The King Is In The Field — But Am I?

G-d is out there ready to hear prayers, and I’m having a hard time praying. I am not sure why except that I feel spiritually constipated. I feel like the things I have to get done every day are swallowing me up. I am stuck somewhere in spiritual peristalsis and I need to get out. Out to the field.

Right. The field. This lady was telling me about her trip to Idaho and I remembered the old days when I’d go out in the woods by myself. I had so much time to quietly explore things and knock thoughts around in my head. I have a kid, a husband, a job, and an apartment to keep clean now. There is always some errand to run or issue to deal with. Something always has to be done. Where is the field? How am I supposed to even get to it?

I mean, the pat, cute answer is probably that the field is in my laundry piles. We call the piles “Har Kvisa” — Mount Laundry. It’s a mountain I climb, fall off, and push the boulder back up. I have a fundamental misunderstanding of circular work. I still think it has a beginning and end. I still think that I can do it once and then stop. Except I can’t, and it surprises me every time.

I thought I would handle the birth of my first child with more grace and charm. I feel guilty because G-d gave us an “easy” baby, but I still struggle to get everything done. I get exhausted too easily. Small jobs have become big. I feel guilty for putting him in the baby seat while I do dishes. I feel guilty for not offering him intellectually engaging playtime 100% of the time. But how else will the dishes get done?

I say to my baby, “Mama is washing dishes! We wash dishes because we’re not dirty birdies. We’re clean! We love being clean!” He sits there in his chair chewing on his hand. He’s teething. I try to give him chew toys but he prefers to chew on his hand. This is the field, right? I don’t have to go to some other field? Showing a four-month-old how to wash dishes in a lame attempt to interact with him while I do other things is the field, right?

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My baby was crying in the car. We were stuck in traffic on the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, which might go from Queens to Brooklyn but is rarely the express route. He was crying in such a way that his voice was getting hoarse. We’d been stuck in traffic for over an hour. I couldn’t pull over and there was nothing I could do to comfort him. With no other options, I asked G-d for help. It was my first real prayers of Elul this year. “Please comfort my baby. Please get us out of traffic so that I can pull over and feed him.”

It’s crummy, but predictable, how much I invalidate the importance of mothering (and fathering). I look at myself — how I spend my days — and I invalidate the importance (and literal price tag) of childcare and housework. My husband and I reassure each other quite a bit that the time we are spending on our family life is well-used.

I sit my baby in my lap and read baby books to him — a whole stack — and there is this voice in me head telling me that I should be doing something “more important”. Fighting that voice, for me, is my new journey as someone who became religious as an adult. I am drilling the idea into my head that it’s not just important to read to my baby from a neuroscience perspective, but also spending quality time with him is holy. It counts. It’s something G-d wants from me.

I feel like this Elul is testing my belief that “women’s work” actually counts as avodas Hashem. Before this point, I could say it. I thought I meant it. I thought I believed it. Now I have to really believe in the holiness of raising a baby.  If I don’t believe it — that I’m the Cohen Gadol of a little Beis Hamikdash — my life is going to seem like it is interrupting my relationship with G-d. I am going to have to believe that my life is my relationship with G-d.

I mean the Cohanim had to clean up blood from animal sacrifices. Washing diapers and dishes can’t be as bad. If the King is really in the field, He must be in my field, the one where cooking dinner and not speaking loshon hara when I really really want to count as avoda and as teshuvah.