It was the end of a six-week period in which my guy was on-call, and I could hardly remember my name.
During these weeks, the most my girls get to see of him is a glimpse of his shadow when they wake up in the middle of the night crying because they miss him. My hair is always in a messy bun (and I don’t mean in a fashionable way) or tucked under a chauffeur’s hat. It’s a time when the pizza delivery guy knows our address way too well, and most of the words that come out of my mouth are one syllable growls that change tone depending on who they’re directed toward—exhausted for the girls and frustrated or emasculating for my guy’s shadow.
But, after six weeks of agony, I was always able to schedule the light at the end of the tunnel—my opportunity to once again become the woman before the mom, the one who smiles as if she slept through the night, who speaks “adult” fluently, who showers every night—Mom on a girls’ night out!
GIRLS NIGHT OUT
Somehow, in Cincinnati, OH of all places, in a small Israeli community, where most women were the “dependents” for a couple of years, we were able to schedule our standing night off. Once every several weeks, we would shake off whatever it was that weighed us down daily and go out for a wild night on the town. Wild? Ok, I hear the irony. It’s still Cincinnati, where you can’t find a soul out on the street past 9 pm, and even the hottest bars in town close up shop at around 10 pm—even if we were only on our second drink. Nevertheless, we took what we could get with open arms, and the time that we took for ourselves and for each other was sacred.
We held on to this lifeline for a year—an intimate group of 6 women who enjoyed taking off their workout clothes or the rags that represented their mornings (depending on how hard that week had been) for a couple of hours of true and meaningful sisterhood bonding. And then, during our second year, a few other Israeli families came to town, and what had previously been known as the Cincinnati Kibbutz could now easily occupy a small town in Missouri.
As the time for our next girls’ night out approached, some started wondering if we should widen our circle. On the one side, there were those who thought that we should invite all the new girls, because it wouldn’t be nice not to do so and we can’t choose only some. If, god forbid, someone we didn’t invite was to hear about our night…. And, we don’t want them to think we have something against them, so it’s just best to invite everyone because doing otherwise is just not nice. On the other side, there was, well, mostly me.
Don’t get me wrong here; it’s not that I’m against helping out new families who have no clue where they just landed, nor am I against getting to know new women who are trying to figure out what is hidden under this huge pile of cheese when all they tried to order was a chicken salad. I really don’t. I am very grateful for everyone who helped me out when we arrived in Cincinnati. I even consider it my mission to pay that support forward. It’s only that the timing—on this night, of all nights—is shutting down my lifeline and preventing me from getting a much-needed supply of fresh air. After six weeks in mom-zombie land, it is just not the right time for me to be welcoming new people.
YES, I REMEMBER
The strongest argument against my point of view was obviously my personal experience as a newcomer. “Don’t you remember how welcoming we were when you had just arrived in town?” Of course, I remember. I will never forget.
I remember Amit picking us up from the airport in his minivan so that we could be sure that all of our suitcases would fit. I remember how I worried during the flight that we wouldn’t be able to recognize him since we’d never met, but his smile next to the baggage claim—and the bag of sandwiches he’d made for us because he figured we’d be hungry after the long flight—made him very easy to recognize. I remember our first Shabbat dinner at their house; the amount of food was ridiculous and so tasty, especially after a week of junk food and the miserable dinners I was able to cook on the motel top stove!
And I remember Keren, who showed up with a warm lunch on our moving day, when we were so busy assembling IKEA furniture that we completely forgot to take care of lunch. She knew to come at exactly the right moment and made sure that we didn’t worry about dinner either, because the rest of the gang was taking care of us; they’d already planned dinner by the pool. All we needed to do was show up.
I also remember Ronen, who gave me the scariest, most accurate welcome speech ever at our very first meeting. Indeed, he became the example against which I have measured almost all of my relocation experiences from that moment on. But that speech deserves a separate story.
I remember all the girls who took our daughters in as if they were born to be friends. And to this day, I’m amazed at how when they meet, they continue on from the same spot they left on their last meeting, even if their meetings are a year apart.
I remember it all, and I love them all so much. And in times when I am emotionally available, I am happy to pay that support forward, but I wasn’t willing to give up my lifeline, which was my girls’ nights out.
THE LAST SUPPER
I remained the minority vote; thus, one night, we found ourselves, a group of 14 women seated at a table that resembled the table of the last supper, at the only restaurant we could find that would take reservations. With horrible acoustics and terrible service.
To be completely honest, our seating arrangement did not require any special effort on my part to be nice to the new women. But my friends, who were sitting in the middle of the table, found themselves acting as the tour guides or welcoming committee for the evening.
Where were the complaints about the husband who had promised to be home early but arrived only ten minutes before we were about to pick up his wife? Why was there no one ready to lie about her birthday so we could hear our waiters sing to her and serve us a piece of cake with a sparkle? What about that weekend getaway we’ve been rescheduling for months even though we all know we will never get to go, but we loved talking about? Most importantly, no one was able to breakdown for a moment and share how frustrated she is by being forced into the position of a stay-at-home mom during her family’s relocation.
At the end of the night, I was sorry I had even left the house. It would have been better to stay home with my guy. If he’s going to be home all night, wouldn’t it be better to use that time to reacquaint ourselves? We might have had a proper family dinner; the girls would remember they have both a mom and a dad, and not just a shifting parental schedule. I could have gone to bed early under the illusion that I can make up for my many sleep-deprived nights. Why did I bother to change out of my PJs? The dress I’d chosen didn’t even look halfway decent after my last pregnancy.
That was when I realized how much these “not nice” and “comme il faut” feelings really cost me.
I knew I hadn’t gotten that friendly infusion I dearly needed in order to survive another 6 weeks like the ones that just ended. Furthermore, I knew that next time, despite everything, I would not give up so easily.
I DONT GIVE A…
That night was an indicator of something much deeper that had started to change in me over the past couple of years—my insistence on putting my needs first (or at least in the top ten), clearing away the voices that tell me that’s not “the right way to behave” or that’s “not nice,” and choosing to operate from a truer, more self-centered place. Of course, I don’t want this to come at the price of others, but for me first, and then for them too.
However, a different moment really made me break all the rules and turn into a “proud misanthrope.” Soon, I will share that story and everything I’ve realized since.
Have you had a moment where you had to break the rules because you realized they weren’t working in your favor and you had to take care of yourself first?
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