Thursday, April 25, 2013

Sick Days and Working Moms

This week Katherine has been sick.  It started with a stomach bug, then moved into congestion and a sore throat.

The first day, my ex stayed my home... with her because I had major work commitments and could not miss.  The second day, I stayed home with her.

Yesterday she was still sick, so I brought her to work with me.

This is what being a single mom looks like.  I have some help - Bryan did take her for a day, but felt more comfortable at my house with her.  Of course, this means that I came home to half eaten apple sauce dishes and things in slight disarray; I have learned to not say anything because it doesn't improve things, and I bite my tongue so that Katherine doesn't have to hear bickering.  The second day, my work crisis averted, I actually enjoyed staying at home: we did a craft together, I stroked her back, and I also managed to get car tabs and mow the lawn AND have a friend over in the evening for a glass of wine.

But yesterday it got really hard.  Third day in a row, and I felt out of options.  I am lucky to have an office with a door, and so I drug the poor kid to work with me.  We packed a fuzzy blanket and a pillow, I made her a smoothie and put it in a water bottle, we put together some books and magazines, and I plunked her in my office.  I did my best to work hard.  I tried not to cry when I was in a different part of the building and got a text message from my girl that simply read, "Not well."

I can not imagine Bryan taking our daughter to work when she was sick.  He just shrugged and said, "You're on."  He can do that, somehow, in a way I never could.  When my daughter is sick, all I want to do is be there with her, and I can no imagine just walking away without a thought.

My boss was understanding, but at the same time, probably slightly frustrated.  My daughter was kind about it, understanding that my job pays the bills and I needed to be there....but she felt horrible.  And me?  I felt like a bad mom, and a bad employee.

I don't know how people do it, sometimes.  I'm lucky: my daughter's sickness was a garden variety virus, nasty enough but not life threatening.  (We took her to the doctor to confirm this, which made me 45 minutes late to work, which was worth it of course but still stressful.)  What about people who have kids with chronic - or worse - illnesses?  And the fact that I have a real office is a blessing, too: I actually have somewhere to stick my daughter when she's sick, and it's not a factory floor or a reception desk or even a cubicle.  I'm one of the lucky ones in many ways, with a boss who is accomodating, an office, flexible work hours, health insurance for that doctor's visit and enough money to pay the co-pay without checking my bank balance first.

Maybe this was so hard because it was the first time.  Maybe a year or two from now it'll feel easier.  I'm still learning to accept my new life, and its differences.  As a stay at home mom, it was so easy to do simple things like grocery shopping, and a child's illness meant some enforced down time for all, but not much more than that.  These days, I have to schedule time to go to the grocery store (Sunday afternoons), and if I forget something I've learned to just live without it for a week.  I feel like I'm operating at maximum capacity, so having to do extra things in the evenings (on top of homework and bath time and the chore of making food, eating it, and cleaning up afterwards each night) sometimes feels like it's going to throw me over the edge.  I can handle just a bit extra, but then if life throws me a curveball like sickness, I wonder if I have what it takes to get me to 9pm when I can turn off the lights.

Today I made her go to school, feeling slightly under the weather, and I feel guilty about it.

I am proud of myself for juggling all of this with some dignity, and ashamed of myself for the compromises I am forced to make.

I am sad that it's not easier, but I'm still incredibly grateful for my good fortune.  It could be a lot, lot worse, and I know I'm blessed.


How do you manage sick days as a working and/or single parent?

1 comment:

  1. This is - and has been - one of the toughest challenges as a single mom. (We talked about this over at DPOC about 2 weeks back.)

    Building a support network is critical. It's not easy and doesn't happen over night, and it's especially hard when you're all working moms, but at least you increase the likelihood that someone is around to help out when these things occur.

    I will say - this is one of the things that hampered my work life for years. I could no longer work the same sort of jobs that meant more rigid schedules, not to mention travel, because if a child got sick - that was it. You're at home until your child - or children - are better.

    (By the way, might you open the commenting option Name/URL?)