I read a New York Times article the other day describing the intense lack of support mothers are experiencing during insolation. Suddenly, the lack of support from teachers, caregivers, and family is highlighting the lonely uphill battle mothers face, even with a partner living under the same roof. The article reminded me of all of the conversations I have had with my friends who are mothers and married—expressing the same sentiment: no support, loneliness, resentment. It made me wonder, HOW THE FUCK DO SINGLE MOMS DO IT?! So, I asked. Here are 7 single moms sharing their experience, in their words, about how they are coping with isolation and social distancing. ~Alex
Steph, with kids 14 and 16
It’s lonely. It’s frightening. It’s unnerving. But it’s also free time to actually enjoy my home. Free time to enjoy my children. It’s free time to journal and read and enjoy the fruits of my tireless labor. It’s quite a dichotomy. It’s late-night and early-morning conversations with my kids that probably wouldn’t happen any other time. It’s crying in the bathroom while the shower is running. It’s begging for help with the damn dishes. But it’s also watching a movie every night together before we retreat to our rooms.
As a single mom, the last week of being at home with my son has been awesome with a dash of WTF. While I’m loving this extra time together and feel lucky that I can mostly work from home (I’m in my first year of business), there’s a psychological adjustment and anxious undercurrent that is currently brewing.
As an example, yesterday I had a full-on anxiety attack while grocery shopping. I pulled my neck warmer tight over my face, wore gloves, and frantically wiped down my cart (and groceries post-shop). I did my regular rounds in my usual store, and although the store was quiet and calm, I was having trouble breathing with unhelpful thoughts spiraling through my head: What if one of these cereal boxes has the virus on it and I bring it home with me? I have asthma. What if it takes me down? Who will take care of me? Who will take care of my child while I’m sick? It’s these moments when I realize that I’m truly alone, and that I am literally responsible for everything: our physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing; leading by [positive] example; rationing our toilet paper; money and meals; keeping us financially afloat; and now an untrained and newly appointed homeschool teacher (oookay…and for how long exactly?!).
But sheltering in place isn’t all doom and gloom. In between my waves of anxiety and business calls we’re laughing, hugging, playing games, binging our fave shows, cranking the tunes, and cooking nourishing meals. I try to connect with other moms and girlfriends virtually almost every day for some well-needed adult conversation. I also practice calming my nerves through breath, baths, meditation (or meditation naps), and journaling (mostly after my son goes to bed)—and continuously reminding myself that it’s within my relaxing self-compassion rituals where my anxiety will quiet down long enough to hear an inner voice. One that says, “You just need to do the next right thing, in the next moment. That is all.” So, that’s what I do.
Jeni, with kids 6 and 7
I’m truly a single mom. No weekends or week off with dad. It’s just me. I adopted my kids in December, after 4 years of fostering. Normally I am pretty solid in being single, except fleeting moments during holidays and Sunday mornings when I long for a partner to share life with. However this moment, THIS FUCKING MOMENT, has been major. More that ever, I need a fucking break. I need to cry and go for a run and process and eat snacks and talk on the phone to my girlfriends and do yoga and meditate and figure out how to survive. Instead, I have to dig into the permanently dry well of patience and creativity and calm and reassurance to comfort and entertain and teach my 6 and 7 year old. And at the end of the day, I just want to crawl into bed and rest in the arms of someone I can have a grown up conversation with, cry with, laugh with, and promise we will get through this. The bright spot is that this may be the moment when I finally take the hard step of reaching out, of finding someone to share this life with. I don’t think I can hide behind my wounds and broken heart any longer.
Ashley, with 7 year old child
As a single mom, we are used to relying on ourselves solely and reaching out to our communities for support; I have a few single mom friends living my reality that I lean on tremendously. It has been hard watching families on social media who seem to be enjoying family time, but I try to remind myself that their reality may be very different.
I was raised by a single mom, and I recently moved her into my home after she retired last year. She could no longer afford to live on her own, and having her help with childcare has made my life a lot easier. It is a little strange to say I live with my mother, but it is my house and I pay the bills, and it works for us. It has been wonderful to have her during this quarantine, and I am glad we all have each other to lean on.
My advice to all single moms is to connect with other single moms. There are so many FB groups that offer these communities. Seek them out, and become active. They help.
Lauren, with 9 year old son
Besides school, or when he’s with his dad, there is no help. I can’t afford assistance, and have no family around. The hardest part of this current situation is dealing with my own anxiety over no longer having income. My job involves a good deal of emotional connection that at times can be a lot, but now I’m really missing it.
It’s difficult being thrown into the position of elementary educator too, especially to a child who would understandably rather treat this like a vacation than home school. I always felt I was a great teacher to my kid until I had to follow someone else’s guidelines (and we’ve barely even started). I’ve been struggling with not letting my worry rule me as I navigate our current reality. Lots of guilt, but that’s motherhood for ya. Diving deep into my records and taking walks have been good for clearing my brain and resetting. Allowing any moment of self care I can find, because really, that’s what every one of us needs, at all times in this life. I am reminding myself of the same things I always do, that this too shall pass. Focus on love when things start to go dark.
Veronique, with kids 5 and 6
I am a single mom of two children, aged 6 and 5 years old. We’ve been in official quarantine since last Friday, March 20th, and so far we are doing good. I am an extrovert so I think it is more difficult on me to not see anyone. My children are so good at adapting to any situation, but obviously they miss their school friends and travelling, so I decided we could go on adventures at home. Each day we go to a new travel destination/country, I cook food from the culture, and we blast some music from there as well. We then go to the globe, find the country on the map, and then compare it to where we live so they can see how far or close it is from home. Then I show them videos of the places we go. Yesterday we went camping in the living room, and today we are surfing in Hawaii. This is a perfect time to use our imagination.
I would lie to say it has been easy all the time though, as we usually go out and about every single day and now we can’t. There are moments I feel trapped, like everyone else. Being single is the hardest part for me; I would just like to feel someone’s touch, or have a real conversation face to face with an adult—not talk about rainbows and trains all day. But! If I didn’t have my children, I don’t know how I would be doing. They give me so much love and affection that it fills my heart. I feel for every single person in quarantine that is alone at this given time, and I want to send them love.
There are so many ways to keep yourself active but remember it is okay if you don’t feel like doing anything, or need to put the kids in front of TV. No one is going to judge you. To all the single moms out there: Keep it up! You are amazing!
Carolina, with kids 10 and 14
I am a single mother with 2 children. Today turned out to be a productive day with happy faces. Kids had online school work and were finished by 1:00 p.m.; I managed to squeeze in an online work meeting and answer emails. My son and I shared a special “sitting at the table” lunch where we talked about things my son was experiencing, and later my daughter and I couldn’t stop laughing about the Spanish lesson online she had (and now I can’t get rid of the song we learned). We finished off the afternoon with a bike/walk around the neighborhood. I’ve had such a nice day that I waved at every single person that walked 6 ft from us…they smiled and waved too on occasion.
Am I scared? Yes. As the only bread winner the impact of this virus on the economy sometimes wakes me up in the middle of the night. Thoughts come up about where I’ll work if I’m laid off, how I’ll support my family. I don’t know anything that will happen in the next few days or weeks, as many families and people are also feeling the anxiety right now. But I do know one thing, that what I experienced today felt incredible. For the first time in a long time I felt connected with my kids, with my home, and with my neighborhood. Not all days will be like this, but if I try to stick close to the good, maybe all will be okay. Okay isn’t such a bad place to be.