement to take it easy, do less and sleep more.
It’s so much easier to be a nice person to live with when you’re rested. My priority for this week is to get to sleep at a regular time every day, take a nap daily, and to eat well. I schedule it into my planner at the beginning of each day and make these things a priority before anything else. Really.
4) Nutrition – if you’re keeping yourself going on caffeine and grabbing whatever quick carbs you can to get through the day, your blood sugar is going to be all over the place and you’re not going to feel emotionally stable. You’re going to crash. Make time to physically refuel with good quality foods. I know, you don’t have time for this, right? You deserve to make time for this because you are worthy of being taken care of lovingly. And it doesn’t have to take a long time. An egg with butter and vegetables will keep your keep you full and your blood sugar stable.
For kids, too, make sure they’re getting protein at every meal and at snack time. So much misbehavior is because kids get too hungry and out of sorts. Don’t fall prey to the Pesach snacks that are everywhere – this will almost guarantee that your kids will be more reactive and less responsive to your requests. Sandwiches with sweet spreads, cookies and chips won’t give your child’s brain the building blocks they need to stay calm and positive.
Keep it simple – hard boiled eggs, some carrot sticks and hummus makes an easy lunch. Peanut butter on celery sticks, cheese or nuts make easy snacks. I keep lots of vegetables and some fruits on hand for the kids to snack on as well.
5) Music – music is your ally in creating a cheerful and upbeat atmosphere! There is so much great Pesach music that will enhance your home environment while getting your kids prepared for the seder by knowing the songs that are sung that night.
6) Connect – Take time to connect with your kids before they misbehave. Being proactive on this front will make a big difference. Again, I know it seems like there’s not enough time but believe me, your children will make themselves heard and you will need to take time to deal with whatever behavior and conflicts come up. Investing the time upfront to preempt the issues is a very wise use of your time.
Most of all – be kind to yourself. Don’t set high standards that will lead you to feel inadequate. Keep it simple. If your house doesn’t sparkle, your home can still be ready for Pesach. If your menus are simple, your family can still enjoy. When you treat yourself kindly, it transfers to how you treat everyone around you.
Taking care of yourself is the absolute highest priority at this time. Give yourself the emotional and physical support that you need to feel good. A happy mother is a gift to the entire family!