When Kate got the swine flu right about a year ago, I flipped out and quarantined the whole family for three days. The first day was absolutely necessary as we were monitoring her fever closely and rushed her to the pediatrician right at closing time. The second and third day, as Kate perked up and I calmed down, were simply the product of a new mom's overreaction. (I'm still kind of embarrassed about it actually!) Fortunately, I had understanding, family-oriented bosses and plenty of vacation time to spare.
Some moms aren't so lucky. Their workplaces aren't so generous and/or their children don't recover so quickly. What if both mom and dad work in strict offices and can't take time off to tend to a sick child?
Parents magazine had an article in its September issue called "A Working Mom's Guide to Sick Kids." The stat that really stood out to me? In 57% of cases, day care directors send kids home unnecessarily for mild illnesses. We've dealt with that several times, and because Matt works primarily from home while I'm in an office an hour away, he's the one picking Kate up midday and taking her to the doctor, often for something very minor. (Once--in our old center--they sent her home and recommended we go to the doctor because of a sty! Oy!) When I dropped Kate off this morning, I overheard the assistant director on the phone advising someone to keep their child home, even though symptoms had passed and the child was acting fine. I understand a center's need to protect the other kids and make sure a truly sick child is comfortable at home, but I wonder if she thought about the mom on the phone and what hardships it may put on her to keep a mildly-under-the-weather child at home.
The Parents article mentioned one extreme case where neither parent's boss would let them leave work to pick up the sick child at day care, so the mom stuck her finger down her throat, puked on the office floor, and the boss sent her home sick. The writer discusses FMLA legislation and how America lags behind other nations in its family-friendly policies, but also discusses practical options for creating a sick-day backup plan:
Plan A (beyond being there yourself, of course) is to call a grandparent or close friend, but that's not always possible, as families live farther from their hometowns and friends quite possibly work outside the home as well.
make a reciprocal arrangement with another parent who works at home or with a flexible schedule, offering to keep her kids or drive them to soccer on the weekends.
split the day with your spouse, so both of you can be in the office part of the day.
work from home. If your office is cool with that, you probably wouldn't be running into this dilemma in the first place, but the point is to make your home "work-friendly" in advance, so it is not too difficult to shift gears and work from home for a day. For example, I arranged to get access to my work e-mail on my personal laptop (originally so I'd have it when traveling for work) but it makes my work life a little more flexible.
Fortunately, the ear-eye-sinus infection trifecta that Kate has had off and on seems to have subsided for the time being (knock on wood!) but sick days are unavoidable, and it's good to have some options.
What do you do when your kids get sick, but you have to work?