Mar 2016

Call Me Bubbe

It sounds simple enough, but at a deeper level it can actually be emotionally complex.  Or, maybe I simply overthink these matters.  But, the reality is, I have a say in what the next generation will call me….forever.  I take that very seriously.  I also have an opportunity to rebrand my vision of what a Bubbe is – an older, slightly overweight, kitchen bound, loving grandmother.  I am none of these things, I like to think, so why take the plunge?

It started, as you may have guessed, approximately nine months ago when my stepdaughter called to say she was expecting our first grandchild.  She chose to skip the traditional route of “love and marriage,” instead following a newer trend of “love and baby.”  I adore my stepdaughter and over our 25 years together, we have built a loving, supportive relationship.  But, this was tough.  The unwed mother thing is a little tricky, at so many levels.  

Take the baby shower.  None of our families have met and, unfortunately, we have a very messy family.  There is divorce, a couple stepparents, an ex-stepparent, half siblings, ex-step siblings and current step siblings.  And there is the interfaith  differences, Judaism, Christianity and a sprinkle of atheism.  With this backdrop, I was grateful to even be invited to the baby shower, but honestly not that excited.  For the stepparent these events can be stressful and unfulfilling, wanting to be respectful to the real parents, while carving out a personal space.  It feels very isolating, even after 25 years.  Invited, but not welcome.  To add to the uncertainty is the baby shower itself, something that is not customary for Jews.  I start to wonder what Talmudic interpretation led to this current day tradition of forgoing the baby shower.  Did Maimonides or Rashi really have commentary on the baby shower superstition?  I doubt it, but as a result of this longstanding Jewish belief, I have never been to a baby shower.    

The shower is tomorrow and for my husband, who was not invited, I am taking one for the team, our team.  Personally, It has been emotional, complex and messy, which leads me to the name Bubbe.  

In this 9-month roller coaster ride, with all its flaws, complexities, unsettling feelings of exclusion and deeply compelling emotions, it is starting to feel very Jewish to me.  I come from a place of deeper thought, questioning purposeand& meaning, feeling compelled to try to do the “right thing,” but not always wanting to and knowing I am different.  Being called Bubbe by my grandson, an inherently Jewish term, will be unique to me. I know there will be no other Bubbe in his life and that finally feels right.


Jen Schmitz, a Wexner Heritage member (St. Louis 15), is interested in healthcare and creative expression through the arts. Jen is currently on the board of the Jewish Light, focusing on development. She is also a board member at Max & Louie Productions. Jen is a past president of the St. Louis chapter of Hadassah, believing in the power of medicine and medical advancements to heal and improve people’s lives. She is a member of the inaugural class of the Millstone Fellows. She is currently a Finance Leader at MasterCard Worldwide, having previously provided project management leadership in the Information Technology group. Jen grew up in the Chicago area, studied Accounting at Emory University, earned her CPA and received her graduate degree in Information Technology from DePaul University. She is a member of Congregation B’nai Amoona. Jen and her husband Jeff are the parents of two sons, Adam and Michael. She can be reached at