March 9, 2008

It’s OK to ask for help

As I sat in the loft outside my nine-month-old’s bedroom, exhausted from caring for her while recovering from strep throat and a shiny new case of influenza, I was struck by just how difficult it must be for newly-single parents to care for their kids while they’re sick themselves. My husband and I barely manage to keep our daughter fed, changed, and reasonably happy while we shuffle around clutching boxes of Puffs — and that’s with two of us and a marginally mobile baby. For single caregiving parents, it’s a hundred times more exhausting to put food on the table, change diapers, and somehow manage to entertain children before collapsing in bed to recuperate. And anyone who has ever tried to take a squirmy child with them to urgent care, the emergency room, or even the doctor’s office knows how Herculean that task can be.

There is one logical person who can help out – but I’ve found that it rarely occurs to single parents to pick up the phone and ask. Yep, that’s right – the other parent.

(Naturally, you’d want to clear it with your lawyer if a custody action is pending, because you’d hate to have it used against you. If you do have a custody action pending, though, you might want to think about putting a provision like this into the judgment.)

No matter what may be going on between the two of you, your child must come first. If all you can manage is to make it to the kitchen for the next cup of TheraFlu, think about calling the other parent and asking if he or she would like some extra parenting time for a day or two while you recover. It’s win-win-win: you will feel better sooner if you rest up, your child will have the full attention of a parent, and your ex will have some bonus parenting time.

And with that said, I think it’s time for my next cup of TheraFlu….