I’ve been trying to figure out why lockdown is so overwhelming, after all, isolation is what Single Mum’s are built for. Right? Our social life is based on a water-tight pre-planned execution where the slightest of error or mis-management can make it not happen at all. Or maybe you’re like me who gave up on the idea of having a social life before my son first birthday hence why I’ve remained single ever since.
So somewhere along the scale of scheduled and non-existence sits a Single Mum’s social life. Therefore lockdown has only been an extension of that which means surely being used to the fact you can’t plan a night out with friends can’t be what’s sending us crazy.
The second option could be the restrictions on essential daily tasks, but that can’t be it either because we are used to the fact you can’t leave the house to get a pint of milk, post a letter or put the rubbish out without packing up the kids and getting them out the house too. We gave up the privilege of nipping to the shops for wine and chocolate at 10pm when we became a Single Mum, so again, lockdown is just an extension to the life we already know.
The home schooling doesn’t really count either because even households with 2 parents are pulling their hair out and finally questioning how on earth parents doing it alone are surviving (let’s home the empathy continues from that camp!).
Then it dawned on me, it’s the emotional support. That’s what I’m missing in this puzzle.
Being back on Instagram for lockdown 2 and 3 has actually been a blessing for me, as I’ve pretty much got my viewing filters on high alert. I purely follow single mothers or positive accounts that wouldn’t show anything that could trigger me.
Being able to post without the pressure but just the honesty to people who get it has been therapeutic. However just like the message I try to explain to outsiders, no two single mothers have the same story. That is also extended to their set-up and support.
And just like when a family of 4 looks at another family of 4 and compares themselves, they shouldn’t because no family set-up has the same of anything. Whether it be same job, same family members, same personality, same traits, same earnings, same kids… the list goes on.
We can’t compare ourselves, no one can compare themselves and yet however much we have the ability to control it, we all still do it to some degree.
Therefore, once I’d identified what I believed to be the element that was making this whole Lockdown malarkey most difficult for me, it may not be the same for another Single Mum and it is important to note that like with anything I go through I understand that the relativity element must be switched on so as not to negate or underestimate what anyone else may be feeling in their own set of circumstances.
Advisory notice submitted, now I will explain how I reach my conclusion on the ‘support’ factor.
Since the day my son was born I was acutely aware of how on my own I was. Coming out of the hospital a day after giving birth, not having a clue of what I was doing or even how to breastfeed but having no one there to support me, sobered me up pretty quickly.
Ever since, I’d relied on the kindness of strangers who became friends, my incredible neighbour and the doctors and therapists who did what they could, with what I allowed them to see, from behind the wall I’d put up for protection.
It was always the common occasions that used to be the hardest to cope with, like Christmas (wrapping presents, putting up tree etc alone) birthdays (organising and executing), anniversaries like Mother’s Day (how do you expect a baby to make a card or a kid to bring you breakfast in bed). Then when it comes to holidays where tasks are split, family rooms are booked and kids are managed by two, but as a Single parent, it’s all you and with no evening entertainment included. The list goes on which making Single parenting seem bleak which is totally not what I believe to be true at all.
The fact is that it’s tough but we have our beautiful kids which makes everything okay in the end because the thought of not having them at all is far worse and even unthinkable in comparison to the challenging bits.
So, we know what come with the ticket into single parenting life and it’s pretty similar to what people are experiencing since the pandemic hit but I wanted to know what’s different to make it so unbearable now?
It’s taken me until Lockdown Part 3 to figure it out.
Although the answer has a combination of other crappy elements like seasonal effects, housing situation, anniversaries, Christmas low to name a few but the aspect that jumps up from this and in all those issues is SUPPORT.
When I am in crisis with this or anything, who can I turn to?
I’ve heard from other Single mother who have acknowledged that although sharing custody of their children with an ex poses its own issues, set-up amicably, it gives the mother breathing space away from their kids to cry, clean, drink wine or whatever it is that they chose to do, which has been a tiny win for their sanity.
