Imagine working from home under a micromanager during the pandemic. Now, add kids to the mix. And don’t forget that in this scenario, you’re a single mom. The schools and daycare facilities are closed. As much as the babysitter or your sister wants to come to help, they can’t do so due to stay-at-home orders.
How can you safely go to groceries with young children in tow? How can you take on office tasks while you need to cook, take care of your young children, and do the laundry? Can you still take a break?
The mental load of single parenting during a pandemic
While we hear people having the time to read books, clear out closets, and even pick engagement rings and plan at-home proposals during quarantine, single working moms have different stories to tell.
With or without pandemic, single working moms are probably the most overwhelmed and time-starved people in the world. But the COVID-19 pandemic has made things even more difficult for them.
For one, work-life balance has become more elusive for these mothers. It isn’t easy to work on projects and attend tons of Zoom meetings while ensuring their kids are fed, comforted, and safe. The delineation between work and personal life becomes blurry, taking a heavy toll on their mental health.
Also, on top of being overwhelmed and exhausted, many single working moms feel guilty. They know they are lucky to have the privilege to continue working at home while thousands have lost their job. But at the same time, they always feel worried about making the most of the time with their kids. After all, it’s not every day that they get to stay at home and see their children study, have fun, and simply grow up.
So how can they cope up with this unusually heavy mental load? Psychologists and other single working moms offer the following pieces of advice:
Create a clear, predictable schedule for everyone.
As the sole nurturer of your children, you’re the one who kisses their boo-boos and plays with them. This can make it hard for you to reprimand and discipline them. But now’s the perfect time to put structure or create a schedule for your children. You can wear the teacher’s hat and emulate a school-day schedule, telling them to finish their schoolwork or other activities in the morning before the “lunch break.”
Ask for help in specific ways.
Never think you’re alone in this battle. Even if your extended family or babysitter can’t come, you can still seek their help. Perhaps, you can ask them to go online and entertain or guide your kids through their homeschool curricula. Take advantage of online services, too, such as online grocery and food delivery.
Don’t be a perfectionist these days.
No one expects to live through a pandemic (well, except for some researchers), so it’s OK to experience a bit of dip in work productivity or that the laundry has piled up for weeks. Cut yourself some slack; if you can’t get to everything all at once, so be it. Focus more on things or people who matter the most.
Find ways to take breaks—even if they’re brief.
Though you feel like you can’t take a break, find a way to do it even if in just a few minutes. Have a Zoom happy hour (or fifteen minutes) with your friends or family online as your kids take a nap or watch TV. Take care of yourself as best you can and safely connect with people you love to relax and recharge.
It is not only acceptable to feel sad and exhausted these days; it is perfectly appropriate. That’s something single working moms can hold on to as they live and survive through this pandemic.