Single-parenthood is one of the only professions in which a “sick day” is simply not an option. When I came down with a nasty stomach virus– courtesy of my daughter’s playgroup– I was very concerned. How could I manage to take care of my daughter when I was barely able to stand up straight? If I needed to go to the doctor, what would I do?
Here are a few solutions for single moms who become sick and can’t find a substitute caregiver.
1. Go to bed. No, it isn’t a good idea to take a mid-day nap while your child is in need of your attention. However, if you are sick, you don’t have many other options. You will recover faster and be more capable of getting back to childcare if you go back to bed. It’s hard to force yourself to be “lazy” as a single mom, but your body will thank you for the break.
2. Put on a movie. I am firmly opposed to the use of television as an auto-babysitter for children, but it is a godsend for single moms who become sick. Lie down in a room with a DVD player and allow your child to watch his favorite movie once– or twice, or three times, if you need it. It will keep him entertained and occupied while you restore your strength. Let your child know that this is an exception to your normal policy.
3. Switch roles. Surprisingly, most kids are willing to play “parent” for their single moms when the going gets tough. Tell your child that you are sick and need help, and she will probably be happy to bring you water, snacks, medicine, blankets or whatever else she thinks you need. Many single moms try to conceal their discomfort during an illness, but it’s a good idea to let kids know that mommies get sick, too– and that their help is appreciated.
4. Find help. Even if you can’t find a substitute caregiver right now, you can probably find someone who can help you later in the day– or even tomorrow, if you’re still sick. Call friends, family members, babysitters, or your kids’ friends’ parents. If necessary, you might be able to arrange for your children to spend the night at a friend’s house while you recuperate.
5. Know when it’s an emergency. Don’t let your single-mom responsibilities stop you from getting help if your situation is dire. If you are losing consciousness, coping with a very high fever, in extreme pain or otherwise facing worrisome symptoms, call 911 or go to an emergency room. You need to consider your own safety and health, in addition to your children’s.