As the pandemic continues to disrupt our lives in 2021, the YWCA Single Mothers’ Support Services staff continue to look for ways to support single mothers in our communities in a meaningful way.
2020 presented significant challenges to our programs. Our peer support groups, which used to gather weekly, were no longer able to meet in person. We could no longer see clients in our offices and many community programs the women relied on transitioned to virtual services. We worried that this increased isolation and stress would create a significant burden on our participants, but we have been encouraged by their response. We learned to never underestimate two key things: the resilience of single mothers and the power of connection.
The majority of the single moms who attend our programs are used to dealing with stress and are familiar with confronting challenges and adapting. This has become especially apparent during the pandemic. After the initial shock caused by the COVID-19 restrictions, the moms who were part of our programs chose to not put their lives and goals on hold, but to manage the challenges and continue to move forward. Their resilience is part of what makes them so strong as single parents and is what has kept them going.
When our groups moved from in-person meetings to virtual Zoom sessions, we all had a lot of hesitation about the outcomes. Staying connected remained a priority, and all of the groups made the transition to virtual sessions. These meetings are a place to check-in, share about their week and current challenges and reflect on their successes. The participants are as much focused on giving support to one another as they are getting support for themselves.
Sandra, a participant from the Abbotsford support group, shared that her group made the Zoom meetings work by starting at a later time after the kids were in bed.
“It allowed us to be kid-free so we could talk more freely. Our coordinator also sent out text message reminders to us early in the week with the Zoom information. That made it easy to sign in on meeting nights.”
The continued routine of weekly meetings started as unfamiliar, but soon it became an essential connection point for many participants.
"Hearing from other women about what they are going through has helped me feel less alone. The group has been a place to find answers and suggestions, and it has also been a safe place to vent about the pressures of life as a single mom. Just knowing that there are other moms, like me, who are struggling has been good for my soul," added Sandra.
In a time when there is so much isolation and challenges to face, connection remains key for these moms. Newton group member Jennifer, shared:
“The YWCA Single Moms’ group provided me with a once-a-week guarantee that I will be among others who know what it’s like to be a single mom. That I will be in a safe space where I can vent, share, celebrate and be heard and seen. That I will have some time each week when I’m doing something good for myself. The in-person group meetings were helpful to me during the pre-Covid period, but during the pandemic, the Zoom meetings have been life-giving and incredibly convenient! I am blessed to have a place in this community, it helps me be a better mom.”
And it’s not only our 15 weekly peer support groups that have pivoted to online services. During COVID-19, we have had immigrant and refugee single moms who embarked on a new (virtual) five-month-long program to explore employment options. We have offered Zoom workshops that explored healthy boundaries, self-care and compassion and parenting strategies. Our members applied to and were awarded bursaries for their education.
The challenges of the pandemic have been extremely difficult, especially for single mothers. But their resolve to stay connected has allowed them to move forward for themselves, their children and for each other.
If you’re a single mom living in Metro Vancouver, consider connecting with a YWCA Single Mothers’ Support Group. They are a great way to meet other single mothers and connect with resources and supports in your community. The groups are meeting weekly via Zoom during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jenn Bateman is the Program Coordinator for YWCA Single Mother’s Support Services. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.