How to Balance Work and a Sick Child

When the inevitable happens, i.e. an up-all-night sick kiddo or a phone call from the school requesting a pick up, the dread and anxiety set in…. are they ok? What is my plan? What will my boss say? Working parents have all been there – balancing work demands with mommy/daddy demands. How do we balance it all?

Family Comes First

For me, family always comes first. I tell that to myself and to my employees. If you have to go, go. If you have to stay home, stay home. Work will be there tomorrow.

Family Communication

When my fiancé and I first started on this co-parenting journey together a few years ago, we made sure we laid out an action plan of what to do when these sick days came. Our particular situation relies heavier on me to be the emergency contact parent and the one to stay home as I have a much more flexible and supportive job (I can work from home if need be and I get a ton of sick days). Its not that Chris doesn’t have a supportive job but he is required to travel for work and often is unable to answer his phone or is out of range.

Employer Communication 

I make it a point to communicate with my supervisor initially about what our child care plan is. As a supervisor I appreciate when my staff tell me what their demands are. It helps me to know what is a legitimate issue versus what could be perceived as abuse of PTO.

Work Backup Plan

If I have to leave early, I hand off projects to those who are familiar with them and can do the basic things to get us through the remainder of the day. If I have to miss an entire day, I log in from home and delegate any work I am unable to complete to those who are in the office. Most of the time one day isn’t going to be a catastrophe but making sure key players can complete needed tasks is key.

Backup Babysitters

Once we moved away from our hometown we didn’t have Grammy or Pop Pop nearby to act as a backup babysitter. Most of the responsibility fell on me and I was fine with that and communicated it to my supervisors. As we settled into new areas and befriended others, I asked them if they would be willing to be a backup pending there was an emergency as I could not get there fast enough. Everyone we encountered agreed and fortunately we never had to use them. Look to someone you trust your children with to be this person if it is only for emergencies. For a more constant on-call babysitter, do background and reference checks on potential sitters so you don’t experience a surprise down the road.

Finding a work/life balance is difficult at baseline, but throw ill children into the mix and the anxiety level rises exponentially. Employers should be supportive of family responsibilities and can hopefully work with you to make stressful times as smooth as possible.