Single, Sick

By: Julie Gamberg

single mom with sick baby

Whenever my baby gets sick, I feel like the sky is falling. I worry about how serious it is, about her breathing, her fever, her appetite, her energy, about all of the terrible things that could be wrong. I think this is pretty normal for most first-time parents. Yet raising a child on my own makes this particular anxiety especially sharp. Except for this, I almost never regret being a single mom, and rarely feel the yearning for a partner that I felt so often in my road to conception, in my pregnancy, and just after my baby was born. I love the dynamic I have with my kid, and I love how much energy, attention, and consciousness I’m able to put into the continuous job of learning to parent.

Ay, but throw a fever, or some vomiting, some lethargy into the mix, and I suddenly doubt my decision to do this on my own…I wish that I had a partner, any semi-involved, frustrating, unequal, or friction-filled partnership would do when my baby is crying in the middle of the night.

I think about one lovely couple I know who parent so well together and have a lot of enviable qualities. Yet the only time I’ve truly envied them (if one can really envy a difficult situation) is when their son had a febrile seizure and one of them called 911 while the other held their child. When the paramedics arrived, they together made a decision about whether to go to the ER or administer a dose of ibuprofen and watch him for the night. When, for various reasons, they decided to go with the ambulance, one went with, and the other packed bags of toys, milk, snacks, etc. for them and their child. When I imagine managing all of that on my own, in the middle-of-the-night-scary time, I have rare doubts about whether I can do this.

As I’ve been writing this, my toddler had a fever for a day-and-a-half, cried for hours, lost her appetite, became completely lethargic; we went to see her pediatrician, she was diagnosed with a mild ear infection (!), and she is still miserable. I am hoping that by the time you read this, she is back to her engaged, curious, talkative, dynamic little self. I love the feeling of being bad-ass in an I-can-absolutely-do-this way. And I hope too that by the time you read this I am feeling that way again.

However, I am also incredibly grateful for the support I have received every time my daughter has been sick. In particular, my mother, my nanny, and my best friend have all been amazing in showing their love and care for my daughter and in giving extra time and energy toward her wellness. And although that doesn’t happen in the middle of the night, a time which is particularly hard and vulnerable for the single parent, it does happen in the day which make the nights more manageable. And which means, it would seem, that I’m not the only bad-ass in these parts.


[Photo Credit: Flickr member Lauren Grace]



  1. says

    Julie–As a part-time single parent (Monday through Friday when my partner and I work completely opposite schedules), I am in awe of you full-time single parents. In my book, single parents are the baddest bad-asses of them all!

  2. says

    Julie, I have this feeling as I have lived by myself for over 20 years. I would count on neighbors to help me if I needed something or was ill in the middle of the night. My sister is close as well. Any single parent or person has these issues. As we age and find ourselves by ourselves we find contingency plans if something goes terribly wrong. It sounds like you have family close. You can always call them in the middle of the night. I hope your daughter is feeling better now. It is so scary to have to face decisions by yourself when you or your daughter are ill.

  3. Cn le says


    Do you have any advice for a father of a two year old girl?

    Here is my problem.. I don’t make time for interactive and constructive play with my daughter during the M-F work week grind. I am home until 3pm (evening shift at the hospital) so there is definitely time to structure something.. I try to go to the gym once a day but other than that I have free time.

    Right now my daughter probably watches 4-6 hrs of television a day. My wife and I have developed the bad habit of “plugging her in” whenever we need time to take care of household chores etc..

    I feel like my daughter and I would both benefit from some sort of constructive structure during this grind time.

    Any advice would be appreciated.

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