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Making It Work

My Child Is Sick: Now What?

From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 22 No. 3, May-June 2005, pp. 118-120

"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.

Mother's Situation

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 day care 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. I am just thankful my children have been breastfed, as I see my bottle-feeding friends dealing with this even more than I do, because their children are sick more often. How do other mothers deal with this?

Mother's Response

I can relate to the stress that a sick child conjures up. I work in an office setting, too, so I negotiated a deal with my boss. When my daughter is sick, I bring her into the office for half of the day and attend to what is most urgent. I set up a little "bed" next to my desk for her to rest, though when she was younger she spent most of the time in her sling. I am able to get some work done and see to her needs as well. Then, I take work home with me for later on that evening. I make sure that my projects stay on task. If my daughter is sick for more than two or three days in a row, my husband will take either a full day off work to stay with her or come pick her up at lunch so I can dedicate the afternoon to my work.

Fortunately, my daughter has been in fairly good health. When we were battling thrush at a year old and day care did not want her until it was cleared up, I enlisted the help of my mother and a close friend to share the "sick" duty with us. If you ask for help, whether it is from your employer, a family member, or a friend, people are usually more than willing to do what they can. I think one of the keys is to show your appreciation for their help and understanding. I never take for granted my employer's willingness to work with me and, in any case, he is outwardly supportive of my needs as a mother.

Penny Kim
Orange CA USA

Mother's Response

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 day care.

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 with 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.

Jacqueline Myers
Laguna Hills CA USA

Mother's Response

Can you locate emergency nanny services? They'll probably be much more expensive than your usual day care and you'll have to balance out the high cost with the value of your job and your boss's happiness. To locate nanny services, look in your local phone book, online, or ask around the neighborhood. You can also call big hotels in the area and see if they have certified babysitter listings. These will cost about the same as a nanny, but you won't have to pay a registration fee as you would to an agency that staffs nannies. Call now while your child is healthy so you aren't panicked and can get clear information.

You didn't say how old your child is. Can she come to work with you? Can you work half days with a sick child? It's not fun for a sick baby or toddler to go anywhere, but if you can set up a cozy sleeping area in your office, or, if this is a baby, try holding her in a sling close to you. I found that I could hold my baby on a breastfeeding pillow and still get a lot of work done since I was comfortable and my baby was happy just being close to me. Babies and sick older children often want to be with their mother, no matter where that is.

What do the other mothers in your office do? They might have some good ideas, especially if they have younger children.

Make sure the lines of communication with your boss are kept open and s/he is aware that you are considering the needs of your job while fulfilling your responsibility to your child.

Kate Hallberg
Boulder CO USA

Mother's Response

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. You may find such a willing person at your place of worship or in your neighborhood. 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.

Krisula Moyer
Huntington Beach CA USA

Mother's Response

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.

Lyla El-Safy
Norwalk CA USA

Mother's Response

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. 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 in 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.

Amber Myers
West Covina CA USA

Last updated Thursday, October 19, 2006 by njb.
Page last edited .


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