Just as the COVID-19 pandemic took effect in my area in early March, like many others during this time, I became a furloughed single mother. I worked with my employer since May 2019 and, just like that, I received a letter stating that the department was closing and each of the employees would be notified when it is safe to return.
It has been 10 long months of waiting.
When I found out that the majority of people who were furloughed from their jobs are single parents, I felt less alone.
Thankfully, I received the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act stimulus check in mid-April. While it helped for one month, the days started to speed up, leaving me in a deeper hole than before. I applied for unemployment benefits for a little extra support, but the process took over two months and multiple attempts.
Like many, I began to fall behind on rent as bills started to pile up, and there are still moments when it is a struggle to put food on the table for my family. This was only the beginning of the effects of my unpaid absence, as my nine-year-old daughter was facing her own difficulties.
My daughter and I started a very different way of learning as we both began virtual education via Zoom. There was so much frustration and anger between the two of us in the beginning as we struggled with the new technology we were using while I continued my search for a new job.
On top of that, I was given a new task of what felt like becoming a fourth grade teacher’s assistant. I had to look over my daughter's classwork along with her homework, which eventually led to tutoring and testing.
In late September, after a few months of trying to figure out these learning curves, the mental and emotional effects we faced finally began to sink in. Having little mishaps like the iPad falling, the internet being disrupted or overflowing amounts of work brought out our anger and frustration.
I was completely overwhelmed by the stresses of figuring out our daily meals, along with taking four new courses at Cal State Fullerton with loads of projects and classwork, which made each day a constant struggle.
I was able to make a change in my life after realizing that we were acting like completely different people. These changes have helped us get to the point we’re at today and change our outlook on our current situation.
The first change was realizing the importance of mental health and its major role in our family.
My daughter and I began using breathing exercises along with different communication techniques to express our feelings and find resolution to what was upsetting us at those moments. We took the time to work on our mental health every afternoon and evening.
The second change I made was asking for help more often and learning when to do so. I spent my free time looking for resources, which led me to a few local outlets that could help, while my family and friends were also supportive when it came to child care.
The third change I implemented was taking at least one hour out of each day to apply for jobs. Looking online for work has brought me closer to getting back into the workforce and opened my eyes to opportunities that I would have otherwise never known.
It wasn’t until doing research that I found a tremendous amount of resources in Orange County for low-income families in need. Not only did I find a bit of relief for myself, but I was also able to assist other families and find a connection with over 400 food pantries and farmer’s markets that offer free food or aid.
By making these small changes day by day, I have been able to slowly get myself out of the rut that being furloughed put me in.
With so many of us struggling, it’s important to remember that it will take time to feel job security again, but we can’t sit around waiting for things to happen either. It’s what we do with our time that makes the difference.