It’s that cry in the middle of the night, followed by the hand on a feverish forehead, that causes many parent’s stomach to sink. Not only because their dear child is unwell, but also because they have that can’t-miss meeting first thing in the morning.
In today’s family home, both parents or the sole parent are often in the workplace. While there is quality childcare to help family life run (somewhat) smoothly, children inevitably get sick.
I know this all too well. I recently began a new role and shortly after my start date, my seemingly bullet-proof kids began to drop like flies. After months of healthy, well kids while I worked from home, it felt like as soon as I returned to office life they picked up every illness doing the rounds in the classroom.
It’s a horrible feeling to be torn between wanting to do right by your job and needing to help your sick children. Fortunately for me, I’m have an understanding employer who knows that life as a parent is not always predictable.
I’m also fortunate to have the option of working from home when one of my kids becomes ill. This means the recent weeks of illness have meant my husband and I can juggle looking after our kids between our respective work hours. Still, it’s not a pleasant experience and, like most employees, I feel guilty when I can’t be there for that meeting, or available at my desk.
Unfortunately, not all employers are as understanding and forward-thinking as mine.
And it’s also still often the case that the working mother is the one who is expected to stay home from work to care for sick kids.
So, what can you do to ensure that you keep a happy balance between home and the workplace when your kids get sick? The below should help.
Have a plan
Kids will get sick! Planning ahead will make life simpler and help reduce stress. Some families are fortunate to have family and friends who can jump in and help care for sick children, but there are many others (myself included) who do not. Either way, it’s good to have a plan of attack for when your house is burdened by the sniffles.
If you do have your alternate carers, speak to them and devise a strategy:
- Will they come to you or will you drop the child to them?
- What days are they available?
- How will you contact them when you need them? Will a quick SMS in the morning be enough, or will you need to call and give them some notice?
- Let them know what medications you normally use and their dosages.
- Have a list of essential phone numbers handy
If everyone knows what is going to happen when a sick day occurs, it will make the frantic morning a lot easier.
If you don’t have people you can call on to care for your children, you’ll need to come up with an alternate solution. Some things to think about include:
- Establishing exactly what your personal sick and carer’s leave allowance is
- Having a frank discussion with your partner (if you have one) so you’re both on the same page when it comes to how you’ll manage caring for unwell children. This is not a mother’s job alone. Fathers also need to make their employer aware that there will be times when they’re needed at home.
- Consider how you can establish work-from-home practices, so the option is readily available when a sick day occurs.
- Consider your options to hire a last-minute nanny or carer who can step in to help on such days.
Whatever plan you come up with, it’s wise to let your employer know your situation and advise them in advance. That way everyone is kept in the loop and your family’s health and wellbeing can be cared for.