• Thu, Nov 24 2011

Pity Party: It Really Sucks Being Sick As A Single Mother

There is no worse time in a single mother’s life than when she gets sick. On Saturday morning, I woke up with a fever and couldn’t swallow. When I did manage to swallow, it felt like I was swallowing knives. Whatever I had caught, I knew I had to deal with it immediately. Since my daughter was fast asleep still, my first thought was, “Can I just leave her while I go to the walk-in clinic myself?” Obviously, I was delirious with fever, because I could and would never do that. So I woke her up.

“Please,” I croaked. “I’m really very sick. I need to get to the walk-in clinic and you need to come with me. So, please, get dressed in whatever.” My daughter, who’s the sweetest, hopped out of bed with no complaints and got dressed. “I’ll meet you at the front door,” I told her. She came downstairs and I wanted to cry. How lucky was I to have such a good daughter. And then I wanted to cry because my daughter wasn’t going to get breakfast, not until I saw the doctor, and at a walk-in clinic on a Saturday morning, the wait could take hours. [tagbox tag="single mother"]

At the clinic, again, I felt awful. Physically, and also because there I was having to take my daughter to a walk-in clinic filled with people hacking and sneezing, all very contagious with their flu-like symptoms. What kind of mother was I to bring my daughter into this situation? Well, a mother who didn’t seem to have another option. Again, I felt like crying.

After checking in, I plopped myself down in a chair and found one for my daughter that was as far away as possible from the other sick people, but still within sight. I had told her to bring her iPad. Again, I felt like the worst mother in the world. I could barely speak and what 8-year-old wants to be in a walk-in clinic with a mother who hasn’t fed her breakfast yet?

Finally, after just over an hour, I was taken in to see the doctor. I pointed to my throat. He felt my very swollen glands and said he wanted to take a swab. I found my voice. “No, I’ve managed 37 years without ever having to do one of those. I just can’t do it. I can’t!” Again, not the best role model for my child, who may one day need a strep test, to see her mother so fearful about a little swab. (Along with spiders, it’s my greatest fear.)

“It’s okay, Mommy. It won’t hurt,” my daughter told me. So, after decades of getting away with never having to have a throat swab, it was because of my daughter that I managed somehow to do this, without vomiting or having a full-on panic attack. She patted my arm after and I thought, “God, I’m such a baby! My 8-year-old is comforting me. What next? Is she going to buy me a lollipop?” I got my medicine and my daughter told me she was starving. I raced with her to the nearest restaurant to buy her a breakfast sandwich, apologizing for making her wait to eat, while thanking her profusely for being so patient with me.

I received an e-mail from a play date that had been set up that day, asking if it could be moved back a couple hours. I cancelled the play date entirely because I knew that the moment I hit my bed again, I wouldn’t be able to get up, let alone get her into the car and drive her to her friend’s house. Again, I felt awful. All because I live alone, as a single mother, and had no one to help me, my daughter was now missing out on a play date.

Part of this is pride. I’m sure I could have asked a friend, or her grandparents, to take her for the day. But, instead, I crawled into bed, telling my daughter that she could buy movies off the television all day. I did pass out for hours, waking up at around dinnertime. “Did you eat yet?” I asked my daughter. The question was academic, of course. She doesn’t know how to cook for herself. The poor girl had missed lunch, because of me (at least she had a late breakfast). And so I ordered in Swiss Chalet because I was too sick to move.

After she ate, she came and lay with me in my bed, trying to cuddle up to me. “You can’t!” I said. “Really, I don’t want you to catch this.” I felt like crying, again. There is nothing worse than having to shun children, even if it is for their own well being. “Can we at least hold hands?” she asked. My heart broke.

At one point that evening, in my feverish state, I decided that I’m going to get married. Because while things are hard as a single mother, there is nothing harder than having to take care of a child when you need taking care of. So marriage it would be! But then I thought of a married friend of two children. She told me once she was so sick and her husband didn’t even know or realize it. She made arrangements to drop her children off at her mother’s. When her husband came home, she actually texted him from their bedroom, saying, “Please, can you please go out and buy me some ginger ale. I’m really, really sick.”

So maybe all women feel like single mothers when they are sick. All I know is that when I get sick, I feel very lonely and sad. I threw myself a pity party. There were tiny violins. By Monday, I was fine. But I had ruined my daughter’s weekend. And the guilt stays. There’s no antibiotic for that.

When you get sick, do you feel like a single mother? Or does your husband help out?

(Photo: Stockbyte)

You can reach this post's author, Rebecca Eckler, on twitter.
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  • KMilt

    I became a single mother when my son was four months old. In that first year, I started college and he started daycare. The combined exposure to germs/general tiredness meant that he got eight ear infections and I got strep throat six times in less than a year. It felt like one of us was always sick or on antibiotics, and I had no choice but to get up and get on with things because he was just a baby and couldn’t fend for himself. It really, really sucked. I feel for you, and I totally get the pity party.

    Ten years later, now that I’m married and have a second child, things are definitely different. I don’t often take time away from my kids (because really, they live here too), but I know if I asked my husband would take every single thing onto his own plate so I could recuperate. I definitely don’t feel like a single mom!

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  • Andrea

    You know, sometimes being married is no help whatsoever. When the kids were too young for school, my husband wasn’t going to take the day off to take care of our children because I was sick. So I was in a lot of ways, in the same boat as you.

