It’s been a few years now, and I had forgotten what it is like, the zombie state when you don’t sleep, neither during the night nor in the day. I’m the type of person who can never sleep on an airplane or in the car. I need complete darkness, and for my pillow and the mattress to be “just so.” Now I find myself dozing off in any position, my neck contorted, my shoulders hunched. I’m so physically exhausted that I can now sleep at any time or in any position. This is the mark of a mother with a newborn baby.

It’s eight o’clock in the morning. My husband leaves to take the kids to school. I am sitting on the couch nursing our three-week-old baby. Four hours later he returns and finds me in the same spot, doing the same thing. I have barely moved; I have not accomplished anything that I planned to do. I tell him, frustrated, on the verge of tears, “I didn’t do anything this morning!”

Four hours later he returns and finds me in the same spot, doing the same thing“Elana,” he tells me. “You’re doing exactly what you need to be doing. You’re doing Mommy.”

How did he know that this was just what I needed to hear? “I’m doing exactly what I need to be doing.”

The transition from working outside the home to being at home with a baby, and from a neat and organized home to a messy but functioning one, is enough to get any modern-day “superwoman” down; it’s enough to get even a not-so-“superwoman” like me down. No one (except for my husband) knows what I do all night. There is no public praising the number of diapers I changed today. The job of stay-at-home mommy certainly is not going to get me a raise, but I repeat to myself the words of my husband, “You’re doing exactly what you need to be doing.”

When I have a moment, when the baby is calmly sleeping, I rush to get a load of laundry in, or cook a hot meal. Nursing time becomes reading time with my older children, as I try to balance my time and attention between everyone. I’m tempted to complain as a friend asks me, “How are you doing?” Then I take a moment and think about all that I am doing, not what I am not doing, and you know what—tired and all, thank G‑d, I am doing great.

When the Jewish people arrived at Mount Sinai to receive the Torah with all of its commandments, laws and ordinances, G‑d said to Moses, “So shall you say to the House of Jacob, and relate to the Children of Israel” (Exodus 19:3). The commentators explain that “the House of Jacob” refers to the Jewish women, and “the Children of Israel” refers to the men. If you notice, G‑d told Moses to first speak to the women and then to the men. The Jewish mother has such an important role and high status in education and in the transmittal of our laws and traditions to our children, that G‑d put her, and all Jewish women, before the men. Very often, the child spends the majority of its early years with its mother, and she has the most influence upon its development. There is no greater validation, no greater compliment or praise than that—from G‑d!

It’s funny, because nowadays, really anyone can do anything. Thank G‑d, there is formula, wonderful daycare, whatever you need and whenever you need it. The irony is that anyone could do my job. They could stay, feed, and be with my baby. But why would I want to give up such an important position? Why would I let someone else receive my reward?

The irony is that anyone could do my jobThe day before I gave birth, I went to pray at the tomb of the Matriarch Rachel. There is a famous prophecy in which Rachel is crying for her children (Jeremiah 31:14), and the Midrash expands on this: When the Jews were exiled to Babylonia after the destruction of the first Temple, Moses and the Patriarchs prayed to G‑d to have mercy on the people. At last Rachel came crying, and G‑d told her to wipe away her tears and not to worry: in her merit, the nation of Israel would return to Israel.

As I stood praying to G‑d that I should have an easy delivery, a healthy baby and a speedy recovery, I paused for a moment and whispered by Rachel’s tomb, “Mammaleh, cry, please don’t stop crying! Cry for us and pray for us, as only a mother for her children can.” I prayed for all the women I know who are waiting and longing to hold a newborn in their arms, and to know what it is to be completely and totally exhausted from a sleepless night with an infant. I pray now that G‑d should give me the strength to take care of my family, to educate my children to be upright, and to help me remember that for now I am doing exactly what I need to be doing—and that’s great.