If they’re of interest to us, we’ve seen them already, the daily articles that speak to this crisis I’m living. Just in case you weren’t paying attention though, this pandemic is having an effect on parents.
Especially single mothers.
Especially single mothers who are also students or professionals.
My child has thankfully reached an age where holing up in her room is something she wants to do and although I’ve never been that type of parent, it’s come to this:
I’ve supplied her with enough screens that the secret police will never not know what’s happening in here. At this point, there are more electronics in this 650 square feet than the gadget department at Target.* And I leave her to them — me, the mom who packed organic lunches and healthy snacks. Me, Montessori mom, dance mom, the mom who limited screen time in order to encourage creativity, exercise and the reading of books.** Me, the mom who pretty consistently thinks about the apocalypse and runs hourly through a mental checklist of how to survive without connectivity. Here, have a Kindle Fire.
There’s not a whole lot else I can do at the moment. I’m required to excel academically in order to keep a roof over our heads; I am lucky that this provides for us in a time when the job market is even more bleak than usual. In a not-pandemic, this is what I have always wanted to do: read things, write things, talk about the stuff I read and write; grow from that. School is a dream occupation for me and I’m at my dream school, along with a whole lot of 18-year-olds living at home with their parents, their cats’ butts making periodic classroom appearances on Zoom. Me? I’m mostly in my own living room in soft pants, trying not to get distracted by the dishes or laundry or paperwork or the candidates on my mail-in ballot, hoping my daughter will stay invisible long enough for me to write a 300-word statement of interest in less than three days.
And also… thinking like that makes me feel guilty af.
I realize that this is not representative of a lot of the single mom students out there — this surprising joy and privilege was not anything I foresaw three years ago, but it’s a massive privilege all the same. I am not holed up in a large city. I am healthy, surrounded by queers and academics and progressive thinkers and puritanical New Englanders who follow rules, and all our basic needs are being met. Bigger picture, it could be a lot worse.
Regardless, it’s the experience of another mother living through this pandemic, and it can be added to the list of all other mothers out there trying to do something, make a living, to excel at something besides housekeeping (no shame there, just not my thing).
Inevitably, I will give in though, to my daughter’s need to for attention, for social engagement, for physical activity or a change in scenery. Like me, she’s struggling through some similar crises around remote learning, boredom, wondering if this will ever fucking end. Like me, she’s holding onto some hope that eventually it will and we’ll move on to the next new way of living.
Daily, we chant our sanity mantra:
“When Covid is over…”
When Covid is over, I think to myself, and you’re back in a classroom…
But first and foremost, I’m her mother, and I’m mothering us both through this strange and awful time in history. We’re tired of our four walls, socially isolated, terrified of the news, bearing witness to mental states that would be unacceptable in other times. My daughter, aged nine, said “Good, I hope he dies,” when I told her Trump had Covid, and there I paused, deciding what, if anything, I should say in response.
*I might be a little obsessed with Target at the moment. The pen selection alone is worth the field trip.
**I know. She doesn’t play soccer though, and I drive a Nissan hatchback now.