We haven’t run out of toilet paper yet, but as a single parent, who is immunocompromised with Lupus and decreased kidney function, I shouldn’t be running around to every store in town looking for it. Of the two stores I entered since this outbreak began, and the several a friend went into for me, none had toilet paper on their shelves. So, I’ve spent the last several days waiting for any online store to have some in stock to ship to my home. The other day, I was finally successful and they are now on their way to me.
My struggles are minimal compared to the other single parents I’ve talked to over the last two or so weeks. Most have bigger challenges, like how they’ll afford more toilet paper or pay all their other bills. Challenges that they had no time to plan for, so not only are they doing parenting alone but they’re facing this situation all alone as well.
Photo Credit: © Getty Images/grinvalds
What Do Single Parents Have to Deal With?
Solo parents should be handed a superhero costume when they’re handed the divorce papers or the child. I’m not saying two parents living apart can’t make a great team and raise their children together. It does happen, and I’m sure those kids are much better for it. But sadly, that’s just not the norm. Many custodial parents are feeling alone because they are alone, no matter what is going on in our world. The non-custodial parent is just not willing or able to help.
On a normal day, a single parent is getting the children up, dressed, fed, lunches made, book bags packed, and out the door to school and work. Two hands doing the job of four without complaint. Then after school and work, it’s homework, making dinner, cleaning up, doing laundry, and dishes, and getting everyone around and into bed for the night. After a few hours of sleep this single parent is doing it again, and again, and again, many times without any breaks. In the last seven years that I’ve been a single parent, there— have been very few breaks and no vacations.
How Coronavirus Increases the Struggle
According several sources, “In the United States today, there are nearly 13.6 million single parents raising over 21 million children.” Although, single mothers make up the majority of single parent homes, “single fathers constitute 16% of single-parent families.”
Now, add the Covid-19 pandemic to these single parent homes, with school closures, work lay-offs, and many other issues to these single parents’ already hectic and challenging lives. Here are the challenges single parents have shared with me that they are dealing with right now:
“I’ve lost my job and child support is probably going to end because my ex has lost their job too.”
“I didn’t plan to feed my kids three meals a day, everyday, so it’s a challenge to figure out what to feed them.”
“I have to drag my kids around to the different stores to find what we need on the empty shelves. I walked out frustrated and tired. We all cried!”
“I was already out of work, looking for a job, so this virus made everything harder.”
“I have no one to give me moral support. No one to say, ‘We’ll get through this together!’”
“We already argued about the children, now we can’t agree on what to do about this either. It’s stressful!”
“Like most parents, I’ve become a teacher overnight without a teaching certificate and no patience to teach. And no co-teacher!”
“I’m having to work from home, attend school online, and homeschool my children all by myself. I’m stressed!”
“There is no communication between myself and my ex and I’m not sure what to do.”
“We’re still working through the divorce legalities, all of that has been put on hold, so everything is just up in the air. Nothing is in writing and I
don’t know what will happen next.”
“I have to be out of the marital home by a certain date, and I’m not sure what I’m going to do, where I’m going to go, or if things have changed.”
“Trying to plan but it’s just not possible. I’ve lost all security. Life is so uncertain.”
They are also worried about their finances, their jobs, not being able to work from home, paying their future bills, find affordable childcare, and most importantly, about staying healthy and not getting sick—not knowing who will care for their children if they do. They’re worried there will be a travel ban and they won’t be able to stick to the court-ordered parenting agreement or get their children back after a visit.
One single parent said, “Several weeks or several months not seeing your four year old is a very long time.” This is a lot of stress and burden placed upon one person to handle all on their own without a partner to assist them or just offer some comfort and encouragement. All the things that go on in the mind of a two-parent home is going on in the single parent’s home.
Photo Credit: © Getty Images/FamVeld
What Can Single Parents Do to Get Through?
As a fellow single mother, I know how hard this whole situation is. I don’t make light about how hard this is by suggesting you can “do something” to get through when there is not much we can do to change all that is going on. We have to just accept what is and learn to cope. We have to find ways to endure, to survive, and not allow ourselves to become overwhelmed by all the negativity and uncertainty.
We will get through this!
We could also allow ourselves to ask for help and accept that help when it’s offered. That’s probably my biggest problem! I’m too independent for my own good. So as I was writing this article and feeling overwhelmed with a teenager, I made the decision that I thought would be best for everyone. I sent my child to stay with his dad for the rest of the month.
It was something that I had to think long and hard about. I found it difficult to say and do without guilt. I still feel guilty and worried about what will happen next, but in the end, I’m sure, and I hope everyone involved will be glad that this was the decision we made. My ex-husband is more capable to be with our child during this time, because of my Lupus and the need to still work to keep paying the bills.
We have to realize that we cannot always do this alone. We need help. And we may have to ask the very person we don’t want to know that we need help from. It’s just a difficult time, so we make difficult decisions to do what’s best for our children.
And at the end of each day, count your blessings and find things to be thankful for. Be thankful for your health, for your children’s heath, for the food on the table, and the roof over your head. Be thankful for God’s protection and providence. He will get you through this!
What Can Others Do to Help?
1. Offer Financial Assistance if Available
According to the New York Times, half of all single mothers make less than $30,000 per year. And many of those single mothers, about 30%, are living below the poverty line. Furthermore, living at this income level doesn’t always afford single parents federal assistance programs. My single parent family no longer qualifies for food stamps but there are still times when there is more month than there is income. We just call it “George Müller Living” as we pray for our daily provisions, to which God has always provided.
Also, realize that single parents are not always two income homes. Not all single parents receive child support and even the ones that do, about 50%, they could now lose that income as well, if the non-custodial parent is no longer working.
Many single parents rely on school breakfasts and lunches to feed their children during the week and now they’re eating those 10 extra meals at home. Last week a friend of mine, who also works for the school’s cafeteria, dropped off those meals, that the school was handing out, to our home. That was such a relief since I had not planned for all this eating at home. I, like many other parents, rely on the school to provide some of the weekly meals my child eats, and as a teenager, he eats a lot.
2. Offer Emotional or Spiritual Assistance and Reassurance
If you’re feeling extra uncertain during this time, so is the single parent. The only difference is that they don’t have anyone to tell their uncertainties to and gain some reassurance. You offering some encouragement and your prayers could mean the world to a single mother right now. Call them, text them, or offer to video chat just to see how they’re doing. Just knowing someone else is thinking about them today could get them through whatever they’re dealing with.
I can remember several times, early after my divorce, where someone would offer to pray with me. That was such a great comfort to my soul because I missed the times when my husband and I would pray together.
Please reach out and offer whatever you can to a single parent today! Reassure them that you are here for them even from our own homes. Call that single mom or dad who won’t see their children now for weeks. I’m sure they will thank you and pay it forward to someone else, now and in the future. We are one big family, the human race. We’ll get through this together.
Jen Grice is a divorce mentor and empowerment coach guiding women to surviving and thriving after divorce – caused by abandonment, abuse, and/or adultery. She started Surviving + Thriving Ministries, after her own unwanted divorce in 2013. Now, she writes articles and books, creates videos, and has a "Stronger Woman After Divorce" group coaching program to walk with Christian women who want to heal and thrive after narcissistic abuse. You can find out more information about Jen, her ministry, and her coaching for women, at JenGrice.com.
Photo Credit: © Getty Images/enginakyurt
Originally published Friday, 17 April 2020.