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'I left an abusive relationship and became a single mum in lockdown. Here's what I learned.'

This post deal with domestic violence, and could be triggering for some readers.

I am sorry that I only have the TV to keep my daughter company while I try to get basic tasks done like online grocery shopping. 

I’m sorry that I can’t hold the shopping bags and her at the same time while she is crying for me to do so. It breaks my heart. 

I’m sorry no one else can comfort her during the brief moments I need to go to the toilet. 

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She stands there with tears rolling down her face while she waits. Because, just like any toddler she needs someone nearby to feel safe and secure. But I’m all she has at home. It has been that way since she was 18 months old. 

First, we had to separate from her father as it was no longer a healthy environment for us to be in. I had to endure things I couldn’t bear her to see or hear anymore, like him throwing things at me in front of her. 

We just started settling into this new family structure, just her and I, with me having 100 per cent care of her. Then a few months later, the pandemic hit.

And that was how we went through most of 2020 here in Melbourne, where we lived through one of the longest lockdowns in the world. 

Unlike many who have support from their parents, I realised early on that the pandemic made my already difficult day to day life of managing everything on my own, even more relentless. 

Little pleasures like outings I had relied on for reprieve from the single mother grind, were taken away.

Amidst the toilet paper panic buying frenzy, just as the news of the virus had just picked up, I came across a dilemma. 

How can I get groceries? Who’s going to look after her so she can stay home away from any potential exposure to the virus? I had few alternatives. My mother is not well enough to take care of her, everyone is busy with their own families, and I don’t like to burden them.

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In the end, I had to take her, or there would be no groceries.

As well as getting used to not having a partner to help with such practicalities, I had to deal with the emotional aftermath of leaving an abusive relationship. 

I realised the hard part wasn’t just leaving the relationship. What tore me just as much, was the task of striking the fine balance between her having a relationship with her dad against ensuring she was safe with him, which involved many emotionally taxing negotiations about parenting arrangements through lawyers.

The days were long and if she went to bed late, my “free time” didn’t start until 10pm. Then I was too exhausted to do the left over housework. So at times I would try to do some while she was awake. But this also proved challenging. 

One day we ended up in a screaming and crying mess at each other because I couldn’t change the bed sheets properly with her constantly jumping on the bed and not listening to my requests to stop. 

There was no one else in the house to diffuse such difficult moments or for me to talk it over with.

The loneliness, together with the accumulation of the relentless load of caring for a toddler 24/7, made me prone to being irritable and short with her.

Yet there have been some great lessons and positives from experiencing single motherhood during the pandemic.

I’ve been grateful to have since discovered the concept in psychology called rupture and repair. 

It acknowledges that parents can make mistakes but that they can still repair and restore the emotional connection with the child.

I have found comfort in knowing that the relationship with her isn’t destroyed because I yelled at her over the cauliflower she spilt all over the floor as I tried to involve her with cooking.

Another spinoff from the lockdowns is that they have allowed me to fully bond and be present with her, being stuck at home together those long days, just us. I’ve been able to fully embrace and treasure those moments with her.

Upon reflecting, I do feel like the pandemic may have come at a good time for us, as it gave me the opportunity to slow down and tune into my deep feelings, reflect and heal from the breakdown of our family. 

All this happened while I took her out on walks and to the playground during our one hour allowance of exercise time under the restrictions. 

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In these quiet, slowed down moments with minimal distractions, I was able to heal while enjoying her at the same time. 

Being forced by the pandemic into moments of solitude, afforded me the mental space to do this.

However, in between the hectic moments of caring for her and working, I didn’t even have a chance to think about reaching out for help from others. 

It was only when a dear friend of mine reminded me: “Hun, finding your tribe with fellow mothers is so crucial for your self-care.”

For the first time, that made realise she was right, that I needed the help so I could take care of me, to take better care of her. 

So I started to reach out. It has been hard to do this and unfortunately I experienced hostility from people who were too busy for me, caught up in their own lives. But I still tried to seek assistance from who I could for her sake.

I have also learned that sometimes I can only depend on myself. There have been times I have felt so tired of being strong, that I feel like I can’t be anymore. What gets me back up, is reminding myself that I must stay strong for her.

I’ve learned to be less hard on myself. I forget that I am only one person. It has helped at the end of the day for me to list the things I achieved, even if it was just making a nutritious lunch for her.

Being caught up in the constant struggles, I have had to stop and remind myself to maintain gratitude. 

I am grateful for instance, that among juggling her with the pandemic, I was able to find a new job after I lost one and that I have friends to draw on for emotional support. 

But most of all, I look at her and she makes me realise all this is worth it, and that she has been the blessing amidst the separation of our family.


If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home. 

You can also call safe steps 24/7 Family Violence Response Line on 1800 015 188 or visit www.safesteps.org.au for further information.

Feature Image: Canva.

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