May 7th, 2020
With social distancing measures in place, celebrating Mother’s Day this year will be a challenge for many families. It might take a little creativity, but most of us will find at least some way to express appreciation for the special moms in our lives and everything they’ve done for us.
But this Mother’s Day, especially during these strange days of COVID-19, we want to recognize a largely unappreciated group of moms who show a level of dedication and selflessness that’s truly heroic. Most often, it’s single mothers who take on far more than their usual share of parenting. Many of them have to run the show on their own, and—no doubt about it—these are the hardest-working moms out there.
By the most recent count, almost 16 million children in the U.S. live with a single mother. In these households, with no other parent around, there’s no real division of labor. If her children are young, Mom does it all—from fixing meals to getting the kids to school on time, helping with homework and soothing their tears, not to mention the hundred-and-one other tasks that maintaining a home requires. She rarely gets a break. It can be a hectic atmosphere with few opportunities to relax.
On top of that, single moms tend to work. Only 1 out of 5 single mothers with kids at home doesn’t have a job, and 50% of them work full time, year-round. Though some receive child-support, these payments can be inconsistent for a whole host of reasons, and just as often Mom finds herself in the position of being her family’s sole breadwinner.
Though she may (hopefully) have a support network of extended family and friends who can help out, the ultimate responsibility for her kids’ wellbeing rests on her shoulders alone. That reality calls for a level of self-reliance and no-nonsense practicality that involves knowing what kinds of things to let slide. But since society’s expectations for women—and especially mothers—are high and unforgiving, single moms have to develop a thick skin, too.
Now, add the sudden changes of COVID-19 into the mix. Though all families have been affected by this crisis in one way or another, single-parent households have been hit especially hard. Back in March, as schools across the nation began to close, parents had to scramble to find alternate child-care arrangements almost overnight. Guess who had to scramble more and harder than other parents? With many businesses still shuttered, not being able to work—or worse, a sudden job loss—can wreak havoc on a single-parent’s budget, which is likely already tight. We can only hope that help might be on the way from somewhere…
One thing this crisis has taught us: we need to honor our unsung heroes. Along with the health care professionals who fight this virus on the front lines, workers in food production and distribution and other providers of essential services, single mothers across the country deserve some special recognition for all that they’re doing.
So what can we do? We can let this Mother’s Day begin a new habit of keeping their specific challenges in mind. Especially for those single moms you know who might be struggling during these crazy times, even just a simple call or text to show your support can go a long way. Catching up with a video call when the time is right could be even better, and it might even lead to learning about a simple favor you could do to help lighten her load.
But whatever form it might take, in these days of worry and isolation, reaching out is key—from whatever social distance might be required.