I’m the queen of organisation, nearly always 3 steps ahead of myself and on top of everything. I like to think I’m fully prepared for whatever life throws at us. We have a team of family and friends ready and willing to offer support whenever it is required. I have lists so that I don’t lose track of anything or forget anything important. As a family we have our routines and traditions, it’s nearly always smooth sailing. Solo parenting isn’t always easy, but I like to think I have it covered. At least I thought I did, until I faced solo parenting during a global pandemic.
I won’t go into the details of the Coronavirus pandemic because we are all incredibly aware of the scale of the virus and the risk to our health. We are all aware of how much life has changed in a very short space of time. The scenes we see on the TV are enough to terrify even the strongest people. I do however want to talk about the impact COVID 19 has on single parents. There are thousands of parents all over the world who are in the same situation as myself, facing something we’ve never experienced before on our own with children to raise and protect.
I want every single parent to read this and feel the cripplingly loneliness lift, even if only slightly. I want each and every one to feel comforted in the knowledge that everything they are feeling is completely understandable and 100% okay. In the blink of an eye we’ve become not just parents, but educators. It’s a huge learning curve for adults and an even bigger life adjustment for our children.
If you are anything like me, you would’ve taken the strategic approach and prepared yourself as much as you can for the weeks ahead. Thankfully I had a few days to prepare before the children’s schools were shut. I spent hours printing worksheets, gathering books and searching online for learning materials. But, by day three of learning from home I realised this was not a situation I, or any parent, could have ever been prepared for. As parents we prepare for as many possibilities as we can. We have back-up plans, we have people we can call if there is an emergency or a problem. We are prepared, but not for solo parenting during a global pandemic when every back-up plan and support is unreachable.
It’s as if everything we’ve always worried about has happened at once. Little or no work/income, no childcare, nobody allowed into our home to share the load. We can’t even pop to the shops, not without great difficulty. It’s just us and our children isolated within the same four walls with no definitive end in sight. I’m not ashamed to admit during the last ten days, I have had moments of feeling overwhelmed.
When there are two parents in the home, there are two people answering the questions and offering reassurance. There are two parents trying to teach their children with little or no experience. Some say a problem shared is a problem halved, but when you can’t share the problem, you take the entirety of its weight on your shoulders. I want you to know that feeling overwhelmed is okay. Our physical and mental strength is being pushed to its limits, so cut yourself some slack.
If the children want a day off learning at home, don’t push them to complete work because you feel like that is what you should be doing. It’s not about what we should be doing, its about doing the best we can. Our best is good enough. As the only adult in a household it is you, and only you, who will take the brunt of their resistance. The more you push, the more they’ll push back. Ditch the paper and learn in a different way, head outside or bake a cake instead. Failing that, grab some blankets, put on a movie and just enjoy being together. Nothing is more important than family, especially during strange and unnerving times like this.
You probably feel as if the safety net has been ripped from beneath you. The closest you can get to your support network is through voice and video calling or other forms of communication such as social media. You can’t drop the children off at school and meet a friend for a coffee to put the world to rights. You can’t even send them off to their grandparents for the night. Everything that has helped you to feel secure as a single parent is suddenly unreachable. That’s something I’m struggling with, in fact, I think it’s what I’m struggling with the most.
My mum has been amazing. She’s suddenly had to become the provider for our whole family and I don’t know what we’d do without her. My elderly grandparents cannot leave the house. They can’t have their great-granddaughter over for her weekly sleepover or make their great-grandson his favourite hot chocolate. I miss them desperately and I know the children do too. Solo parenting during a global pandemic has reminded me of quite how much I cherish those I love the most. My mum, my grandparents and my best friend in particular. I’ll never take for granted the familiarity and consistency that they provide.
The only thing I can recommend to keep your circle as close as possible is communicate, communicate, communicate. Text, call and video call as much as you can, even if you don’t have much to say. The children need to see familiar faces as much as you do, so try and make time every single day to chat to those you love.
Make self-care a priority. Tuck the children into bed and run yourself a bath, read a book, or simply do nothing. Do whatever makes you feel at ease, looking after ourselves is more important than ever.
And finally, remember that you were a superhero before any of this even begun. You still are, more so than ever before. A bad day doesn’t mean you are failing, and it is okay to feel low. Solo parenting isn’t easy in any situation, all we can do is try and navigate our way through the storm. Try and remember how scary and strange this all feels to our children. They’ve never known a world like this and they lack the maturity to process it all. We’re all struggling to process it all. Just take a step back, go with the flow and do what is best for you and your little family.