This evening in Israel, large segments of the population aged 25-55 are getting ready to celebrate the Festival of Freedom, Productivity, and Guilt. This festival is marked twice annually; once on September 1st, and once now, the day after Passover vacation. (Lesser feasts of FFPG are celebrated by some devout believers the day after Sukkot, and the day after Hanukkah.)

The holiday is marked by parents, and begins at approximately 8:45 am tomorrow, when the last child has been dropped off at school, and has not yet called home about something he forgot, or a stomach ache.

Traditions include:

  • Being especially calm, even joyous, in traffic on the way to work, because you are alone in the car and there is no BBQ Bisli smell, and you, and only you, decide on the music;
  • Being extremely focused on every (backlogged) task, until you remember that there is no one to feed lunch to except yourself, which makes you giddy enough to call a friend…
  • Going out to coffee / lunch…
  • Feeling extremely bad about yourself for any or all of the following reasons:

Your wife / friend cannot celebrate this year, as she still has a small child at home; if she goes out to coffee, she’s wearing the baby.

Your friend / colleague has no kids and would love nothing more than to be a parent, and you are an ungrateful idiot.

Your friend / colleague has had a very hard time having kids / has a special needs child, and would love nothing more than to have spent two weeks with your kinds of problems (endless sand, endless dirt, endless bickering, endless food) and you are an ungrateful idiot.

You just spent 11 million hours with the small – and sometimes bigger than you – people *who rely on you to live*, doing the main thing you were put on earth to do. What greater “productivity” is there than raising a family? Why aren’t you *sad* to be away from them??? (You definitely have a friend / colleague who is honestly and deeply sad about this.)

  • Using this self-loathing to go through tasks like a super hero; there is no procrastination this afternoon. (The woman wearing the baby? She has cleaned four closets and written two blog posts by the time the older kids come home. Don’t feel too bad for her.) Your accomplishments include 675 emails as fast as the enterprise server can send them, two proposals, and a brilliant, industry changing idea. You also check in at home at 4 pm, just to say hi, and after the phone is thrown across the room at someone’s head, immediately remember why you felt joyous this morning in the car. More self-loathing ensues.

Reflecting on the deeper universal issues raised by this holiday – parents (usually mothers) as individuals finding their way as the center of a family system – has largely been the province of judgmental bloggers. (If you are not familiar, start by Googling ‘Mommy Wars,’ and call me in half a year when your blood pressure returns to normal.)

Mostly, the consensus is that working parents and stay at home parents; parents who cherish every moment with their kids, and parents who can’t wait for a Full. F***ing. Day. of Glorious Silence: we will all be resented equally by the next generation, who will report to their cyber therapists feeling either smothered or ignored.

To all those celebrating, Happy Holiday… and keep that productivity-via-guilt thing going: Monday night there will definitely be homework, and it’s definitely on you.