I have a really nice neighbor named Yael. She has a house full of children and also manages to work full time as an occupational therapist. She is quite good at what she does and enjoys an excellent professional reputation. She is also the de facto parenting expert among the mostly young mothers on our block; they who look up to her as a role model because she always seems to have her life together. Her children are clean and neat, as is her home, and she always has a smile on her face. As such, Yael is everyone’s go-to person for parenting advice.
As some of our children are the same age, I am often in Yael’s house. I have never once heard her raise her voice. As a visitor, I’ve watched her young son scribbling on her cream-colored sofa, her daughters playing house with real food and drinks, and her clean Erev Shabbos home becoming a sticky mess. Each time Yael, true to her reputation, has calmly and good-naturedly gotten her kids to clean up after themselves. Like most of the other women in our community, I was in awe of this superwoman’s parenting skills!
A couple of weeks ago I stopped by her house. I knew she wasn’t working that morning and wanted to drop off a book her daughter had requested. When she opened the door, she looked put-together, as usual. Despite the early hour, she was already fully dressed and her sheitel was freshly combed, but right away I noticed her eyes. Had she been crying?
“Are you all right?” I asked casually. Because, c’mon, Yael was always okay.
“Not really,” she sniffled. She pulled me inside and shut the door.
“You have to promise not to share this with anyone,” she said, clearly upset.
I nodded, perplexed.
“You have no idea what I’m going through. I can’t discuss it with anyone because everyone thinks I’m a superwoman. I’m always the one dispensing advice, but now I need it in a major way!”
This must be really bad if the great Yael couldn’t handle it.
“What’s going on?” I inquired.
“I shouldn’t even tell you, but I need to talk to someone. Maybe you can help me.”
“Well, I have no idea if I can help, but I can certainly listen.”
Yael smiled. She was so upset that she didn’t even think of leading me inside and inviting me to sit down. We just stood in the front hallway by the door.