Job Loss
Field Notes on How to Navigate Economic Downturn as a Single Mom

The last three months have been humbling. I am a single mother and a freelancer. I have always been very careful to save. I am so aware that it is all on me. Now, I am fighting to preserve what little economic cushion I have. Honestly, this has been devastating. Going into my savings and having to spend it is scary. Before COVID-19, I was about to close on a house. Then COVID-19 hit and inspections stopped. Then I lost my jobs. Now I am in temporary housing and waiting to be able to plan my next steps.

I work in sectors that have been so hard hit by COVID-19 such as private meal planning and wedding planning. I don’t see myself recovering for at least 2 years. I am hopeful that I can regain some financial stability within the next six months. As a member of the sandwich generation, I care for my daughter and also for my mother. I’m not complaining in any way – my mother is relatively young and healthy – but I factor her care into the ways that I plan my financial future.

The economy crashing has been a horrific experience for many including myself. But this is not the first time the bottom has fallen out. We are not a country able to withstand a large economic catastrophe. I used to joke that my job was economy proof – I worked a lot in 2008/2009 during the housing crisis. COVID-19 is definitely different, but these sorts of economic crises are always here just under the surface. In 2008 and now, lots of government programs aren’t especially able to respond quickly to working people.

I’ll need to understand everything I do differently in the future. The hardest thing about all of this is how uncertain everything feels. I’ll need to redesign my business model in the future to build new regulations we can’t really predict yet. I’m thinking it’s going to be a while before I can do a big wedding again.

The gifts of COVID-19 are real even despite the hardships. The loss of wages is really scary. But this time has also made me appreciate human interaction. I go to the grocery store and I like seeing people even though it’s not normal. In solitude, we are aware of our communities. People who know me have reached out for me and helped in little ways that mean a great deal. There have been moments I have had to really strategize to plan healthy meals and get them on the table. That’s hard. But, I have been provided leads to employment, meal kits, groceries. People have helped me with my dog. They have touched base with my mom.

These things mean such a great deal to me because they dial back the scary ways that isolation can interfere with the human connection. I do the best I can to contribute to crowdfunding campaigns for local stores that have helped my daughter or my community. I’ll never regret spending a few dollars locally even when the economy is shut down. If we don’t do these things, we lose each other a little bit.

The pandemic will change me and how I live. I was always someone who saved money. I worked a lot of jobs at once. I don’t think I could really have prepared for this any differently than I did. But I may end up finding ways to work even harder and to save even more. I will look for the ways I can innovate and enjoy the chance to grow. If the weddings I do aren’t huge, I’ll work really hard to make the smaller ones even nicer and celebrate that intimacy. This is all a process of coming to terms with the things we value and the things that make us happy. I like to think that resilience is bred. The decisions we make in pandemic America can serve as field notes for the future and, hopefully, reflect a daily intention to try to be the best versions of ourselves.

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