Managing Sick Kids as a Working Mom

This time of year, the number of children with fevers and snotty noses begins to rise rapidly. This is a nightmare for all moms – but especially those who work outside the home. We all hate when our little ones become ill. They look so pitiful and all they want to do is lay down and get snuggles from Mommy. Apart from seeing my son feel under the weather, my hate for him being ill is also fueled by the affect it has on my work life.

Missing a week of work because of an ill child is not the ideal situation. Honestly, missing one day of work could cut the pockets really deep and set you back on projects and initiatives. The battle that moms go through when their children are sick is a really nerve-wracking one. We want to be there to care for our babies. We are stressed because we want them to get better and return to their normal health. Yet we don’t want to be seen as weak, a slacker, or someone with baggage to our employer.

When trying to figure out how to manage a sick child and your work schedule, your mind begins to bounce back and forth between two places:

  1. How sick is my child really?
  2. What do I do about work and/or school?

How do we, as moms, manage it all!?

I have listed 5 ways to help moms manage when sick babies change your plans for work.

1. Pay attention to the signs and learn to anticipate

Romeo gets swollen nodes on his neck right behind his ears when his body is fighting an illness. I pay attention to those physical and emotional changes to start remedy routines right at that moment. There are always signs when an illness is approaching. Cranky attitude, watery eyes, runny nose, sluggish behavior, etc. Study your child when they are sick and begin to learn how to anticipate the first onset of the illness. When you catch the illness early enough you can begin medicating, visit your pediatrician, or start your own remedy routine. Being proactive will cause you not to miss that much work or even miss work at all.

2. Communicate with your employer

As embarrassing as it is to miss work because of a sick child, YOU ARE A MOTHER FIRST and your child is your priority. Communicate with your employer! Tell your leader about the possibility of missing work up front. Do not make promises or give false hopes that you can work from home knowing that your attention will be dedicated to your child during time off. I’ve told teachers and employers that my son was sick but also stated that I will still be able to work and respond to emails. That was a horrible decision on my part! Caring for a sick child requires your full engagement. If you get to your emails, that’s awesome but don’t stress it. Make sure you set low expectations so you’re not placing too much strain on yourself during this stressful time.

3. Take control of childcare

Know the school, daycare, or nannies’ childcare policies when it comes to sick children. I have experienced that childcare policies are a strong factor in determining whether or not you will be able to go to work. Most daycares state that if your child has a fever, they will not be able to return for the next 24-48 hours. Some even require a doctor’s note upon returning. Understanding policies upfront will help you better plan sick days, communicate how long you will be out of work, execute on needed back up child care from a family/friend, and budget for a baby sitter.

4. Seek help from a medical provider

Your pediatrician, PA, or Nurse Practitioner needs to become your right-hand man in this situation. Call your trusted medical provider and explain symptoms and/or bring your child in for a visit. You as a mother will know when additional help is needed and something is not right. Trust that gut feeling! Allow medical providers to reassure you that you are doing the right things to heal your little one.

5. Plan “Me-Time”

Make sure you factor in time to take care of yourself so that you do not get sick. Studies have shown that the parent who is home taking care of the child tends to be the one that gets sick within the following week. You not taking care of yourself = more time off work. When mommy is sick, how does the rest of the world go on!? You need to have resilience and relaxation during nap times and down times. Make sure you are able to fully regroup during this time so you can show up at work reinvigorated and ready to succeed!

Above all, remember it’s not your child’s fault and it’s not your fault. Things happen and children get sick, so stay calm and don’t let the frustration of the situation get to you. Stay focused on healing and getting back to your productive routine and all will end well!

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