One of the toughest moments for working moms is the call from the school that your child is sick, says Circle of Moms member Aleid B. She cringes when she gets the call, because "I am always the one to drop work and go there."
How do other moms handle it when their child gets sick and needs to miss school or daycare? Here are three approaches to negotiating a solution that's workable for your whole family, as shared by Circle of Moms members.
Decide Based on Who Can Leave Work Most Easily
In many families where both parents work full time, deciding who stays home with a sick child involves weighing the parents' relative job benefits, including the terms of their compensation, paid time off, flexibility, commuting times, and job security. As Jenn M. explains, while it can make sense for the parent who makes less to take the day off, "you could have a job that makes it harder to get time off," in which case the tables might be turned.
Members Krista E. and Laura S. are the "first responders" in their respective families. In Krista's case, the fact that she has more flexibility at her job makes it "pretty obvious" who's going to stay home when her son is sick. Her husband, who is a stonecutter, can't work at home and doesn't get any paid sick time, so if he doesn't go to work, he doesn't get paid. In contrast, she works for an organization "that gives me five paid sick days, five paid personal days, and plus, due to the nature of my work, I can work from home if needed."
Melissa R. and her husband try to split sick day childcare. In their case, her husband tends to stay home more because she's a teacher and taking a sick day entails preparing a lesson plan for a sub. She's also saving up her limited sick days "for when we decide to have more children."
For Laura's family, while the decision mostly comes down to protecting the higher salary, there's also the consideration that she's more patient with a sick and cranky child: "My husband makes a lot more money, and he gets paid a percentage of what he bills out so if he doesn't work he doesn't get paid as much. Plus, he doesn't handle sick kids very well."
Create a Plan to Share the Responsibility
Some Circle of Moms members say that sharing the responsibility equally makes the most sense, although this doesn't always translate into something as simple as taking turns. Aleid B. explains: "I usually am the one who picks him up because I am only 30 minutes away, but when there's a longer duration sickness (like flu or ear infections), we take days in turn or we ask our babysitter to come for the day."
A mom named Jodi explains yet another variation on a shared system: "I work from home, so if the kids are sick, I take care of them because I can do this and juggle work too. However, my husband will try to come home early from work so that I can go and get a nap if I need to (if it was a rough night the night before). Or he comes home early to help me get other things done."
Work Out Alternative Solutions
Krista M. and her husband had to create a backup plan since it’s very difficult for either of them to miss work. When the school nurse calls, they call on Krista M.'s mom. "We’re lucky to have my mom in town, so she can often watch our son," she says. As mentioned earlier, Aleid and her husband sometimes rely on a babysitter who is willing to come in a pinch and care for a sick child.
Finally, Jennifer A. suggests a little caution before fleeing your workplace to rescue a sick child. She recommends asking the nurse some probing questions to assess how sick your child really is. She learned this the hard way after leaving work for the day several times only to get her daughter home and discover that her complaints were a ploy to leave school early. "My nine-year-old calls me two or three times a week (from the nurse’s office) with a tummy ache. She's done this so many times [that] I don't believe her anymore."
What do you do when the school nurse calls and you are at work?
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