Women on the Front Lines

The New Yorker: “Some Days I Feel Like I’m Melting”: How Single Mothers in New York City Are Coping with Quarantine

Equity, Women on the Front Lines


Now, as a result of the covid-19 pandemic, the restaurant and day care are closed. Playdates are out. Basic tasks that are always more complicated when alone with a toddler—shopping for groceries, dropping off laundry—are suddenly nerve-racking. It can take a week or more to nab a grocery-delivery slot in New York, so Cherson is always running out of food; some friends recently gave her toilet paper. She is using her husband’s life insurance to cover her rent and expenses, but she will blow through that soon. Worst of all, she feels isolated, unmoored. “Being a single parent is really lonely, even when you’re not social-distancing,” Cherson said. “The whole support system I had put in place to keep me going has now completely fallen apart.”

Almost a quarter of all children in the United States live with a single parent, a higher share than anywhere else in the world. In New York, the American city that has been hardest hit by the pandemic, more than four hundred and twenty-five thousand children live with single parents, most of them single mothers. The covid-19 crisis and its economic fallout are hurting all parents, but there is good reason to believe that the burdens are falling disproportionately on single mothers, many of whom were already struggling. (Census Bureau data from 2018 show that, among black and Latinx single mothers in the city, the child poverty rate was forty-six per cent and fifty-six per cent, respectively.)

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