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6 Gifts I've Given Myself as a Mother

May 4, 2015 | by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller

These are the gifts that have had the biggest impact on me and my family.

I’m incredibly lucky to be the recipient of some amazing Mother’s Day presents. I store jewelry in a lovely plastic box festooned with stickers, and my desk is decorated with a beautiful orange-juice container-turned-vase full of paper flowers my son made years ago.

But some of the best gifts I’ve ever received as a mother are ones I’ve given myself. Here are six gifts that have had the biggest impact on me and my family.

10 Extra Minutes

Ten extra minutes is what it took for me to go from frazzled to (slightly more) tranquil in the morning. By setting my alarm a little earlier – and by making an effort to get to bed on time and get enough sleep – I found I was able to stay calmer during the morning rush, and that good feeling could spread to my kids, as well.

Drinking a cup of tea, scanning the day’s headlines, checking my in-box – once I’ve had these precious minutes to myself, I find myself able to deal with hectic mornings with just a little more patience and grace.

Learning Together

“Let’s do it together!” The words were no sooner out of my mouth then I wondered if I could take them back. My daughter was thinking of ways to mark her bat mitzvah, and wanted to embark on an ambitious plan of study, tackling Ethics of the Fathers, a 2,000 year old classic Jewish text, and its commentaries. The problem was, she wanted a study partner. I immediately wondered: Was I up to the task? (and would we drive each other crazy spending so much time together?)

We’ve been learning together for a year and it’s been the best gift I ever could have asked for.


When our first child was born my husband and I made an unusual choice: not to watch TV. Looking at our new little baby, we didn’t feel we needed the distraction. It’s been one of the best “gifts” I’ve given my family and myself.

Yes, there are lots of positive shows, but I’ve relished not having to parse my kids’ viewing habits, nor worrying about negative messages they’re getting from some programs. Plus, like all families, we’re often super-busy and not having to fit TV into our already jam-packed schedules frees up our time for other fun activities instead.


A friend who is experimenting with introducing Shabbat dinners to her young family recently confided in me what drew her to the idea. Years ago, she and a friend visited a family on Shabbat and found them all sitting together in their living room peacefully, reading books. “It was so relaxed,” she said. Now that my friend has her own family – with a crazy, jam-packed schedule of activities and obligations – she finds herself recalling that peaceful Shabbat with yearning.

I cannot imagine life without a weekly 25-hour period to stop and enjoy. Turning off our electronics, tidying up, changing into nice clothes signifies the start of something special each Friday afternoon. Lingering over a bedtime story, enjoying a decadent dessert, settling down to play a board-game: these are activities Shabbat gives us time for. It’s my time to relax, to recharge – and reconnect with my husband and kids (and God).

Time Off

Every busy mom needs some time to recharge. I made going to a class part of my regular schedule. Knowing that I’ve made a commitment helps me get out the door on those days when it’s tough to feel motivated. Plus, having a change of scene – as well as the intellectual stimulation of learning something new – leaves me energized and better able to connect with my family.

Saying Thank You

Thank you for letting me wake up; thank you for allowing me to see; thank you for letting me be free. One of my favorite parts of the day is first thing in the morning, when I recite a list of traditional Jewish blessings saying “thank you” for items that are all too often taken for granted. Starting my morning saying “thank you” impacts the whole day and helps me try to see the positive.

I cherish the gifts I receive on Mother’s Day (appreciation is the biggest gift of all). But the “gifts” I give myself throughout the year are what enable me to connect with my family and create a feeling of peace in our home – not only once a year, but every day too.


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