Sep 23 2014
My children and I will be spending the High Holidays apart this year. This is nothing new. When my now ex-husband left our home in Albany five years ago and moved back in with his parents on Long Island, part of our agreement was that our son and daughter would spend most of the Jewish holidays with him and his family. They were 2.5 and 5 years old at the time.
During the first year of our marriage separation, I travelled to Long Island with my children for Passover. I was not ready to let go. It was all so new, this idea of not being with my chubby-cheeked babes every moment of the day. I stayed with a friend-of-a-friend who opened up her house to me, aware of my tenuous grip on sanity as I prepared to leave my kids for a full day with their dad and grandparents for the very first time. I was scared.
Of course the visit went just fine, and subsequent holidays and alternating weekends carried on without me. My children are now 7.5 and 10 years old. They love the car rides down to Long Island, visits to museums, and–most importantly–time with their dad and grandparents. They are truly lucky to be loved by so many caring people. For this, I am blessed. Read the rest of this entry →
Jun 23 2014
I have a 3.5-year-old and 8.5-month-old. The baby is waking and feeding every two hours. Everyone says to try and cry it out which I can’t do. Others say I’m feeding him too often. I try not to pick him up unless necessary. I just lay my hand on him. I’m getting very sleep deprived as my husband (of 19 years) just left me and I don’t have anyone else to help me. Will he learn to sleep on his own with time or do I have to teach him? People say I need to be stronger with him. I am trying to follow Attachment Parenting. He slept with me until he was 6 months old and always woke up happy. It’s difficult now because the older child comes in and wakes us as there’s no husband anymore to go to. Please help.
All the coffee, vitamin pills, energy drinks, and pick-me-ups in the world won’t help if you are chronically deprived of sleep. Sleep deprivation is hard to handle, and can negatively take a toll on other aspects of your life as well. Read the rest of this entry →
May 9 2014
For Mother’s Day, I do something unconventional. I make rice kugel for my small family of two: myself and my son. My mother, a Hasidic woman who raised more than a dozen children in the Village of Kiryas Joel, taught me a special rice pudding recipe. The recipe calls for a slice–and a story.
She made her kugel and told her story on Rosh Chodesh, the women’s holiday of my youth. In the Hasidic community we did not celebrate Mother’s Day, but Rosh Chodesh–the first day of the month of the Jewish calendar–was a minor holiday for women. We honored the women in biblical times who had been more pious than the men. According to tradition, Moses left for heaven and the men lost faith, made an idol. The women didn’t. They stayed strong and refused to throw their jewelry into the crafting fire for the idolatrous bull. To commemorate their strength and resolve, we always had something special to eat for dinner on Rosh Chodesh. Often, it was rice pudding and the story.
I have a warm image in my mind of my mother sitting at the dinner table in our kitchen on Satmar drive, her chair turned out to face the highchair. She began to tell and as she did, she fed pieces of chicken and potatoes to some baby–which of my siblings it was must have been of no consequence to me because I don’t remember. In that memory she puts the spoon in his mouth and tells the story in Yiddish: “There was a king that came to visit a town of not such smart people.” Read the rest of this entry →
May 7 2014
Five years ago on Mother’s Day, I didn’t know my husband yet. I knew my ex-husband, for sure. And I knew that I was living with my unbelievably kind parents–they took me in when I got divorced when my boys were 3 and 2 years old, respectively. I knew I was one of the lucky ones: I had an emotional and economic safety net that kept me safe from the sharks of self-doubt, poverty and loneliness.
And I knew I still felt lonely.
I had so many people who loved me, yet, I felt alone. And when Mother’s Day ads started showing up in stores and online, I chose to focus on finding the right words and gift for my own mother. I changed the focus of the day to her, rather than me. Read the rest of this entry →
Mar 5 2014
Imagine the scene yesterday: I needed to find one piece of paper, a particular form that will accelerate the process of renewing my daughter’s passport before we travel to the United States this July, for my younger brother’s wedding.
List-maker and Type A that I am, I thought I had the perfect system in place, and that finding this form would be easy-peasy. One hour later, I had opened every file cabinet and folder and drawer in the house, with a forest worth of paperwork covering every available space in the living room. My entire bureaucratic history in Israel exposed, the last 17 years of job applications, funny newspaper articles, and editorial cartoons from the New York Times, and all the fantasies I had constructed: the new car I cannot afford, the Canyon Ranch spa that represents the vacation I so desperately need, the novel I started one night after a particularly inspiring dream.
