There was a retreat this weekend in Minnesota for single mothers. It was put on by the BAIS CHANA WOMEN INTERNATIONAL group. They are a predominantly observant group, but welcome and service women from all levels of Jewish observance. I had an opportunity to speak with a few of the women who attended the weekend and it was interesting, surprising, and comforting.
I have been a single mother for many years, and while it’s a difficult life to be sure, it is also rewarding beyond explanation. I am blessed to be a mother, and my child is the seed from which all my joy grows. I love him, and my greatest challenge in life is to separate my ex-husband from the father of my child. Hard since they are the same person.
How can I feel badly toward a man who gave me this amazing blessing? Can I blame him for not being a good husband, when he is a good father? If he was only going to be one thing, I would want him to be a good dad, and he is, so I should feel joy and gratitude toward him right? Easier said than done. I sadly have no respect for this man who I once loved.
Can you end your marriage and go through a bad divorce but still be a good Jew? Can you raise your children in a loving Jewish home when the man you thought would be your partner is no longer anything other than the father of your children? If your ex-husband decides to not live a Jewish life, how can we as women provide that life alone? Is it even possible?
I spoke with four great women who range in age from 37 to 57. They were open about sharing their experiences, and I took away some interesting points. In the interest of their privacy, I’ve decided to compile a list of things they shared as a group rather than single them all out. The religious community is a small one and I don’t want to make them uncomfortable.
When discussing divorce, trauma, heartache, sorrow, loss and being a single mother, they had a lot of perspectives to share. I was surprised that many at the conference converted to Judaism, or were born Jewish but became religious after marriage, or during the process of getting divorced. To me that speaks volumes not about Judaism, but about faith.
Faith matters, and while this article is focused on Jewish women, you can apply the lessons to any woman, of any religion. Faith is something that women can turn to in times of turmoil. For me, my faith is a safe harbor where I am embraced by God and I know the choices I made, although not always right, will be fine and lessons can be learned.
When speaking of the conference and faith, here are ten things these strong and inspiring women shared with me:
- Faith allows us to see good in even the most difficult situations
- Faith helps us weed through the drama and get to the basics
- Faith reminds us to be decent human beings
- Faith requires us to behave dignified when it comes to ex-husbands
- Faith asks us to find compassion for those who are hurting us
- Maintaining faith is an ultimate challenge when going through a divorce
- You cannot wait for life to get easy
- You must find joy in your life, and all it takes is looking
- You can’t control everything so let faith guide you
- Wasband is the newest way to refer to your ex-husband
In many ways I don’t have a lot in common with these women. In more ways however, we are fighting the same battles. They all have children, ranging in age from 3 to 28. They are all providing a Jewish home to their kids on their own. Some have been through traumatic relationships which included emotional, verbal, physical or psychological abuse.
What I learned from them is it’s going to be okay. My obligation is to make myself happy, because if I am happy, so will my son be happy. One woman has a special needs son, and she said he is the barometer to what is happening in her life. If she is calm and peaceful, so is he, and so is the house. He allows her to embrace faith and gather perspective.
Divorce is a very hard thing to go through, and in my opinion, more difficult when you are a woman. Just the hormones alone are enough to make you scream and become unhinged at every turn. The blessing though, is that as women, we can gather up our kids, feed off of the joy they provide us, and sacrifice everything to make their lives safe and happy.
I have always had faith. I may not always have been practicing religion, but there has always been faith, and it has always been based in Judaism. I made it through my divorce because of faith, and raising my son with a love, understanding and respect for Judaism is something I am very proud of, as I do it alone, without help from my wasband.
The women who went to Minnesota for the retreat are strong and wise. They may have times of pain and sorrow, but that’s okay. They remind us that with faith, all is possible. Rather than wait for God to help us, we must help ourselves and take comfort in his watching over us. I am proud to be a single mother, and will never stop keeping the faith.
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