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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Working Moms & Sick Children

It's the classic struggle that all working mothers face. What to do when your child is sick?

We've experienced some of that recently. Ann Catherine and Lily have both been sick. One day last week I had to leave work to take Ann Catherine to the doctor. She finally started feeling better last week and then Lily got it! So in addition to not getting a lot of sleep (because the girls have been up in the middle of the night either with fever or coughing), I also had to face the question of how to juggle my work responsibilities and my family responsibilities.

First off, let me say, some of you have it much worse than I do. My parents live here, and I can honestly say I don't know what I would do without them. I haven't had to miss a single day of work because my children were sick. If they are sick, my mom keeps them. And is there any better piece of mind than knowing your mom is with your kids?

I am also very lucky that I have a very understanding boss who allows me to take my daughters to the doctor without feeling guilty. But those things - and the following instance - got me to wondering how other working moms handle it when their children are sick.

Monday I got a call from Ann Catherine's daycare asking me to come get her, because she had thrown up. Lily was home with my mother running a fever and all I could think of was 'please don't let Ann Catherine be sick too!' She had just recovered from a bad cold and now this! So, I explained the situation to my boss and told her I had to go get Ann Catherine. At this point, I was afraid Ann Catherine had a stomach virus. And I knew there was no way my mom could take care of both her and Lily. I called Chris and we worked out a system where he would come home in a few hours and relieve me and I would go back to work. Well, once I walked into Ann Catherine's daycare, it was obvious that she was fine. When children are getting over colds and still have some congestion, they may throw up when they eat. It's one of the only ways they can expel the mucus. But when a child throws up, the daycare has to send them home just to be sure. And I completely understand the policy! They can't take a chance that a child could have a stomach virus and pass it onto everyone else.

So I headed home with Ann Catherine and since it was naptime anyway, I fed her, put her to bed and went back to work. My mom told me not to worry, that she would take care of Ann Catherine. I called Chris and asked him to try and get home by the time she got up from her nap, so my mother could have some help.

When I got back to work, one of my co-workers asked, 'what would you do without your mother?' Good question. I laughed and said, 'I'd be at home right now taking care of a child who isn't sick.' Don't get me wrong - I LOVE being home with my girls. But I want to save those days of missing work for when they are REALLY sick.

It's hard balancing work and family. If Ann Catherine or Lily get sick, I feel guilty if I'm not home with them. But, if I need to take them to an unexpected doctor's appointment or pick them up unexpectedly from daycare, I feel guilty for leaving work. But when it comes down to it, my kids are my first priority. I'm very lucky that I have a boss who understands my commitment to my family and doesn't make me feel guilty for being a mom! On the flip side, I never use my children as an excuse or a reason to get out of anything work-related and I always make sure my work is done.

It's a balancing act. And I think every working mom has to learn how to juggle those balls. It's not easy, but if you make a choice to have children - and work outside the home - you have to learn how to honor both commitments.

I am also lucky that my mom is around to help out. Other mothers aren't as lucky.


Jaded Mama said...

It can be tough. I know that I am the back-up for my nephews when parents can't be reached and have had to leave work at least once to take a child to the hospital for stitches. While my boss let me go he wasn't happy about it.

I am hoping that once I start working again after this baby that I can find a boss who will understand if something comes up.


Amy George said...

Hey Diana,
How are you feeling?? You're closing in on that due date! I hope you're feeling well!