Making It Work
My Child Is Sick: Now What?
From: New Beginnings, Vol. 29 No. 5-6, 2009, pp. 66-68
"Making It Work" is a regular feature of the magazine New Beginnings, published bimonthly by La Leche League International. In this column, suggestions are offered by readers of New Beginnings to help mothers who wish to combine breastfeeding and working. Various points of view are presented. Not all of the information may be pertinent to your family's lifestyle. This information is general in nature, and not intended to be advice, medical or otherwise.
While I generally have been happy with my children's child care, I have struggled when they are sick. They can't attend regular child care and there is no daycare in town for sick children. My boss has said that it is "occasionally" all right for me to take a day off, by which he means two or three days a year, but there are stretches when I need four to five days every month. How do other mothers deal with this?
Fortunately, your children are breastfed, which is usually a great way to keep them as healthy as possible. Even breastfed children get sick, however, especially if they are around other children in daycare.
It's tough when your children are sick because they need you to nurture and care for them even more than usual. It can be helpful if you trade sick days with your husband so it doesn't feel as though you're facing this dilemma alone.
Attending La Leche League meetings or other child-friendly organizations is a good way to meet like-minded parents. You may meet and become friends with mothers who work different schedules or stay at home with their children and with whom you'd be comfortable leaving your children for an occasional day. You can trade off child care to give them a break in return.
Another option is to look for a more child-friendly job. In the future, there'll be recitals, awards, plays, sporting events, and other things you'll want to take time off for. You'll never regret spending more time with your children and less at work once they're older, grown-up, and off on their own.
Laguna Hills, CA, USA
I changed jobs after having my children because I felt that working in an office nine to five and commuting an hour each way did not give me the flexibility I needed to take care of my children, even with good child care arrangements in place. My current job is far more flexible and can be done to a large extent from home. I do need to go into the office several times a week, but now, when my children are too sick to leave home, I can easily alter my schedule to stay home and keep an eye on them while carrying on my work on my laptop.
You did not mention whether your job would lend itself to such flexibility. If it is something you can do from home occasionally, then that might help when you need to be home with a sick child.
The situation you describe is very common; it is almost universal among families with young children and working parents. I can't tell from your question what your situation is: married or single, near family or far from them, in a job you like or one you can't wait to get out of.
There are lots of aspects to consider and it might help to write them down on paper as you think about possible options. Also write down the names of people you know who might be able to help. Such people can include relatives, friends, or possibly a stay-at-home mother who would welcome the additional income from occasional babysitting. If you are raising your children with a spouse or partner, it makes sense to think of sick days as something you share. This step alone will cut your sick days in half. One other option that comes to mind is to find a retired person you trust to care for your baby and make babysitting arrangements with that person before the need arises. I feel certain that, as you explore all the facts of your individual situation, options will come to you that no one else has thought of. I wish you the best of luck and health for your children.
Huntington Beach, CA, USA
Wow, I sympathize. A sick child can put you in a tight spot with your employer. Are you comfortable with the idea of staying at home with your child and letting the chips fall where they may at work? This might lead you to finding a new job that is more flexible. Another option is to trade "stay-at-home" days with your husband so that both of you can remain in good graces at work. Also, finding a responsible babysitter, preferably a relative or someone your child knows, is a task you might want to take on now, before you find yourself searching for options with a sick child on your hands and projects at work to complete.
Norwalk, CA, USA
I have been lucky that my children don't get sick too often. However, during flu and cold season, my children tend to get sick more frequently. I'm fortunate that my boss has children and she is very understanding when I need to take time off to care for them. I am also lucky that my dad doesn't work and can help out as needed.
I recommend that you ask friends and family ahead of time if they are available to help, should you need them. Another thing to consider is sharing the task of caring for a sick child with your partner. This works for my family. I take off the morning and my husband takes off the afternoon -- this way, neither of us is missing a whole day of work. Your boss might be more understanding if you're not missing full days.
Lastly, try calling your local child care resource and referral agency to inquire about specific child care centers that provide sick child care. Your current child care provider may also be able to point you in the direction of someone who will be willing to care for your children when they are mildly ill.
West Covina, CA, USA
Adapted from New Beginnings, May/June 2005