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Being Mommy and Daddy

Being Mommy and Daddy

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My daughter had quite a night last night. When she joined her class for a roller-skating trip, it seems she took the "trip" part a little too literally. Trip she did, falling right on her wrist. She came home in terrible pain which affected her ability to write, yet only heightened her ability to whine. And every parent knows how much their own child's whine can seem like nails on a chalkboard. I offered arnica gel (a true gift from G‑d via the health food store) and Tylenol, but neither did the trick. Then I noticed a bigger boo boo. She had gotten badly chaffed by the roller skates, yet all I had was diaper cream. Just the mention of it sent my seven-year-old into a fit of giggles. Don't you just love a face with tears streaming down combined with a smile and the giggles? I think of it as a perfect moment.

The real tears began to fall and her body began to heaveAfter she was lathered up and smelling like a newborn (I got nostalgic from the smell and tried to rock her like I used to, but it was a no-go – but a great excuse for more giggles), she sat back down to finish her homework and was seemingly on the road to recovery. But that is when the real tears began to fall and her body began to heave. I knew why instantly. I was on new turf.

You see, it was only recently that I have begun my role as the family nurse. This was previously her father's domain. He was our medicine man. From dialing for diagnosis to making sure our medicine cabinet was always stocked, he handled everything. A trip to the pharmacy could take him hours, scouring each over-the-counter item for the correct mix of symptoms, daytime/nighttime, frequency of suspension (Vicks Vapor Rub sent us a thank you note for their increased sales in our area). He created charts as a reminder for dispensing medicines when needed and made the best tea with lemon and honey.

I watched her patiently, not sure how to respond. I couldn't scoop her up since she had just protested against it and I was sure to bump some injury in my valiant efforts. I couldn't create a potion to take away too much pain for her small frame and big eyes. Yet, as I just stood, she could feel my desire to protect her and felt my love wrapped around her like a warm blanket on a cold night.

As the tears began to wane, she looked at me and stated that she didn't even know why she was crying. I gave her a confused look. She had cried out for her father as a wolf howls at the moon. "I mean," she paused to catch her breath and wipe her nose and eyes with one fluid sweep of her arm as only a child can do, "You take perfectly good care of me, right?" Her hands waved in the air, showing the obvious reality. "So why should I be crying?"

While a part of me then wanted to burst into tears, simultaneously, my own inner healer strutted her stuff. "Mmmhh" is all I muttered, allowing her the space of healing without outwardly patting myself on the back. She smiled and put her head down.

I kept the good energy of our "moment" flowingBack to the math. I tried to make the three pages of homework go quickly by firing questions at her and writing the answers myself. I made an effort to write as second graderly as possible (not such a stretch) and we pounded out that homework faster than I had ever seen before. I kept the good energy of our "moment" flowing and kept her giggling as I snuck in fifty-three minus seventeen. She went easily to bed without the usual fanfare and reading marathon.

I left the room still feeling like a healer. I hadn't just healed the patient, I had healed all of us. I brought down her feverish fear that only her father could take care of her needs. I overcame the endless symptoms of guilt from my fear, that alone I couldn't give each of my children what they need. Together we removed one of the band-aids from one of the wounds we received from my husband walking out on us, and the divorce that followed. And the result was a little less anger and hurt in our bodies.

As I climbed the stairs to our inverted house, I didn’t make the usual b-line for the computer to shield away the difficulties of the day. My daughter had given me the medicine I needed to do some work around the house and deal with the very things I had been avoiding. She had given me the okay to be a successful single mother. I didn’t have to wallow in my loneliness or oneness. She gave me the strength to be two. That night, I learned that as hard as it may be at times, somehow I will manage to give my children the correct dosages of emotional support they need so badly (and even the right amounts of medicinal support as well), a proper Jewish education, and most importantly, for as long as I need to, I can be both mommy and daddy!

