I know I said I didn’t mind being sick and having a reason to completely check out. It doesn’t happen often and I give in to it 100% without guilt. Everyone — family, friends and co-workers alike — understands succumbing to the winter flu or spring colds. But my kids being sick is a different story. Their sick days stress me out.
My daughter had croup a few weeks ago and we were very “lucky” it started on a Friday night, lasted through the weekend and we called my mom to help on Monday. Otherwise when one of our kids has a mystery fever or a nose full of green snot, my husband and I have to compare notes to see who is busier at work. ”I can stay home this morning, but I have a meeting I can’t move later,” ”I have a conference call at 2, does that give you enough time?” And the negotiation begins. We are obviously fortunate to have flexible schedules and the autonomy at work to be able to tailor our work to our home commitments. But it adds a level of anxiety and frustration at work that’s undeniable.
I haven’t been granted any special privileges at work. I am expected to do the tasks I have on my plate — as everyone is responsible for their own workload. It technically doesn’t matter where we get it done so long as we do it, but that doesn’t change the fact that all of my co-workers are in the office from 9am to 7pm doing theirs daily, without exception. And all of my co-workers are either childless or have a spouse at home to take care of emergencies like this. I feel like an outsider in a lot of ways, never more so than when one of my children has to stay out of school sick. I can’t help but wonder what their level of empathy is for me when I have to work from home or my responses are delayed while I run my kids to the pediatrician. Not to mention that illnesses in the under five set rarely seem to last a day or two and can drag out for the whole week.
So day after day I’m filling my secretary in on where I’ll be and when so anyone can reach me. But it’s not as great as it sounds — working from home with a sick child is fraught with its own issues. When one of my kids is really sick, it’s actually easier. They pretty much sleep all day and want to cuddle when they are awake. In that situation, it’s not a problem to plop down in front of the computer and crank out my work until their fever breaks. The worst scenario is when they are just sick enough that they’ll infect everyone at school but by 10am they are already bored and want to know what you’ll be doing to entertain them all day. Those days, getting through my work to-do list feels almost insurmountable.
No matter how flexible your schedule or how good you have it on the job, no one escapes the stress of working and caring for sick kids.