Eating alone again
Eating alone againiStock

Open letter to “the community” (all communities): As the holidays of the new year 5779 draw to close, I hope everyone enjoyed many festive meals with friends. I’d like to share what chagim (and Jewish life) are like for me and many other divorced/single parents I know. For many of us, holidays that used to be favorite times of year, are now dreaded. I’m on Facebook support groups with (literally) thousands of single parents, and I know my experience is not unique:

1. We are almost never invited for meals. We used to be... once upon a time, when we were married. But no longer. We aren’t quite sure why.

2. We feel out of the loop and disconnected... we can’t be involved in the community like we might want to be. We are both mother and father in our homes. Both the breadwinners and the caretakers. The homework-doers, the toilet-fixers, the bug-squishers, the bill-payers, the school-phonecallers, and everything else. Oh, and we also try to occasionally find time to date, as most of us don’t want to be single forever. There isn’t a spouse to stay home with the kids so we can go out to shul board meetings, committee meetings, or anything else. It’s a challenge to squeeze in even routine errands. Spend 1 week (or even 1 day) trying to accomplish by yourself, every single thing that both you and your spouse normally do, and you’ll get a tiny glimpse of our reality. There’s no time left over for community involvement, which leaves us feeling very cut off from our surroundings.

3. We are often so overwhelmed that holidays often “creep up” on us, and reaching out for invites far in advance usually doesn’t happen. By the time a holiday is a week away, most people have already made plans and any invites we try to extend are met with, “oh, we are already set for all our meals... let’s try for a Shabbos soon”. Please understand that if we extend a last-minute invite usually means that we are faced with eating all our meals alone... again.

Eating alone again
Eating alone againiStock

4. The fact that we have our kids to eat with, does not remove the pain of never being invited out. Single parents are often with their children all the time, with no other adults. It’s exhausting, daunting, and sometimes suffocating, for both the parent and the kids.

5. If you have my children over for lunch because they’re friends with your children, please take a moment to remember that this means I’m sitting at home, at my shabbos/Yom Tov table... all alone.

6. We’d love to host more often, we really would. But in a divorced home, money is often tight, the home is often a wreck, and after juggling work and meal prep every Erev shabbos or Erev Yom Tov, we often arrive at candle lighting panting from the Erev marathon and with hair dripping wet from the shower that was just finished only seconds earlier. We are the ultimate can-do people... but find ourselves hitting limits a lot more often trying to balance the whole world as a solo act.

7. It appears that we “go away” for shabbos or yom tovim a lot... that’s true. The reason? It’s far too lonely to stay in one’s own community and eat alone. Retreats, visiting family in other states, shabbatons, etc, make it less painful. Connecting with other single parent families is cathartic because we’re all in the same boat. Almost every time most of us “go away”, it’s a decision made a week or less before a holiday, when it becomes evident that all meals will once again be spent alone.

8. We don’t “need meals” (as in, “do you need a meal?”. Most of us can, thank G-d, supply our own households with sustenance. What we do “need” are genuine invites that convey a desire to spend time with us, and make us feel that we are valued members of our community. We need to not be forgotten, and to not be ignored. Divorce is not contagious, and no divorced woman or man is going to “go after” your spouse if you invite them to your home (yes, this perception is actually a thing). If you think it might be awkward to have a single parent at your table... invite a second single parent! Double-win.

I’m honestly not sure what drove me to write this post at this time. I have experienced what I wrote above over the past few years, so why write this now? Maybe it’s the outpouring of pain I’ve seen lately on the private Jewish Divorce support groups I participate in on Facebook. Maybe it’s the weather. I dunno. I just felt like it needed to be said. Chag samayach to all.