K was sick on-and-off last week. I had to take the Wednesday off work to stay home with her, then on Sunday, she was sick again. Monday she was better but still too ill to go to daycare but my mother was able to stay home with her. Then on Tuesday, she had a high fever so I had to take another day off work to stay home with her again.
This all had me thinking, why does all the responsibility fall to us mothers? Why do WE have to miss days of work to stay home with the kid(s)? It doesn’t seem to matter how involved our children’s fathers are, either. The assumption is made that we should be the ones to sacrifice everything, and while I’m absolutely willing to do that, I still wonder why. They want equal rights but not equal responsibility. It doesn’t make sense to me. Parenting is one huge sacrifice…or a million little ones. But, when I look at the non-custodial fathers I see lives that are completely different than mine. The care-free life that I used to live. Freedom. I don’t have that now. And while I’ll never regret having my daughter and becoming a single mother, I fantasize about the simplest things. Things that he would never even think twice about. I used to just put my shoes on and walk out the door. That’s all I had to do. Now it’s more complicated than that. Now there are things I have to pack in my bag, shoes, and coat to put on someone else, tantrums to deal with or a sitter to hire or a sitter that cancels. When she’s sick I’m the one who has to figure out an alternate arrangement.
I get two weeks vacation a year and last year, six days were used when my daughter was sick and I needed to stay home. When she’s at daycare, I’m the one who’s responsible if she gets sick while she’s there and needs to be picked up. I’m the one who has to leave work early or as in one case, get off the bus on the way to work and go back in the opposite direction to go and get her. He doesn’t know what this life is like. He couldn’t handle it. Is that why all the responsibility falls on our shoulders? Because we can handle it? Is it our fault that we’re so strong we can do this? We don’t get to complain about it, either. I guarantee, there will be people who read this and think I’m a terrible mother for even thinking these things, let alone writing them. They’ll say I don’t love my daughter and I’m selfish. Some will say I’m a bitter woman. Well, I don’t care. It’s time to speak up and I’m speaking up. Single mothers are some of the strongest people I’ve ever known. They often work low paying jobs with little to nothing left after they pay the bills or they hold down a job while going to school and looking after their child (ren).
I’m a single mother and I don’t know how single moms with more than one child can possibly survive, but they do. Why? Because they don’t have a choice. Plenty of them don’t get child support or get very little. Non-custodial parents have choices that single parents don’t. And this also applies to mothers in general. We all know that most of the parenting responsibilities fall on mothers in relationships as well.
No mother should have to ask her child (ren)’s other parent to participate or take half of the responsibility. The mother doesn’t have to be asked because it’s expected of her. This has to change. All of us, as women and mothers need to stop picking up the slack. This isn’t 1950. Why should a mother who works full-time be responsible for the vast majority of the housework? The raising of the child(ren)? The answer should be that she shouldn’t.
You can’t force adults to be responsible. You can’t force adults to get along. But if there’s one thing I do know, it’s that things need to change. One thing I can do to directly affect change is to do my best to raise a strong, confident and independent woman with expectations of equity for herself and other women. To those of you who are raising boys, please raise your sons to believe that men and women although different, are equals. That fathers are just as important in a child’s life as mothers. That they need to be involved more on the ugly side of parenting. Like wiping noses and cleaning up vomit. Taking a day or even two off work to stay home with the little one(s). Or letting the single mom tap out when she’s ill so she can rest and recover. It’s going to take an entire generation to make this shift but it has to happen and it has to start now.