Sunday, December 16, 2012

Eighth Night, Eighth Light

[MY THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS GO OUT TO THE FAMILIES AND THE COMMUNITY IN NEWTOWN WHO ARE SUFFERING.  I CAN'T IMAGINE IT, THE PAIN, EVEN LIVING IN ISRAEL WHERE WE AND OUR CHILDREN ARE FUNDAMENTALLY THREATENED EVERY DAY BY HOSTILE NEIGHBORS.]

Last night, in honor of both the last night of Chanukah and a birthday, my friend invited us to his and his wife's house down the street for a casual Saturday evening celebration.  Having been unable to find a baby sitter, I decided that rather than pass up this social opportunity, I would break routine for Raphaela, bring her with me to the party (in her pajamas), and let her stay up later than usual.

When we arrived, we were the only mother-toddler in the room, and for the most part, most of the guests were female, younger and my age range, married and single, pregnant and not pregnant.  Inevitably - and not by my initiation by any means - the discussion turned to the pressure in Israel on women to have children, and the stress for "older" women in terms of fertility, which in this country means over the age of 35.

Several of the women asked me, "How do you do it, a single working mother with no real family as a back-up system on this continent?"  My answer, "I have become an amazingly efficient multi-tasker and I don't get much sleep."  I imagine that description fits most mothers of a three year old.

Several of the woman around my age asked me if Raphaela feels less-than by the other children around her because she does not have a father active in her life, and I replied that as far as I know, it has not come up in conversation for her.  In fact, several of the children in her Gan are the product of a single mother by choice, and "as long as the check clears," the Gan staff treat my daughter no differently than any other kid.

As far as insensitivity, based upon the reactions of most of the women in the room, tactlessness abounds, and it doesn't matter whether or not you are attached to a man.  I still think that my story wins ie the matchmaker who recently called me to suggest a first date, and without blinking said, "He wants children, I assume you froze your eggs, right? Unless that information is too personal..."

Raphaela has only recently begun to ask me on a consistent basis, "Where is my father," and before I have a chance to answer her, she has moved onto another topic, usually Diego the Animal Rescuer, her current crush.

As the only person under the age of 30 in the room, Raphaela received lots of attention and ate way too many snacks, and around ten pm I tried to put her down for a nap in my friend's guest room.  My daughter, however, gets super-stimulated by social situations, and so I regrettably put on our jackets and went home.  I could have stayed several hours more, surrounded by a fun and adult environment.

One woman my age, a person whom I admire for planning the most amazing single parties which I cannot usually attend, asked me privately as we were on our way to the door, "Really, how are you doing?"  I told her that in times like this, when I must choose between putting Raphaela to bed and playing with my friends, I tend to get a little sad and resentful, because I know that I need the company to maintain my own sanity.  But do I regret the fertility treatments and the birth of my child? "Not for a moment."

1 comment:

Midlife Singlemum said...

I appreciate your honesty in saying that it is sometimes disappointing when you have to miss or curtail social opportunities for yourself. However I agree with you that it's worth it 100%.
Btw - I also find people very open and interested in the subject, especially as there are many women in their 30s who are possibly facing the same decision. I've also met more than one man who was envious of my having the choice in a way that they do not.