By a single mother
Worst of all is the oppressive humidity.
A slight breeze, a song in the air would make it better.
When your child has her own version of reality which often clashes with real life, the day is long and exhausting. Routine tasks and events are harder to face and you must plan ahead, every step of the way.
A long morning, some yelling, some hilarity, out the door. You’re exhausted but the day has just begun.
Time flies and your child is late for school.
The humidity. It’s hot. She refuses to walk. You can’t blame her. You wait for the city bus. You’ve just missed one, and the next one is 13 minutes away. She doesn’t mind waiting. Quality time at a bus stop, the silent company of other commuters.
The bus crawls up the congested avenue. Off, finally. You walk briskly, 3 blocks and you’re there. You apologize to the teacher. As a former teacher, you know how disruptive it is when students show up late.
As a punctual person, you can’t forgive yourself for bringing your daughter to school 40 minutes behind schedule. Stress and anxiety accumulate while you sit at your desk, trying to do your job and function in a vacuum.
Time for school pick-up nears and you start planning dinner. There may be no time to cook this afternoon, do we have appointments? Your first goal is to reach all schools on time, get everyone home in one piece, avoiding that impertinent ice cream truck.
Finally, home – air conditioning, the best coffee you’ve ever had, 2 minutes on the couch before springing back into action. Dinner, laundry, baths, bedtime, yet another bedtime, mop the floor. How many jobs to mothers have? How many jobs does a single mom have?
The stress has been accumulating over the past few weeks. Once camp is out the ball is in your court but the babysitter fails to show up, another babysitter fails to connect with your kids, and the following week you’re home half the time, forfeiting pay, because reliable babysitters are hard to find. You’re on one income and your kids are home. The world does not care. People have their own problems, you tell yourself.
You’ve tried again and again. You believe in the inherent goodness of people. You’ve asked for the ride, the help, the short break, the small sum to tide you over that month. The rejections have stung, and you have learned to stop asking.
Long ago, you’ve learned the art of the lie. When people stop you and ask you how you are, they don’t want to hear about the outstanding bill, the call from school, the identity theft you’ve been a victim of, the despair that grips you when you have to face yet another shabbos or Yom Tov on your own.
No, they want to hear the lie, because it validates their world view. You smile and say, “Oh, I’m good thanks, how are you?” And listen and nod and make conversation. Because people relate to normal best of all.
If this essay has touched you, please consider lending a hand to the single parents in your area. Offer to take their kids to shul once a month, or have them over for a playdate (don’t forget to offer rides if needed). Take them on an outing so their parent could have a few hours to her/himself. Bring them dinner once in a while. Allocate part of your ma’aser to a single mom to help with necessities. Remember that people have different needs. If you know single parents, ask them what they need and what would be of most help to them.