Children Need Their Mother

The N’shei Oldies Collection: Is there such a thing as a Super Shlucha? Is it really possible for one woman to do it all? One shlucha’s reality check has a strong message for mothers of today’s generation.

By Mrs. Simcha Fine, from the N’shei Chabad Newsletter Tishrei 5760 / September 1999

A friend, a fellow Shlucha, called me up not long ago. She was quite distraught. “I need a reality check,” she exclaimed.

A former classmate of hers, also on Shlichus, had just visited her. The former classmate is extremely involved in her Shlichus: she runs a school, gives shiurim, writes a newsletter, organizes community functions. And yet, when asked how her children were doing, she became exasperated.

“The children? Oh, it’s so difficult. You see, my oldest two go to school in another city. They board with a family all week, then come home for Shabbos. I dread the weekends!

“As soon as they come home, they start clinging and clawing at me for attention. I’m busy! I can barely get any of my work done while they’re here. I breathe a real sigh of relief when they finally go back to school early Monday morning.”

And so my friend wanted to know: “Am I crazy, or is she?” My friend is not crazy.

Our conversation replayed itself in my mind over and over again for a long time. I couldn’t dismiss it, because it only served to solidify my growing realization of a serious problem that some of us Shluchos are experiencing.

Every wife and mother needs to prioritize. There are those things that she, and only she, can do; and then, there are things that she can pay others to do. No, she needn’t scrub out her toilets nor iron her husband’s shirts. She can do her grocery shopping by phone, and let the nice man from the store do the shlepping. She can even hire a competent bochur to tutor a child who is falling behind in his studies.

But there are some things that only a mother can do best. Modeh Ani and Negel Vasser in the morning, sending the children off to school with a kiss and a lovingly-packed lunch, sharing a pre-nap snuggle, greeting a child after a day at school and listening to the day’s events, cradling a sleepy child as she recites her bedtime Shema.

Leaving these day-to-day intimacies to hired help on a consistent basis can be compared to feeding a child junk food. Yes, he is sated – but what real benefit have you served him?

This need to prioritize applies to every woman, but a wife and mother on Shlichus has an even bigger balancing act. The home, the children, the husband, the peulos, the mikuravim, the Shabbos guests, the drop-ins, the speeches, the shiurim, etc., etc.

She can’t do it all – there are only 24 hours to the day, she’s only human, the children need her too. So where does she draw the line?

I was privy to a conversation that a friend of mine – I’ll call her Leah – had with a Shlucha of some years – I’ll call her Bubby Shlucha. Bubby Shlucha’s many children are all on Shlichus themselves now, while simultaneously raising their many children, KA”H. Leah was commenting to Bubby Shlucha on how her children had all followed in her footsteps, by going on Shlichus.

“It’s true, Boruch Hashem,” she answered, “but I’ll tell you one thing that really bothers me.

“You know, there are plenty, plenty years to do your Shlichus; but just a few short years to take care of your babies. Even though I’ve been on Shlichus many years, and can point to many successes, those twenty years that I had small children at home – I knew that my main Shlichus was taking care of them.

“I never gave them boxed, dry cereal; I always took the time to cook them hot cereal. It’s cheaper and healthier! I didn’t leave them with a woman so I could go out and do Shlichus work. I took them to the park myself every day, so they could run around. Mothers today may not like to admit it, but it’s very different when Mommy is pushing you on a swing, rather than anyone else!”

Bubby Shlucha sighed and wrinkled her forehead as she thought about her children on Shlichus. “As much as I’m proud of the big, shining Chabad House this one has, or the classes for 200 people that one has – when I see my grandchildren away from their Mommies all day long, I don’t say anything, but deep down, I’m not happy.

“Before you know it, the little ones are out of the house and gone – this is even more true for Shluchim! We can’t waste the children’s early years. The Rebbe never meant for us to take care of neshomas at the expense of taking care of our own children. They are Yiddishe neshomas too, and they are our first responsibility!”

The Rebbe writes, in Likutei Sichos, Chelek Gimmel, p. 813, about the mitzvah of lighting Shabbos candles as compared to the mitzvah of lighting the Chanukah menorah. The Rebbe explains that the Shabbos licht represent the lighting up of the home, and the Chanukah licht represent the lighting up of the outside world.

The halacha is, if one only has enough money for Shabbos licht or a Chanukah menorah, he must buy Shabbos licht. The Rebbe learns out that when one does-n’t have enough strength for both – for strengthening the home or strengthening Yiddishkeit on the outside – it is understood that one must spend one’s limited strength on strengthening the home, not on lighting up the outside.

Clearly, when circumstances make it necessary for us to make a choice, the priority must be the home.

Yes, the Rebbe has promised to take responsibility fot our children on Shlichus. But we can’t opt out of our own responsibility. We have to work hard to make a keyli for the Rebbe’s promise, putting in real time and effort.

The Rebbe also gives a brocha for success in our respective communities. And yet, can we sit back and expect the Rebbe to accomplish this for us?

Would any Shliach think to put his feet up on his desk, relax, and expect the non-frum community to build a shul, a mikvah and a camp without him? “After all, the Rebbe’s brocha will take care of it…”

On the contrary, when we work hard, the Rebbe’s brocha helps us see success.

So, too, it is with our children. We must give them attention, love, praise, a listening ear, and most of all – time. We must look at them with eyes that say, “You are unique, valuable, and very loved.” They must feel that we are there for them, will be there for them – both emotionally and, yes, physically. They need it, and only we can give it to them.

To be sure, there are things that are a part of our Shlichus that can only be done by us. Only I can greet my Shabbos guests, counsel a troubled bas bayis, or act as my husband’s sounding-board when we brainstorm for ideas.

Many Shluchos act as Mikvah Ladies when there is no one else suitable available, teach when there are no suitable teachers to be found. There are parts of our Shlichus for which we are indispensable. And we don’t want to use our homes as an excuse.

When asked by her fellow Shluchos to participate in a community project, one woman refused by saying, “My husband is on Shlichus, not me!” This is clearly wrong. We are sent on Shlichus as husband and wife teams, to work and support each other.

There is no heter for a woman to excuse herself from Shlichus work for which she has time and ability. Using her home responsibilities as an excuse for opting out of things that she may be uncomfortable doing is surely mis-placing her priorities in the other direction.

We’ve all heard about the myth of the “Super Shlucha.” Who is she? She sounds a bit like an IBM executive to me, except that instead of working for IBM, she works at her Shlichus. Where are her children? Is she “super” because she is “out there,” conquering the world?

Let’s give a different spin to the “Super Shlucha.” All that she does, she does for the Rebbe – that’s a “Super Shlucha.” She regularly takes a good honest look at herself, and asks – would Rebbe be proud of my choices? Would the Rebbe approve of my priorities? Am I making sure that my responsibilities of home and family are being met? Am I doing all that I can in my Shlichus?

And… how are my children doing?

May Hashem grant us all a good, sweet year. A year of success, both in gashmius and in ruchnius. And may we be zoche to see true success in our Shlichus, leading to the ultimate success of the Geulah Shlaima, bikorov mamash.

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