8 things only working parents of a sick child will understand

If junior falling ill is one of your worst nightmares, you’ll relate to the woes of other working parents…

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When Sheila Tan’s two kids, Andrea, 2, and Anthea, 4, started to throw up and have diarrhoea at the same time, she knew she was going to be in for a rough few weeks.

To start, the sales executive had to take both her kids out of their childcare centre that week, as they had the stomach flu, which is extremely contagious.

“Immediately, I knew that I was going to have to reschedule my client meetings and take leave for the next few days, since I don’t have any back-up childcare arrangements,” she laments.

Tan’s husband, a teacher, was also unable to take leave at such short notice.

With a total of 18 annual leave days, Tan says that it’s tough being a working mum of young kids, as they fall ill often, since “they can easily catch a bug at their childcare centre, the minute another child falls ill”.

Indeed, a child’s surprise illness can push a working mum or dad to the point of panic or anxiety. What if there’s an important meeting? What if it’s the busiest time of year? What if I’m out of leave days?

“In all honesty, I would rather just take leave. I know that working from home while my mind is not fully on it can result in me making mistakes, which is even worse.”

“To get the mid-afternoon call from your child’s preschool teacher, notifying you that your child is running a high fever, or has broken out in spots, is the absolute worst,” says another mum, Ou Yan Hui, an accounts manager. “It basically means you have to drop anything you’re doing and rush down to the school to deal with a sick child, not just for that day, but possibly the days ahead as she recovers.”

If you’re familiar with a sick kid wreaking havoc on your work schedule, you’ll probably agree with the following concerns:

1. Red spots could mean that your life is turned topsy-turvy for the next two weeks
That notice of an outbreak of Hand, foot and mouth disease could give any working parent the jitters.

If your child does get the illness, he will have to observe a mandatory 10 day quarantine. This means 10 days when you have to make alternative childcare arrangements. In all likelihood, you’d have to split those 10 necessary leave days between yourself and your spouse ― and just like that, there goes five days of your annual leave.

In the meantime, caring for a child with HFMD is no mean feat ― he’ll probably be grouchy and have no appetite. Nope, those five days aren’t going to be fun.

2. Working from home doesn’t mean you can pick up the phone all the time
You may have an understanding bosses who lets you “work from home” instead of burning up your annual leave.

While you’re sending e-mails on your computer, your sick and whiny tot barges into the room and demands that he sit on your lap while you tell him a story. As you put aside your laptop to tend to your sniffling sweetie, your boss calls and asks you for the latest numbers from your biggest client… At least, that’s what you think, since you really didn’t hear much from that phone call, over junior’s incessant whining.

The bottom line is, it is tough, or practically impossible, to work from home while tending to a sick child.

Gripes Suhannah Siddharth, mum to Nicholas, 2, “In all honesty, I would rather just take leave. I know that working from home while my mind is not fully on it can result in me making mistakes, which is even worse.”

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3. Expect leave days to include emergency “Child is sick” days
Working Singaporean parents are probably be thankful for the six days of childcare leave that your company offers. But as any parent would know, children probably fall ill for more than six days a year. And if you have more than one child, you’ll know that those six days won’t be enough.

As such, even as you plan to take perhaps, eight days of leave for the annual vacation, and several days around your birthday, Christmas or even Chinese New Year, you’ll have to “save up” remaining days for emergency leave for when your child falls ill.

4. Your child will get sick at the most inconvenient times
Got an interview with the boss for a possible promotion? Need to attend your company’s most important conference of the year? Your child will, in all likelihood, come crawling into your bed the night before, running a temperature.

Yup, it’s Murphy’s Law… your child will get sick at the worst possible times.

Yup, it’s Murphy’s Law… your child will get sick at the worst possible times.

5. Not all co-workers are understanding
While many of your colleagues will probably nod understandingly as you explain that you absolutely need to go pick up your little girl whose mucus is running like the Niagara, there’ll be also those who roll their eyes and grumble secretly behind your back.

Unless they’re parents of young kids themselves, it’s hard for people to believe that picking up a sick kid up isn’t a free pass to skiving off work.

6. Guilt is a two-way thing
Parents of sick kids usually feel guilty two ways―– first, for not being completely present with your child as he recovers, but also, for taking so much time off work.

“When I had to take childcare leave for a week when my son was down with a viral fever, I felt so out of touch with work. My colleagues were great covering for me, but I felt bad for just falling behind,” says Meyani Kayal, mum to Kiran, 4.

7. Never wear black to work
While you embrace your little one’s hugs and kisses as you try to inch your way out of the front door, you can bet that you’ll regret wearing dark-coloured clothing. Why? Well, this just means that junior’s streams of snot and tears will advertise their presence clearly on that once impeccable blazer of yours.

8. Screen-time limits? What limits?
We know you had those rules ― no more than half an hour of TV time a day, and no using the iPad to watch YouTube videos.

Of course, once the kiddo is sick, you’ll throw all these worthy thoughts out of the window. If watching his favourite cartoon or video is the alternative to your sick, snotty child draping himself over you while his mucus drips down your lap, you’ll grab it!

Photos: iStock

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