They say it takes a village to raise a child. Boy, oh boy, are they right. At least, up until age 5, when school (aka educational childcare) becomes free. The problem that reduced me to tears, actual sobs, today is that I don’t live in a village or near a village. I live in the middle of absolutely nowhere, a place where cousins and co-workers cannot stop in and help out. Oh, and also, I live on one income: mine. So every day she spends in childcare is one more thing we do without.
Twelve days ago, M started running fevers. Four days after that, we visited two EDs and a clinic for respiratory distress. Two days after that, I started getting the symptoms: fever, coughing, mucus production. I rode it out over the weekend, thinking ‘viral’, because M was better (without the use of antibiotics). On Monday, it wasn’t better, not at all, so I went the doctor. He said “viral”, keep resting, keep drinking fluids, here’s a note for work, see you in a few days if you’re not better. Two days later I woke up NOT better and with one eye swollen, pink, and crusted shut. Today he wrote me for antibiotics (pills and eye drops) and a chest X-Ray on Friday if I’m still not better.
All of that is fine, just fine, if I wasn’t out of PTO (paid time off) at work and I’m now going to be no-pay every day that I miss. Which means less money for M’s daycare, groceries, diapers/pull-ups, gas, and bills. Also it would be fine if I had someone else to help me care for M. My mom does a lot, but she can’t completely take over for me when I’m sick this long. I’ve never been sick this long in the history of my being a mom, and she also has her own health issues that slowly get worse. I’m not ungrateful for the things she does (my laundry and dishes, for example), but bottom line, I needed more help. I needed it bad. On Sunday I drove an hour to my sister’s house, and she took M with her to work at a daycare and then played with her and fed her and stuff. I slept on her bed the entire time.
Today, I broke down. I was bawling. I was trying to think of how I would get through another day of this. How would I pay my bills? How will I keep up with housework, and the garden (aka plot of weeds right now)? How would I be good mom, most importantly??? I will have to get rid of things to save more money to pay for another day of school. It’s about $5.63 per hour for her to go there, and very much the place I want her to be, with an academic curriculum (well, learning curriculum for toddlers) and a very transparent program. The going rate for babysitters is $10-15/hour… ouch. If I add another day of school to her week (3 days instead of 2), I will be paying $180 more per month. I can also have her stay until 5 or 6pm instead of 4. That’s another $135 per month.
So what costs $180 per month? The cable, internet, and home phone. Definitely not essentials so I’m not going to pay for them anymore. My mother wants them at my house, so she is going to pay for it. But if she stops wanting to pay for it or being able to, they’re gone. I can’t get rid of my car payment, car insurance, or house insurance. My utilities will be way down because it’s summer, but the trash and water are not negotiable. I’m locked in a cell phone contract but I can try to get that down, too, somehow. I can also just stop using diapers completely at home. M went without a pull up all the way to the doctor’s and back today, using the toilet there and at home. Diapers are so expensive.
If M is in school three days a week, it doesn’t help me with weekends. As a nurse I’m required to work 4 weekend days (Saturday or Sunday) per month. Sundays my sister can take M from 1pm until I get home from work. I’m looking into other options for Saturdays. If my mom were to be unable to take M to school in the morning at 8am (I leave for work at 5:30am) or pick her up (I don’t get home until 8:30pm) I’d be in some serious trouble. Job searching trouble, looking for an office nurse job.
Bottom line? This is all really, really hard. It sure would be great to have a “dad” who was as roped into this as I was (meaning equally responsible for childcare costs and household costs), or even friends with kids who could take M for a bit and I could return the favor for them. Hell, it would just be great to have friends, period, who had the time, energy, or whatever to be close enough to us that they could drop by, or take M somewhere for a bit. But I live in the real, live middle of nowhere, and no one wants to drive an hour plus one way.
Sometimes I just wonder what I’m going to do… how am I going to make it, when I’m sick, when my mom can’t help? When I can’t afford childcare and electricity? I spend a week so sick it hurts to have my eyes open, and yet my kid needs me. Needs me to get up, feed her, play with her, instruct her, and interact with her. This week there have been times when I just felt like I couldn’t do it… I couldn’t be the mom she needed. Nothing on earth is more soul-crushing to me than that. I wished so hard that I had a back up for her. I felt like I was letting her down. I feel like a failure, and doubt I’m going to be feeling better about it for some time.