Even God Had Bad Par­ent­ing Days: Ancient Jew­ish Wis­dom for New Parents

  • Review
By – September 6, 2022

Do you ever have days when you feel like the least orga­nized par­ent at drop-off? When you’re cer­tain that if you hear the word why” from your tod­dler one more time you’ll scream? When you just want to dis­ap­pear into a dark, qui­et room and hide from the chaos hap­pen­ing in your home? Or even con­sid­er whether hav­ing kids was a good idea?

These are the sorts of ques­tions that Ali­cia Jo Rabins asks and answers in her new book, Even God Had Bad Par­ent­ing Days, while using Jew­ish wis­dom — gleaned from the Torah, midrashim, Tal­mud, and oth­er ancient texts — to explore the not-so-Insta­gram-wor­thy ele­ments of twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry par­ent­ing. An accom­plished artist, per­former, writer, and Torah teacher, Rabins has craft­ed a deeply relat­able, com­fort­ing guide for any­one who ever feels over­whelmed by par­ent­hood. Writ­ing of the High Hol­i­day songs that so often paint God as the ulti­mate patient and lov­ing par­ent-fig­ure, she says, I con­fess that this idea of act­ing with infi­nite com­pas­sion feels firm­ly beyond my reach. And that’s why, from a parent’s per­spec­tive, I actu­al­ly find it com­fort­ing to remem­ber that God — as described in the Torah — is impa­tient, imper­fect, and some­times down­right pis­sy,” such as when Korah is jeal­ous of Moses and Aaron’s lead­er­ship roles. Does God calm­ly say, Tell me more about what you’re feel­ing’? No, God does not. Instead God opens up a giant hole in the ground” that swal­lows him whole. The point, of course, is not to advo­cate for crap­py par­ent­ing, but to help par­ents and care­givers feel less alone in moments when rais­ing a child is hard and patience wears thin.

One of the book’s strengths is that it is orga­nized into short, the­mat­ic chap­ters — most of them only three or four pages long — that are quick reads, acces­si­ble to even the most sleep-deprived, time-strapped par­ent. Rabins cou­ples her own tri­umphs and chal­lenges with Jew­ish teach­ings, a cre­ative deci­sion that pro­vides com­fort with­out com­ing across as patron­iz­ing or false­ly opti­mistic. For instance, Even God does not shy away from mat­ters like the author’s post­par­tum depres­sion, lone­li­ness, and finan­cial strain. This authen­tic­i­ty sets Even God apart from oth­er par­ent­ing books. It reads as though it has been writ­ten by an expe­ri­enced mom friend who’s seen it all, who lis­tens with­out judg­ment, and who always offers the best response to life’s dif­fi­cul­ties — even if that response is just to rub your back and say she under­stands. Par­ent­ing can feel like a lone­ly, stress­ful endeav­or, but Even God will make any par­ent or care­giv­er feel seen, under­stood, and more inti­mate­ly con­nect­ed to Jew­ish teachings.

Discussion Questions