It was one of those moments when I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry. By three o’clock in the morning all my children had migrated to my room, so I went to their room to get some sleep. As I tucked myself into their bunk bed, I wanted to laugh at the situation and cry from exhaustion. Laughter and tears—this is motherhood.

I waited four and a half years for my eldest to come into the world. Before he came, I cried—a lot. When I found out that I was pregnant, I cried and I laughed. When he was born, I cried some more.

I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry

In those first few months, he woke up every forty-five minutes. I held him on those sleepless nights, remembering the sleepless nights that I spent wondering if I would ever have children. I held him and kissed him and reminded myself of this over and over, so that the tears of frustration would be tears of joy. Laughter and tears—this is motherhood.

G‑d said to Abraham, ‘As for Sarai, your wife . . . I will bless her, and I will also give you a son through her . . .’ Abraham fell upon his face and laughed . . . ‘Indeed your wife, Sarah, will bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac.’”1 “Isaac” literally means “he will laugh.”

The commentators explain that when G‑d told Abraham that Sarah would bear him a son, he laughed as an expression of joy. Later on, the Torah tells us of how three angels disguised as men came to inform Abraham again about the birth of Isaac. Sarah listened to the conversation from her tent, and when she heard their prediction that she would bear a son, she too laughed. But this was the laughter of disbelief. Sarah was an 89-year-old woman, and her husband a 99-year-old man. How could they have a child? Who wouldn’t laugh? But this laughter was just as prophetic as the angels’ words, because a year later, “G‑d had remembered Sarah, as He had said; and G‑d did for Sarah as He had spoken. Sarah conceived and bore a son unto Abraham . . . Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him—whom Sarah had borne him—Isaac . . . Sarah said, ‘G‑d has made laughter for me . . .’”2 Now Sarah experienced the laughter of joy, the laughter of motherhood.

Laughter and tears—this is motherhood

Laughter and tears—this is motherhood.

Lying there at three o’clock in the morning in my children’s bed, it finally dawned on me why G‑d gave the first child born to a Jewish mother the name Isaac, “he will laugh.” As we cuddle and kiss, feed and bathe, dress and educate, G‑d wants us to always keep in mind the importance of our task and the importance of raising our children with joy. Each time Sarah called her son by his name, she was reminded of how Abraham laughed in faith and joy.

We all know it: being a parent is hard work. It’s challenging and demanding. It’s physically and emotionally exhausting. It’s a huge responsibility. And you know what, with all that—it’s so, so rewarding. There’s nothing like it in the world. It’s blessing and abundance. It’s companionship and continuation. It’s laughter and tears. And we can choose to laugh and cry, not in hardship or disbelief, but in faith and joy.