A huge challenge in being a working Mum is managing the illness.
- The constant toddler cough that you try to convince everyone is just the daycare cough and not contagious.
- The marathon worthy running nose (maybe that’s why V1 needs so much sleep, his nose is tiring him out with all that running). On the upside both my kids can blow their nose properly! (I’m extremely thankful for my better half for teaching them this skill!)
- The post virus, during the virus, pre-virus rash that, given the number of viruses the kids get, seems ever present. Not contagious in and of itself, but still concerning and requiring at least 1 (generally 2 for good measure) trips to the Dr, and least one day off work/daycare.
- The occasional bout of ‘conjunctivitis’ requiring at least 3 visits to the Dr (I use the term ‘conjunctivitis’ extremely loosely in this context, since is almost never actually conjunctivitis).
- Visit 1 – to diagnose the type (very nearly every time we visit, it is diagnosed as an allergic irritation therefore not contagious, yet we still aren’t allowed to go to school, just in case).
- Visit 2 – the can we go back to school yet? Usually responded by the Dr of, “let me see them tomorrow to check”.
- Visit 3 – the “oh yes, they look absolutely fine don’t they, perhaps there was nothing there in the first place”. Great. Meanwhile we’ve already missed 3 days of daycare (and work) to get to this point. (I’m not commenting on the cost of these visits because, thankfully, our emergency Dr is a bulk bill centre!)
- Last but most definitely not the least, the gastro. Since moving to a smaller daycare centre we have avoided the dreaded gastro (I think this is partly because they have the awesome foam soap dispensers and hand dryers – both of which are such a novelty it ensures the kids always wash, rewash (and wash again for good measure) their hands). However, this week we weren’t that lucky.
Thankfully this gastro waited until after the work and school day for both myself and V2. V2 waited until she had devoured her dinner, a very large serve of blueberries (I might never look at them the same way again), and fallen asleep. Her toys in bed didn’t stand a chance.
V1 made it through the night and arose unwell the next morning and, in his words, needed to burp into the toilet. We were incredibly lucky that the second day of the bug was not a school/work day and we were able to laze around the house watching TV, feeling miserable for ourselves and being looked after by my better half.
We are not usually so lucky with our timing. My kids go to daycare on Monday, Thursday and Friday (my workdays). This usually allows them the chance to catch something on a Monday, and through the Tuesday and Wednesday it germinates into something nice and buggy so I often get a call by Thursday lunch.
Since returning to work 3 months ago, I think I’ve had at least 7 or 8 days off with the kids while they are unwell (this doesn’t include time when I am actually sick, which I very rarely take because of the volume of time off for the kids!)
Being part time is a huge challenge. Add this to the day off here and there with sick kids and it’s one of the most challenging things I have to manage at the moment. There is barely a week that goes by where I don’t feel like I am choosing between two things:
- Being a bad mother – sending them to school despite thinking they might be coming down with something.
- Being a bad employee – keeping them at home for each instance the sick hat drops.
It feels like we never can win but I know everyone is in the same boat. It has become a little bit of a joke that almost all of the Mums I know have celebrated part of their first weeks back at work after parental leave, by having at least one of their work days off with a sick little one.
Bottom line is, they come first. The work will still be there the next day, and the next. Most of us aren’t playing for sheep stations and when the kids need a mummy cuddle, nothing else will do. It is just something to continue to struggle, to juggle and ultimately hope their immune systems build up as quickly as their noses run.