Passover is around the corner. Seders, which are one of my favorite Jewish traditions, are filled with delicious, ritual foods, the preparation of which requires days (and days) of cooking, baking and freezing.
But there’s more to Passover than just the seder. There’s the ritual spring cleaning of the house. In a traditional Jewish home, one is required to remove every single crumb of bread from every corner of the house, so much so that you are supposed to use a feather the night before the holiday to check the corners for crumbs.
There’s also the changing of the dishes. A kosher home requires not only separate dishes for meat and dairy meals, but a whole separate set of meat and dairy dishes that taken out only for Passover.
Then there’s the food shopping – since people who observe Passover cannot eat any leavened product for the entire eight days of the holiday, special Passover foods must be purchased. To shop in a kosher market the week before Passover is taking your life in your hands.
And of course, there’s still laundry to do, homework to oversee, sports to attend, dishes to wash, lunches to prepare and everyday life to attend to.
How on earth is a mom who works outside the home supposed to make all this happen? A fairy godmother? The wave of a magic Passover wand, much like Moses’ famous rod that turns into a serpent?
Or just days and nights of exhausted preparation on top of work and home life?
I’m thinking number three.
Not all holidays are quite as onerous. At least at Christmas, if you celebrate, there are presents at the end of all the hard work. You know what’s at the end of the seder?
Thanksgiving requires a lot of food preparation, but at least you get a long weekend to enjoy.
Passover sometimes happens during spring break, which isn’t always a parents’ spring break, and oftentimes happens during a regular week. No special time off.
I’ve been thinking about the requirements of our holiday system for working moms. We have been talking a lot lately about flex time issues, working at home and the need to have work places that accommodate work/life balance.
But the holiday question doesn’t get a lot of air time. Honestly, it’s mostly mothers who spend the time, energy, and money to make the holidays a special time in their homes. And they’re often doing it while working full-time jobs and managing households at the same time. The traditions of the holidays, ancient as well as more contemporary, were created in a different framework, one in which women's entire job was to take care of the home, holidays included. Today, holiday cheer is created in between emails, management meetings and work travel.
I don’t want to be a spoil sport, and I don’t want to be qvetchy. But it’s hard to love a holiday that requires so much preparation in the house when you’re working outside of it 40 hours or more a week.
I don’t have the answer, especially not this year, the first in over a decade in which I am not working more in the home than outside the home. I am already hyperventilating about what needs to be done for Passover, and it’s a whole lot more than buying the 5-box special matzah package.
I guess my strategy for this year is to try to be as easy going as possible. Cleaning out the food drawers? Running of the bulls at the kosher mart? Creating a multi-course meal with traditional foods and no wheat? I’m just going to have to take a deep breath and get it done, and not expect it to be perfect.
And after my matzah days are over, at least my reward is that Easter Peeps will be half off at CVS.
photo by jeffreylcohen via Flickr