By Rachel Tenzer
Rachel Tenzer is the proud mother of three beautiful children and is discovering more about her inner strength every day.
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Caroline India April 14, 2016

Glad to read this article I am so glad to read this article of a single mom. I am also glad that Chabad.org has single parent stories being written as there are so many wonderful Jewish women as single parent, and I'm one of them! Thanks to RACHEL TENZER and Chabad.org Reply

Anonymous toronto August 31, 2015

Dear " Step mother " Dear " Step Mother " , why don" t you focus on your own behavior instead of everyone else" s.? Do you know that more than the single mother .& the children, you are the one causing the single mother & the children so much heartache & pain ?I also was in a second marrage. The first wife was also taking us to Court on a regular basis. I was asked to go for custody of my husband" s child. I refused... I did not have the heart to take a child away from a biological mother. As it turns out he divorced me ; but there is a child & their mommy who were not seperated from each other. Reply

Anonymous toronto August 31, 2015

Dear Stepmom My child & I are victims of Severe Parental Alienation Syndrome from a biological Dad's second wife. and a second husband" s first wife. I have even come to believe that both the biological Dad & second husband are also victims of Severe Parental Alienation Syndrom. When people are in the process of a divorce , they say many things to the other. These things are said in " the heat of the moment " - to each other .... Not to the new patrner & even worse... new " parent ". I had a opportunity to be a step parent .... I could not put another women & child through what my child & I went through. You have no idea what pain & suffering you have helped to create for the mother & child. Many women have actually died....Do you know how many women are unable to even see their own biological children - children from their own tummies - their own flesh & blood... because of people like you? You have no right to interfere with your husband's children' s relationship with their mother Reply

Shoshanna PA August 28, 2015

Well written article just a little side note: Why does it matter who the parent is of the kid? Why can't they (the court) each get the kid every other day? Like,think about the kids for a moment...i'm going to be a judge for this type of thing and this is exactly what i plan to do. Reply

Anonymous September 10, 2014

I am the biological mother of my child. I have been awarded full custody of my child. This decision was not arrived @ on a whim . My child's father & I were in a 5 year custody case. We each had lawyers , were tested psychologically , had many dates in court before a Judge , many meetings with lawyers , psychologists - our own & each others ..... home visits ..... the process was very through. My child was actually ordered by the Courts to obtain his own lawyer . My child is the one who made sure I retained full custody of my child. While this is a very difficult process to go through - my child remained very happy - healthy - & well adjusted. I made sure that the father saw our child regularly, and only interfered when there was safety issues. I was given full custody of my child the day of separation & retained full custody. Reply

Anonymous December 27, 2013

Children need both parents I am a stepmom with four lovely children and four grandchildren!
Our children's bio mom , in her words, "I'm going to get revenge"
When my husbands plane circled the sky unable to land due to thunderstorms,making him late to pick up our five and eight year old children on time.
And revenge she sought for ten years and counting.
In the form of numerous lawsuits attempting to take the children away from their Dad changing 50 50 custody to 25 75 thanks to a single mom judge who hates men.
Single moms are often the wrong custodial parent, especially when they engage in parental alienation, which is not difficult with impressionable children.
My husband and I & our children suffered years of trauma from a vengeful woman who wanted divorce and who then terrorized all of us , including but not limited to, an attempt to run me down with her car as I walked to see our sons soccer game.
So for the record to those who commented, not all moms are fit to care for children and not all Dads are unfit Reply

Harry J Shelhamer Allentown PA June 8, 2013

Single Fathers There are amazing single Jewish mothers out there. And there are also amazing single Jewish fathers too. Reply

Eliana Houston, Texas February 1, 2012

How deep! You are a wonderful mother. your story really touched me in my heart and what a precious little girl... I have a little boy and my late husband died of cancer in 2009. So it has been hard for my son and myself. Your story has helped so much, G-D bless all single parents, I pray that G -D will guide and direct all of us... Thank you! Reply

