parent opinion

'Dear fellow single parent: I feel your fear.'


The world as many of us know it has been “flipped, turned upside down”, as Will Smith would say, in the last fortnight. Thanks a lot, COVID-19.

Forget about toilet paper panic buying; yesterday, I was stopped from buying two tins of 99 cent Spagasaurus, my absolute favourite comfort food, because of tinned food limitations. Yes, things are not our normal anymore; and I know, as a sole parent, as a single mum, it is especially unsettling.

On top of the usual emotional labour of thinking of everything, and then doing everything, entirely on your own, there’s now something completely alien to deal with. It’s called a pandemic, which we’ve only seen in (excellent and thrilling) movies until now, and it’s the first one anyone has dealt with in our lifetimes.

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This pandemic thing is not just happening in our suburb or country, but in every corner of the world. No one’s immune, and a lot of people don’t know what to do, because, unlike in those movies, Matt Damon and Will Smith and all those other apocalypse heroes have done precisely jack shit for us thus far.


So. Let’s take a second to acknowledge that, because, dear fellow single parent, I feel your fear. It is absolutely legitimate, and you are certainly not alone in feeling it.

You’re battling the grocery store on your own – you can’t tag-team a toilet paper run. You’re scared of the exposure, and of not getting enough stock. You may not be in a position to buy in bulk, but you have kids to look after and all they have is you, so somehow you just have to.


You may still be dealing with stuff from your ex, who doesn’t believe in social distancing, for example. You are terrified of getting sick, because you’re the only one holding your family together, and dear lord, you just really do not want to die right now because they have no one else.

Do you send your kids to school, or not? The messages from the government have been conflicting, and you have no one to sit down with to talk it through, who’s as invested in the kids as much as you are.

Then there are the kids themselves; the older ones are anxiety-riddled because they have as much knowledge as you do (from Tik Tok, not the ABC), and the younger ones can sense your fear.

It is all on you and it’s overwhelming and also completely shit.

Your mental load just increased by 1000 per cent, and the stakes have skyrocketed. Yes, you know everyone else is in a similar position, but you feel very alone, and even more isolated than usual.

But I see you, sister.


I feel the same, and I’ve decided this is how I’m handling it.

I’m letting go of a lot in the name of ‘hands-off’ parenting. I’m decreasing my emotional and physical load by getting my son to step up.

For example, I’m not homeschooling in a structured way. The school has expectations of my son online, and he’s old enough to meet those himself. If not, there are consequences for him. But if he were younger, I’d also be letting school go, because this is a temporary situation.


And there’s also the fact that I can’t deliver a school curriculum while I’m working to keep us fed and housed. I mean, us single mums are amazing, but even we have our limits.

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That leads me to my next piece of advice; not only do we need to acknowledge those limits ourselves, we need to admit them to other people.

My sister, who’s interstate, called me to ask, “What can I do for you?”

My instinct was to do what I always do; minimise my feelings and say I had things under control.

But in that second, I decided to share my burden. I blurted that I was feeling unsettled and anxious. It gave my sister the chance to comfort me, legitimise my feelings, and then offer practical advice. It was exactly what I needed.

She also did something very small, but very significant; she set up an online toilet paper subscription. Helpful, supportive, practical, and one less bloody thing for me to worry about right now. So while the shit is hitting the fan metaphorically, at least it’s not, literally.

That’s a wonderful comfort right now.

So, dear fellow single parent, I know you can do it all, but you don’t have to. This is not the time for pride. Letting that slide is the best thing you can do for your kids, and yourself, while the world remains flipped turned upside down.


I’m always here for you, too.

Nama Winston has had a decade-long legal career (paid), and a decade-long parenting career (unpaid). You can follow her on Instagram and Facebook.

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