Parents don’t get to take sick days

On the latest episode of the Dadventures Podcast, I mentioned how I had taken a day off of work due to being sick. It’s rare that I get sick and even rarer that I feel bad enough to call out of work. Generally, if I ever have to call out, it’s because one of the kids is being kept home from school.

While most jobs offer sick pay and time off to be able to take care of things, some jobs don’t offer that. (Side note, there was recently a vote on whether or not to make sick pay mandatory here, but that measure failed.) I’m fortunate enough that if I need time off, my company gives me enough hours every two weeks that it’s not really an issue. On the other hand, my wife’s company doesn’t offer that much. On any normal year it wouldn’t be an issue, but last year a number of illnesses caused her to burn through her sick time very early. Dealing with that, it caused her additional stress when the kids got sick because she had to weigh wanting to be home, taking care of the kids against losing out on pay.

There’s a big difference though between taking a sick day to care for a kid and taking a sick day for you. There’s a difference still between taking a sick day during the workweek and being sick on the weekend.

Staying home for a sick kid

If you’re taking a day off to take care of your kid, you can just kind of veg out with them. Both my wife and I enjoy being able to take care of our kids and with our boys, we usually just end up watching Netflix all day while encouraging them to rest. With our daughter, she’s old enough now to stay home if she doesn’t feel well. If she’s bad enough, one of us will stay with her, but the expectations of her being home and sick are a lot different than the boys.

For her, since her school is self-paced, she’s still expected to do school work. We usually only ask her to do half of what she missed, which I believe is the school’s expectation as well. If she doesn’t stay relatively close to being on track, there’s a chance that she gets held back. Of course, we’d rather her not have to do it, but that’s just the nature of being absent from school.

But what about us?

As a parent though, being sick doesn’t mean we get to shirk all of our responsibilities. Sure, we can take off work and not have to worry about that for a day, but the actual responsibility of parenting never stops. We still have to get the kids ready for school, make sure they’re fed, and handle everything else that comes up throughout the day. The household still has to be taken care of, no matter what.

My wife and I handle being sick differently. With the head colds that I usually get a couple of times a year, I try to be up and moving, preferably exercising, to try and sweat it out. For the most part that works and I seem to recover faster. It also lets me be available for my wife and kids. The kind of sick I was the other day though… it was one of those spend the day in bed, inches from the trash can, kind of sick. That kind of sick is harder for me to handle because I can’t be around my family. Even with that, it’s hard to tell them to stay away. For my wife, getting sick really messes with her system and she needs more time to recuperate.

Everyone deals with being sick differently, and everyone’s body needs to heal in its own way. While we try to manage our illnesses in our own way, that has an effect on the kids as well. Between the two of us, my wife getting sick is much harder for the kids to deal with. They all handle it differently as well.  

How our kids handle it

Our daughter understands and for the most part, stays away. She still has her moments where she tries to ask for something or not recognize how bad we are feeling, but she’s gotten a lot better about it. It’s harder for the boys, especially our youngest, to stay away from us, my wife especially. She’s momma, she’s the boss, she’s the one that all of the kids turn to for everything. Even when she’s sick and we tell the kids that momma is off duty, they can’t help but go to her.  Whenever she’s sick, I try to do what I can to keep the kids out of her hair. It doesn’t always work, they’re kids; and they love their mom.

I don’t get it as much if I ever happen to be in bed like I was the other day, but they still ask for things or want to do something. It’s always hard to tell the kids no, but when you’re sick you feel bad that you can’t do it with them. That’s the thing about being a parent; no matter what life continues to go on, even when you’re sick. The world doesn’t stop, the kids still need you, and adulting still has to happen. 

There’s no such thing as a sick day when you’re a parent. You may end up with reduced parenting duty, but you are always on call.