All of us were home yesterday because my girlchild was up vomiting through the night before. Totally understandable that I’d want to keep her home, right? I’m sure her teacher and the other children’s parents appreciate that I’m doing my duty to keep their children healthier. The boy, though well, also stayed at home. His school is a half-hour streetcar ride away, he’s 9.5, and I’m not Lenore Skenazy. Not that I’m against all 9.5 year-olds taking streetcars alone, but I digress.
I called into work to let them know I was taking a sick day, feeling a bit of guilt for not being there, but relieved that I work for an organization that encourages us to use our sick time to care for ill children. I’ve been told that this isn’t the norm, and that “sick days” are often only to be used for the illness of the employed person.
This morning, though, when the vomiting started anew, 25 minutes before we would have been leaving for school/work, relief was not what I felt. Here’s where I expose you to the secret many parents would rather you not know: for a brief moment, I resented my child for being sick. There. I said it. Out loud and in print. This is the reason career women make bad mothers. It was fleeting, and the resentment was redirected almost immediately, but for a good 15 seconds or so, I was indeed annoyed with my child who was kneeling before the toilet, wretching.
My rational brain knows that kids get sick, life happens, and we do what we can with what we have. She’s a smart one, that rational brain of mine. So why the resentment, with all that common sense in me? Short answer: I hate that I find myself working full-time as both a parent and an employee. I hate that it all comes down to me.
As I wrote above, my current workplace strives to be as family-friendly as possible, but family-friendly employers working within a culture still struggling with what family-friendly should look like don’t go far enough. I have 8 paid sick days per year. That sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? Well, we’re in the second week of the January, and I’m already using my second. I’ve now got to get through the next 11.5 months on 6 sick days, and if I go over? I have to make up the time. During office hours, in the time I have childcare coverage – which adds up to a maximum of one additional hour per day. Once I run out, a three-day illness will require a minimum of three weeks to recoup the “lost” time.
It is not my child’s fault that I have to eat at my desk and extend my day in order to make up for time spent at home with her. I know that, and I believe it. That doesn’t mean I’m not hoping with all my power that we’re all well enough to head out of the house tomorrow morning.