It’s an epic battle that surfaces every year in about October, and usually dies down in the spring. Microscopic invaders keep thousands of kids home from school every day during the fall, winter, and early spring months. Parents do their best, but we often feel powerless to prevent sick days. In light of the current national job situation, a working parent today may have more on their mind than just their child’s health.
I work part time and am able to stay home with my kids most of the time. Nevertheless, I have had my share of trouble with “kid germs” interfering with my work schedule. I’ve missed more than one “really important meeting,” rescheduled training days, and reworked my writing projects around nebulizer treatments and doctor’s appointments. We’ve hit the jackpot of bad germ luck this year – someone in our family has been at home from work or school for eight consecutive weeks. Yes, eight weeks. And we might be working on a ninth by the looks of things today.
So I have contemplated many times – what in the world would parents employed full-time have done with my situation? Many corporations have policies about use of sick days for yourself and family. If you use too many, you might be at risk for violating attendance policies and not being fully available to do your job. Having anything resembling a red flag at work is about the last thing anyone wants now.
I’m not saying lots more people are getting fired now because they have taken a few extra sick days. But working parents are already anxious about so many things right now. College savings are shrinking, retirement accounts are dwindling, nearly everyone knows at least one person who’s been laid off or had reduced time at work because of the economy. Just read the newspapers – it’s like waiting for the other shoe to drop with job cuts, maybe in your workplace. And now you have to deal with opportunistic microorganisms?
Yes, this is a reality for many working parents. Some communities have sick-child day cares. Other people have friends or family with flexible schedules to help out. And some parents load up on disinfectant and pray. Do you send them to school knowing they are sporting a fever, or do you risk a verbal warning from your vice president because of yet one more sick day? It’s making my stomach queasy just thinking about it.
I don’t have any really good answers here. Of course, the best defense is to wash hands, use sanitizers, and avoid touching things in really public places. Not too realistic with schools and day care centers, but it’s just about all we have to work with. I know that if I’m worried about it, other parents are, too. Everyone wants to just close their eyes and coast through this next year, hoping to wake up to a brighter, less job-threatening economy.
It’s likely to be several more months until it really looks a lot better, according to all the economy pros. Probably not the only wintery germ season we’ll go through with nervous parents hoping to keep their jobs off the chopping block. Until then, I can say this. Thank the heavens above that spring is right around the corner.