Navigating the pandemic is hard enough on a family, but divorced families and single parent households, especially families that have children that require care and supervision, get to weather a particularly nasty bitch of a storm. Schools are closed (this was written when they were, anyway) and somebody has to be home to care for the kids. Imagine being in the shoes of a mother, estranged from her husband, without family or resources, who has to make choices about the wellbeing of her children that can include choosing between her job or childcare? Or a divorced couple who still fight about everything needing to have conversations about pandemic protocols and virtual learning? What if your industry was one of the thousands that had to let go of employees and you have no idea where your next paycheck was coming, all while raising a toddler, by yourself? Even the best of co-parents were met with new anxiety, heightened emotions, and just plain exhaustion.
I am divorced. I have been remarkably blessed with a different kind of experience during Covid. The pandemic has allowed for what would have remained resentments and anger to dissolve into a resolve of answering only one question: What is best for our boys?
I had an essential job. So did my ex, but his schedule allowed for him to be home a couple of days a week. If I would have crossed my arms and demanded that we stick to the parenting plan, he would not have been able to care to for them on those days he was off. If I would have stomped my feet and refused that he not spend time with them at my house, they would have missed riding their bikes with friends (while wearing masks) or being able to play their favorite games. He made their lives better and mine less stressful. I had to let some of my baggage go in order to for my kids to thrive during a very strange time. The divorce was hard enough on them, and now a pandemic? I didn’t need to make it harder.
When I knew I was getting divorced, I (barely) functioned somewhere between numb and raging lunacy. I had no idea how my life was going to be now that I was no longer married, that my vision for my life had faded into a reality of single-parenthood. I knew it would be challenging, I knew it would be complicated, especially for the boys. What I didn’t know was how lonely I would feel. Not the aching-for-my-partner, kind of lonely. The – I am out in this raging storm all alone and I don’t have anyone to talk about it nor would I know what to say- kind of lonely. My family of origin happens to be problem solvers, not problem listeners. That’s ok. They helped me to get my feet back on the ground in a tremendous way. Like, could not have survived it without them, kind of way. I also have a large, extended family with very few divorces in the mix. I, obviously, didn’t want to share my thoughts with my kids. I felt a shame and hopelessness because my story was so painful and I thought, unique. Until I met my friend, A, for coffee.
This was someone I had known in high school. She and I circled around each other a lot, being involved in the same activities in those days. Not best friends, but she was definitely somebody I liked. Because of Facebook, we had stayed connected in the way you do with acquaintances from high school- a “like” here, a “congratulations!”there. She had recently posted a picture of her daughter playing at a playground near my house. I expressed that we must be neighbors and that we should meet for coffee. She accepted the invitation. I had no idea what a Divine Appointment this would turn out to be.
When I saw her, she looked just as beautiful as she did in high school. I was waiting for my coffee and she gave me a big hug (ah, remember those?) We found a corner by a window and I asked how she was. She looked at me, straight into my eyes, and began to tell the truth. As she revealed the details of her recent divorce, my heart sank, not only because she was going through it, but that we had this very real thing in common. I just listened as a sipped my hot coffee. The more she spoke, the more my heart expanded. When she was finished, she kind of smiled as if she didn’t expect to reveal so much. Then she asked, “Well, what about you?”
I told her that if I had a mirror, I would just hold it up to her so it could reflect back to her the story she just told.
“The exact same. The exact fucking same.”
Everything from our children being the same ages to both of us having the same therapist. From our experiences within our marriage to our experiences out of it. From where we lived to how we felt. The exact same.
Both of us cried. Hugged. And promised to support each other as we walked through these days that would eventually turn into years, knowing that what we had experienced on this sunny day at Starbucks was truly miraculous.
Thank you, A, for being vulnerable and opening up to me. Your truth gave me the gift of knowing that I was not alone. We are never alone, if we are willing to be vulnerable enough to share our stories.
This experience I shared with A reminds me of a moment in my favorite series that I binged during the pandemic, Ted Lasso.
In Episode 10, Ted says:
Look at everybody else in here. And I want you to be grateful that you’re going through this sad moment with all these other folks. Because I promise you, there is something worse out there than being sad, and that is being alone and being sad.
Ain’t nobody in this room alone.
The Thing Is…
You are not alone. In this crazy pandemic, someone is going through the exact same thing you are, somewhere. Anonymous groups have put their Zoom meetings online, church groups are still communicating with one another, Facebook and Instagram have ways of connecting to people going through exactly what you are going through during this tsunami called Covid. You can be sad. You can be angry, but you don’t have to feel those things alone. I’m here.