Reduce Stress in Managing Time Off for Sick Kids
I have really enjoyed being a working mom and feel that I am at my best as a mother when I am managing my work life and my home life well. One of the major impacts of being a working mom is managing the stress when my children become sick. Having a sick child can really impact the balance of work and home life for many families and can put a strain on many areas such work commitments, relationship with spouse, and finances. As our family has grown so have the responsibilities at work, which only has increased the stress of having sick children.
For me, the main reasons sick children can be a stressful is that I really struggle with changing work plans at a moment’s notice, the uncertainty of how long the sickness will be for and if others in the family will become sick, the worry I have for my children’s well-being if I am at work and not at home with them, the debate of if they are well enough to go to their care provider, the internal mom guilt that I am not a stay at home mom to ease this stress for my family, the worry of missing important meetings and not being able to accomplish tasks for the day or week. I also manage others and so they count on me being there and I worry about the impact of my absence on the team. You may have other stressors than these specific ones that I listed depending on your personality and your specific job, but when I speak with other working mothers the stress of sick children occurs for us all in varying capacities.
Remember You are not alone in these feelings. Lean on other working mother friends, coworkers with children, your spouse, or other family members that are working mothers as they can really help ease the stress even if it is just a venting session.
This stress isn’t just because I have multiple children because even when I had one child it was still stressful because as an infant my firstborn was sick quite frequently and also had to have surgery at a young age. I was also new to managing this stress as prior to having my first child I almost never took off sick time and it was a new territory to navigate. Now that I have three children the amount of sick time has grown with the needs of my growing family. It does take trial and error to find what best fits for your family, but it is important to have a plan to ease the stress. Below are suggestions that have helped our family with handling the pressures and stress of sick children.
Pre-Sickness Strategies on Reducing Stress:
- Have an honest conversation with spouse/partner in regards to the ability to take sick time off throughout the year. Will the majority of sick time be on one spouse or will it be split? Is your company family friendly when it comes to accommodating sick time for children?
- Have honest conversations of what stresses each partner out the most when it comes to sick children. The more you communicate about this with each other the easier it will be when a child does become sick because you can help with managing stress for everyone involved.
- If you see signs of potential sickness in your house go over the week schedule with your spouse to see when both or one of you could take the time off of work in advance.
- Cleaning the house and washing the sheets, doorknobs and toys can help combat sickness if you see signs of potential sickness in the house.
- If you child is of age for vitamins adding that to the daily routine can help boost the immune system and help combat the onset of an illness. Adding a vitamin to your routine can help you not get sick if your child is bringing home an illness.
- Adding garlic to their diet is known to prevent sickness. This is an easy one to add into meals they are already eating such as pasta, chicken, vegetables, and rice.
- Making sure you have supplies in your house such as herbs, essential oils, or medicine depending on your family habits to soothe and reduce sickness in the household.
During Sickness Ways to Reduce Stress:
- If you need to leave work early to pick up a child have a system in place of who will pick up the child from the care provider. Is pick up based on who is closer to care provider? Or do you split it after a conversation with each other?
- Be honest with your supervisor with what is happening with your family and the time that you need off for your family. If you can work from home or still be accessible from home while your children are sick it is good to add this when requesting time off.
- If you have multiple days to take off talk do you have a plan for extended time off with your spouse/partner? Do you have family or friends that can watch your child if it is difficult to take off multiple days off in a row?
- If there is a conflict for both your spouse/partner to take time off, do you have the support that can watch your children such as family members or close friends? If not, how will you decide on who needs to stay home? (we at times will take half days to accommodate our working schedules)
- Be present at home with your child and take in those extra snuggles and helping them be comfortable. They can be irritable and moody because they are sick and need that extra care even if they are usually independent. You might have guilt to get household tasks done during the day off of work, but the main priority is comforting your child.
- Increasing Vitamin C may not keep a cold away (there is a debate on this), but there is research that states that it can reduce the severity and longevity of a cold. We increase eating clementines as they are packed with Vitamin C and easy for younger kids to eat.
- Adding honey, lean meats, and chicken noodle soup can also help ease sickness and reduce the length of a cold. Depending on the age of your child it might be difficult to add these items into their daily routine if they are sick but definitely worth a try!
- Continue preventative methods for yourself while kids are sick such as getting to bed early, taking vitamins, washing hands as it can prevent you from becoming sick. There is nothing worse than you being sick and your kids together.
After Sickness Suggestions to Reduce Stress:
- Now that you and/or your spouse has taken time off for a sick child ask yourself if your working environment is flexible when it comes to last minute sickness. If they are not family friendly when it comes to sick days, does it impact you staying with that job long term?
- Check in with your spouse/partner to see how they felt the system worked in handling time off of work. Make tweaks for next time to make the plan better for your family.
- Talk with your spouse/partner about if you need to work later to meet a deadline that you may be behind on because of time off of work.
- Do a cleaning routine of the house once everyone is healthy again so that germs don’t stay in the house. Clean sheets, doorknobs, toys, and other high tough areas again.
- Find out how many sick days you have left for the year so that you can plan for future illness in the family.
- Continue some of the preventative methods especially during the winter season to reduce getting sick again because kids often don’t have just one cold during the year.
How does your family manage sick children while being a working mom? Do you find this to be a stressor as a working mom?