Regardless of who we are or where we live, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed all of our lives in a significant way.
For some, the change hasn’t been too difficult. Those who perhaps already worked from home, or who at least were able to transition to a work-from-home schedule, have not had to grapple with the financial stress of job loss.
For those who are fortunate enough to have financial security, this time when all of their other obligations have been put on hold has simply offered them an opportunity to spend more time with their families and reconnect with their loved ones.
For many, however, this pandemic has brought on stress and anxiety, particularly for single parents whose kids are now at home. These solo mothers and fathers now have the task of taking care of their children and managing their household without any outside help.
Many of the parents in these situations are struggling under the pressure, and to make matters worse, there are many others in their communities and on the internet who are criticising them despite their best efforts.
Single Parenthood During a Pandemic
Many of the challenges that parents across the country are experiencing are magnified for single parents. The public health messaging that has surrounded the virus relies on the assumption that everyone can retreat into the home and be self-sufficient for the weeks- or possibly months- that this pandemic may continue.
Single parents, however, often rely on support from people like grandparents or family friends to help them take care of their kids and do necessary tasks like grocery shopping. With social distancing rules in effect, suddenly single parents have to do it all alone.
But what happens when the parent is incapable of caring for the child? What if he or she comes down with the virus? Current advice from health officials say that if you become ill, you need to quarantine yourself in a separate room, away from the rest of the members of your household. If you are the only adult in the home, however, this is simply not possible.
A single parent may also be coping with an ex-spouse who is not taking social distancing orders seriously. This is the case for one single mom in Los Angeles:
“My daughter’s father is something else. He is not taking the precautions seriously and is still demanding his monitored visit at the park with our 1 year old. I am already so overwhelmed. I can’t speak to him directly nor do I want to because I have a restraining order against him. Looking for advice or encouragement.” 
Mothers or fathers who are working from home now have to manage both their daily work for their job, as well as taking care of their kids who are not in school. Solo parents who work in the healthcare sector face an even greater challenge, as they are required to leave the home for work, but have no one to watch their children.
Shopping for essentials has now become an even greater struggle for the single parent. Grocery store shelves have been getting cleaned out of everything- not just toilet paper, but important supplies including diapers and baby formula. It is much more difficult for a single parent to leave the home to shop, and as such, they aren’t able to go as often. When the shelves are empty, they are left without the essential items their child needs .
Mom-Shaming at the Grocery Store
Another challenge facing single parents when it comes to shopping is what to do with their children. Public officials have strongly recommended that parents leave their kids at home when they have to leave the house to grocery shop, but this is not always possible for a single parent.
Many single parents across the country, particularly single mothers, have been experiencing verbal abuse at grocery stores when they shop with their children. This “mom-shaming” has become yet another troubling trend caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
MaryAnn Fausey Resendez, a single mother living in Texas, has become so frustrated by the criticism she has received when she brings her daughter out in public, that before her most recent trip to the grocery store, she placed a sign on her daughter’s back to explain her situation.
“I am only five,” the sign read. “I can’t stay home alone so I have to buy groceries with mommy… Before you start judging stay back 6 feet.”
Fausey Resendez posted a photo of her daughter wearing the sign on her Facebook page, explaining that she did it in anticipation of the criticism she knew she would get. The post has now been shared over 43 thousand times and has received a lot of support from other single parents on social media.
In a separate post, Fausey Resendez outlined the fourteen steps she and her daughter take every time they go to the store, including wiping down the shopping cart and sterilizing the items they buy from the store .
Fausey Resendez isn’t the only mother who is struggling under the weight of criticism from strangers. Canadian mother Melinda Galant recently shared a photo of herself with tears running down her face after she returned with her kids from a trip to Costco.
“If anybody has ever wondered what defeat looks like, here it is folks,” she posted. “This is the look of a single mom during a pandemic.” 
Shannon Christensen, the founder and CEO of an organization called Mamas for Mamas, says that these mothers are “falling through the cracks”.
“They are single. They can’t leave their houses without their children. What are they supposed to do? They’re damned if they do and they’re damned if they don’t,” she explained. “If they stay home and don’t have enough food, then they’re neglecting their children. If they are taking them out in public, then they’re being reckless. There’s no way to win as a single mom during the pandemic right now.” 
Many people have criticized these single parents, stating that they should be taking advantage of grocery delivery services instead of bringing their kids out in public. These services, however, aren’t available to everyone and are often so backed up that deliveries can’t be made for sometimes two to three weeks.
Stay Home for Those Who Can’t
Whitney R. Robinson, an epidemiologist based at the University of North Carolina’s Gillings School of Global Public Health, says that people who can stay in their homes should do so, in order to help those who can’t.
“The public health message is not just to protect yourself but also to isolate for the people who can’t isolate,” she said. “ You are trying to break a chain” and, in doing so, reduce risk for essential workers and others who still need to have contact with the outside world.” 
Additionally, it is important that during this stressful time, when people are scared and emotions are heightened, that we all be kind to one another. We all come from different homes and different situations, and it is unfair to criticize someone else when you don’t know their situation.
We all need support right now, from our friends, families, and communities. Now is not the time to turn on each other, but to help each other as much as possible, and treat each other with compassion and respect.
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