We haven't gotten any calls about foster kids yet (probably because our social worker recommended us for only one child at a time, close in age to our bio kids, and it's teenagers and sibling groups that are most in need) but I've been so grateful this week to be able to tend to Kate here at home, and get work done as well. Granted, not as much work as my new normal, and not without help; Matt's mom came over for a while yesterday, and today I took Kate to Matt's office for a little while while I went to a meeting.
A child's illness is one of the more difficult aspects of two-career households. Which parent will stay home from work to tend the child and take him or her to the doctor? Is there a family member, friend, or backup childcare service that could care for the child that day? Will there be a loss of pay? Loss of confidence from colleagues and supervisors?
It's no wonder that contingencies for such inevitable circumstances are among the elements rated in Working Mother magazine's 100 Best Companies rankings. 100% of those companies offer flextime and telecommuting (and an average of 77 and 50% of employees use such benefits)—so that parents can take the time they need to care for their sick children, with the freedom (and trust) to get the job done. For the times parents have to be in the office on a day their children are sick, 86% of the 100 Best offer "backup child care," and 65% offer "sick child care."
If you're among the 43-47% of U.S. companies that do not allow flextime or telecommuting, you may need to take preemptive action as suggested in this article—things that seem obvious but I never really thought about!
- Always (or at least, when you suspect your child may be under the weather) try to get your essential tasks done earlier in the day, so if the day care calls just after lunch, you won't be in quite such a bind.
- Talk to your boss in advance about his or her policies and preferences when you have a sick child. I did this when Kate was first born, but I had one or two new bosses in the time since then and never thought to ask up front.
- Research backup care. According to the Working Mother data, only 3% of employers offer such a thing themselves, but you can find such agencies on your own to call when you're really in a bind. My employer actually did have an arrangement with a local backup care agency, but (and I feel silly to admit this) it was located in the federal building just a block way, and thinking of Oklahoma City's federal building bombing and the day care kids there killed, I just couldn't use it.
In closing, I have to note how the solutions I'm discussing here are specific to the corporate/office-type context. For moms working in fields that require your physical presence—teaching, medicine, retail, etc.—the issues and possible solutions are very different. I hope to address that some next week, so I hope you'll leave a comment about some of the issues faced by working moms beyond my obvious office frame of reference.
What is your workplace's policy on sick-child-care?