Everything I need to know in life I learned from a plane flight

A few months ago I stepped onto an airplane with three children and stayed there for fourteen hours. There were many other people on the flight, but those three little chocolate balls were my responsibility for the trip.

People were amazed that I was brave enough to travel solo. But there was one person who's comment really astounded. CL is a friend who I admire to no end. She comes from a similar background to mine, but she made a lifestyle choice that I envy. CL is a SAHM. My hero-style mom. And yet... and yet... when I threw the compliment back at her, "What do you mean? You are a full time mother all the time" she quickly returned with, "Sure, but never for fourteen hours straight on my own."

So I've spent some time thinking and wondering about what made the trip work. Today I came up with a new thought. Plane ride = purpose. As in, my to-do list for the flight had one item on it: take care of the children.

You see, sometimes I can have a day that is charged with meaning: a non-stop day at work, an Erev Shabbos with a long to-do list, a writing deadline or a scheduled lecture. On those sort of days every moment is fraught with meaning, every second too precious too be wasted. The day has a goal.

As a teen, I thrived off days like that. (read: nights) I would wait until the night before a report was due to get started.... and always got an A. "A" for adrenaline that is... Always ready last minute and still great quality. This style of working unfortunately became second nature to me. I say unfortunately because preparing lessons last minute is not so well suited to a mothering lifestyle, when children also have last minute needs. I keep trying to complete tasks before they are due, but there is just something magical about the last minute rush.  Until today, I never stopped to analyse the quality of the time.

What changed?

Today was rather ordinary. No work today. Kids slept in, when they work, I fed and dressed them, dropped the oldest at school and went to a shiur with the girls. We came home around 11:30 and I fed them lunch, then settled everyone for naps. But they wouldn't sleep. I started to feel pressured... until I realized that there was nothing urgent waiting to get done. So I chilled. But it felt odd. I'm always so busy, running from one thing to the next... and here there was nothing to get done... I had no excuse to get annoyed. Odd.

So I slept with them a bit. Then I woke up, wandered around the house, looking for something to get busy with. Tried clean up, phone calls, diaper changing... Can you read the boredom in this recounting of my day? Then I stopped to myself and thought, "hey, what's my purpose?"

Light bulb moment.

Life is always so pressured that I run from task to task without looking at the overall picture. But today was so low key. Notice the difference? On an airplane I have one goal: look after my family. When I'm hours away from an assignment's due date there is one goal: complete the assignment. Erev Shabbos? One goal: cook, cook, cook.

Notice a trend here?
Pressure gives purpose.
More pressure gives more urgency to that purpose.

So it looks like I've got to analyse what my overall purpose is on an everyday level. I've got to mimic the sense of mission I feel on a long plane flight and apply purpose to charge the regular in between moments.
Ah, now I've got a busy item on my to-do list! Yay! Time to run off and get busy again...


  1. It was from a the family "guru" that I heard this tidbit: "When you are scrubbing that pot, you are fulfilling your tafkid." Even being bored with the kids can have purpose, but we are not programmed that way. There is so much meaning in the plodding everyday stuff . . .

    1. True, that... though finding tafkid in the tedious isn't always easy


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