Eliza Grace was born on March 15, 2006, at 26 weeks, 4 days, weighing 1 pound 4 ounces and measuring just 11.5 inches long. She is the light of my soul and this is the story of our life in the big city.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

"Single" and "Special"

Of late there has been another crop of articles and discussions in parenting magazines, parenting websites and blogs discussing the difficulty of working and raising a child.  It seems to be an annual tradition.  Many of the magazine articles and the comments quickly degrade to a competition of which mom is better, the one who stays at home or the one who pursues a career.

The discussions and articles often are replete with comments to the effect that "I am a better mother than you because I quit my job and stayed home with my child" or "my husband doesn't help with the child so I am practically a single mother" or "I work part time and that's practically as hard as working full time."

What is lost in these arguments is that (a) most single mothers cannot quit their jobs since there would be no income for food, housing, health insurance and other basic needs of the child, (b) having a husband who doesn't participate in day to day childcare may stink, but that husband does provide (in most circumstances) financial assistance for the food, housing, health insurance and basic needs that require money and (c)  well, no matter how you cut it, working 2 or 3 days a week and being a stay at home mom the other 4 or 5 days a week is not the same as working 40 to 50 hours a week and knowing there is no second income to make up the difference (whether that second income be in the form of a partner's/spouse's paycheck or a child support check).

Add in the fact that you are the single mother to a child with special needs and you have entered a whole new realm of why you have to work.

I belong to a number of parenting groups for parents of special needs children.  Some families are fortunate to live in countries that have generous paid maternity leaves (a year or more), but most live in the US where employers and the government expect you to be back at work 6 weeks after giving birth.  Assuming you have a typical child, this would suck anyway.  Most mothers don't want to put their infants into day care at 6 or even 12 weeks old.  Some families are lucky and have an endless parade of grandparents, aunts, uncles and neighbors to watch the baby at little or no cost.  Other single moms, like myself, would be lucky to be able to rely on the building superintendent, or hell, even UPS guy with spare time to watch Eliza between deliveries.

Child care becomes more difficult when you have a special needs child since daycare is often not an option because either (a) daycare centers won't take children with medical or special needs and (b) your child cannot medically withstand the germs in daycare centers.  Finding a nanny is not so easy either since not every nanny would actually be able to operate an oxygen concentrator, read a pulse oximeter, administer a half dozen medications day, work with three or four therapists each week or frankly, and simply not be afraid of your baby.

As a single mom in the US, having to work provides for the basic needs of the mom and the child:  food, home, insurance, clothing and if you are lucky, cable TV.  In addition, the single parent of a special needs child has to work since there are the additional costs of the endless co-pays for hundreds of doctor appointments (yes, hundreds in 5 years), medication co-pays (no generics for these kids), durable medical equipment, co-pays for thousands of hours of therapies, the endless list of things your insurer thinks are uncovered or unnecessary (like special formula, or compounded medications) and a nanny since daycare is not an option (see scary baby scenario above).

So perhaps before voicing your opinion and denigrating a working single mother, think about what you know (even in its most basic form) about the family unit before you spew off some invective about how the mother should be home with the child. I have been told over the years, and very recently,  that "I asked for motherhood" (by spending years and an ungodly sum of of money on fertility treatments) so I had therefore abdicated my right to occasionally complain about the realities of life.  It is an interesting position for people to take, since last time I checked, the married women I know who are mothers also actively sought out motherhood.  The more disturbing thing is that most of these comments come from married women, or women who are at least receiving a child support check.  Rarely have I ever heard any of my male friends or acquaintances make such comments, but then again I've never heard any of the men I know criticize another dad for working to support his family.

So come on ladies, can't we all just try to get along and not make this a competition?  And before you criticize a woman's decision to work, realize that this decision may not have been a choice, but the only option to be able to provide for her child.

Getting off my soapbox now.


Sarah said...

I'm not exactly sure why motherhood is a competition. I also do not understand the mentality of 'you made your bed, now lie in it.' Great comparison of married couples seeking out motherhood, too. And hey, I've told you all along that I don't know how one person does it, at least not without being much much crabbier.

But really, I think our situations simply make people uncomfortable, because the truth is, when someone looks at your situation they have to snap out of their netflix-watching, iPod-listening mind-numbing stupor and acknowledge that one of their fellow mankind might need some help, and that would require a lot of effort so instead they just tell you to camp up little buck ;)

But, then again - you're talking to a bleeding heart who has sympathy for Casey Anthony - and don't everyone start stoning me. I have my reasons. I didn't say I thought she was innocent, only that I have sympathy for her.

Sympathy doesn't seem like it's freely given in our country.

Wanna communal live on Saba? :)

Anne, Eliza Grace's mom said...


I'm ready to open the commune when you are!

Anonymous said...

IMHO the "crabby" people are the insightful ones! The honest ones too.

Anne, Eliza Grace's mom said...


Perhaps I am confused.

