Monday, February 25, 2008

Woes of the Working Parent

As we all know I really like working. I've worked since I was old enough to work and really enjoying the interaction and task related joys of my job. I did have a brief 1 year stint as a SAHM and almost went the same way as Sylvia Plath. But that had more to do with cabin fever than anything so maybe it'd be different if I did it again.

But one of my struggles as a working parent is what to do when the kids are sick. My carrier monkeys start dripping around November and don't clear up till April. Its one cold after another with them as you'll remember in my post
Weekend in the House of Sick. I only have so much time off and I'd much rather use my vacation hours spending real quality time with my kids instead sitting at my computer trying to work from home while they lethargically watch TV. This is how I spent part of both Thursday and Friday.

Kiki woke up and felt warm to JimmyEW so he texted me (I was running at work YEA me!) that he needed to stay home. Luckily it was a Thursday and HB was off so the three of us split up the day. But when I took the 2pm shift he seemed fine, no fever and was fine the rest of the night. Next morning he seemed fine to JimmyEW (I was running again, YEA me!) but at around 10:30 Daycare Diva called to say he had a 102 fever. Just a weird random fever and no other symptoms. So after being shot down by my germaphobe boss when I suggested I could make him a nest in my office and let him watch the portable DVD player I just went and picked him up.

This dilemma is one that I spend most of my winter worrying about. Scrutinizing every sneeze or looking at runny nose goo under the microscope to see if it is clear or the color of Ick. When my cell phone rings and the word DAYCARE pops up I immediately go in to a panic.

Notice the cute picture of him, I told him to look sad. What a little actor!

I always sound like a big dumb excuse maker when she calls me "But... but he didn't feel warm this morning. But he slept fine last night." I am secretly worried that she will think I just dropped off my sick kid and hoped she wouldn't notice he had the Black Plague.

In my mind people look at me and like I'm one of "those" parents. The ones they say send their kids to daycare or school sick because they're lazy and don't want to take time out of their day to care for their poor sick kids. I'm not just being paranoid, I've heard this said out loud. Not to me, but still said in assumption about another parent just the same.

Its like they think I get to daycare and slow the car down just enough to push my kids out of the car at the end of the driveway, tossing out their blankey and hitting the gas before Daycare Diva notices the dark circles under their eyes and the river of green and yellow snot pouring from their noses.

This is Kiki eating lunch on the couch

But let me spell it out. I do not toss my kids from moving vehicles. And I've only sent my kid to daycare once when I knew he was sick and this is the reason. I didn't know what else to do!

I had to take JimmyEW to get his wisdom teeth pulled and they specifically said I needed to be there with him the whole time. I don't have a grandma or grandpa who lives in town, I don't know very many people here and the ones I do know work. I didn't know what else to do. And let me tell you right now I did feel guilty that my kids might be exposing other kids to the Black Death, but really what kid doesn't have a constantly running nose.

But that is me, yes I need to find a back up and I think I may have found one in the old lady friend of Honey Bunch...but that is only until she finds steady work. And then what? But that's just it, I can afford to pay a babysitter on top of the week of daycare if I have to. But a lot of people can't.

They don't have days off, they can't call in to work anymore or they'll get fired. Or they've missed so much work because of sick kids that they're afraid they'll lose credibility and the company will grow to think they're not reliable. They don't have an option, they don't know what to do, jobs are precious in this economy so sometimes they might dose their kid with Tylenol and hope for the best. Its not because they're lazy jerks but because they are desperate.

I do acknowledge that there may be parents that knowingly send their kids to daycare because they would really rather not have to deal with them when they're sick. But when you see a child at daycare or at school and he has a runny nose and is coughing, don't assume that his mom doesn't care. Don't assume that she pushed her child from a slow moving vehicle in order to get to her much loved job. Consider that she may be at risk of losing her job. Or if she doesn't go to work, she won't get paid for that day. And that day's pay is what provides the groceries, or the light bill, or the gas for the car that gets her to work. So if you were in her shoes, what would you do?

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Sister Honey Bunch said...

Moms never stop thinking about their kids-whether they are sick or healthy. When we are working, our minds always turn to them. How's Logan doing in school today? He was kind of crabby this morning, I hope he's powered through and is having a good day.

When they just have a little cold, we worry. Are they tired, should they be home, will daycare let them just lay on the couch and watch movies, did I choose the right cold medicine.

It's hard when you're not with them when they are not feeling 100% healthy, but this is real life. We have to go to work, and their little cold can't always be the priority. No matter how MUCH we would like it to be.

Good post Sassy. Good post.

Ashlee said...

I was a single mom for 2 years. My son had RSV when he was not quite 2 months old. Dr's told me that basically his immune system was gone, so he would get sick A LOT. Sigh. So, when he was 3 and I had to deal with daycare it wasn't fun. If I didn't work, I didn't get paid. No vacation days until after your first year. No second income in the household. And I made close to nothing. It stunk. What was even more frustrating was when I would get a call after his nap time and they'd call me to tell me he had a fever, and I'd go pick him up and take him home to realize he was just fun. He's a warm sleeper. I chewed out daycare owner after the 3rd time of that happening. I'll admit that there were mornings that I dosed him up with Tylenol and sent him to daycare knowing he was sick. I would pray that nobody would notice until after naptime, or that it would be gone by naptime so that I could at least get in a 1/2 day of work. When that 1/2 day is the difference between being able to pay your power bill or do what you've gotta do. I don't have family I can drop my kids of to either. No one. I felt like the crappiest mom. My kids mean the world to me. So, I am really feeling your post here.
Like you said, not every parent is a slacker parent. But in order for that parent to take care of that child FULLY {as in home and heat and food}, sometimes there aren't any other options.

