These are the words that any mother dreads, but for the single, working mother, it represents a nightmare. You worry over your child’s health, over missing work, and you try to cope with the guilt that you can’t just relax and take care of your child.
For me, this was a constant refrain from my youngest daughter. She was sick so much I used to say she was born with a cold. She wasn’t, but she suffered from so many colds in her first year that it sounded plausible. Whereas her older sister rarely was sick, this daughter single-handedly helped us pay for whatever fancy car our doctor probably drove.
Before I moved to Atlanta, my mom took care of the girls went they got sick. In Atlanta, I hoped my sister might help. Married, without children or a job, I thought it wasn’t unreasonable to ask. My very first day of work in my new job, when I knew NO ONE in Atlanta except my sister, one of my kids got sick. My sister’s response? “Call in sick.”
Since it was summer, I asked a teenager we’d met to watch her, and I worried and guilt-tripped over a lot of things: could I trust this teenager whom the neighboring parents recommended, how would my new employer react if they learned I already had a sick child, was this the pattern of things to come, and how could I survive without my mother to step in?
Once I became involved in my new church, it became a bit easier. The church had compiled a list of members willing to help out single parents. By our second year in Atlanta, the doctor diagnosed my daughter with pyelonephritis, an abnormality that causes the fluid in the bladder to back up into the kidneys resulting in kidney infections. By this time, I knew most of the people on the church’s list quite well, but you can only ask for help so many times. When my daughter missed ten days of school in a row, my parents came to Atlanta and stayed for a week to help out.
Every single mother has a challenge, but the hardest one is a sick child. Single mothers must work or go on welfare. Sick children make it difficult to work and keep a job. And when I got sick, I worked anyway–you save sick days for the kids, not yourself.
Through it all, even the loss of a job, somehow we survived and moved forward. Someone always stepped forward. Things managed to work out.
Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Matthew 6:26
Does your church offer any assistance to single parents? I do believe the church is part of this promise Jesus makes in Matthew. Single parents need help, but unless forced to do so, many will not ask because they have something my counselor dubbed “single mother disease.” I’ll tell you about that one next time.