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I know spring has arrived when I sit down at my sister’s table for Passover. Every year we make the trek to New York City to her small, homey apartment. The living room is transformed: furniture pushed back, the dining table doubled to accommodate grandparents, in-laws, cousins, and dear friends.
At the Seder, my brother-in-law leads us in the reading of the Haggadah as we retell the ancient story of the Exodus. The Israelites are enslaved in Egypt. Moses comes to free them, but Pharaoh won’t let them go. So God sends plagues to convince Pharaoh to let His people go. Frogs rain down from heaven, rivers turn to blood, the first-born sons die. And then the impossible happens—Pharaoh says they can go. They’re free.
This is my favorite part. We pass around the matzah—the unleavened bread—and spread it with haroset. This flat, crispy cracker reminds us that the Israelites left in such haste, they didn’t have time to let their bread rise. They just picked it up and left.
The Exodus is an old story, brimming with metaphors and themes: new beginnings, a release from bondage, a God who works miracles. But the one that always speaks to me as a mother is the one I crunch into with that matzah:
When the time comes, you don’t have to be totally prepared. You just take what you have and go.
Motherhood is like this. What mother has ever felt totally prepared when she finally holds that slimey, solid, hot, little newborn in her hands? She feels overwhelmed—with happiness and hopefulness and awe—but decidedly not with confidence.
It doesn’t matter. She IS a mother. She brings what patience and love and know-how she has, and she just does it.
I feel a version of this feeling almost daily. My son wakes with a nightmare, and I find a way to calm him. My daughter doesn’t get double-digit subtraction, so I sit down and work on it with her. Who was ever trained to deal with the millions of tiny mothering tasks that are asked of us?
The most recent challenge was trying to get my son Zev off of his pacifier. I knew we had to do it. I knew he was old enough. But I’d never done it before, so I didn’t know the BEST way to do it. We were in a holding pattern for months as we cerebrally debated how to do it, and we probably would’ve stayed that way forever, but life shoved us forward.
One night last week, we couldn’t find his pacifier. Honestly and truly—it was lost. My husband and I looked at each other and said, This is it. We’ve got to get out of Egypt right now. We didn’t feel prepared to deal with the night(s) of restless sleeping and the sadness of a little boy who had lost his favorite thing in the world. We didn’t do it gracefully, but we did it.
I would’ve been a terrible Israelite. Leave now? When I’m not packed and with this crummy bread? What, are you crazy? I like to be prepared, thoughtful, particular. But the second half of the Passover story reveals a beautiful promise. Sure, they leave with unleavened bread, but when the Israelites get to the desert, God rains down bread from heaven. And I can only suppose that it was perfectly leavened.
I’m hoping that is true in motherhood, too. I bring whatever flat, crispy efforts I have, and He will make up the rest—as long as I move forward and grab hold of this wonderful chance to be a mother right now.
Question: What “matzah moments” have you had in your life—when you had to face a challenge without preparation? What unexpected promises did you find in the outcome?
Challenge: When you face an unexpected task in motherhood and begin to hesitate or doubt your abilities, remember that you don’t have to be totally prepared. Just take what you have and go for it.
Photos courtesy of Amanda Hamilton Roos