How to support single parents during the pandemic, according to 4 single moms

  • The pandemic has created challenges for all parents, but especially those without partners.  
  • Single parents face logistic and emotional burdens while caring for their kids during the pandemic.
  • Here, moms share four ways you can supports the single parents in your life.
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Rebecca Treon is supposed to split custody evenly with the father of her two kids, 9 and 13. But since the pandemic hit, she's had the kids full-time. It makes sense from a safety perspective, since Treon works from home, while the kids' father has a job that requires him to go in and out of other people's apartments all the time.

Despite the safety benefits, Treon says the arrangement is draining. 

"I don't mind having my kids 100% of the time, but balancing their online learning and them being successful at it — as in I am teaching them and still trying to work — has been ridiculous. And aggravating," the Colorado mom said. 

The pandemic has had a huge impact on women, particularly moms. Not only has traditional "women's work" — including the service industries and hospitality — been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, but mothers are also spending more time than fathers dealing with kids at home.

For many single and solo mothers — those who don't have a co-parent in the picture — the pandemic is even more all-consuming. 

"Having to shoulder the responsibility of school work, my job, and the household has been incredibly hard," Treon said. "I think it has set my career back. It creates resentment for sure, because the load isn't even close to equal."

Single moms hunker down to get through it

Jody Allard, of Seattle, Washington, is a single mom to seven kids, ranging in age from 10 to 22. Although her older children don't live at home, she was overwhelmed during the beginning of the pandemic as she tried to work, school four of her kids, and complete her law degree. 

"I pretty much held on by a thread mentally because I had zero support and all of my usual strategies for managing stress were gone: I couldn't get a massage, go to a coffee shop, visit a friend, or get even a minute of time to myself to decompress," she said. 

When Allard realized that the pandemic wouldn't be resolved any time soon, she took some steps to make it more bearable. She enrolled her two 12-year-olds in a charter school that offered a full day of synchronous virtual classes. That alleviated her burden of keeping kids entertained and on task during the day. Then, she invested in more tablets and computers so that the kids were no longer sharing. Most importantly, she adjusted her expectations. 

"I also let go of any desire to do more than survive as a family this year," she said. The Child Mind Institute recommends that single parents do just that — giving themselves grace during this time. 

"This really is an unprecedented time and giving myself permission to do the bare minimum has been helpful," Allard said. "I used to spend a lot of quality time with my kids and not much quantity so I tried to make every minute count. Now it's all about quantity so there's no need to make every moment special."

Grace Everett, a Vermont mom of two, has her children four nights a week, and they're with their father the rest of the time. Despite the fairly even custody split, she said that the pandemic has been challenging. 

"Being a single mom means there's less of a buffer for resources — my finances are tighter, my time is less flexible, and when I'm with the kids, I'm outnumbered," she said.

How to support the single parents in your life

In addition to the day-today-day logistics, the pandemic has taken an emotional toll on single parents, who may not have another adult to check in with at home. 

"In the best of times, single parenting can be lonely," Everett said. "Throw a lockdown into the mix and it can be excruciating."

Allard agrees. She says she's privileged compared to many single parents since she has the financial resources to get through the pandemic. 

"What's really been missing is emotional support," she said. "I don't have a large support system, and everyone is dealing with their own stress right now. It's been lonely being trapped at home, and the mental and emotional strain of being the sole provider and caregiver for my kids has been overwhelming at times."

Here's how you can support single parents in your life as the pandemic drags on, according to Allard and Everett:

  • Check in. "Even just a text or phone call to check in can mean a lot," Allard said. 
  • Let them know they can call you. Since single parents don't have anyone at home to check in with at the end of the day, sometimes they need another adult. "Be someone they can call, whether it's to talk about their day or what's happening in the world," Everett said. 
  • Lend a hand. "Practical support like gift cards for groceries or food delivery is one way to show care for single parents," Allard said. Even calling before you go to the store to ask if your friend or neighbor needs anything is helpful, Everett added. 
  • Be emergency support. Let the single parents you love know that you're available for any middle-of-the-night or other last-minute emergencies. "Just knowing you're there will give them peace of mind," Everett said. 

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