‘Suffering in silence:’ Single moms speak out on challenges amid COVID

Mother, Jessica Delazari, right, plays with her daughters Tiffany, 3, left, and Olivia, 7 , as they pick up toys at the Single Mothers Outreach in Newhall on Thursday, 020521. Dan Watson/The Signal

Jessica Delazari, a single mother and recent College of the Canyons graduate, found herself crying on the floor, sick with COVID-19, knowing she could not take care of her two young daughters as well as she wanted. 

It was August 2020 when she and her 3-year-old daughter contracted the virus from her 7-year-old daughter, who Delazari believes became infected at a daycare in Valencia. It was a cry of frustration, stress and loneliness. It was a cry for help. 

She had just graduated from college in June and because her job contract as a work-study college assistant ended upon graduation, she was also unemployed and then the virus struck home. 

“I have been suffering in silence. That’s been my quote for my situation because that’s how I feel no matter what I do. I don’t have family,” Delazari said Thursday. The mother of two said she has not been able to receive unemployment benefits and the resources she needs are far from reach. 

“People tell me, ‘Why don’t you just go work full time at Target?’” she said. “Working full time at Target as a single mom with two kids is putting me back in the situation I started in exactly being in poverty… coming to Santa Clarita homeless.” 

That’s why, Delazari said, she is working hard to finish earning her bachelor’s degree at Cal State Bakersfield as a full-time student so she can “take care of my kids.” But it has been no easy feat. 

Across the country, nearly 14 million single parents are raising 22.4 million children and 80% of them are mothers, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Amid the coronavirus crisis, 865,000 women (80%), made up the 1 million workers over the age of 20 who lost their jobs between August and September alone, according to the National Women’s Law Center. 

A survey from Newhall’s Single Mothers Outreach, a nonprofit that offers resources to struggling families, found that of about 100 local mothers, 75% had lost their job during the pandemic. 

Child care woes

Lisa Reyes, a single mother of two, had just overcome homelessness in mid-October, having left several months of sleeping on the living room floor of a friend’s home to her own bed in a Castaic shared-housing home with the nonprofit Family Promise of Santa Clarita Valley. 

Things were coming together: Her oldest child got a car and a job, her youngest was enrolled in child care and bonding with other kids his age and Reyes finally had a chance to double down her efforts in finding a full-time job, as well as help other moms who moved in at the Castaic home. 

Residents Julia Reyes, left, and mother Lisa Reyes cut the cake for Benny Galan, right, as he celebrates his tenth birthday in kitchen of the Family Promise home in Castaic on Thursday, October 22, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal

“I had finally found that full-time job I was looking for — only 3 miles from home,” said Reyes. “And then our day care closed down because of COVID. One day they called us to pick up our kids and you see all these parents saying, ‘What are we going to do for 10 days without day care?’ My daughter works all week long and has different jobs and schedules so I had to watch for my son. I had to lose out on that job. This whole thing about finding child care is hard unless you’re on welfare.” 

Reyes and Delazari are among a number of parents who have had to make quick, unexpected adjustments at home and with jobs or job hunting due to ongoing closures at child care locations when a COVID-19 case is reported. Sometimes it’s a classroom that shuts down, sometimes it’s the entire site, they said. 

To date, a total of 11,214 COVID-19 cases have been reported across child care facilities in the state, of which 2,594 came from L.A. County, according to the California Department of Social Services. 

“My day care has been closed four times because of COVID,” said Delazari. “I’m having to take care of my daughter with her virtual school, which there’s no issue, but it’s challenging when I’m also a full-time student myself.” 

Full-time moms, full-time students 

Much like Reyes and Delazari, Santa Clarita single mother Diana Moreno’s personal schedule has changed a lot during the pandemic. She is also a full-time student, working toward a degree in communications at Cal State Northridge. Balancing is not easy but there is no other option, she said. 

“If I can’t take care of myself, I’m not going to be able to take care of my daughter. Quitting is not an option; we have to make it work,” she said.  

Stephanie Montoya, Single Mothers Outreach Director of Programs and Services, left, brings toys to Diana Moreno and her daughter Iimaya, 4, at the Single Mothers Outreach in Newhall on Thursday, 020521. Dan Watson/The Signal

While both mothers and fathers have had to step up during the challenges brought forth by the pandemic, women “continue to bear a disproportionate share of the burden, much as they did before the crisis,” according to a Boston Consulting Group survey. “On average, women currently spend 15 hours more on domestic labor each week than men.” 

What’s worked for them

There are days where single mothers feel defeated but there are resources, people and routines that have helped the three mothers. 

“Sometimes, we just need someone to say, ‘Diana, you can do it.’ If I hear that, I’m like, ‘Yeah, you’re right,’” said Moreno. 

She and Delazari both met at Single Mothers Outreach, where they said they have received more than just basic needs of food, clothing and toiletries. 

“The way I got through all of this is coming to therapy, talking it out, letting it out,” she said, adding that her Christian faith has also been one of her biggest strengths. 

“I would say to other struggling moms: surround yourself with a community. I think Santa Clarita has some of the biggest supporters. You can do it. Ask for that raise, spend more time with your kids, ask for help,” added Moreno. 

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