It goes without saying that this is an unprecedented time for all of us in the world. As we struggle to mange the unseen invader all around us, we are also all trying to adapt to this new, and hopefully temporary, normal in our daily lives. Everyone is making adjustments and sacrifices, all to help the greater good. Every family, no matter what the dynamic, seems to be scrambling to keep afloat right now. While this pandemic clearly presents challenges for all, there are definitely some unique hurdles for single parents.
Maybe you work on the front lines and your ex does not. You may both agree that your child/children are safest staying with your ex at this time. While the facts make sense, you may harbor a bit of jealousy for the amount of extra time he or she gets with the kids.
Maybe you do not have a great co-parenting relationship with your ex. Maybe you don’t trust they are adhering to protocol and social distancing. This can lead to anxiety and appreciation about being forced to abide by the parenting plan at this time.
Maybe having time alone when the kids are with your ex is always hard for you. Maybe you typically fill that time with friends and social activities, which are now not available.
Maybe your ex lost their job and that means your child support has also stopped. Maybe you lost your job and don’t know how you are going to uphold your end of the financial agreement.
If you are like me, 100% custody with no co-parent, you might be feeling completely overwhelmed. You are now quarantined with your children and no other adult interaction except for brief waves on walks or quick talks across the yard to the neighbors. This isolation also is compounded with the crippling fear of getting sick yourself. Thoughts like “What would happen if I got sick?” or “Who would help with the kids if I were sick?” start running through your mind. While many younger people manage the illness at home, from what I’ve heard it can take you down for several weeks. These thoughts can spiral anyone down the dooms day rabbit hole.
All of these examples present unique worries for single parents during this time. This is where I urge you to go back to single parenting basics. What is in your control and what is not? First of all, we are not able to control exactly who gets the virus and who doesn’t. We can take measures to stop the spread, but even those measure are not a 100% guarantee. Just like pre-virus days (which seem so long ago), we can only be responsible for our own actions and choices. Your ex is responsible for their choices as well. Pre-virus, you were operating under the assumption that each parent was going to act in the best interest in the child. Try to remind yourself that this situation is no different. Just like before, if one party is making choices that are unlawful or putting the kids in outright danger, measures are in place to act on this and keep the kids safe. Normalizing this new issue as another example of handling day to day safety concerns can decrease the anxiety in scary situation.
Next, find what you are able to control regarding the wellbeing of your children. Decisions must be made on a temporary basis to meet new childcare and safety needs. Remind yourself of this often. This is not a custody issue at the moment. One party is not “winning” in this situation and the decisions made are ultimately what needs to be done to keep your children safe. If that means your ex getting more time with them because of the ability to work from home or because you work on the front lines, remind yourself that it is a temporary sacrifice and what needs to be done for the children, not to benefit your ex.
The measures society needs to take to ensure the health and safety of others is also a change that is out of everyone’s control. These new norms, like social distancing and stay at home orders, are definitely different and cause us to make adjustments to our daily routines. If you are finding yourself feeling overwhelmingly isolated without a partner to share the balance of quarantine duties, take extra measures to reach out to others. These next few tips are no different than what is being suggested for anyone struggling with being isolated, but they can be forgotten when you are just trying to keep everything moving as a single parent. It is so important for you to schedule adult interaction time. This can be done by setting up video calls with a friend or group of friends. Asking a neighbor to talk from porch to porch, or even have a group text chain going so you can send quick thoughts throughout the day can provide a much needed adult interaction break. Just the other day, I had a friend drive to my house and sit in her car while I sat on my front walk steps and we talked for about 30 minutes. It made my night to have a real life conversation with another adult! It is absolutely ok to reach out for adult connection during these times. Without it, you will burn out so quickly.
I wish a had the secret answer to how to make this all better for everyone, but unfortunately no one does right now. We are all in this together, but I know first hand that it can feel like a double blow as a single parent. Our lives can feel isolating already and now we are needing to isolate even further. The task can feel overwhelming, but just know that I see you and I’m right there with you. Give yourself a break and know you are doing your best in these strange and difficult circumstances.