Anonymous tzfat, Israel January 18, 2012

Hashem needs to help Your daughter is lucky to have you. It sounds like you both are doing something right. My ex also walked out on the family, although on the pretext of finding better job opportunities 1500 miles away. The problem is how to help the children deal with the opposing concepts of "a caring father" and "a father that doesn't care". Children are innately desparate for both parents' love. So, when the father shows he doesn't care, it turns the child's world and mental stability upside down. The child(ren) literally don't know what is a father and they crave male attention - sometimes looking for it in the wrong places. Hasherm should help them and protect them, and us mothers, too. Reply

Chava buffalo, ny July 3, 2009

Beautiful Your story is so beautiful and it touched me so deeply, it brought tears of joy and emotion to my heart and eyes. I struggle as you to be both to each of my children also. The saddness is doubbled from my own lonileness I think. You are brave and wonderful, keep going! Reply

Linda Palmer denver, CO October 10, 2008

single parent There is no such thing as a "single parent." Your children will always have the internal representations of both mother and father within his/her heart and brain. You originally married the child's father, and thus accepted part of him, so you were part of the dynamics now within the child. Yur job is not just to soothe your children's pain, but to give them insights into strategies for transcending the loss of having parents split. And, strategies for bonding with, or continuing to bond with, the strengths that the other parent has to offer. Men tend to "pull away" as part of a universal mechanism for their own hurts, and there are many programs in each state to assist men in re-bonding in more helpful ways with their children. Especially assisting men in bonding with their female daughters. This article stressed one part of the problem of loss and hurt, and this stress can have devastating outcomes for the mental health of children. Reply

Anonymous overlandpark, KS October 7, 2008

so glad single parent stories are being written there are so many wonderful Jewish women as single parent,and I'm one of them!! Reply

sharon St. Louis, MO February 22, 2008

divorce vs death A friend of mine who is divorced says that at least with death you don't have the other person hanging around making your life miserable. I think divorce can be harder than death if the two parties don't get along, but I do know some divorced couples who are able to but their differences aside for the sake of the kids. Reply

aviva February 21, 2008

thank you May G-d bless you and your children go from strength to strength in joy. Reply

Anonymous February 21, 2008

divorce? death? my husband died and i raised 2 little girls. what is harder, divorce or death? Reply

Scott February 20, 2008

Jewish Women there are some amazing Jewish women out there Reply

Jampa West Hartford, CT February 20, 2008

G-d bless you! What a beautiful essay, what a tender and inspiring illumination of a family's healing heart. Your family is in my prayers. Reply

Emma Sass February 20, 2008

Wow That truly was an inspirational story. What a fabulous parent(s) you must be. Reply

Anonymous Denver, CO February 20, 2008

divorce There needs to be a larger movement in the Jewish community to strengthen marriages before separations become an epidemic. The Christian community has these programs, both educational and therapeutic, and there are milliions of dollars available from various states, federally funded, for strengthening marriages. One of the new concepts is regarding mentor couples. There are strategies for turning around discontent and anger, and our Jewish community does not make use of these programs sufficiently. When a husband and wife are supported by a Jewish community, there must be options for strengthening the bonds. We fail over and over to avoid separation, alienation, and divorce. Please put your energies to work in order to keep divorce at a minimum in Jewish communities.The only reason for separation is physical abuse, and the research shows that separation for a year, in the worst case, will work if the perpetrator receives sufficient therapy. Your ex needs a strong male to bring him back Reply

Anonymous Pierce County, WA via chabadpiercecounty.com February 20, 2008

Very tired, but not giving up This was very touching to read, but what about the bad days? The days you can't reach your children to comfort them at all, or the days you cannot console yourself. What about the days when, even though you worked hard all week, you don't have the money to buy a trip to Shabbat services by bus or by car. And you just get the feeling that every day you wait for that new job interview for that better job, the rest of the women look at you like you will never get there. So, you just avoid them because you can't face them until things change and you've done all you can. Now you just have to wait. And nobody asks how you are doing or invites you to have a cup of tea and talk and why should they? Your burdens are almost too heavy for you, why would anyone else want to hear about them. So, they avoid you too. Loneiness. Even with G-d, there is still sorrow and loneliness. So, if you can, just cry and that will let out the pain and embarrassment of your situation a little bit. Reply

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