On April 30th of 2020, I cried on a telehealth appointment with my primary care physician and admitted I needed help.
I had resisted psychotropics for the chronic anxiety and occasional bouts of depression I have experienced my entire adult life. But it took only six weeks of single parenting through a pandemic to break me.
It’s a call I’m glad I finally made. Now that I’ve embraced medication to help stabilize my mental health, I’ve come to realize I only wish I had done so sooner. I feel more balanced than I have in a very long time. But that doesn’t change the fact that the last six months of parenting a child with a chronic health condition all on my own have been brutal.
I’m a single mom by choice. I’ve been on my own since the day my daughter was placed in my arms. I chose this life. And I have never regretted that choice.
But I’ve also never struggled as much as I have since quarantine began. And I guarantee I’m not the only single mom who has felt that way. So if there is a single mom in your life, here’s how you can best support her right now.
Socially-Distanced Mommy Meetups
Because of my daughter’s health condition, we have spent much of our time since March in a bubble. Our restrictions have eased slightly as time has gone on and doctors have learned more about how COVID-19 impacts kids with her condition, but we’ve still been more cautious than most families.
One of the biggest blessings to come this summer was finding a babysitter with my daughter’s same health condition. Knowing I had childcare I could trust, someone on all the same meds and taking all the same precautions as my little girl, I was able to attend a few socially-distanced meetups with my three very best friends.
And let me tell you all: it was life-giving.
We had a fire outdoors and spaced our chairs six feet apart. We didn’t hug or share food as we normally would have. But for several hours, we were able to simply stare at each other’s faces and talk about everything going on in our lives. Those hours filled my cup enough that I was able to go home and be a better mother in the weeks that followed.
This isn’t just something I would recommend for single moms: it’s something I’d recommend for all moms. If you have a way of safely getting together with your mom friends right now, do it. The weight that social interaction will lift from your shoulders is immeasurable.
Post-Bedtime Phone Calls
We’re all exhausted right now, juggling a million different responsibilities and not getting nearly enough sleep. But if you can spare 15 minutes to call your single mom friends every once in a while after the kids are in bed, it will mean the world to them.
I have never felt as lonely as I have since this all began. Cut off from my friend group and unable to arrange the massive playdates and camping trips we typically fill our summers with…well, the loneliness has consumed me.
It’s ironic, too. I mean, my daughter has been with me 24/7—how can a person have exactly zero alone time and somehow still feel so alone?
“It’s ironic, too. I mean, my daughter has been with me 24/7—how can a person have exactly zero alone time and somehow still feel so alone?”
Well I’ll tell you how: the company of a 7-year-old and the company of another adult are simply not the same. And while those in parenting partnerships may be driving each other crazy with all the together-time COVID-19 has granted them, they at least still have another adult to turn to at night after the kids are in bed. Someone to complain to. Someone to laugh with. Even someone to fight with.
I, on the other hand, have found myself having actual conversations with my dogs.
So call your single mom friends, preferably after the kids are in bed and when the interruptions will be limited. You don’t have to talk for long—you’re both exhausted, after all. Even just a few minutes of adult conversation will help single moms to feel a little less alone.
And that’s exactly what they need right now.
Kid-to-Kid Video Chats
Single moms quickly learned they were their kid’s sole source of entertainment when the pandemic began. As Mom to an only child, this was even more pronounced for me. Finding ways to occupy my kiddo’s time so that I could work, shower, and breathe became crucial to my survival through this.
After all, there are only so many games of Go Fish a mom can play.
I have always been opposed to young kids having their own screens or access to communication devices. But isn’t that how parenting works? Just when you think you have all your rules in order, life throws you a curveball and you have to rethink all the things you were once so resolute on.
I have no shame in admitting my 7-year-old now has her own iPad and a Facebook messenger account. Are these things my former self would have been proud of? Absolutely not. But we’re in survival mode right now and I’ll take all the help I can get.
That’s why I’m thankful my friends have set their kids up with messenger accounts as well. Listening to my daughter talk and play with her friends online is so special right now, and it buys me hours a week to myself.
Or, mostly to myself—I somehow still get interrupted far too often during those video chats for snacks. But it’s something. It’s a moment to breathe. And for that, I am thankful.
Just Let Them Know You Care
We’re all struggling right now. We all need our people. That’s why I’m a big fan of anything any of us can do to let the ones we love know we’re still here.
But as a single mom in the midst of all this, I can vouch for the fact that those gestures mean that much more.
For instance, my friends all went in on some beautiful flowers for my birthday. It’s not something they would have normally done—those who love me know I would far rather spend time with the people I love than have them spend money on gifts for me. But in this case, when we were still deep into lockdown and getting together simply wasn’t an option? It meant everything.
It was the reminder that I wasn’t alone. That there were still people on the outside who loved me.
Those little gestures are so meaningful, whether it’s doubling a recipe you were already making so that you can share the leftovers, or having your kids leave loving chalk messages on a friend’s driveway for them to find the next morning.
It’s just a reminder that they aren’t alone.
And that’s a reminder I can tell you a lot of single moms need right now.