During the first week of school, my son only missed one of his live virtual learning classes. Actually, he didn’t miss it — he did tune in just in time to say goodbye to everyone. I got the time wrong. The fact that he only missed one is a huge win for me. As a single mom working from home, trying to balance the constant barrage of everything, life feels incredibly overwhelming pretty much all the time.
When it comes to struggling through this pandemic, no one has it harder than working single moms.
After months of dealing with our kids non-stop, pretty much every parent is crumbling. That’s simply a fact. But real talk, single moms are beyond crumbling. We’re fucking dust at this point. Honestly, I don’t even know how many of us are still going. Of course I do though, it’s because we have no other choice. When you’re a single mother, you don’t get a break anyway. But this pandemic is forcing us to dig deeper into ourselves than we ever have before. And while we’re all doing it (with varying levels of help) trust me when I say we’re not okay. How can we be?
Like I said, every mother is struggling. Being a mother is a full-time, thankless job in normal times under normal circumstances. But when you factor in this global pandemic, distance-learning, social distancing, childcare (or lack thereof), etc…it’s a lot. Every mom is burnt out. Stay-at-home moms are out of their comfort zones. Working moms are dealing with a never ending to-do list. But there’s one important thing to remember. Even though stay-at-home and working moms are overwhelmed, they have partners. Yes, in many cases those partners are working as well, which makes everything complicated –but they’re there. Those couples can figure out ways to work together so they’re both able to accomplish something. Yes, it’s tense and stressful and chaotic, but there’s still an additional adult present to offer assistance/support.
Single moms don’t have the luxury of someone to pick up any of the slack.
For those of us single moms working from home, there isn’t a free minute of the day at all. Our kids need us constantly, even the most independent ones, and there’s no one else for them (or us) to turn to for respite. We’re fetching snacks, cleaning spills, doing an obscene amount of laundry, and washing endless piles of dishes. Then on top of that, we need to be available for Zoom meetings, and are tethering ourselves to our phones to stay on top of emails and meet deadlines.
I can’t even imagine how much single moms who work outside of the house are struggling now. Not only can they not catch a break, but they have an additional set of stressors (and expenses) to deal with.
Finding reliable, quality childcare is difficult no matter what. But to find it when we’re in the middle of a health crisis? Impossible. Those moms have to deal with the harsh truths. Having outside childcare means the risk of getting sick. This is true no matter what is happening in the world. But when that sickness is a deadly novel virus like COVID-19? That’s a gut-wrenching decision to have to make. The thing is, those moms don’t have a choice. Because if they don’t risk their health, they won’t have a job. And if they don’t have a job, we all know just how bad the consequences can be. Single moms working outside the home are freaking heroes right now.
Like I’ve said, I’m very lucky to work from home even before the pandemic. But that doesn’t mean any of this has been easy for me. I have a feral six-year-old son. I have no shame in saying that Netflix was his babysitter (shout-out to Disney+ for the backup,) and he’s definitely eating more sugar than he should. But if throwing a couple Starbursts at him while he watches Power Rangers gets me the hour I need for a Zoom meeting so we have enough money to pay our bills, then so be it.
This summer has been the worst one of his life. I know that. So, does that mean I let him turn our tiny apartment into an at home version of Floor is Lava? The answer is yes. I will likely regret that once we end up in the ER with a broken bone, but I’ll deal with that when it comes up.
Now that we’re moving into a new school year, single moms are faced with even more impossible choices. Some of us don’t have the option to choose how our kids are going to school this year. I live in Los Angeles, and there is only virtual school for the time being. That means I have to try and work in between my son’s live instructions and managing him while he does his work. I suspect a lot of us single moms are going to be pulling double duty as mom and teacher whether we like it or not. I am terrified, because I know how poorly we managed it during the spring. Not because his school was ill prepared. But because I was juggling too many balls. He’s not old enough to self-manage. I have to meet deadlines and produce work to get paid, and I’m the sole provider.
We’re only two weeks in and it’s hard. Really hard.
But those moms who are making the choice for in person learning have it just as hard. They had to make a heavy, difficult decision. None of them want to be sending their kids back to the cesspools that are school buildings. But the ones who make that choice didn’t really have much of a choice. Childcare is hard to come by, let alone afford, and they still have to work. They are very aware of the decisions they’re making. At the end of the day, these decisions are making themselves because rent has to be paid, and kids have to eat.
Let me make this clear, mothers are getting the short end of the stick when it comes to this pandemic. No matter what their situation is, it’s shitty. Single moms, however, are faced with impossible decisions. They don’t get to have a break or a partner to talk things through with. They’re risking their lives and their sanity every day to ensure that their kids are taken care of. Single moms are superheroes, and they deserve to hear it.