With this latest lockdown, Single Parents have been recognised as needing support bubbles, which hasn’t offered a magic solution to all their struggles but it has been hugely beneficial to have a parent or family member to help with getting shopping or just being there as an emotional support while they witness the chaos the ensues.
However, for those that don’t have a support bubble or a father for their children, we’re left thinking about all the people we could have in our life, should have in our life, but the reasons why we don’t. They’re either non-existent, unsupportive or dead.
It’s important to acknowledge that if you have an ex, a support bubble, someone else or all, it doesn’t make lockdown easy, it just makes it different and will no doubt come with it’s own challenges.
Lockdown for married couples living the Instagram dream is still a challenge that they’re acknowledging as the toughest thing they’ve ever endured.
Many couples are now also for the first time beginning to see the plight of the Single Mother.
‘How on earth do you live like this?!’ so many of you have heard them say!
Our response before the pandemic and since has been along the lines of “we just do”.
I can’t speak on behalf of every single mother, I can only write about my own experiences. Even as I write this I have the admission of guilt for admitting how hard I find being a Single Mother.
The voice of my own insufferable Mother saying “well I told you not to do it” or “you’ve brought it on yourself”.
Yet thankfully 9 years on I can now see the clear difference between acknowledging that you’re having a hard time and saying I should never have put myself in this predicament. The former not being an admission of failure but that you can recognise when you’re struggling and need to express your emotions without judgment being cast.
The hardest times in isolation for me as a parent were in the newborn stages when my son had every feeding issue in the book and I was managing severe sleep deprivation and PND on top of the care of my terminally ill Father and my own pre-existing list of mental health conditions.
The never-ending monotony of uncontrollable screaming and no one to take the baby or give me a night’s sleep nearly finished me completely.
If it weren’t for my neighbour who’d check in on me each day and assist me with medicine time, bath time or just ask if we were okay I honestly don’t know what would have happened to either of us.
All those years later and she is still the one person that checks in on us. She’s now known as Nannie Margaret.
She was the one who had checked on us before I was taking Mayson for his first set of injections and luckily knelt down to him in the car seat on the floor just as an IKEA wall unit fell down from above and instead of landing on my 7 weeks old baby, it hit her shoulder which painfully deflected it.
She’s the one who had come in one evening to check on me 5 days after my Dad had died and in that moment I stopped hearing Mayson playing in the bath but instinctively knew something was wrong with my then 3-year-old. He was sat staring into space, unresponsive. I yanked him out the bath, cradling my lifeless boy in my arms while screaming “don’t die, don’t die!” It was her that held him while I called an ambulance in utter hysteria.
It was Nannie Margaret that I called when I noticed my son turning purple and his temperature had gone sky high and it was her that was holding him in the back of my car as I sped to the hospital on the advise of the emergency service operator who told me we’d get there quicker than an ambulance.
It was still her holding him when he vomited as I pulled up outside abruptly covering both of them head to toe in sick.
Unfortunately, she never understood the emotional pressure I was under when caring for my Dad until years later when her own brother had a stroke and she became his carer.
Yet although she didn’t get why I was constantly on the verge of a breakdown and had very little patience for my son’s toddler tantrums or misbehaviour of any kind, she would see me entering the building of the flats and take him inside for a biscuit while I put down the heavy bags I was always carrying or put the dinner on and just breathed for 5 minutes.
She’s part of her own daughter and grand-daughter’s bubble now, but we still speak most days and I leave dinner outside her door for her whenever I doing anything more adventurous than pasta. She may get an extra pastry or a few bananas for us during the week and it means the world to me that she was there then and is there for me now.
Yet for all those who are in predicaments where those you wish you had in your life are not, it’s times like this when those gaps are magnified. The loss or hurt that you don’t have that loved one here is pretty difficult to manage in an already hostile and pressured environment.
So, while we can say that of course we will get through this period like we have done any other difficult time, it’s often at these times when we see what we’re missing the most, for me it’s family and that unconditional supportive love.