    And sometimes husbands are incredibly clueless as well.

    I think your best bet is to surround yourself with caring friends and family that are willing to lend a hand in times of need. And please don’t feel guilty or prideful. I am willing to best my bottom dollar that you would be the 1st in line to help put a friend if she needed it. So don’t feel bad about asking for help yourself!

  • Fabel

    Why would you even bother going to a clinic if your first reaction is to refuse a simple test from a doctor that would help to diagnose you?

    • SLB

      Have a glance at the author. You really feel the need to ask?

  • Kelly

    In my house, it often goes like this: child gets sick. When he starts feeling better, I get sick. I get about 12 hours of my husband noticing or caring that I’m sick before he starts feeling ill. Then, the world ends. He needs ginger ale, gatorade, soup, crackers, and to lay around and take 4 or 5 hour naps all day. So while my child is recovered, and has tons of energy, I am still dragging myself through the day, sick as a dog, trying to take care of an energetic 2 year old and a sick husband.

    Sometimes, when you are married, you get two sick kids to take care of instead of just one.

    Yes, I am slightly bitter. :)

  • Patricia

    Well, I’m a single mom and I totally understand the pride thing. I have an incredibly difficult time even asking other people to hold my kid (a two-year-old boy) while I go to the ladies room in restaurants. Considering I have incredibly supporting friends and parents, that is saying a lot. I do have a boyfriend, but he lives in another city, so there’s not much he can do when I’m sick and alone with my son, except text a lot, call every hour and remind to drink lots of fluids and try, as much as possible to get some rest.

    A few months ago I had a terrible stomach flu. it was a 24 hour virus, but it floored me. I had to go to the bathroom every 15 minutes and I passed out of dehydration. I was totally alone in the house and very very very luckily, it was the night and my son was asleep. When I came to, it was about 4h30 a.m and I decided, as well that I was going to get married. I didn’t care to whom, I was just going to do it.

    I felt so terrified and alone, and my heart broke when I saw my kid asleep, I still don’t know why. The next day I felt too weak to get up off the couch, so I tried as best as I could to entertain my kid and take care of him. So yeah, lots of violins for me that day as well.

    However, I think that down the line, as hard as it is when it happens, it makes the bond stronger. It’s heartbreaking seeing how good our kids can be when we’re ill and not able to care properly for them, but I honestly feel that it’s good down the road. At least, I fervently hope so.

    So yeah, I believe a pity-party in these cases are more than understandable. it’s tough. It sucks.

  • Kylee

    I am a single mom of a 7 month old…her dad isn’t involved at all…never even seen her…i work and live on my own but i have great parents who watch my baby for me when i have to work…as single moms we know it’s us up all night and going through all the phases of a babies live and doing it alone I’s impossible..I’m so tired some nights that she will go stay at my parents house so i can relax and sleep but then i feel guilty about that…i feel like I’m her mom And she should b next to me yet needing help at times I’s necessary …just feeling like a terrible mom when i can’t do it all on my own

  • Maegan

    I am a single mother of a 5 year old little girl. I have been single for 3 years now and I have been in the same position you were in. I woke up one night when she was 2 and I had a horrible fever and chills. It hit me hard. My fever was 102 and she barely turned 2 I called my sister, my mom and my dad and even my exhusband, no one answered. I felt like bursting into tears and throwing myself a pity party, but I knew once my baby wakes up it’s food and mommy time. It was around 2am and I picked her up put her in the car and put on a movie. I had to go to a drug store in a not so great area but I just did it. I got bought a nice cocktail of meds and felt confident I was going to cure myself before dawn. But that didn’t workout as planned. Nothing was waking me up, until it felt like bombs were going off in my ears. My baby was banging on the bed right next to my head saying “Mommy please…Mommy please…!” I hoped right up an although I still felt warm my poor baby was hungry and scared. I cried and hugged her. And now she is 5 and I was sick this past Friday well…she banged on the bed right next to me and whinned she was hungry. So I tumbled out of bed stuck a pancake dog in the microwave, grabbed my throw and hopped on my comfortable sectional and I was out. She was able to get her breakfast, boxed OJ, even have a side of strawberries, was watching her favorite movie Judy Moody in Netflix, was drawing a picture of me and her. I felt blessed and thankful when she shows how independent she can be (when I’m not look that is).

  • Toni

    I do realize it has been well over a year since this article was written, but boy, it sure applies to me. I am married but in essence, very much a single mom. What I mean is that my husband travels for work. Like, a lot. And yesterday, I got what I now know is the very nasty flu. I laid in my bed for literally hours and it wasn’t until 10pm that he noticed. He had a work trip to leave on this morning, and I knew I couldn’t get to the store, and there were certain things we would need while he was gone, but he seemed oblivious. Yet, 10 minutes before he was to leave he said “is there anything you need?” Ummm, ya think?? I didn’t have much energy to fight but I did mention how crappy of him it was to not help me yesterday, last night, through the night, and thrn waited til he was due to head to the airport before asking me if I needed something! In short (I know this comment is way longer than needs be, but I feel delirious) no, he did NOT end up going to the store. Just told me how “sorry” he is having to leave. My children are 16 and 10, and have been amazing. My son is going to go to the store for me as soon as I get together a little list. Thanks for the article!!

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