Colons and Cosmopolitans don’t usually go together, but a line from the “Sex and the City 2” movie popped into my mind last week while trying to coordinate the indelicate procedure of a colonoscopy.
It’s in a scene where Miranda and Charlotte are in their obscenely huge Abu Dhabi vacation villa commiserating over cocktails about how hard parenting is, and how, for their sanity, they needed a break from their kids. “How do the women without help do it?” a flabbergasted Charlotte asks, and they raise a toast to those hapless, less-supported mothers before going back to their materialistic holiday of being judgmental about local customs and singing ancient Helen Reddy lyrics at unsuspecting Middle Eastern women.
I always hated that exchange. The writers tried shoehorning a moment of maternal relatability between these very privileged fictional women and the real-life moms watching them on the big screen. But they didn’t truly comprehend the yawning chasm between Miranda and Charlotte — rich Americans whose help comes from paid nannies who watch their kids back across the ocean — and those ordinary ones who had to score a last-minute babysitter so they could go to the movies.
It’s not the same, ladies.
Still, last week, I found myself equally in awe of parents, particularly single ones, who don’t have the support I have, mostly from family and dear friends who have become family. I can’t wrap my brain around surviving without it. To be able to have a colonoscopy, a potentially lifesaving procedure that’s a must-do in your 50s, I had to schedule both someone to get my kid to school and someone else to drive me to and from the procedure, because I would be under very yummy anesthesia and unable to drive myself.
So I hit up my best friend and my mom, because they have my back. It would simply not have happened if I didn’t have help. And I am nakedly, profoundly aware of my privilege, because everyone does not share it. And that’s acknowledging the extra privilege of health insurance that won’t bankrupt me for routine or even potentially crucial care. In a recent BestColleges.com story, 40% of parents surveyed said they’d had to sacrifice something in their lives because they couldn’t secure child care. That’s major. People are forgoing important appointments, including medically necessary ones, because they have no one to help with their kids.
Combine that with the COVID-era fact that 41% of respondents in a Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health survey delayed medical care because of the pandemic, and you get it, right? We need help.
We will literally die without help.
I’ve been a single parent for most of my son’s life after the death of my husband. But not until my mother, who was my co-parent for the last seven years, got married and moved out this summer have I really understood the stakes of navigating this journey as the only person in the house with a credit score and driver’s license. I am where the buck stops. I am the chauffeur, the responsible adult, the maker of lunch and drier of tears.
There are parents who’ve been solo since the beginning reading this going, “Welcome to the party, Cupcake!” And … you’re my heroes. This is hard.
I and other parents are grateful every day to have people to rely on and, unlike the “Sex and the City” ladies, when I say “help” I mean friends and family that form the village that provides us with cover to live our lives, do our jobs and address our health needs while raising children. Trust me, if I could afford nannies and whatnot, I’d be out here auditioning candidates like in “Mary Poppins.”
There are many parents who, because of geographical proximity or familial issues, aren’t close enough to anyone to rely on, and it’s harder in some communities than others. I don’t know how you do this without that support. And honestly, in this rich country no one should be asking this. We should have universal child care, and health care, and the things that countries we look down on provide for their citizens if they want them to live.
So at risk of sounding like a rich, out-of-touch American lady in a million-dollar villa, I raise the mug of coffee — which I’ve reheated three times because I keep putting it down to deal with my son — to the parents who don’t have help but get it done anyway. You’re my heroes, and I wish I had a Cosmopolitan and a fancy trip to Abu Dhabi to give you.