To all the mothers out there—do you feel that what you are doing is the most important thing in the world?

If I’m being honest, my answer to that question depends on the day.

Most days, it would go something like this: “Uhh, I am not sure. Intellectually, I know that it is important, but to feel that way? That is a lot to ask. All I can feel right now is my hand being gnawed on by my baby and my ears ringing from my toddler screeching that he needs to use the potty.”

Ask me another day and I might say: “Of course! Bringing these beautiful little humans into the world and teaching them to live a happy, moral life in line with G‑d’s desires is the greatest thing I could do with my time!”

And then there was last Sunday: “I haven’t slept for more than four hours in a row for months, I barely found time today to eat more than a granola bar, and my greatest dream is to go to the grocery store by myself. Sorry, did you ask me something?”

Motherhood is complicated. I love my children so passionately that I just want to shower them with kisses and hugs, and at the same time I desperately crave some personal space and the ability to sleep in every now and then. I also struggle with how my entire identity and sense of self has shifted since becoming a mother. I used to see myself as an intellectual, artistic, independent person. Now, I often feel that those parts of myself are subsumed under the responsibilities of caring for my kids. As a relatively new mother (my oldest is only four), I am slowly learning how to carve out space for myself where I can express my intellectual and artistic passions.

What I am realizing as my son gets older, though, is that I can also uncover how to use my talents within motherhood itself. When I am at my limit from toddlerhood, I whip out some watercolors and we paint the afternoon away until bedtime. When being cooped up in the house is driving everyone crazy, I come up with a plan to go on a hike to a local waterfall. Those are my good days. Sometimes I just tell myself to hold on and take some deep breaths. I remind myself that not losing my temper when the boy I just dressed after 20 minutes of fighting is somehow naked again is an epic spiritual win.

Somehow, the world thinks motherhood doesn’t offer enough to challenge a truly smart, capable person, but I think it is just the opposite. Motherhood is so challenging that it takes a truly smart, capable person to succeed at it. From my own experience, I see that it draws upon all parts of me—physically, emotionally, spiritually and intellectually—to build my home and my family. When I send my kids to school or childcare so I can work, whether out of necessity or desire, I think of it as refueling so I can be ready for my main job.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe said in a talk in 1973:

G‑d established the home and the family so that the man does his part, and the woman does her part, and hers is not less important. In fact, maybe, when it comes to the children, her job is more critical than the man’s. If both the man and the woman are doing the man’s work, who will build and uphold the Jewish home?1

Without going too far down the rabbit hole of gender roles and feminist critique, I love this talk simply because it reminds me that whether or not I am working as a professional it is my responsibility and privilege to uphold the Jewish home. Jewish tradition does not consider your paycheck the marker of your worth, rather it is the legacy you leave in the form of a harmonious, committed family that reveals your greatest impact on the world.

In another talk, the Rebbe emphasized the sheer exertion that motherhood requires.2 He repeated multiple times that a woman’s work maintaining the home and raising children takes special attention and focus. Indeed, it takes full concentration and devotion. Like I said, it draws upon all of your inner strengths, reserves and abilities. But then he says something very interesting. With all this work in the mundane, physical tasks of the home, like making sure the house is clean, the children are dressed, and that everyone is fed healthy, kosher food, the woman might think that this doesn’t have much to do with Judaism or with the Shulchan Aruch, the Code of Jewish law.

However, while doing all of these immensely challenging tasks, the Rebbe says, “She should be permeated with the understanding that through this she is serving G‑d.” Even checking that there isn’t a draft from an open window causing the children to get a chill is serving G‑d!

When I read this, I had just recently heard a podcast about the impact our thoughts have on our feelings. So how do I make motherhood feel like the most important thing in the world? I started by simply telling myself that, in my head, throughout the day. When I catch myself thinking I just can’t wait for bedtime or this kid is driving me crazy, I switch it with the thought: I am serving G‑d! I am doing something so meaningful. It is challenging and that is ok.

But, like I said, if I’m being honest, it depends on the day. I don’t always remember this on hard days when motherhood gets me down. But I like to write about it as a reminder to myself, and hopefully to those who read this, that we are doing the hard work upon which the continuity of the Jewish people depends. That is definitely the most important thing in the world.