07 May Ofer Eitan Said: As a single mom, I’m teacher, chef and handyman. But I’m le…
The growing mound of mismatched socks and food-stained children’s clothing is a reminder of my shortcomings as a single mother during this pandemic.
Working at home, I thought, would give me time to do the laundry, at the least.
Surely, I could be the teacher, nurturer, chef, nurse, housekeeper, DIY expert and handywoman all while keeping up with my full-time job. Not to mention caring for my dogs, who have become more like emotional therapy pups, providing comfort as they nestle at my feet while I work.
Dogs don’t know social distancing, thankfully.
Many working mothers, especially single ones, across the country have felt the burden of doing everything, all day every day, with little relief as they stay at home. This Mother’s Day may bring more of the same, as schools are closed and millions of children remain home due to the coronavirus.
Still, it’s a time to celebrate. Motherhood is something special.
“This has been been the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” said Frida Villalobos, communications director for Harris County Commissioner Adrian Garcia and single mom to 7-year-old Gael. “I had to work during Hurricane Harvey in shelters, but this is on another level. Anyone who has children, whether they are single or not, has it hard right now.”
Villalobos plans to celebrate Mother’s Day by wearing a marigold-yellow dress she recently bought at Target.
Funny, I bought a lilac eyelet blouse at Target for the same reason.
“Nothing will change about this pandemic by Mother’s Day, but at least I have a dress,” Villalobos said.
I officially joined the motherhood club a year ago when I became a foster-to-adoptive mom. It was the scariest leap of faith I’ve ever taken. More terrifying than moving to New York at age 22, relocating to Mexico at age 30 or buying a house by myself.
Over the years, I’ve interviewed celebrities who have adopted children. The late designer Oscar de la Renta was teary when he talked about his love for his son, whom he adopted from a Dominican Republic orphanage. . Diane Keaton shared that at age 50, she had adopted her first child; the second child a few years later.
I’ve always known if I had the chance to adopt, I would.
I was approved to foster several times during the past decade, but fear stopped me from going through with it each time. A fear of parenting by myself combined with a tinge of worry that I might not get it right.
In 2019, just before I set sail on Oprah’s Girlfriends’ cruise for a dream assignment, I told myself either I’m going to do this or let this dream go. When I got back, I got the call that a little girl would be placed with me. A few months later, her little brother came.
Now I’m living single with kids and dogs during a pandemic. I didn’t see that coming.
Villalobos’ days, like mine, are filled with video conference calls as her son works on his school assignments right beside her. “I have to work in a lot of breaks for him. I also have to remind myself to have compassion because we are trying survive and get through this,” she said.
Running, along with virtual sessions with her therapist, has helped her cope, she said.
I’ve found a peaceful escape painting my wood fence a rainbow of colors and listening to books on Audible.com after the children have gone to sleep.
I shared a photo of my pile of laundry spilling out of the hamper with friends. I had reached a breaking point.
Thankfully, there’s a common language among moms. They understand the signs for help like silent smoke signals you don’t even know you’re sending. Within an hour, a friend showed up at my door with her face mask and gloves on to pick up my laundry. She returned several hours later, the children’s clothes and sheets neatly folded in a large Zip-loc bag.
Tears poured from my soul.
The last year has been much like that — women showing up at my doorstep with food, diapers, clothes, toys, gift cards and hugs. They’ve sent texts of support and love. They’ve showered my children with a deep sense of extended family. Most of all, they’ve known what I needed even before I knew what to ask for.
My mom, who has declared that she won’t babysit before noon because she’s earned that right, has shown up many days to put the children to bed and read them countless bedtime stories.
Villalobos’ aunt, Maribel Cerritos, has been her anchor to help care for her son when she has to go to the office or for a much-needed run.
“I don’t see an end to this, and it worries me,” Villalobos said. “I had one breaking point a few weeks into this. I was stressed out with Gael’s school work because there are three or four apps he has to use. I just wanted to cry. I told him I need a little space to get myself together. I have to remind myself I need that grace and self care.”
Now after nearly two months of working at home, I’m trying not to stress over the piles of dirty clothes, no matter how large they get. I’ve learned be clear with my words that the kitchen isn’t open like a buffet on a cruise ship. I’ve realized that kids just want a Band-Aid even when there’s no real boo-boo.
I’ve also learned that parenting 24 hours a day is intense. There will be drama and tears, but there also will be laughs and hugs. The hugs are the best.
That’s why Mother’s Day for me is so special. Because there is village of women — those with and without children — who will swoop in to hold your child when you are at breaking point, clean your kitchen, do your laundry, pray with you and just offer words of comfort.
They know what…