Single Mothers in the COVID-19 Pandemic

by Valentina Loaiza //

The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly impacted families with children. With the closing of schools at the beginning of the pandemic, some of us might have witnessed our parents struggling to find a babysitter to take care of our younger siblings. Others probably came home from college to take on that huge responsibility and alleviate some of the family’s stress. Raised in a single-parent home, the latter would have been my reality if I had younger siblings to look after while my mom worked amid this chaos. 

Last June, I had the opportunity to catch up with a single mother whose daughter I used to tutor when I was in high school. She told me she had been laid-off from work and was worried about her daughter’s academic performance. While her daughter was just in the fourth grade, the mother was concerned she wouldn’t be of much help because she wasn’t fluent in English and hadn’t mastered the use of technology. I had this conversation with the mother while the three of us waited in line for the weekly food pantry distribution. 

How are other single mothers facing the pandemic? 

This is the question I repeatedly asked myself following my conversation with this mother. In search of answers on the internet, I found that there’s been very little coverage on how single mothers are juggling the increasing responsibilities at home as a result of the pandemic. Nonetheless, I believe that the stories that have been reported deserve attention as they shed light on the reality many single mothers are facing. 

There are approximately 15 million single parent-led households in the United States and 80% of them are led by single mothers.

To give some background, the United States is the third country with the highest percentage of children living with single mothers. There are approximately 15 million single parent-led households in the United States and 80% of them are led by single mothers. This means that there are nearly 22 million children across the country raised by single mothers. 

NPR reported the story of Nellie Riether from New Jersey. Riether is the mother of a 13 and 15-year-old and lost her job back in April. She shares the psychological burden of being a single mother, especially during the pandemic, because she doesn’t have a partner to talk to or share financial costs with. Even for single mothers with jobs, the article reports the difficulties of dealing with work and their children’s remote school at the same time.

Another article shared a single mother’s desperation amid the pandemic as she searched for a new place to live with her five children due to her decline in earnings. Jimmysa Thomas is one in 4.5 million Black women who are sole providers and caretakers of their families. According to Safiya Charles’ article, single mothers are facing poverty, hunger, job losses, illness, underemployment, and unstable housing. Additionally, Charles acknowledges that single mothers of color are facing the most desperate circumstances during the pandemic. 

With approximately 2 in 5 families headed by Black and Hispanic women living in poverty during the COVID-19 pandemic, I believe there’s a strong need for more coverage of their stories. Not only do stories like Nellie Riether’s and Jimmysa Thomas’ reveal the ineffectiveness of the one-time stimulus payment during a global health crisis, but they also serve to raise public awareness on the intersectionality of race, gender, and parenting.