I am worn out. You are too.
I have a preschooler and I work multiple jobs, so I am used to being tired. A full 8 hours of sleep is an occasional luxury. That said, the past two months have been grueling. School has been closed since Mar. 12, so I have added “teacher” to my plate. My husband has been deemed essential, so I spend most of my days running like a hamster on a wheel, frantically trying to balance motherhood and work as a writer, political organizer, and public speaker.
Before COVID, I excelled at balancing work and motherhood. I still feel motherhood made me better at work - more organized, more time-efficient, tougher, and clear-eyed about what accomplishment takes. I have always taken the approach that to parent and work means curating failure, because you can have it all - just not every single moment of every single day. Some days you’re late because you took your kid for bagels and extra Mom time. Some weeks you miss bedtime 4 nights in a row. This curated failure approach worked for me, it was about batting average, not consistent nagging guilt.
COVID has broken all of that as it collapsed boundaries between work and home, Mom Carly and various Work Carlys. Every moment feels like an extreme version of the hardest moments, where my focus is always in multiple places and everything feels like failure. This feeling persists despite a tremendously supportive and feminist network of work partners, which I am deeply blessed to have.
Plus, there is the consistent existential dread of living through a pandemic. Navigating the fear and taking proper precautions. Comforting small kids with big feelings and fears. Mourning and comforting mourners from afar. Grappling how to safely move through the world at a time of deep distrust in our government’s ability to handle the crisis.
We have more to do than ever before, and we are fighting to get it done through a fog of fear and anxiety that makes us all move slower. Like walking through mud. So I am tired, deep in my bones. Tired in new demoralizing ways. A few days ago, my husband found me fast asleep on top of my laptop.
Normally, the idea of a Jewish holiday energizes me. I tend to plan extravagant menus and find that cooking the day away soothes and centers me. Not this Shavuot. I miss the wonderful programming and togetherness I found at Sixth and I and Adas Israel. I miss my Mom. I miss my friends I had over last year and the sound of a house full of happy kids playing. Passover found me a woman on a mission to make a great holiday for my family, but Shavuot finds me unable to muster the energy for an elaborate set of meals. I am sad, and instead of finding rabbinic wisdom, there is only the sound of my daughter watching Daniel Tiger in the Living room. He sings it’s okay to feel sad. You’ll feel better soon. I’ve heard worse advice.
It is okay to be sad, to be lonely, to be furious, or just tired. Jewish women face so much pressure to be the spiritual and cultural anchor of the home. To uplift and to celebrate and create seemingly effortless holidays out of the air. We have a lot of holidays. We have a lot of expectations placed on us - and that’s in good times. In times of crisis, we spring into action. We organize virtual shivas and homeschooling and food pantries while holding out babies and cooking dinner and writing books and running for office and treating patients and running the damn world. We are incredible. We are also shouldering a lot right now. So many Jewish women I know, 50 days after Passover and 80 days into quarantine, are at a breaking point. They have been barely holding together childcare, school, work, household responsibilities, communal responsibilities, financial pressure, and constant vigilance against this virus we know so little about, that has already taken so many from us. Tell yourself what you would tell your little ones: It’s okay to cry.
You deserve a break. You do not need to make what you made last year. This isn’t last year. These are horrible times that demand the best of us - and you give your best every damn day, and it’s way more than cheesecake. You have been conditioned to believe that you must attain perfection every day to be worthy, of love, of motherhood, of Judaism. That’s not true. You are innately worthy.
So for you, my friend, my compatriot, exhausted, sad, and terrified Jewish Mom with way too much on her plate, I have created a special recipe. These are Double Chocolate Cheesecake Truffles. They taste like heaven. Pure cheesecake chocolate heaven. There is no baking, there is no water bath filled with delicate pastry that can crack. The hands-on time is less than 5 minutes. No one will miss a proper cheesecake with these ridiculously over the top dairy treats on the table.
These are my gift to you, my tired mothers in arms. You don’t have to bake a cheesecake this year. Do something nice for yourself instead
Double Chocolate Cheesecake Truffles for Exhausted Working Moms
Make someone else do the dishes.
Makes 6 large truffles. Two is more than enough per person. Doubles easily.
1 8 ounce package of cream cheese ( not whipped)
4 tablespoons sour cream
½ cup melted chocolate chips ( use high-quality chocolate)
3 tablespoons confectioners sugar
15 chocolate wafer cookies
Melt chocolate chips. I like to do this in the microwave. 15 seconds then stir, repeat until melted. I can’t be bothered with a double boiler.
Dump all of the ingredients, except the chocolate wafer cookies, in a medium-sized bowl. Nothing that would be annoying in your dishwasher. Mix it all with an electric mixer until smooth, creamy and well blended. This will probably take about 3 minutes. Take a taste and be pleasantly surprised how much it really does taste like chocolate cheesecake! Use an ice cream scoop ( or a spoon) to make pretty little circles. I like them larger, so it makes about 6, but you could make them smaller if you prefer. Place bundles of creamy chocolate joy on a cookie sheet and put in the freezer for 15 minutes.
Blitz chocolate wafer cookies in the Cuisinart. Or put them in a plastic bag and break them with all of your repressed rage. Just make sure they are fine, like dust or cocoa powder, to coat the outside of your truffles.
After 15 minutes carefully roll the truffles in the cookie dust. They look fancy now! Put them in the fridge for 45 minutes. Tell your family you are very busy cooking for Shavuot, but actually watch television on your headphones. Preferably with your feet up.
After 45 minutes, put them on a pretty plate. Done!!!!!! You have achieved the perfect, easy Shavuot dessert. Chocolate, cheesy, creamy heaven. Pairs well with everything. Now take a nap.
Carly Pildis writes and cooks in Washington, D.C. Read her #TweetYourShabbat every Friday in The Forward. And don’t forget to #TweetYourShabbat.