Musings of a single Mother
You saw me yesterday at Shul.
I was dressed well, nails manicured, sheitel bouncing on my shoulders and a smile planted on my face.
My kids were with me, happy to be in the company of other children their age, sucking their token Shul lollipops and eager to attack the Kiddush spread after Davening.
My boys sat with me in the Women’s section, not really wanting to open a siddur and Daven. When I gently suggested to my son that perhaps he should go and sit in the men’s section with a relative, he slumped deeper into his chair next to me, a pained expression on his face and I knew that he belonged right there with me.
After Davening, you commented on how great I looked and how put together and cute the kids were dressed. Thank G-d they are happy, having fun and enjoying themselves on this sunny Shabbos afternoon.
When I mumbled something about having had a really difficult week and not really feeling so great that day, you looked at me and said “I don’t know how you do it.”
I answered along the lines of, “I don’t really manage, I am having a very hard time trying to always keep it together as a single Mother of four young children and really, I would love some help.’
My comment was met with a look of disbelief, after all I must put on a really good face and whenever you see me somehow I look like i am managing unbelievably well being both Mom and Dad, filling so many roles, navigating routes I never would have dreamed I would have to learn.
Every day I see you, my close friends, family members, teachers of my children, therapists, acquaintances, baristas, salespeople and social workers.
We smile, chat about our day and how much we have on our plate and eventually little bits of my story come out. By the time we finish our encounter you have heard a chunk of my story,
that I am a single mother, I have so many responsibilities and roles that I often feel overwhelmed and almost never get more than five or six hours sleep a night.
Usually i get a comment about how amazing I am, how well I am doing because my children are being taken care of, there is food in the house, clean clothing for them to wear and I am often bright, cheerful and full of Joie de vivre.
Often I also get advice from you, ranging from “you must get more sleep” to “why don’t you hire help every day after school?” or “so do you have a job while your kids are at school?”
Thank you for believing in me and for acknowledging my hard work in parenting, juggling the many balls that I try so hard not to drop.
Thank you for sharing my enthusiasm when I share my dreams for the future and my aspirations in future careers and reviving old dreams and passions.
Thank you for allowing the mask to slide sometimes and for me to speak my heart about how often the going gets so tough that I honestly don’t know how i will make it through the day. How sometimes I wake up for nights in a row in a cold, clammy sweat as I am re-traumatised from experiences which I wish that no-one could ever relate to. Those are nights that seem to go on forever as I try so hard to calm my pounding heart, the fear paralysing me as if my haunts are right there in the room with me. In reality, I am safe at home now, there is nothing to fear besides my fear itself and that feeling of not being safe in my own skin.
So when I tell you next Shabbos at shul that I am exhausted because last night I fell asleep while putting the little ones to bed and then woke up at an unearthly hour to put away the shabbos food in the fridge, attempt a slight dent in the tidy up from the meal and perhaps sit on the couch to read my child’s school newsletter.
What I really want to hear is not the words applauding my Superwoman status or awarding me a medal of bravery.
I am asking for empathy, compassion and understanding that my life is difficult and really I could use some support from those who watch me valiantly go about my life.
Would you be able to watch my children for a few hours one evening so that I can go out to a shiur, a friend’s party or maybe even late night shopping which is something I have long forgotten about?
Do you have an extra container of soup in your freezer which you would love to give to a single mother who often resorts to fish sticks and french fries because cooking is just one of those luxuries that has to go when the balls are all up in the air at once?
Perhaps you have a cleaner who has an hour or two spare and you would love to share her with me so that I don’t have to start doing laundry, dishes and tidying up at midnight when my kids have finally settled down for the night.
If you can’t offer me any practical solutions, financial aid or the words just escape you when you see me in my position. All I ask for is your heart, your love, a hug, a tear or a blessing.
Help me fight my battle in any way you possibly can, just let me know that you are listening to me, that you see behind the mask of my make up, new dress and bouncy wig.
That you will help create a better future so that there are no more survivors of family violence in our community who had to battle for their voices to be heard before finally finding a way to live life in safety.
Let me know that you support me in my decision to put my children and myself first even if it means ending a marriage which may be frowned upon in our circles.
Hold my hand and squeeze it tight when I tell you that I still don’t have a Gett after these years alone and how I worry about my future and that of my children.
If you are a man and you have a son in my Son’s class. Perhaps invite my kid to join a father and son shiur, program or just to play a game of ball in the park on Sunday afternoon.
My boys haven’t seen their father in years and they don’t really get a chance to attend boys events. They tell me how much they hate sports and all the boys know how to play the games but they don’t know how to kick a ball or hold a bat.
If you see my son wandering around outside Shul on shabbos morning, perhaps offer him to come inside and follow along krias Hatorah with you.
Going on mivtzoim with your boys? My son would love an opportunity to join you and tick off his missions for Chayolei Tzivos Hashem.
As a Rebbi when you teach about Pesach and discuss the seder table and ma nishtana, perhaps throw in a line about how not everyone is so fortunate to have their father at their seder table and we may ask Ma Nishtana to a Mother, Zaide or friend. Sometimes my son may shed a tear in class, he’s just thinking of the ache in his heart and that hole which opened when his Dad disappeared some years ago. Thank you for being sensitive and understanding how sometimes albeit unintentionally, salt gets poured on the wound and it stings. Thank you for allowing him to cry and to feel vulnerable. He is so brave on a daily basis.
There are countless ways in which my heart is open to your compassion.
My phone awaits a call just for two minutes to say you are thinking of me today and wanted me to know.
To my fellow single mothers out there, you know I am here for you and that sometimes no words are necessary as we band together to form circles of love, support and friendship.
May there be an end to all forms of abuse, suffering, hardships and pain and may we all find ways to support each other in our journeys that we call life.
My we celebrate an ultimate and true festival of redemption this year in Yerushalayim