As a single parent, my support bubble saved me
On Sunday, I slept through the night for the first time in 12 weeks, without a visit from the small person who usually creeps into my bed after having Covid-19 nightmares.
As a single parent to a five-year-old daughter, it’s been a difficult time.
At the start of lockdown, I saw my day job, comedy and acting careers disappear due to coronavirus-related budget cuts and industry shut downs. It has put me on a constant knife’s edge of anxiety, worrying about our future, my income and, perhaps worst of all, an ill-judged and self-inflicted haircut I may never live down.
All I have been able to do – and not even all that brilliantly I might add – is parent my daughter and keep her fed, warm and safe. I have been happy and blessed to do that, but there has been no break. No one to make me a cup of tea. No one to watch her for five minutes while I have a cry and a mini-breakdown.
Being a single parent in lockdown is like being against the clock in a never ending gameshow, waiting on a buzzer that will never sound. Whenever my daughter had a FaceTime with a friend, I immediately sprang into action, wondering if it was enough time for me to do the washing up/sleep/shower.
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As you can imagine, my priorities and personal hygiene have been pushed to the limit.
I broke my toe and seriously deliberated whether I should just leave it (despite it pointing in the wrong direction) because I had no idea who would care for my daughter while I saw the doctor.
A few weeks later, I started displaying symptoms of Covid-19 and I remember packing hospital bags for us, and being forced to put a desperate post on Facebook asking who would be willing to look after my daughter if I ended up hospitalised.
I knew my elderly parents were too at risk as they both have health issues already (and her father lives far away in a shared household with his elderly family) so there were literally no options. I have never felt more alone than in that moment.
Thankfully I was ok.
But then came the announcement on 10 June of the ‘support bubble’ – allowing single adults or single parents to partner with another household, thus creating a ‘bubble’ in which social-distancing rules could be relaxed. It was an absolute no-brainer when it came to who would be in my bubble and my daughter and I self-isolated beforehand, so we would all be safe.
Suddenly, I was able to see my elderly parents in person and not just on a screen. But more than anything, it was, I soon learned, a way for me to carve out a few hours for myself.
Being at my parents’ house this week is the equivalent of an all-inclusive luxury holiday. My mum even brings me breakfast in bed.
It has also been an incredible way to reconnect. Nothing compares to the conversations we’ve had, the shared jokes, the doing nothing and just being us again.
My dad’s been telling me about how he’s decorated his office, and how he’s trying to find a way to re-open the synagogue he is the chairman of amid the pandemic. It has been wonderful to just sit and listen to him talk. Not being trapped in my house, my head and my own problems has made my world bigger again.
My daughter is in absolute ecstasy at being here, too. Watching her hug my parents again for the first time, tentatively, joyously, was a sight I will remember for the rest of my life.
And no, I didn’t film or photograph it, because I am utterly sick of my phone – I get that it’s a real lifeline for us single folk, but that little block of plastic and metal is no replacement for real life.
Until ‘support bubbles’ were introduced (and despite the fact that one in four children grow up in one-parent homes), single parents were vastly overlooked by the Government’s Covid response plans, particularly with the impact of schools being shut, the lack of any childcare options and so many jobs being lost, so it was good to have our challenges be recognised.
To be fair, it was tricky enough being a lone parent before all of this – the weight of being the sole financial provider for the two of us, the lack of any discernible social life and the exhaustion that comes with being both good and bad cop, 24/7 and that was without, of course, the profound sense of awkwardness that accompanies single parenthood.
Whether at a parents’ evening or on a family package holiday, it often feels like you’re the square peg trying to fit into the round hole of modern family life.
So, what have I been doing with my newly-found freedom?
I’ve finished the first draft of my book The Time I Almost… about my pre-Covid life, and I’ve written comedy sketches that I will hopefully film over the next week, but more than anything I have simply enjoyed looking out of my old bedroom window, listening to the rain and planning our post-pandemic future.
Maybe it sounds selfish, but I needed this time to be me.
For 12 weeks, I’ve had to be a sort of teacher, a kind of hairdresser, a cook, a one-woman band, none of which are careers that I am particularly good at.
All I have wanted to do is to be a writer again, be myself, and now, in my old bedroom, I am finally being given that gift.
Find out more about Alexis’ book here
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