Working Mom Guilt: Managing Your Child’s Sick Day

As a parent, worrying is the thing you do. We worry about their health, their education, their entertainment and their overall emotional state. It’s exhausting and wonderful and exhilarating all at once. It’s one thing for a parent to get sick, but when it’s the kids turn it’s awful. The smallest runny nose and sore throat can have us worrying so not only are we coping with the children being sick, it pushes anxiety through the roof. If your little one has a cold, it’s usually a far bigger deal for a child than it is for a grown up, mainly because we understand how to wipe our noses! Their sickness hurts your heart, but can also have the chance to hurt your income.

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All children want when they fall sick is to be comforted. They want cuddles from mum and dad and they just want to lay around and watch TV. Some kids love to go to bed and sleep it off, and others love to drag a pillow and a down filled comforter to the sofa to eat jelly and ice cream all day. When you’re a working parent, managing the sick day for a child can be difficult and not just because the mom guilt sets in if you can’t take the day off. It takes a village to raise kids and having reliable friends and family around you can really be of assistance when sickness hits your household. It’s one thing to take a day off when you are the one puking, but it’s a whole other situation when you have to ring in for your child. Don’t be afraid though; in this world of remote and virtual working, flexibility is popular among the working families now. It’s exciting and helpful all at the same time!

For parents who send their kids to nursery or school, you may find you’re in the position where you can’t take time off work and your little one has been sent home. Childcare is a total pain when you are stuck at your desk and can’t get away. You need to have a deeper bench when you’re a working parent, and having a back-up for your back-up childcare is important! A surprise illness can push a parent to panic and if you’re a mother, your instincts will be telling you to run away from work and stick to the couch with your baby; even if your baby is now ten!

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It’s important to know your rights as a working parent when it comes to managing a sick day for your kids. Kids are unpredictable and difficult – beautiful as they are – and how you go about managing a sick day is going to determine how you cope with not only your child, but your job. Your workplace may be fantastic and have a certain number of allocated unpaid days off that you can take throughout the year. You should also be entitled to annual leave that you can take last moment. Generally, employers can be pretty laid back when it comes to sick days but it really depends on the industry you work in. As a parent, it’s scary having to take unscheduled time off. Most people worry that their employer won’t understand what it’s like to have your child sick and won’t understand that sometimes you need to drop everything, just so your child can be held. It isn’t easy but when you go for a role, making it clear that you have children is key. Speak about the possible pitfalls of chicken pox or flu and what that could mean in terms of flexible working. Get the lowdown on remote working from the home and you could end up with the best of both worlds.

If you are in a job where you are unsure of the policies on sick days and parental leave, schedule the chat with your boss as early as you can. You may end up completely surprised and supported by your workplace because they value you as an employee and are willing to compromise as long as your level of output in the workplace doesn’t suffer. Obviously, this would be completely different if the illness your child has is more than a cold or a cough. More serious illnesses that see you more out of work than in will require back to work meetings and discussions with your department so you aren’t left out in the cold.

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However, not all jobs out there are family-friendly. It’s a fact of life that some businesses need to keep going and can’t afford to have staff that take time off regularly and unexpectedly. It’s not fair – but at the same time it makes sense. The workplace is a business and has to perform as such so what do you do in this case? You’re a parent, first and foremost, but you still have a mortgage and bills to pay and you need to understand where your employers lie in terms of their flexibility as early as humanly possible, if only to make life easy for you. Getting a phone call from your child’s school two hours after drop-off can be inconvenient and makes your work day guilt harder than usual. If you can’t drop work and run to the school, you should have a back-up relative or friends that maybe are parents who stay at home ready on speed dial. When your career is inflexible, your childcare has to be. A mother’s help, a childminder or a relative are the way to go when you need instant help. The only thing here is that as a mother or a father, you don’t want to have to call anyone else when your child is sick. You want to be the one who is there by their side, stroking their hair and doing their temperature every couple of hours to check their progress.

Your child is going to get ill at some point – there’s no real avoiding that one. But how you manage your time on their sick day is going to make the difference between keeping all the plates spinning and dropping it all and potentially jeopardising your career. Knowing the sick policies of the school your child is in will help you; as sometimes vomiting isn’t a 48-hour bug. Sometimes children vomit when they’re overheated or upset and there are things you should be asking the school when they ring you, such as the circumstances leading to vomit. You can’t run and collect a child for puking just because they’ve run around a playground after lunch hour. It’s making that judgement call for yourself and your child and rolling with it!

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If you do have to call your employer and call in sick, be professional and polite. There’s no need to tell them all the gory details of vomit and bogies, as no one wants to hear about that! But you do need to be straightforward and explain how you plan to cover the work, whether that’s calling a workmate to pick up the slack or working from home in the evening to cover yourself. Understand that your workplace is a business, and your child is your priority. That doesn’t mean you should feel guilty for running home to be with your child.

As long as you have a contingency plan for sick days and work alongside your boss to balance flexibility, your mum guilt is soothed on sick day.

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