Now Or Never·Point of View

My 'pandemic passion' is getting through the day 

Dara Squires can't slow down. As a working, single mom with three special needs kids and too many pets, she had a lot on her plate before the pandemic. Now as the people around her are taking time for yoga and sourdough, this Newfoundlander is feeling lonely and overwhelmed.

Single mom Dara Squires had a lot on her plate before the pandemic. Now it's worse

This is what Dara Squires's kitchen looks like after her kids prepare food unsupervised. (Submitted by Dara Squires)

I'm one of the lucky ones. I do realize that. I've kept my job. No one in my family has been sick. My kids are older and don't need constant supervision.

But I don't feel lucky.

I'm a single, working mother with three special needs kids, too many pets, and a house that seems determined to flood me with plumbing problems or repair bills. 

And now there's a pandemic.

I still work eight hours a day — and usually more because my company is doing well through this.

There's no more breakfast program or school lunch so I've gone from preparing one or two meals a day, to three or more. These kids never stop eating. Or making messes. The housework alone has tripled. 

'As a single parent, you often feel lonely, but now I feel desperately alone,' says Squires. (Submitted by Dara Squires)

I'm also apparently supposed to be replacing 11 teachers, three guidance counsellors, a band instructor, and two special education assistants, while working a full-time job of my own.

All on me

As a single parent you always feel like everything is on you. But my "everything" has grown quite a bit.

I've gone from collapsing into bed at 11 p.m. with a sense of accomplishment to literally collapsing at 1 or 2 a.m. with a sense of doom.

That reminds me, my sink is still leaking. Can someone remind me to try to find the right caulking?

Oh, right, I forgot: that's all on me. The cooking, cleaning, working, teaching, repairing, working, cleaning, cooking, cleaning. Oh darn! I forgot to actually spend quality time with my kids.

The cycle of my days has felt like a tornado whose entire storm-fury is centred directly over me. 

Squires's typical daily to-do list feels overwhelming for the single mom. (Submitted by Dara Squires)

And in the midst of all of this, I also want to make sure to stay in touch with my friends and family. But every time I sign onto social media, it makes me feel like I'm the only one with a tornado overhead. Everyone else is baking bread, taking their kids to the park, or starting a new passion project.

It seems like the rest of the world is experiencing a different reality than me. That is one of the hardest things of this pandemic.

It seems like the rest of the world is experiencing a different reality than me. - Dara Squires

As a single parent, you often feel lonely. But now I feel desperately alone. While friends, my yoga group and the media talk about how great it is to be less busy, I'm here being thankful that no school means I can get five hours of sleep instead of just four.

Mostly, though, I am constantly troubled that I am the only one. The only one to keep the kids from killing each other. The only one supporting my family. The only one teaching my kids. The only one interacting with them.

And I'm the only one that's here for me. 

That's why, even though I don't get to bed until the early hours of the morning, I still take time to spend with myself.

Whether it's working on a poem, reading a book, or watching some Netflix, I need that one hour to myself to gather all the fragments of the day together and make myself feel whole again. 

Despite feeling like there's a tornado overhead, Squires manages to find 'that bliss of stillness and family connection everyone else seems to be enjoying,' with her kids Em (11), Harrison (15) and Kai (14). (Andrea Gorman Photography)

In the midst of it all, I sometimes find that bliss of stillness and family connection everyone else seems to be enjoying.

Watching my 14-year-old learn to cook, or hearing my 11-year-old tell me, as he leaves for a rare outing with his father, "Rest, Mommy. I'll help with the cleaning when I get home." Those are the moments when the tornado lifts off me and the air gets lighter. I could use more of those moments.

I may not have time to start a sourdough, repaint my living room, or re-enact Shakespeare's best moments with my kids, but my passion project is keeping myself sane.

And so far, at least, I've been a success.