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Jewish Journal

Mother’s Day: Redefined

by Lisa Alcalay Klug

May 10, 2013 | 2:03 pm

There are tons of stereotypes about Jewish women … the overbearing matriarch, the do-it-all maven, the neurotic meshugennah, the your-business-is-my-business yenta. You might embody an aspect of one or none of these. You might love the idea. Or shudder at the thought of it. Whatever your feelings about these stereotypes, there is one universal truth. Deep inside every woman is the ultimate Yiddishe neshama, the mamalah. 

A mamalah has an exuberance for life, a way of giving herself with purpose and with power to whatever it is she is passionate about. Her laugh is contagious and her dinners comforting. Her challah has an gravitational pull and her hamantaschen put all other hot pockets to shame. (You know the type.) Even so, it's not her cooking but what she cooks up in life that sets her apart. Her charm, courage and confidence. Her loyalty, love, wit and wisdom. And let's call a spade a spade. It's her chutzpah that makes her irresistible. Still, how you define a mamalah is up to you… 

But what if, as May 12th looms on the horizon, you're not an actual mom? Either by choice or circumstance or whatever profound, painful twists of fate (lack of partnership? infertility? tragedy?), life hasn't quite given you that gift slash blessing slash dream... You, for whatever reason, aren't a mom when Mother's Day rolls around. Or you are a mom, but you aren't the kind you had always imagined. You are never married, or unhappily married, or divorced, or recovering from a miscarriage, or considering insemination, or awaiting an adoption or a foster child, or not even sure that's the right choice for you. For whatever reason you find your heart aching, now is the time to rethink this day. 

Just because you're not a mom, or not the kind of mom you wanted to be, doesn't mean you aren't celebrated on Mother's Day. The mamalah inside every woman is naturally maternal toward the people around her whom she loves and adores, and who love and adore her. These are YOUR friends, students, teachers, clients and patients. Your supporters and employers. Your biological sisters and soul sistahs, sponsors and lovers… even if they simply love the outrageous hand bag you wove from magazine covers and accented with bottle caps. These are the wonderful people all around you who make your life so much richer. And who, just by thinking about them, make you smile. 

These people know the mamalah inside of you. They know the kindness in you, the generosity, gratitude, brains and character that make you -- you. 

They know the strength and vulnerability, the wisdom and naivety, the complexity and beauty of you in whatever shape and form that takes. 

They know you and love you. And you, in turn, know and love them, as well as many other women around you who are single, dating, partnered or un-partnered. Committed or free-spirited. Moms and un-moms. They are all mamalahs one and the same. 

When you get right down to it, Mother's Day is really every woman's day. A day for giving thanks for your mother, for the gift of your life, no matter where she is and no matter where you are. Whether you are separated by oceans or share a credit card. (Good luck with that.) Whether your relationship is friendly, strained, co-dependent or just plain (s)mothering. Whether you carry on the tradition -- or not -- to biological children or to nieces and nephews or to the children of friends you adopt as family. Perhaps you are the go-to auntie who pushes kids on the swings when their parents are just too tired. Or who invites young mamalahs and papalahs to plant flowers together with you. Or takes an ambitious one on an adventure of early independence, or a bike ride on a beautiful Sunday, simply because you can. 

For all the mamalahs who came before you, for the mamalah who made you a mamalah, for the precious mamalah inside yourself, and for all the other mamalahs you know and love, this, May 12, is also your day. 

That's right. It's Mother's Day. And it's Mamalah's Day. Because every woman is a mamalah whether or not she is a mama. 

Go forth and celebrate. 

And who knows, with this gratitude for whatever you do have in your life, you might just end up with a deeply satisfying definition of what it means to be a mamalah after all. 

In honor of women everywhere, a group of mamalahs have donated $400 worth of wonderful prizes for one lucky mamalah! Enter to win the Hot Mamalah's Day Giveaway of books, music, apparel, DVD, music and more through May 12 at http://www.moderntribe.com/mamalah

Celebrate Jewish women with Lisa in person at two upcoming events in Manhattan on May 29 and San Francisco on June 19. For details on these and other upcoming events, visit Facebook.com/LisaAlcalayKlug

Happy Mamalah's Day! 

Award-winning journalist Lisa Alcalay Klug is the author of the new book, Hot Mamalah: The Ultimate Guide for Every Member of the Tribe, the much anticipated companion to the No. 1 Amazon bestseller, Cool Jew: The Ultimate Guide for Every Member of the Tribe, a National Jewish Book Award Finalist. For upcoming events and more information, please visit www.lisaklug.com

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