Like many Jewish women, I have a love/hate relationship with Passover. True, it isn't like the olden days; I have a husband who is willing to do at least as much cooking and cleaning as I am. But the knife cuts both ways: I have obligations outside the home, and the cost of neglecting them can be high.
I know that I bring some of this on myself. From a strictly halakhic perspective, it probably isn't necessary to clean as thoroughly as we do. But you know how it is -- you move a piece of furniture, discover enough dust bunnies to fill a petting zoo, and decide that you'd better check behind the next piece of furniture as well. Then the next thing you know it's four in the morning and you're picking crumbs out of your bridge chairs with a Q-tip, and you'll be damned if you show up for that morning meeting.
There are other things that don't have to be done. I could stay home from shul and study -- no prohibition there, as long as I don't take notes. But as often as I say that I'll spend the holiday studying, I never pull it off. It just isn't yuntif if I work, and, say what you will, studying is work.
Passover is often called the festival of freedom, but this isn't quite accurate. In the biblical story, when the Israelites leave the service of Pharaoh, they do so in order to serve their God. There is no total freedom in this life; the closest we come is having the freedom to choose our masters. I may have some major exams coming up, but when push comes to shove, I'd rather be a slave in the kitchen for a few weeks in honor of the festival than a slave to my exams. And when the festival arrives, I would rather enjoy the freedom of restriction from labor than take advantage of the opportunity to increase my odds of passing by a miniscule margin.
I remember sitting down next to my mother at the seder table several years ago and seeing her smile and say, "this is my favorite holiday." At the moment, I was feeling resentful of the work time I'd lost, and hearing this from someone who had worked twice as hard as I had preparing for the holiday was nothing short of shocking. But then, as the seder began, I remembered that it was my favorite holiday, too. No amount of lost work time could change that.
Two days of yuntif have passed, and there are two more to go. The time in between is just long enough to work for a few hours, then shop and prepare for the next set of meals. Or it would be if I hadn't stayed up all night worrying about those silly exams.
I'm over it now. There are more important things in life.