BETH RANKIN | DAILY KENT STATER
Marisa Beagle, a history major, and her daughter, Noelle, sit in the parking lot of the Salem Campus, where she attends school 45 minutes away from her home in East Palestine, near the Pennsylvania border. Marisa and Noelle, 18 months, live with Marisa's parents. A single parent, Beagle says it's tough to attend school and raise a daughter simultaneously, but with the support of her family, she's able to make it work.
My husband regularly goes out of the country for business (like now) and when’s he’s gone, my life is a total nightmare.
A complete mess.
It’s not that I miss him so much (sorry sweetheart, we have FaceTime) or that I can’t manage for a week without my Man by my side. For me, what induces incredible anxiety and puts me on total edge even days before he leaves, is the prospect of being alone with my kids.
Bedtime for all four of them, alone. Morning routine of modeh ani and handwashing and toothbrushing and toileting and picking out clothes and getting dressed and morning tantrums and eating breakfast and making lunches and getting-out-the-door-in-one-piece, alone. (And somehow finding a way to get myself ready for work, as well).
Three separate drop offs, alone – then, after a long day at work, the pick ups at staggered times, alone.
Seemingly endless hours in the afternoons of entertaining and snacks and play dates and fights and more fights and boredom and screaming and yelling and preparing for dinner amidst what feels like full blown wars between my kids, all alone.
Serving and eating dinner and cleaning up dirty faces and plates and floors, alone. Showers for the kids, alone.
Pajamas and books and shema and more fighting and snuggles and running downstairs for cold water and stories and kisses and finally (if I’m lucky) some quiet time.
I hate it. I am stressed. Everything that’s wrong with my kids and my parenting is glaring me in the face — every bump in our time together highlighting every one of my mommy failures. I am not performing well under pressure. I am losing it. My walls of sanity are caving in, exploding.
And sure, I can get a sitter for a breather. And yes, there are some moments that are better than others, moments where we bond over tuna sandwiches by the bridge or ice cream in the park.
But mostly, it’s excrutiating.
My husband is an active Dad. A real partner. Whether it’s manning breakfast (shakshuka is a family favorite), helping with bedtime or diffusing my sometimes stressed out energy, he is involved and present. When he’s around, I don’t feel alone — or completely incompetent. I feel like we can (more or less) get through the parenting challenges together. I have his back, and he has mine.
So when he’s gone, I’m counting the moments until he gets back, when this madness of me trying to hold the fort by myself will finally end — and knowing that this is temporary is the only thing that gets me through his time away.
At my age, I have many friends who are single moms (and dads, too). They have a number of children at home and deal with all sorts of challenges alone. Now, I will not attempt to describe their reality, because in truth, I have no idea what it must be like for them (and of course, each situation is completely unique). I don’t know what their moments of pain really look like, what their triumphs smell like. I can only guess that it must be very hard and at times very lonely, that the decisions, pressures, and need to constantly be on and available for their children must take a toil.
So when I’m struggling so intensely to parent my kids alone for 5 days, I think about all those people out there (including my remarkable sister) who act as single parents and regularly balance the day-to-day responsibilities of raising their children one parent at a time.
And I am full of awe.
I literally crumble after a week. How do these parents sustain this level of engagement for so much longer? How do they keep their chins up and hold the fort? How do they maintain their sanity?
So to the single parents near and far, let me say:
You are my heroes.
You are so strong.
You are so full of love.
You are trying your best.
You are there for your family in ways we cannot imagine.
You are working so hard to give your children what they need — it shows.
And you are not alone.
I pledge to do more for you — to have your children over for a playdate, to sit next to them in shul, to ask them about school, to have you over for the holidays, to listen to you talk about your day.
I encourage our greater community to think deeper about how we support the emotional, financial, spiritual and social needs of single parents– and how we need to do more.
Single parents far and wide- you are not invisible.
You can be fragile and vulnerable and allow us to see the cracks.
You don’t deserve any judgements.
You are a mother who can father — a father who knows how to be motherly.
You are a reminder of what love can achieve, of how passion and determination are the true ingredients in raising wondrous children.
But mostly, you remind me of a truth we learn so early in our experience as mothers and fathers, as we stumble and fumble in trying to raise our children — we are never alone in this whole thing, are we?
G-d is there, next to us, every step of the way, parenting right alongside us.