A mother of what is becoming a large family recently
described her experience with her first child. "I had been
told that education begins at birth, and I didn't want to
spoil her. So I didn't dare pick her up when she cried. It is
such a shame. I had the time then, with no other children to
care for. Now I know I should have held her and let her feel
how much I loved her."
We live in an era of specialization, of job expertise, of
career training -- and woe betide us if we apply for a job
for which we are not qualified!
But for the most important job in the world, parenting, and
especially mothering, no one demands that we be taught
anything at all. We learn "on the job" and often don't even
have a teacher.
No wonder that even experienced mothers often still feel like
It was different in the old days. There were huge family
support systems. Older daughters learned from mothers, and
did their apprenticeship on their younger siblings under the
watchful eyes of grandmothers, parents and aunts. When the
turn came for the younger members of the family, they gained
their experience by caring for nieces and nephews.
This arrangement still sometimes applies today where large
extended families live in close proximity. But more often
nowadays, people live in nuclear families, far from their
parents and adult brothers and sisters. Young couples leave
their families behind on the American continent, in Europe or
elsewhere, to make aliya. They themselves often grew up in
small families and had no personal prior experience of baby-
care. In Israel, religious young families mostly live in less
expensive towns like Kiryat Sefer and Betar, leaving their
parents behind in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak.
It is for this reason that "Created in Wisdom: The Symbiotic
Relationship Between Mother and Child: A Jewish Perspective"
is a useful handbook. It is written woman to woman (although
fathers are addressed, too), and can be read through, and
then dipped into when necessary. Based on halachic sources,
but not ignoring modern medical and psychological research,
it gives a young mother the confidence to do what she feels
The book has haskomos from HaRav Nachman Bulman and
HaRav Zev Leff.
Subjects covered range from "On Spirituality and Mothering"
through "Early Tactile Experience and Future Behavior" to the
"Physiological Benefits of Rocking." The author does not
avoid the more worrying aspects of mothering, such as the
possibility of encountering and doing everything possible to
avert such phenomena as post- natal depression, premature
birth, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
Had the then-young mother referred to above possessed this
book, she wouldn't have erred the way she did.
And I'm sorry it was not available when I first became a