A couple of years ago, I wrote a post called Single Mothers Don’t Get Sick, about the fact I don’t have the luxury of taking to my bed with every sniff or cough. Since publishing that post, I have had the odd bug, and my sister has stepped in to save the day. I even had (gasp) my one and only hangover since S was born. It was a corker, and my sister saved the day by caring for S all day. Still though, I’m aware that my sister is not a parent herself; she is twenty years old and has her own life to lead. It’s not her responsibility to look after S while I’m ill, and I don’t want her to ever feel that she’s responsible for doing so. I try to avoid asking her to have S unless I really need to.
This week though, I had an entirely new experience. This week, S has been ill. Now, she has been ill before; she’s not some sort of miracle child. But I honestly couldn’t tell you when. As a regular attendee of nursery, she’s had a permanent runny nose for the past two years. When she first started nursery in 2013, she had a 24-hour bug, and a little later that year she had a bit of a chest infection. Other than that, she’s had the odd day off here and there, or had to come home because she had a bit of a temperature – but nothing too major. This time though, she’s been home from nursery since Monday evening, and she’s been properly ill with an ear infection that has had her crying in pain.
It’s now Saturday, and S missed 3 days of nursery this week; the most she’s ever missed. We’ve been home alone together since Monday, and although there have been periodic visits to the shop and even a short walk to see some Barons, we’ve mostly been on the sofa together.
I won’t lie; it’s been lovely to have so many cuddles. But it’s also been tough. The only conversations I’ve had in the last few days (aside from with the GP) have been about whether we need more medicine, whether we feel ok, whether we think perhaps we could stand to eat something.
On top of this, S has not been sleeping very well. She’s finding it hard to breathe at night, and wakes up coughing a lot. And her cough hurts, so she ends up crying. We’ve yet to have a night this week where we’ve not ended up watching a Baby Jake DVD. I hate Baby Jake with a passion, but he is the only thing that calms S when she is feeling terrible. He got us through teething, and he comes back whenever she’s poorly… but that music haunts my nightmares!
It’s really hard to be a good parent when you’ve not slept properly for a week – especially when there’s nobody else to take care of the poorly child for a while every now and then.
When she cries in the night, it’s me who cuddles her, gets her some medicine, talks to her and strokes her arm until she falls asleep.
When she’s had some medicine and feels well enough to go to nursery, it’s me who has to be the bad guy and make her stay home.
When we’ve been out to stock up on medicine and ice cream, and she’s over tired and crying and just wants to lay down on the sofa with a blanket, it’s me who has to negotiate getting her, the shopping and the buggy in the door, and then carry her up the stairs because she can’t climb them herself.
Yesterday my sister came over to play with S while I did some work, but I ended up going out for half an hour, just to get some time alone and some fresh air. I have work backing up and am about to miss a couple of deadlines, but my head was about to explode and I needed a break.
It’s heart breaking to see my child poorly, but soul destroying to feel like I can’t help her and I’m running out of steam myself. If my sister hadn’t come to play with her yesterday, I don’t know what we would have done. I’m sick of watching Pinocchio and Bubble Guppies over and over again; I’m tired; I’m stressed about my workload. I’m running out of clean medicine syringes.
I’m sure all parents can relate to this feeling, but the very worst out of all of it, is that there’s nobody here to comisserate with. Nobody to take a turn at cuddling her while I go to the bathroom. Nobody to pop to the shop so I don’t have to drag my poorly child around town in a broken pushchair. Nobody to give a second opinion: do you think her cough sounds worse?
Early Wednesday morning, S woke up screaming, saying she couldn’t do a wee. We took her nappy off and went to the potty, but she still screamed in pain and I had no idea what to do. When we came back to the bedroom, she said in the most horrifying voice I’ve ever head “my eyes not work Mummy, I not see.” I couldn’t tell if that was because we’d turned the bathroom light off to come into a dark bedroom, or something really was wrong. As a single parent, there’s nobody I can ask, at 3am, whether they think I should call an ambulance or just try to calm a child who’s panicking over fear of the dark and go back to bed. As it was, while I was trying to figure out what to do she fell asleep in my arms and was fine the next time she woke. But I didn’t go back to sleep.
I love being a single parent; I love the autonomy, the close bond I have with S, the fact we don’t have to worry about a third person in any part of our lives. But when my child is ill, I wish to God there was someone on this planet who loves her as much as I do.