There are plenty of things about single parenting that suit me just fine. When we go on a road trip, I can decide to stop for the loo or a coffee break whenever I feel like it. If I am too tired to cook after a long week at work, I simply order take away. When doing the grocery shopping, I buy whatever is on special and I never have to worry about buying the “wrong” butter. The kids and I pretty much just get on with things and mostly, we’re doing just fine.
But when a nasty bug hits, it hits hard. About a week ago, what I thought was a bit of a cold came my way and as most parents know, a cold is just something you throw a bit of paracetamol at so you can continue on with your day. Then I picked up my kids from a weekend with their father and it was clear my youngest wouldn’t be going to school that day. I have the privilege of being able to work from home from time to time so I didn’t panic too much. I came home, put my child to bed and whipped out my laptop.
Both my daughter and I became worse as the week went on and as much as I tried to just push through it, it’s just too hard when you’re doing it on your own. Unfortunately, my closest family member lives a seven hour drive from me (thanks John Howard) and therefore there’s no one to call on when I need back up. I have really great people who live close by who I am sure would grab some milk or a loaf of bread and drop it by if I asked, but it’s the 2am terror of a temperature that reaches up to 41.2 and there’s no more Panadol in the house. Worse, there’s no one to look to for reassurance when you’re trying to work out whether the fever will break or whether to call an ambulance.
Then, the next day, when your child is finally asleep, and their temperature is mercifully back to normal, you still have to look after your other child, do the normal domestic tasks, get work done and generally carry on as though you aren’t sick as a dog yourself and struggling to get by.
Earlier this year I started a new job. Since I’ve been there both children have been sick twice and I have been sick three times. Each time necessitating days off. Each time I have been wracked with guilt about taking time off a new job and wracked with guilt about thinking about work when my child is sick. But the reason I think about work is because there’s only one income and there’s no such thing as a single parent having the choice to be a stay at home mum. The government has made it clear that if you are a single parent you go to work, no matter what. (As an aside, I’d be interested to see what a longitudinal study might reveal about this really poor piece of policy.. but that’s for another post).
And so it’s been a pretty crappy week here. My daughter, as children often do, began to bounce back just in time for the last day of school and she and her sister headed off for a week with their father whilst I collapsed in a heap. The house is a mess, the dog keeps getting lost in backyard because the grass is so high and I still feel like a big puddle of blerg. Oh – and I’m still sick. Flu apparently. Fantastic.
I’m not trying to garner sympathy here, I’m just pointing out how freaking hard it is to be on your own sometimes… believe me, I have the eye bags to prove it.