Dear Solo Parents Parenting During A Pandemic,
I know you need a moment, maybe a whole minute.
I know it’s been about seven months since you’ve had a moment, let alone a whole minute.
I know it’s exhausting just to admit that out loud.
I know from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed you are doing everything. I know you were doing everything before the pandemic, and had nothing left to give most days. I know you’re still doing everything and somehow you’ve had to give even more.
I know when I write everything, I mean everything—making all the meals, answering all the questions, paying all the bills, figuring out all the repairs, creating all the grocery lists and making all the trips, refilling all the toilet paper rolls, calling all the insurance companies, soothing all the worries, fielding all the fears, holding space for all the hopes, and often all before noon—all by yourself. I know you’ve made a few thousand decisions and micro decisions all by yourself about all the major things and all the minor things before lunch. I know you’ve questioned every one of those decisions, because these days even the most basic decisions hold a life-or-death weight. I know if you choose wrong, you’ll feel as though you have no one to blame but yourself because there’s no one to agree with your choice, and no one to argue with your reasoning. I know sometimes that’s a blessing. I know sometimes that’s just exhausting.
I know it’s hard to put into words exactly why making every single decision—from the inconsequential to the life altering—all on your own is exhausting. I know you don’t want to try to put it into words because it’ll sound like complaining—and you’re not a complainer. You don’t have time to complain.
I know you’re not begrudging other parents their partner or co-parent. You don’t know their story just as they don’t know yours, and no one has it easy, but that you would give anything to have another adult in the room, even if just to share an exasperated look across a trashed living room. I know you know other parents and families and situations are struggling, too. I know you don’t want to complain because you’re just grateful for your health, for your children’s health. I know you can be grateful and also completely sure that this is the hardest thing you’ve had to do yet as a solo parent. I know you just want to be seen because sometimes in all the doing you feel invisible.
I know you’re angry, and you’re allowed to be angry. I know you weren’t supposed to do this alone. Whether divorce or death or some other situation brought you here, I know you were supposed to have your village to help you, and now because of the pandemic, you don’t. I know your village is still there, and waiting just on the other side of all this. I know that’s not helpful right now, in this moment, but I know you’ve learned that the hardest parts do pass eventually.
I know you’re asking “what if” all the time. I know most of those “what ifs” don’t have answers. I know asking “what if” into a vacuum leaves your head spinning, and you try to stay in the moment, but you have to ask. Because asking the “what if” questions prepares you, and you don’t have the luxury of being unprepared.
I know you feel as though you’ve been treading water for seven months on your best day. I know on your worst day, you feel as though you’ve been pushed back too far by the current. I know your arms are tired from swimming and your legs are tired from kicking, but you’re still swimming and you’re still kicking.
I know you’re stronger than you think you are, and I also know that’s annoying to hear. Because you don’t want to be strong all the time, and you don’t feel strong all the time. You feel like you’re just barely getting through the day, and mostly because getting through the day is your only choice. I know strength looks different depending on the day, maybe depending on the hour.
I know it—this pandemic parenting—is heavy.
I know you need a break.
I know at the end of the day you’re immensely proud of yourself for doing it all on your own, but that’s little comfort when you’re tired in a way that transcends physical exhaustion.
I know your kids are lucky to have you. I know that’s true even if you forgot to buy their favorite frozen pancakes and you’ve been too busy doing everything to play a board game. I know you’ve kept them safe for seven months by yourself. I know you’ve made them feel loved, these last seven months and all the other months of their lives. I know they love you for all of it.
I know you don’t know what the future holds.
I know that’s never stopped you before.