The hardest thing about single parenting in the pandemic has been the abyss of loneliness coupled with responsibilities that cannot be met. My son needs help navigating remote school; this is a situation built for stay-at-home parents, but I cannot afford to not work. And I am one of the fortunate ones. I have the privilege of my race, my job, my health insurance, an ex-husband who co-parents with me, and my parents who, though medically vulnerable, can babysit or loan money in a pinch. I am beyond lucky, and I feel like I’m drowning. Several single mothers I know contemplated suicide this past summer. Ironically, what makes the pandemic so untenable to them is being a single parent, but being a single parent is what also makes suicide impossible. It’s a Möbius strip of misery.
I think about other single moms a lot; I wonder what I might learn from them. I also worry for them. For those who are frontline workers, I wonder how much of their day is spent in abject fear. I feel for single moms who can work from home but don’t know for how long, afraid they will damage their career. I think of the mothers who wait in line for packages at the food bank. Poverty lurks like a shadow for so many of us.
At the end of the first day of remote school, my son and I went for a bike ride. School had been an abject disaster. During breaks in his lessons, we had cuddled on the sofa, my work languishing away. I could do it that evening; it meant less sleep, but it also meant keeping my head above water. Walking our bikes out into the street, I said to my son, “In January, this will all be over.” As if I was some sort of oracle, shouting affirmations that are more hope than promise. But I have to believe in something better to come.
My boy and I climbed onto our bikes and rode up and down the block. Sweat glued my shirt to my back and my hair was a mess, but it didn’t matter. I could watch my son, peddling like mad up ahead. For that moment, we were happy. It’s so easy to forget that the little joys can add up to something much bigger.
“Hey, Mom!” he hollered. “Watch!”
And I saw him attempt “a trick,” riding up a neighbor’s driveway onto the sidewalk. He misjudged the turn and landed in a bush, bike and all, but popped right up, brushed the dirt off his bare legs and shot me a thumbs-up sign. We both started laughing, a loud goofy guffaw we share. Kids are resilient — I remind myself of that a lot. And the truth is, I am also resilient, and in the end, the what-if’s don’t matter. My son is the only decision I’m absolutely sure of, and whatever happens, no matter how hard, he is the one thing I don’t regret.
Andrea Luttrell is a writer living in Texas. She is currently working on a memoir.