Who are you suggesting are the "crabby ones?" The working single mothers of special needs children (because really we are not a crabby bunch) or the people who criticize us for working? And what insight do you think this group has (which ever to which you refer).

Since you are Anon and didn't sign you post I can't decipher who you are, so I would love some enlightenment here.

Barb said...

I love your soapboxes, Anne. I cannot even begin to imagine dealing with all the issues you've dealt with raising Eliza, and whenever I start to feel overwhelmed by my full-term, relatively good-sleeping-and-definitely-good-eating pre-schooler, you can remind quite quickly of how much harder others might have it. Here's to 2011 being a year of more sleeping and more eating, and I look forward to seeing more creative expression from your genius daughter. :) (Will you be at the conference this fall?)

Anne, Eliza Grace's mom said...

Barb, I will be there! I hope you will be too!

Laraf123 said...

I dread the "you asked for it" response to my occasional complaints. Raising children is hard work. All moms need to be able to vent their frustrations without fear of judgement. I've had to let go of several "friends" who did not allow me to do that.

Here's to surrounding ourselves with positive support!

Leaping Hurdles said...

Amen, Anne, amen. I'm so glad you brought up the fact that a special needs kid costs so much more than one without special needs. When I was calculating my costs, none of this ever occured to me. You know, you try to prepare, try to prepare, and life hands you one big mess. Some folks at work held a fundraiser for a married colleague with a child who got sick, to offset the medical bills. But they never lifted one finger to assist me, because I "asked for it". True story. I just wonder how I asked for the special needs ... maybe it was me pleading with God to allow him to live, that's all I wanted, just let him live ... that must be it.

Christina said...

I have always firmly believed that EVERY single family is different and everyone on the outside of said family- whoever makes up that family- never, ever, ever has any right, no way, no how, to voice their opinion.No one knows someone else's whole story.
I have run the gammut of cliches since having my three daughters- two are special needs-started out married and now find myself a single parent. No situation is ideal...you make do with what ya got!! I honestly don't care what people looking in from the outside think of me. I simply look at my happy, healthy, joyful daughters and know I am doing "the right thing"

liz.mccarthy said...

Nicely said Anne!

Anonymous said...

This is the same Anon again. My response was to "And hey, I've told you all along that I don't know how one person does it, at least not without being much much crabbier" by Sarah. I was actually pleased with that sediment. I am often accused of being crabby myself. BUT, I have darn good reasons for it! I was happy to see this understood.

Sorry, for not posting under a name or ID, but I have had posts traced back to me (on a newspaper blog) and suffered negative consequences for it in “real life.” I used an assumed name, but some people are experts at tracing things. Besides, my idea is that what you say should count for more than who you are. Thanks for having the anon feature on your blog!

Anonymous said...

Sentiment not sediment. Darn spell check!

P.S.: to me it is obvious that it is harder to be the parent to a special needs kid than to a non-special needs kid and to be a single parent rather than to be a married parent.

Anne, Eliza Grace's mom said...

Hi Anon!

Now I know what you meant!

You are welcome to post as Anon anytime ... whether it is sharing you sentiments or sediments :)

I wasn't trying to pry into your identity, your comment reminded me of someone I knew, hence my attempt to decipher who were :)

Andrew Jozz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andrew Jozz said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anne, Eliza Grace's mom said...

Dear readers:

Please note I deleted two comments by Andrew Jozz.

Not to worry, I am not censoring comments!

Rather I deleted Mr. Jozz's post encouraging us to visit his real estate website to find our perfect home because it was really cheesy spam :)

Laura said...

I agree. I am a single mother (by choice) to a micro preemie (not by choice). I must work. Not because I love it there and don't think that staying home with my daughter would be fabulous but because I have no choice. I like having a place to live.

Jo said...

I think single moms - and parents of special needs kids - are amazing. Frankly, I don't know how you guys do it.

Then again, I also don't know how working mothers do it either. I'm a SAHM and I can barely get anything accomplished. I can't imagine going to work and then coming home to laundry, cooking, cleaning, yard work, etc.

So, if you are a single, working mother to a special needs child, then basically, you are nearing goddess status in my book!!!:-)

Anne, Eliza Grace's mom said...

Jo, the "goddess" tag kind of scares me :) I'll take average hard working mom. Besides since I haven't had a manicure/pedicure in I don't know how long, I surely have been eliminated from the "goddess" category!

Amanda K said...

I HATE HATE HATE it when married women say they are "like" single moms. I hear it ALL the time from my medical school wives friends-- No. You are not practically a single mother. YOU STAY AT HOME! You have a husband who is supporting you. You have an emotional partner in the parenting of your children. You do not have to work to support your children. Ugh. It is so ignorant. I'm not a single mother, nor was my mother single, but I have many friends who were raised by single mothers and friends who are now single mothers. To compare my life (woe is me, my husband studies a lot) to theirs is shameful.

Off soapbox.