Sunday, July 7, 2013

Repost: When a kid gets sick while a parent's at work

I've contributed to the Orlando Sentinel's Moms at Work blog since 2010. The blog is changing content management systems and my old posts will no longer be available to the public, so I'm reposting them here, in the order that they were originally posted.

Oct. 24, 2012

Like most working parents, I consider cold and flu season to be the bane of my existence.

Whenever I notice one of my daughter's playmates coughing or sniffling during morning dropoff or afternoon pickup, I get prepared. Sure enough, a day or two later, she'll also have a cough or runny nose, or even worse, a fever.

This all happens more often than I'd like, and sometimes means somebody needs to take off from work to stay at home with her. I'm lucky that she's generally healthy and that I have a husband who shares child care responsibilities equally with me and who has taken his share of sick days for kiddo. Still, when it's my turn to take those days off or handle care for a grumpy, slightly sick preschooler, it can throw a real wrench into my work week.

One afternoon a few days ago, for example, I'd just started a time-sensitive project at work when my cell phone rang. I glanced at the caller ID, intending to let it go to voicemail, but then I recognized the number: my daughter's school.

My daughter had been in perfect health that morning, her teacher said, but she suddenly had a fever -- and it was rising. Could I come right away?

I was in a bind, of course. I'm certainly a committed mom, but I'm also a committed worker, and if there was any way to avoid it, I really didn't want to leave work that day.

My luck held out. Although my husband works quite a bit farther away from the school than I do, he was able to extricate himself from a meeting and get to her school in time to pick her up and take her to a hastily-made pediatrician appointment.

I was able to finish my work day and time-sensitive project, but man, was I ever jittery with worry that afternoon.

It was bad that day, but I know I'm lucky to have both sick days and a partner who does more than his fair share of child care. My heart breaks for parents who have to handle sick kids alone, whether it's because they're single parents or because their partner won't or can't share the load.

How do you handle caring for more-than-occasionally-sick kids while maintaining your commitment to work?

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