The relentless anxiety of being a single parent right now

parent sitting down hugging small child in sleep suit standing up

By Kaci Curtis
@KCurtisWriter

My husband left for a month of training on the other side of the country just after the US had its first confirmed death from COVID-19. We’re a military family; weeks or even months apart are nothing new to us. My son and I settled in for business as usual, ready to keep ourselves busy and care for our small farm until my husband returned.

But it turned out not to be business as usual. Not even close.

The first week wasn’t too terrible. I kept an eye on the news, but it didn’t seem too alarming. We were told it was just another type of flu, nothing to be concerned about. Simple hygiene habits would take care of it. The second week after my husband left, things changed. Italy took a serious downward turn. The cases in the US began to multiply. It was categorized as a pandemic. People began to panic buy. Grocery shelves were empty, in a way I have never seen in my lifetime.

My fears mounted, rising with each news segment and article. My anxiety disorder, opportunistic and waiting for just such an environment, seemed to escalate overnight.

When my son’s preschool closed, I knew that things were serious. I needed to be sure we were prepared. Not only for my son and me, but also for all the animals on our farm. I squeezed two bales of hay into my Ford crossover every time we went to town, so our pony and donkey wouldn’t run out. I bought enough feed to make sure our goats, chickens and turkeys could be fed normally if we went into quarantine. I made sure we had enough supplies for our two dogs and three cats.

But what I was I doing for myself? Mostly, I was worrying. I cried on the phone to my mom about the possibility of getting sick and having no one to care for my son. Our closest family is a fifteen hour drive away in another state. With my husband gone, I felt like I was the first and last line of defense. If I failed, if I was unable to prepare properly or if I forgot a small detail, then my son, or our many animals, would pay the price.

Those were the fears that my anxiety multiplied, and I was powerless against their weight. It crushed up against my chest, day after day. It kept me from sleep. It hounded me, nipping at my heels while my son and I worked in the garden or played in the sun. It was relentless. Merciless.

Then, we got the news. My husband would be coming home a week and a half early. Coincidentally, it would also be the date of our fifth wedding anniversary.

The relief nearly knocked me to my knees. As long as we were together as a family, I could bear the weight of the rest. As long as we were not separated and weakened by worrying for one another, things would seem brighter. The world outside would seem less scary, if the people who made up my own little world were beneath the same roof.

On the eve of my husband’s arrival back home, I wanted to leave you with this:

If you are alone right now, I have felt the weight of that burden. If you are wondering if you have done enough for your children, I promise that you have. If you are crying into your pillow and trying to smile during the day, I too, have struggled to find that strength. Carry on, Mama. The days seem long and our worries are heavy. The uncertainties and the worries are many, and the remains of our routines are few. But carry on. Your children are watching you. Let them see you trying. Let them see you cry, if you must cry. But let them see you carry on.

Kaci Curtis is a mom, writer, military spouse, and Enneagram 6. She’s the main caretaker of their small family farm in Mississippi. 

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