A few years ago I saw a woman going from house to house with a baby on her back, digging through rubbish bins to find material to recycle. She blew my mind. I asked myself how bad things had to be for a mother to feel she had no other option but this, to survive. Something in me, though, was in awe of her strength.
COVID-19 got me very close to being this woman. Being a single mother is the most challenging experience of my life. Dealing with corona as a single mom has been most humbling. It literally got me down on my knees. I have never prayed harder in my life.
If anyone was to ask me what I have learned from life in the year 2020, I would say two things: Life definitely is what happens, despite any plans you have for yourself. Life is the boss. I think regardless of where a person finds him or herself this year, these two ideas will ring true because of COVID-19. And understandably, things get a bit more intense when the wellbeing of children is also considered.
When lockdown hit, I had just moved to a new town with a small child. The store where I had just found a job closed. I was soon isolated in a flat day after day, with mainly my own thoughts and a little person. The days provided lots of quality bonding time with my son, and they were also often filled with lots of fear.
I only left the flat to go shopping for groceries. And in the beginning this was a risky and terrifying thing to do, because we did not know much about the deadly virus yet. I could not risk taking my child along. In the first few weeks of lockdown, I would wait for him to fall asleep in the afternoon and then rush to the shop while he slept. I had no one to look after him.
I know of another single mother, who I consider tougher and braver than me. She was out and about with her three-year-old, going to the shops and more. She had the attitude that corona was not going to stop her from living her life. She even arranged for her child to be looked after by the lady that runs his day-care, when no schools were open. Unfortunately, she was my flat mate. This meant high levels of anxiety for me, and a lot of cleaning! Luckily she ended up going to live with family in a bigger and thus safer house not long after the start of lockdown.
I am sure I am not the only one who removed shoes and all clothes as soon as I arrived home and put them far away, before wiping everything I had bought at the shop with soap and water. Exhausting does not even begin to describe this exercise.
Did I mention the merry-go-round of fear in my head? How was I going to make money? What would happen to my child if I got sick? Before experts reassured us that children younger than ten were least likely get infected, there was the gigantic fear of my child getting sick. The more the lockdown was extended, the more I worried about how my child’s development was being affected by not being able to go to crèche. The longer lockdown lasted, a new fear appeared: the fear of losing a roof over our heads. All this responsibility is unbelievably hard for a single mom because you have to figure everything out alone. But I have to also appreciate how day after day, God sent unexpected angels to help (from a distance or electronically). I have experienced a lot of kindness from so called strangers during this challenging time.
We were eventually evicted from our flat because I couldn’t afford it. At our new and more affordable boarding house, I met another single mom. She is the caretaker of the house. She told me of how for three months she was frustrated and helpless because she was not allowed to come to work. She also lived with the fear of not being able to provide for her and her two daughters. Her girls are back at school, which she has accepted now, because she sees that being back at school is better than the kids spending aimless days at home. At least at school the teachers provide structure, and they are taking the necessary safety measures against corona.
We are all taking it one day at a time.