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Even God Had Bad Parenting Days

Raising small humans is wild, sacred work

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New parents get overwhelmed, regularly pushed to their limits and confused by contradictory feelings of elation and near-despair. 

To soothe the frazzled and lift their spirits, writer and Bible scholar Alicia Jo Rabins has created “Even God Had Bad Parenting Days: ancient Jewish wisdom for new parents.”  Humorous, self-reflective, and comforting, Rabins' musings on both heartening and cringe-worthy biblical examples of parenting can help any caregiver see beyond the detritus of day-to-day living with young children and recapture a sense of wonder at the process of raising small humans.

Parents do worry about their failed attempts to be perfect, and these short, personal essays can lead them to new perspectives and even to embrace a vital concept that English psychologist and pediatrician D.W. Winnicott called "the good enough parent." The supportive and inspirational writings of this gentle parenting book can help any soul embarked upon this wild, sacred work recognize the wisdom of poet Norman Fischer’s advice that “the only transcendence is fully embracing the ups and downs.”

This collection draws on Alicia Jo Rabins’ years of experience as a writer, Bible scholar, and feminist Jewish educator, and is based on her popular series of articles on parenting for Kveller.

Praise for Even God Had Bad Parenting Days

“Warm, witty, and wise, Alicia Jo Rabins offers essential advice to parents. Her interpretation of ancient stories suffuses family struggles—both mundane and profound—with beauty and wonder.” –Vanessa Hua, author of Forbidden City.

“Alicia Jo Rabins has given parents a gift of insight, solace, solidarity, and care in this exquisite volume of spiritual nourishment. This book is a blessing for anyone in the trenches of life with littles.”

--Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg, author of Nurture the Wow and On Repentance and Repair: Making Amends in an Unapologetic World.


Do you ever have days when you feel like the least orga­nized par­ent at drop-off? When you’re cer­tain that if you hear the word ​“why” from your tod­dler one more time you’ll scream? When you just want to dis­ap­pear into a dark, qui­et room and hide from the chaos hap­pen­ing in your home? Or even con­sid­er whether hav­ing kids was a good idea?

These are the sorts of ques­tions that Ali­cia Jo Rabins asks and answers in her new book, Even God Had Bad Par­ent­ing Days, while using Jew­ish wis­dom — gleaned from the Torah, midrashim, Tal­mud, and oth­er ancient texts — to explore the not-so-Insta­gram-wor­thy ele­ments of twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry par­ent­ing.

An accom­plished artist, per­former, writer, and Torah teacher, Rabins has craft­ed a deeply relat­able, com­fort­ing guide for any­one who ever feels over­whelmed by par­ent­hood. Writ­ing of the High Hol­i­day songs that so often paint God as the ulti­mate patient and lov­ing par­ent-fig­ure, she says, ​“I con­fess that this idea of act­ing with infi­nite com­pas­sion feels firm­ly beyond my reach. And that’s why, from a parent’s per­spec­tive, I actu­al­ly find it com­fort­ing to remem­ber that God — as described in the Torah — is impa­tient, imper­fect, and some­times down­right pis­sy,” such as when Korah is jeal­ous of Moses and Aaron’s lead­er­ship roles. ​“Does God calm­ly say, ​‘Tell me more about what you’re feel­ing’? No, God does not. Instead God opens up a giant hole in the ground” that swal­lows him whole. The point, of course, is not to advo­cate for crap­py par­ent­ing, but to help par­ents and care­givers feel less alone in moments when rais­ing a child is hard and patience wears thin.

One of the book’s strengths is that it is orga­nized into short, the­mat­ic chap­ters — most of them only three or four pages long — that are quick reads, acces­si­ble to even the most sleep-deprived, time-strapped par­ent. Rabins cou­ples her own tri­umphs and chal­lenges with Jew­ish teach­ings, a cre­ative deci­sion that pro­vides com­fort with­out com­ing across as patron­iz­ing or false­ly opti­mistic. For instance, Even God Had Bad Parenting Days does not shy away from mat­ters like the author’s post­par­tum depres­sion, lone­li­ness, and finan­cial strain. This authen­tic­i­ty sets Even God Had Bad Parenting Days apart from oth­er par­ent­ing books. It reads as though it has been writ­ten by an expe­ri­enced mom friend who’s seen it all, who lis­tens with­out judg­ment, and who always offers the best response to life’s dif­fi­cul­ties — even if that response is just to rub your back and say she under­stands. Par­ent­ing can feel like a lone­ly, stress­ful endeav­or, but Even God Had Bad Parenting Days will make any par­ent or care­giv­er feel seen, under­stood, and more inti­mate­ly con­nect­ed to Jew­ish teachings.

--Leah Grisham, The Jewish Book Council

About the Author

Alicia Jo Rabins is an award-winning performer, musician, poet, and Jewish scholar whose recent film, A Kaddish for Bernie Madoff, is being exhibited at film festivals throughout the US, most recently at the New York Jewish Film Festival. Her writing appears in Kveller, Ecotone Magazine, Tablet Magazine, and American Poetry Review, among others.

She is a 2020 Literary Arts Fellow in Poetry and has fellowships from RACC, Bread Loaf Writers Conference, and Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and the Six Points Fellowship for Emerging Jewish Artists. Winner of the 2015 American Poetry Review/Honickman Book Prize, and finalist for the National Jewish Book Award, she is also the author of Divinity School and Fruit Geode, and creator of Girls in Trouble, an indie rock song cycle abut biblical women.

Rabins graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Barnard College (creative writing), holds an MFA in poetry from Warren Wilson and an MA in Jewish Women’s and Gender Studies from the Jewish Theological Seminary, and she tours internationally as a musician, lecturer, and feminist Jewish educator. She lives in Portland, Oregon. Find her at


I so appreciate the fact that in the Torah, the main characters--including God--all have moments of acting like overwhelmed parents. Despite the best intentions of remaining patient and compassionate, they, like us, lose their cool.

For example, the Exodus from Egypt. We love to celebrate this story of miraculous liberation. Less often do we mention that the recently liberated Israelites are extremely whiny. (Sound familiar?)

They're tired of wandering in the desert, and they sit around complaining about how they miss the delicious meat they used to eat in Egypt. Moses, like a stressed-out parent, finally hits a wall. He can't take any more whining and complains to God that he'd rather die than lead these people.

And how does God handle this? By making quail rain down from the sky, then sending a plague to kill the Israelites who choose to eat it.

This is not a pretty story. In fact, it is exactly this kind of thing that makes people think of God as a vengeful guy in the sky with a white beard.

But reading this as a mother, I think . . . who am I to judge? I get it. I've had crappy parenting days too . . .