Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Woe is Me.

Last November I wrote a post about my experience staying home with Baby E. during the day. I noted how difficult it could be trying to figure out what he needs and when. If I was his full-time caretaker, I expect I would have already developed a kind of sixth sense for individualized maintenance. Perhaps I'd know how to decode his vocalizations, so that I could tell when he was hungry, tired, wet, or in pain. As it is, I'm confined mostly to a clumsy guesswork and my limited powers of perception. I can muddle through with process of elimination, and usually get him to stop crying about half the time. Otherwise he eventually gets so exhausted that he poops out. That's a very shallow victory.

As hard as it was several months ago to assume responsibility for E., it's been even harder during the last couple days. Because this time around I'm just as much (or more) sick than he is. Over this past weekend he developed nasty ear infections in both of his ears, and these afflictions caused him obvious pain that could only be addressed with baby Motrin. For those not familiar, this version of Ibuprofen is administered with an oral syringe. It must taste fairly good, because it's been extraordinarily easy to get E. to swallow it. The only real problem with the product is determining how much to give him. There is a chart on the packaging that lists doses for age and weight. Unfortunately our kid has already far outstripped the weight limitations.

Still, to some extent, this over-the-counter medication has been our salvation. Not only does it seem to take the edge off of E.'s suffering, but it also controls the fever spikes that he is vulnerable to with ear infections. No matter how many times a parent hears that he/she need not worry too much until baby's temperature hovers at 104 degrees, that's a hard number for us to process. I've had that high a reading when I was in college, and it meant that I was close to death. It seems like one more nasty trick devised to keep breeders anxious about their progeny. I'm not the type to necessarily get caught up in the "miracle of life", but I do find it amazing what these little beings can take.

If there's a single issue that has become particularly pressing, now that I have seen over a full year of my child's life, it is the daycare issue. The strains it places on child-rearing can be formidable in a number of ways. Obviously, first and foremost, there is the potentially prohibitive monetary cost. People have to make an assessment of their income streams to decide whether or not it makes more sense to have one parent stay at home, rather than spend around eight hundred dollars per month to have strangers look after their child in a group setting fraught with bacteria and resistant forms of virus. Given the state of the current economy, and projections for its future, stay-at-home parenthood is likely to experience a decline in frequency.

However, even once an adequate facility can be identified that meets minimum standards and falls within one's budget, parents still need to arrange some sort of backup for the occasion when their child is too sick to attend daycare. M. and I are both fortunate and unlucky when it comes to this requirement. Our sick days do accrue, and carry over from year-to-year. Although M. used all of her store after E. was first born, I still have a surplus left (meaning that I have now become the go-to nursemaid). But neither of us have family available locally to fill in the gaps when we can't take off, or are too sick to do a proper job ourselves. I can only imagine what single parents must go through trying to raise a kid in this day-and-age.

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