Little Nothings said...

LOVE this post! Yay for Sassy. I am one of those moms that has to send my daughter to daycare on days when I'm not exactly sure whether I should or not, I'm one of those that sometimes tries to squeak by with a little more than I probably should (especially if there has just been a holiday or vacation day) and it IS for fear of losing my job, of getting in "trouble" or just knowing that I'm looked down upon cause I'm not there - despite the fact that they knew when they hired me that I was in a foreign state with no family. Aye aye. Even having already known that I might just be one of those Moms on occassional... I really enjoyed how you put it all into perspective with such the right words. Thanks Sassy!

Sister Sassy said...

Ashlee- your comment made me want to just give you a big fat hug. I'm lucky because JimmyEW and I can split shift, I can't imagine being a single much harder.

Little Nothings-thanks for the props! I really appreciate the feedback :)

Beck said...

I dunno what working parents can possibly do - I'm glad I don't have to worry about that, because my kids are sick ALL the time, it seems.

saintseester said...

From my experience, when they get older that constant illness thing goes away. My daughter was always sick with something, and she was only in preschool for 1/2 days.

I swear, sometimes kids just have colds and mystery fevers. There have been several times where they had a fever the night before, but woke up Okay. We have a 24 hour rule here. They are supposed to be fever-free for 24 hours before going back to school. Yeah, okay. Right. So I am at home with a perfectly fine kid who is bouncing off the walls.

I usually send them in, but darn if they don't tell every teacher in the school, "Hey guess what? I had fever last night but my mom sent me to school anyway today." Grrrr....

Anonymous said...

I think we have all sent our kids to school/daycare doped up on Tylenol or Motrin just because we HAD to...
Believe me, I would love to be home snuggling on the couch when mine is sick, but it just can't always happen that way.
And good job on running at work!!!

Sarah (Genesis Moments) said...

I can totally relate. Today's blog was about stuffing my child full of everything healthy and sending her to school. Guess what we forgot, the Tylenol! So much for my new counseling class. I got the call around noon. My daughter had 102 fever which means home the rest of the day and home tomorrow. Ouch! My other daughter spent half of last week home. I just quit working in December and I don't know how I could go back right now. It is just nuts! I love my kids but this is getting kind of crazy.

Alright, I'll stop whining now. Just know I feel your pain!

Take care.

High Hopes said...

Sister Sassy

I have been in these same boots so many times. I had no family support where I lived until recently and I usually ended up taking the day off and then going in after hours and working until 1 or 2 and then go home and sleep for a couple and then hopefully go to work in the morning. This scenario worked when I had a fulltime co-worker who was at the office, but that has changed and now it is just me there.

My dd gets asthma when she gets sick and ends up with bronchitis or pneumonia. We have had this at least 12 times in her short life of 10 years. She has reactive airways, so when she does get sick she gets sick.

I have had to do the nest thing at work as a last resort, but it is better than being home. I had a talk with my boss about this because I was so stressed out over it, it was giving me heart palpitations and anxiety attacks when she would get sick.

This is one of the hard things about being a working mom. You just do the best you can and hope for the best. As for the Daycare Diva, I don't like her from what you said in your previous post, so she can *#&*@#$@# , hope that addresses that.

I feel your pain.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

I think part of this, though, is our failings as a country towards our children, our moms (and dads) and our childcare workers. In many other countries, family leave for illness is a right. It's assumed that if children are sick, they need to stay HOME in bed, WITH their parents and that their parents shouldn't have to be making these choices.

It's also part and parcel of why we *say* we're all about children (I mean as a country) and we pay our childcare workers such low wages (because it's all working parents can afford to).

Ugh... people shouldn't have to make these choices, and my heart goes out to those who do.

Alright... off my soapbox now. I'm sorry you and JimmyEW and HB had to do all that scrambling and I hope that Kiki (who's adorable, btw) is better SOON!

Sister Sassy said...

Beck- i think kids are always sick no matter what, huh?

Seester-nice they rat you out. I'm sure I can look forward to that one soon. I'm always afraid Kiki will talk about how our house is messy.

Anon-thanks for the kudos for running, it felt great. Ran 2 miles today too.

Genesis- sorry you missed class :( and the 24 hour rule sucks.

High hopes- Poor daughter! My Kiki is a wheezer and had RSV (as did Sawyer) but I totally freak when they get sick. And Daycare Diva has gotten a ton better since JimmyEW had the smackdown coversation with her.

Jen-all i can say is AMEN!! I'm with you all the way there :)

High Hopes said...

From one mom of a wheezer to another **Hugs** !

PS, I'm glad JimmyEW had the smackdown convo with her, because I was getting ready to come up with my Canuck size snow boots and kick some hiney.......

Jen said...

This really puts my crappy day in perspective! I don't know how working moms do it--not only are you dealing with work (which for me is currently INSANELY frustrating), but you're also raising kids, and then one of them gets sick and... All I'm saying is, you deserve a cocktail and a bubble bath!

Martha said...

Gosh, I hear ya, Sassy!

As a consultant, it's a big no-no to call in sick. Plus? I hardly ever work, so when I finally have some work, we need that $$ and I want to go to work.

How gorgeous is that child of yours? I want to eat him up!


Brother JimmyEatWorld said...

You are a great mom! And don't you let ANYONE tell you (even if only in your head) otherwise.

Good post! Keep it coming sister sassy.