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For about six years now, Lyn and I have observed Shabbat in some form. We don’t work on Shabbat, we light candles and sing blessings in the evening, and we generally pray at our havurah on Saturday mornings. Since we began our Shabbat observance, it has changed and grown, generally moving toward increasing observance. It has provided a consistent pause in our daily lives and given us an amazing space to take a spiritual breath.

Or, rather, it used to.

Now that we are parents of young children, the main work of our lives is caring for the two of them. Every day we make Leigh’s meals, get her to eat them, and clean up after her. Every day we make sure she gets dressed, help her go to the bathroom and remind her to wash her hands. Every day we brush her teeth. Every day we navigate the tricky psychological world of parenting a kid who doesn’t stop and seems to have a relentless drive to uncover our weaknesses. And did I mention that we have a baby too?

None of this stops on Shabbat — it doesn’t even slow down. It’s been three and a half years since I had a truly restful Shabbat. These days, Shabbat doesn’t provide a pause or a change or something really special; it’s simply another day as a parent, and one in which I don’t allow my child to watch a movie.

I feel as though I have allowed the cultivation of my daughter’s Shabbat observance to eclipse my own. I want to create a certain kind of Shabbat environment for her, but haven’t stopped to consider that perhaps my own is more important. A little bit like how on an airplane you are supposed to put on your own air mask before attempting to put on your child’s.

That’s an interesting realization, but doesn’t necessarily solve the problem. However, I have had a few thoughts on changes we can make.

  • Earlier this year, we started to pay for our havurah to have childcare on Shabbat mornings. This has opened up the possibility of actually getting to pray on Saturday mornings, rather than spending the morning either playing upstairs with Leigh or worrying that it is time for me to relieve Lyn who has been playing upstairs with Leigh. Having childcare allows me to relax and open myself up a little to some spiritual renewal.
  • Now we have unfortunately entered that time in a baby’s life when we can’t just let him nap in a carrier on the go — we actually have to nap Ira in his crib at home during the day or we’ll pay for it at night. That means someone needs to stay home with Ira. We’ve decided that for the time being, most Saturday’s one of us will go to services and the other will stay at home. Being at home with just a baby for companionship can provide it’s own kind of rest, especially when it is Shabbat and you don’t have to keep up with work or household chores. So one of us gets to pray (with Leigh upstairs in childcare) and the other gets some contemplative time at home.
  • We’ve also decided to start trading off longer solitary afternoon breaks. This will also mean changing some aspects of our Shabbat practice, like our observances around spending money or writing. For instance, the next time we do this I may walk over to a coffee shop, buy a coffee, and do some reading or writing for a few hours.

I’m curious about how any of you find time and space for rest in your lives (whether it is connected with a religious observance or not). How do you recharge? How do you find time for quiet contemplation?

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