God bless the single parents of this world. The whole time M was away in the States, I wanted to post about how hard it was taking care of these two on my own, but I didn’t because I didn’t want to advertise to whole blogosphere that I was on my own (and yeah, the whole blogosphere reads my blog — my hits are in the millions, I tell ya).
I say I wanted to post about it, but I didn’t stand a chance anyway. I never got near the computer. I never got near a cup of tea. I never got near a decent meal for the whole week. In eight days on my own with the girls, I managed to eat only two meals, and both of those were tinned soup poured over rice. The rest of the week, I existed on snacks grabbed on the sly and eaten over the sink while no one was looking (so no one would start begging, “Mine? Mine?”). I was rushing like a maniac from the moment I woke up to moment I finally collapsed into bed, usually somewhere around 2am.. 3am… I never realised until that week how much I rely on M getting home and lightening the load a bit. Without him, the treadmill just never stopped. I can honestly say, I don’t know how single parents do it, and I have a new found respect for them.
And that was just the normal day-to-day stuff. To put the icing on the cake, we had a couple of moments of gravity that really drove home the reality of the situation. The first was that I came down ill the day after M left: I had a fever, the shakes, aches in my muscles, and a headache that was trying to punch its way out of my skull. I felt rotten and suddenly realised how hard this could really be, if this illness got worse, and how vulnerable I actually was, with no family or friends nearby to call on for help (I do have friends nearby — I do have friends — but none who were easily in a position to help). Fortunately, whatever it was decided to visit me for just one day, and I felt much better the next morning. But it had been an eye-opener.
Unfortunately, that same next day, E2 woken up from her nap with two severely swollen eye-sockets. I went in to get her and it looked like she’d taken a couple of punches. Her left eye was grotesquely puffed up and blue underneath, and her right eyelid was so swollen that she could hardly get it open even halfway. After E1’s allergic reaction, that sent alarm bells ringing like mad in my head. I rang NHS Direct, who quickly decided they wanted a local doctor to speak to me. He decided he wanted us to go up to the little local hospital and told me he would have them ring me to let me know what would be a good time to come in (our local hospital is that small that they only have one doctor on staff overnight). It was getting fairly late and I wasn’t sure what to do — E1 was getting groggily tired — so I rang some friends to ask if they could come round to babysit while I took E2 up to the hospital. I don’t think they quite realised what I was saying, because the answer was, “Yes, ok, of course, but… as long as it’s not too late, because I’m really tired and I have a busy day at work tomorrow…” I know that the penny hadn’t dropped yet, but in that moment, I realised again how vulnerable a single parent can be. Fortunately, I got the word to come in almost immediately after that, so I didn’t need a babysitter. I packed a small bag of supplies in case we got sent to the large district hospital for the night, and we left. The doctor looked her over, but decided she was alright and that it was probably just my virus from day before manifesting itself in the baby and it would pass — which it did. And as we were leaving the hospital, my friends pulled up, having finally grasped the situation and realising I might need their moral support. I had been holding a lot of fear and tension inside, and was so pleased to see them.
Those two incidents aside, the rest of the week went… well, not smoothly by any stretch of the imagination, but smooth enough. Still, I was never far from the thought that I was the only person taking care of these two little ones; that if anything happened, there was no one else there to know. At one point, I went dizzy — I think I’d forgotten to eat anything since breakfast and it was now nearing evening — and I suddenly thought, What if I died? How long would it be before anyone realised? …And what would the baby eat? Somehow, everything seemed that basic.
Even the fact that I wouldn’t post on here about the week I was having showed that I was very aware of our vunerability. A woman, home on her own, with two small children — it tapped into every fear that I’ve been carrying in my subconscious since these girls were born.
But it was only a week. A blip. It’s over, and it passed just like that. Nothing major happened, no one died, no one even came near to dying. I didn’t even think about as much as I’ve made it sound like I did, because I just didn’t have the time. Mostly, it was just go go go.
So, I take my hat off to anyone who does this regularly: to all the single parents, however they find themselves alone caring for children. It’s an incredibly big task. I can’t imagine doing it forever, with no one walking through the door at the end of the day or the week or ever to lighten the load. Their children may never appreciate what they do, but I do.