Thursday, February 05, 2009

Sickness and Single Parenting

First let me say that I am not a single parent. Though the days may get very long, there is always another adult coming home at the end of the day. My son has a delighted and devoted father, a father who listens avidly to the smallest minutiae of our day as I relate it to him each night.

That said, this weekend was another experience in mostly-single parenting while sick. While there are some advantages to 12-hour work days, most notably having several days off during the week, there are some serious drawbacks. Working every other weekend. Leaving before the family is awake, and returning home after the baby is asleep. Also? No sick days when your family is sick. Ironically, it was just last week that I was lamenting to my mother that I'm essentially a single mom several days a week, as I juggle running to the grocery store with child in tow, and making dinner with child-who-needs-attention after being at daycare all day on my hip. I know others who have it worse - those with spouses who travel for work and are gone for weeks on end. Those who truly do not have a spouse living with them. But being drop-down sick, running up and down to the bathroom a couple of times an hour with a freaked-out child who doesn't understand what's going on, struggling to stay awake just to keep the wee one from getting into serious danger - it was hard to keep perspective. I felt the double-whammy of my own physical misery combined with concern for his well-being.

This week I heard third-hand about a single-parent situation that rings so many emotional and moral bells for me that I'm not even sure how to process - which is why I'm presenting it here. You've probably heard. Somewhere in this country, a mother to a large number of children, born at the rate of one per year, gave birth recently to a batch of children that more than doubled the size of her family. I'm specifically leaving out details - I don't want to be part of the media swarm that is already making their lives difficult.

  • I grieve for those children - it will be like growing up in an orphanage there. I know some communities have large families, but these families would spread out as many children over 15-20 years, and these families would have help from each other.
  • I grieve for the mother - what adult can remain sane in the face of so many diapers, runny noses, dirty laundry baskets, hungry bellies?
  • I feel for the social workers who must - surely someone must - evaluate this situation and decide in an unprejudiced way how to best help the children.
  • I am frustrated by our broken, isolationist social network, that there are so few resources to help this family, and that there was no one to assess the mental health of this mother before this last pregnancy or to help her realize what she truly needs in her life instead of more children.
  • I feel anger toward a doctor who would implant so many embryos, regardless the number of children she already has (NJ, the only state to fund infertility treatment, limits implantation to 4 embryos). The success rate for implantation is just too high anymore to justify so many eggs.
  • I feel desperation toward legislators who don't know how to place restrictions on such treatments.

Although I wish no ill upon this family, I do hope this situation emboldens our legislators to get involved with placing limitations on fertility treatment. Each child deserves a loving parent, and a solid foundation for self-esteem that is rooted in the devoted adoration of that parent. Each parent deserves the opportunity to enjoy the tiny milestones of their child. While it might not matter that the baby first sat up at 5 months and 3 days, it matters that the parent noticed, and applauded.


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