26, Jewish, Single Mother

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  1. It can be a magical time of exploring.

What happens when you’re a 26-year-old Jewish single mother? What happens to the magic?

For the last six years, I have struggled in more ways than I thought possible. Before I went on my journey to find spirituality, I got married because I got pregnant. I overlooked every red flag and warning sign in that relationship.

I wanted the image, the wedding, the happy family. Although my parents supported this, they wanted to make sure I got a college degree. I also wanted to make sure I had a college degree, so I would have the means to support myself. Maybe my subconscious knew, that I would be on my own in the future.

I went back to school when my son was an infant of just ten weeks old. I missed out on crucial moments that I can never get back.  Throughout the remainder of my college years, I studied hard and every free moment I had went to taking care of my son. I graduated from college Magna Cum Laude and even landed a great job at an investment bank.

But at home, I was being terrorized. It was a brutal and violent marriage. No one tells you how hard it is to walk away from someone you know is truly not good for you or your family, because, in the back of your mind, you’re fighting for your fairy tale. Because you believe people can change.

In the end, I did it. After three and a half years of marriage, I filed for divorce. As it stands now, I have full custody of my son. I am also the primary financial provider for him.

So where did that leave me?

24, Jewish, Single Mother.

During the chaos of divorce, I became close with a local Chabad family. I started meeting with the Rebbetzin to learn more. I was looking for answers and reasons; I was confused. I was just trying to understand how all of this was happening to me. Why was G-d testing me? What did I do wrong? It felt like I was falling down an endless rabbit hole with a new challenge every few feet of my fall.

When there was so much out of my control, I began to find that praying and learning were two things I could control. Instead of letting all of the negativity drown out my faith, I strengthened it instead. I began learning what kind of healing prayer could bring me.                      

I began spending Shabbat with different families. As a single parent walking into these households, I felt incomplete.  I’d get invited by families with parents around the same ages as myself, but the difference to me seemed drastic. They owned their houses; I rented. The husband and wife had each other; I was alone. The children had both parents consistently in their lives; my son mainly just had me.

There were moments where I felt like a complete disappointment. I wasn’t providing my son with this wholesome, complete, fulfilling family life. As I became more observant I felt like I was failing my son because I couldn’t teach him all the values of Judaism, customs, and traditions. I wanted to give my son this beautiful Shabbat experience that I couldn’t provide on my own, and I was really hurting inside.

But with time, I began to realize that the image of “complete” in this world was merely just that, an image. Although these people were paired off, they weren’t perfect. I witnessed firsthand the immense challenges and struggles couples were facing. I saw how marriage is not an easy thing. Perhaps “complete” wasn’t owning a house or having a husband and more children. “Complete” was my son and I. “Complete” was me, giving and teaching all I could to him and loving him to the fullest.

I finally realized that I was complete for my son.

But as human beings, we still crave companionship.

Dating is another huge hurdle that filled (and continues to fill) me with self-doubt, insecurity, and fear. We are living in an age where options are constantly thrown at you, but if you don’t like one thing, swipe to the next. We are bred to believe people are replaceable and interchangeable rather than being taught that relationships take time and work.

I’ve learned so much about myself these last few years. I learned that I have a really big heart, and I can’t change that. But I can change who I allow access to my heart. I need to be around people that appreciate that and won’t take it for granted. I learned that people in this community can be really tough. There is a stigma associated with being a divorced, single woman. That is something out of my control that I cannot change. I have accomplished so much. I accomplish so much every day. Unfortunate,ly there are people in this world that will never accept me and my situation and that is their loss. But it isn’t mine.

So where do I go from here? How do I continue forward?

I don’t have a perfect answer. I don’t know if I really have an answer at all. But I believe it’s okay to be lost. It’s okay to be scared. We must have faith– in Hashem, in people, and in ourselves. If we focus on being the best person we can be, and raising good human beings, we must believe that good will come.

Jennifer Grinberg graduated from Rutgers University School of Business with a Bachelor’s degree in Supply Chain Management. She began her career in a large investment bank in NYC and eventually moved on to a smaller bank in the suburbs of NJ. She is a single mom to a six-year-old boy. When she isn’t busy working, you can find her writing, taking pictures, and cooking.