After another hour of digging through the chaos, I found the passport file, right next to THE WEDDING BOOK. Several envelopes containing a full set of plans for my Israel wedding, from the caterer to the diamond ring to the chocolatier, to the list of potential and acceptable music which would accompany me down the aisle (Either orchestral “Field of Dreams” soundtrack or “One Heart” from “West Side Story”). All the contact information was there, ready to be activated should I get engaged, if I were getting married ten years ago; I am fairly certain that most of these people in the “field of happy occasions” have changed their numbers by now. Apparently we–my potential husband and I–were planning on traveling to the Far East for our honeymoon. Read the rest of this entry →
Feb 18 2014
I knew this day would come. Huddled under the covers with her favorite pink teddy bear, while in-between stories about faraway lands and enchanted princesses, she turns her whole self away from me and asks: “Mommy, who’s my daddy?”
Oh God, not that. Anything but that.
I think about the perfect portrayal of Prince Charming in the book we just read and I wish I had my own fairy godmother here right now to wave her magic wand and poof–give me all the right answers.
How do you tell a little girl who hasn’t seen her father in over three years that the man she wouldn’t recognize if she met him on the street lives only 15 minutes away? How do you describe the guy who locked his own child out of his home, changed the locks and never looked back?
You don’t. Read the rest of this entry →
Jan 6 2014
As a newly single mother of three, I am confronting numerous changes in my life, while simultaneously trying to maintain stability for our children and shield them from further pain. Despite my efforts, some days I feel overwhelmed by the divorce process and doubt my resilience. Divorce sucks. Divorce sucks worse when children are involved. Below are five things I hate most about being a single mom.
1. The Handover
One night a week and every other weekend I meet my soon-to-be ex at a neutral location for the handover. If all goes well, the children swiftly transfer from my car to their father’s without any verbal exchange between the two of us. I will not be an obstacle in our boys’ relationship with their father. I acknowledge that he has the right to parent them too. Nevertheless, saying goodbye to our children each time feels as if someone is tearing out my organs without anesthesia even though I know they are spending sacred time with him. As I kiss each son one last time and say a prayer for their safety and happiness, I swallow the anguish and hide the tears until I am far from sight and free to let go.
2. The Empty House
My family, friends, and even my lawyer assure me that I will someday appreciate the solitude that these overnights provide, but I remain skeptical. The silence in the house is deafening and their absence is palpable. I long for the sound of little feet stomping across the hardwood floor in the middle of the night in pursuit of the safety of my bed after a bad dream. I miss the “I’m done” shout from the potty, the constant bickering between the twins, and even the screaming of the baby at 2:00 am.
3. The Free Time Read the rest of this entry →
Oct 10 2013
My daughter studied Hebrew for four years, giving up free time after school and many weekend slumber parties in pursuit of Jewish knowledge. After all that effort, she wanted a fabulous party to mark the occasion of finally being called to the bimah as a bat mitzvah.
And I wanted to give her one. She’d worked hard for it. But I didn’t have a savings account marked “bat mitzvah” set aside, nor did I have tens of thousands of dollars open on credit cards. I’m sure that many parents must save for this from the moment they get a positive pregnancy test, but I was a very young parent, a single one until she was in elementary school, and for most of her life I had been struggling to finish college and pay the bills. I wanted my daughter to have a Jewish education. But I couldn’t take out a mortgage to do it.
I was supposed to be excited about this milestone, but as it drew ever closer, all I felt was dread. It became a chore, an obligation, a source of massive anxiety, not a joy. I wanted nothing to do with the words “bat mitzvah” anymore. And that broke my heart. Read the rest of this entry →
Oct 29 2012
As part of our ongoing series about Women, Work & Money, Emily Wolper, who is currently in the process of becoming a single mother by choice, shares her concerns about being the sole provider to her future child.
I grew up in a traditionally structured, suburban household. My dad worked and my mom stayed home to raise my sister and me. She was very involved with the community, serving as president of the PTA at almost every school we attended and leading boards of various organizations that had a significant impact on our town. Still, with all of this activity, I knew that my mom was, first and foremost, my mom. Read the rest of this entry →