Years ago, when I was first married, I read the book Table for Two by Rabbi Avraham Friedman. Three lessons have integrally changed the way I interact with my husband and family.
There is a famous story about a rebbetzin who would put on a simple dress and headcovering to go to the market and do her various errands. In the house, she would change into a nice dress, and put on her sheitl and some makeup. All this to show respect to her husband. After all, our beauty is reserved for our husbands. They are the ones for whom we must save the very best of ourselves.
Initially, my husband was of no opinion about whether or not he wanted me to cover my hair. I chose to cover it and he was fine with that, feeling that it was my hair, and my decision. When I was first married, I did not cover my hair when only my husband and myself were at home. One day, upon returning from work, I pulled off my headcovering. In that moment, my husband realized how special it was that this piece of me was reserved just for him. He became the haircovering police:)
Another lesson learned from Table for Two was to greet and send off each family member, every single time. What does this mean? Whenever my husband or one of my children walks in the door, I get up and go to the door to say hello, to show them how happy I am that they are home. Likewise, when they leave the house, I walk them to the door and wish them well. In the many comings and goings of our household, I am at the door frequently. But it is not a decision I would change. This simple act shows each family member, several times a day, just how important they are.
Finally, and this is the lesson that is most difficult to implement well, I learned that the woman sets the tone in the home. I say it is difficult to implement well, because we set the tone without any effort at all. If I am tired, and showing my frustration, for example, that air will permeate the entire household. Is that really what I want? Of course not. I want our mornings to be joyous and full of promise, our days to be filled with growth and learning, and our evenings to be calm havens of sharing and bonding. According to Rabbi Friedman, this blissful atmosphere is well within our reach.
I try and I try. I actually succeed more often than you (or I) might think. I remember one morning a couple of years ago. We had an overseas high school student boarding with us that year. She was not at all a morning person. The morning in question, she was in a really grumpy mood and did not relish the thought of starting her day with math class. It was Spring so I was in a very bright and cheery mood. I was silly singing all morning and driving my kids crazy in the process. In the car, I changed one of my favourite long-ago jingles to incorporate the joys of going to math class, including the teacher’s name. It was so bad and so corny, everyone was laughing!
These three simple lessons have guided me through the last almost twenty years of marriage. While the first two were almost immediately effective, the last still takes some effort.
I would like to dedicate Mondays, one of the most difficult days of the week, to examining how we, as women, can set the tone in our home. I hope that through this process, we will all benefit from sharing our successes and our challenges; that we will strengthen each other in our efforts to create home environments that support and nourish the development of all living within them.