Locked Down as a Single Parent

By: Kristina Dapaah‍ 

In 2021, there were over 700,000 lone-parent families reported in Ontario, and while managing childcare, kids’ schooling, work, and all the other aspects of life has been challenging for everyone these last 2 years, these challenges are multiplied for single parents. I sat down with a single mom, Kat, to get an account of her experience navigating quarantines and re-openings.  Kat is an Ottawa resident  working two jobs, one of which is being a flight attendant, and is also a full-time single mom to her 7 year old daughter. As a flight attendant, Kat has to plan ahead since she’s often on the go, but she enjoys her job in the skies.

 

After the Christmas break several months ago, schools were shut down as COVID-19 cases continued to rise in Ontario. Kat recounts what it felt like for her family when the third lockdown was announced in Ontario, saying “I felt a wave of anxiety, stress, and panic trying to move all the pieces of my schedule around in my head; to figure out how I can continue to make money while having to sit at home. It is exhausting having to worry about whether or not I will be able to make enough money in a specific pay period to put food on the table when both my jobs require me to show up to get paid.” 

Single parents work hard to provide for their families and with income loss being prevalent during the pandemic, I am certain that her feelings are shared by many single parents living on a single income. A study done by the PEW Research Centre saw that “un-partnered” parents had the largest drop in employment from the onset of the pandemic to the 6-month period. Black and Hispanic moms were also identified as being less employed further into the pandemic in comparison to their White counterparts. The data also revealed that when a mother had a child (or children) under the age of 5, there was even more emphasis on employment decline.

 

So when a group of people solely responsible for their household expenses cannot remain on the job, what is there to do? Who can they turn to?

 

“As a single parent, my biggest challenge is making sure my kid is always taken care of. It’s hard as a flight attendant because my schedule is made a month in advance and to find that wiggle room to change an entire schedule on a moment's notice is nearly impossible.” This, Kat expresses, is the reason that the data is the way it is. Single parents have to leave work to ensure that their child is looked after, while carrying the burden of financial provision.

 

Where lockdowns create so much instability, fear and dread, single parents have had to find the strength to pull through. Kat shared with me that if another lockdown were to happen, she would have to consider quitting her second job altogether. She expressed her frustrations with the nature of the lockdowns and the unclear directives about next steps that often follow.

 

My hope for single parents like Kat is that they will be given special considerations for their unique situations. It would be encouraging to see the government place an emphasis on having resources on reserve, to help real people manage whatever direction this pandemic decides to go in. Staying afloat during the last two years as a single parent has been a win on all fronts. I applaud parents who have had to move heaven and earth to make it work. I am hopeful for better times ahead.

For additional information about the  employment rights of single parents in Ontario, please refer to “family status” in the Ontario Human Rights Code, which protects parents against discrimination in employment and outlines employers’ duty to accommodate based on a person’s family status.

Kristina Dapaah

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