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.
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?