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The art of being a Jewish mom – and other things

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Lorri Strauss and Sharon Spiegel are talented actresses and singers, but more importantly, they’re Jewish mommies. The SA Jewish Report has a heart-to-heart chat about their motherly lives post-lockdown.

What has it been like getting back to life since lockdown?

Lori: It’s relentless. As much as we moaned and complained about being trapped at home, it was relaxing in comparison to running to tennis matches, fetching children, dropping them, birthday parties, homework, tests and so on. I hoped we would have learnt something from lockdown, but it seems like we’ve slipped back into our old way of life.

Sharon: Everyone has tried to redefine normal life and because everybody has a different definition of it, that overlap is really difficult. Some parents have said, “No more extra-murals, let them come home at the end of the day and not have to have that pressure.” Then, there are those who are back on the grind, trying to catch up on what we missed. There’s just a lot of tension between these two. What are we actually doing?

How are you working that out? 

Sharon: I’m in therapy.

Lorri: My coping mechanism is gin and tonic. I’ve actually discussed it with my GP. I said sometimes at the end of the day, I have a splitting headache and I just have a gin and tonic and it makes me feel better. He said, “Well, have a gin and tonic.”

Sharon: It’s just about getting through the day. Because often stress is about the future, what are we going to do next, how we are going to plan for this and this? It’s about getting through that one day, and waking up and getting through the next one. I mean, it’s just a grind.

It feels like everything is overextended because so much was out of reach for so long and now that it’s in reach, it’s supposed to be easy, but you can’t just go so quickly from one to the next. And the situation in the country and in the world in general is hectic. Our electrical crisis is scary.

I did say to Lorri at one point, not that I want to be a Debby Downer, but it feels like we – the human race, civilisation – are going backwards. The laws in America are changing for women, the way the currency is going, economies. It feels like we’re literally going back in time. Corona not only stopped nature, it kind of rewound the clock, and now we’re stuck.

What do you miss about lockdown?

Lorri: I miss my husband being at home. He has only recently started going back to the office and he’s busy in meetings all day. During lockdown, he would have lunch with me and the children, and I could chat to him.

There were lots of hectic, stressful times, but we had lovely moments when we would play Monopoly or go for walks as a family, just that connection. Now, we’re like ships passing in the night. I do try to find a time once a week when we get together as a family, whether it’s a Shabbos dinner or playing a boardgame on a Sunday.

Sharon: It was nice to have a shared reality during lockdown. We were all stuck in the same place – in one reality. And it actually was quite fun in some moments.

Lorri: As a mom, you wish you could wrap your children in cotton wool. Being at home during lockdown, they were safe, in one place, protected from the world.

Being Jewish moms, what makes us different?

Lorri: I do tend to feed my children continuously, which my non-Jewish friends have commented on. I just can’t help myself.

We tend to be so loving, so warm and so involved, which can be a good thing and sometimes isn’t. My Jewish-mom friends really try to micromanage their children’s lives, and it’s not always to the child’s advantage. I’m trying to step back a little bit and let my children make their own mistakes.

Sharon: Jewish moms have a common understanding, a language. Its magic being part of this group that makes you feel safe. Lorri has moved her child from a Jewish school to a secular one, and when I asked her, she said she wasn’t concerned because she still had that tie to the community and with Jewish moms.

My little one is at a very religious Jewish nursery school, which doesn’t really reflect what we have at home. But like attracts like. If there’s a Jewish mom in a group of moms you meet, you’ll find each other. You’ll connect. We have a language.

How do we keep up with our children in terms of technology, language, and so on?

Lorri: I think I’m so cool. My son is on Discord (a chat app). I’m not sure you old-fashioned moms even know what Discord is. Because I’m a singer, I don’t want to scream, “Come for dinner!” So, I logged onto Discord, and my nick is “Cool Mom”, and when I want my child, I message him on Discord, and he comes.

Another wonderful thing about lockdown is that because children couldn’t play together, they would get together on Discord and chat or play Roadblox and Minecraft together. This continued after lockdown. So, we have live playdates, but when my children have a free hour between school and tennis, they go online and build a giant castle together or create a submarine. It’s wonderful – and  that was said by Cool Mom 1982.

Do Jewish moms worry more about our children?

Sharon: I have a lot of non-Jewish friends who don’t worry about all the things I worry about. They just aren’t neurotic like we are. Is neurosis in our DNA?

What are supper times like in your homes?

Lorri: I’m going to abstain from this question so as not to incriminate myself. I’ll say we eat supper together every Friday night.

Sharon: During lockdown, mealtimes kind of changed and times weren’t that important. Lunchtime was sometimes at 15:00. And breakfast at 11:00. Now that we’re back to routine, it’s difficult to have a meal together, but we do have our Friday nights and sometimes the whole family goes out for breakfast on a Sunday. But I will say in my home, nobody eats the same thing.

Lorri: Us too.

Sharon: Every psychologist will tell you to make one meal for the whole family. It’s not possible. Everybody wants something different, and the only way to move forward is to have private chefs and get them to make different meals for everyone. That’s it!

Are there least-favourite times with your children?

Lorri: The mornings are tough. Sharon and I are doing a show at the moment, so we get home very late. When that alarm goes off in the morning and I wake up at 05:30, I could cry. Then it’s a struggle to get the children ready. With my youngest, getting every single item of clothing onto his body is a battle. By the time I put him on that school bus, I’m ready for my first gin and tonic.

Sharon: Bedtimes are quite tough because I’m tired and don’t have the patience. My little one is five and procrastinates because she doesn’t want to go to sleep. She’ll find a million things she needs to do. And I can really just do my head in. I feel so guilty because I’m supposed to enjoy it and I know it will pass by so quickly and I’ll miss it. But in that moment, I’m just so tired.

If you were given a ticket to Greece for a week…

Sharon: I would take my hubby. We travel well together, and I miss having some quiet time, romantic time and alone time with him.

Lorri: I was going to say Sharon, but I now take it back…

Sharon: I’m sorry, Lorri. But you and I promised each other we would go to New York or London, and go to shows for 10 days.

Do you have enough “me” time?

Lorri: My children are a little older than Sharon’s, and I find that as they get older, they do get easier. They’re at school longer. They want to be with their friends. I’ve started getting: “Mommy please will you leave my room, I want some privacy.” Their privacy gives mommy time to go lie on her bed and read a book.

Sharon: I’m still trying to find a good way to relax and have some mommy time. With little ones, there’s always stuff to do. I did travel recently for work, and was on my own. It was nice, but it got a bit lonely. I was missing everyone, but I did get to have some mommy time.

Their latest show, “Locked Upside Down & Inside Out” performs at Redfest (at Redhill School) on 29, 30 and 31 July.

 

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