It takes a village…and a lot less guilt

15 May

It takes a village…and a lot less guilt

You’re a parent, you feel guilty taking personal leave to look after your sick children, don’t you? You see the looks your co-workers give you and you know they’re going to talk about you after you leave because the day care centre has called. Again.

Why do we still feel like we are letting our co-workers down when we have to use personal leave to care for sick children?  We’re entitled to it, why can’t we use it?

Research shows a third of mums feel sad, guilty, stressed and anxious when they have to stay home to care for sick children.  And in 90% of cases, it is the mother who does this.  Children get sick.  It is estimated children in formal child care fall sick 9-10 times a year.  With full-time employees accruing 10 days per year of sick leave, mothers are using their annual leave to care for sick children after they have used their full personal leave entitlement. Could that be part of the reason we have sick employees turn up to work, they can’t afford to use sick leave themselves in case a child gets sick and they HAVE to use it?

Large businesses may have the resources to access Corporate Emergency Child Care programs for parents to access at short notice instead of taking personal leave and disrupting the business.  For small to medium businesses, financially, this will most likely not be an option.  And if your child is sick, do you really want a stranger, looking after them when all they want is Mum or Dad?

In small to medium businesses, you could be the only one on the reception desk, if you have to leave unexpectedly, what will they do! I remember years ago, I was the only administration person in a large retail store.  The day care centre called, my son was sick and had to be picked up.  As I walked out, there were five workers standing in a line with their mouths open, speechless I was leaving.  They just had to cope without me that day, but the image will always stick with me.

I’m sure there are many parents, especially mums, who have stories to tell, experiences we all can learn from and advice for others so please share!  We all have our own story, so let’s stick together and let the old adage ring true ‘it takes a village…’.

Stacey Vale

  • Samantha

    At the end of the day, we can only do what is in our control. It’s not often that you will find a business able to provide you with other options.
    I am a FT employee and a mother of two, my eldest is almost 6, my youngest ten months. I respect my employer and I personally feel that the employee/employer have to find their own balance, albeit a delicate one. Mothers can have flexible working arrangements, and I think a good employer should extend this to sick leave, provided that it’s not abused.
    Other things that can be done- share the sick leave with a partner where possible- check your calendars and workload and come to a compromise with the other parent. Where it can be afforded, take a regular immunity booster for yourself and the children. Practice safe hygiene. These are things that I do to help manage illness in our household.

    It won’t always work, but such is life. I feel that if an employer can’t understand this, then their expectations are unrealistic.

  • Karen Robinson

    Companies who understand that employees health and their families always comes first will find that their flexibility and attitude about giving parents “permission” to be a parent (or sometimes its caring for elderly parents, or a spouse who has surgery, etc… its not just sick children here!) will pay off in loyalty and productivity. Just prior to reading this email my admin came in to tell me she had pneumonia! I told her to go home and that we would handle what needed to be done. No one plans to get sick, it is never going to be convenient! Help other staff see that they can support this employee, allow them the time they need – and what comes around goes around – so when it’s the next time and its you who needs to be OOO unexpectedly you know you work with colleagues who will lend a hand.
    Thanks Stacey for posting this.

    1. Stacey

      I absolutely agree Karen! An employer will gain commitment and loyalty in return for empathy, understanding and flexibility from an employee who has carer responsibilities. It could be a parent with sick children, or a worker without children but with elderly parents who also need care. Everyone has their own story. Your admin will return to work healthy, happy and prepared to go over and above for you. What a great example you lead by!

  • Rebecca Myers

    I feel the time is getting nearer to a new working life/balance. As more parents are returning full-time to the workforce, there needs to be a change in how we manage leave. This isn’t just about mothers either. If there were less stigma placed upon fathers to take time off to care for sick children, there will be more chance of each parent taking less of their personal leave, however this can’t be done in all cases, especially those where it is a single parent that has no one to share the load with. How do we move past this and make it easier to balance? Allow working from home if the position caters for this. Our roles are evolving and the time of being able to work for anyone, from anywhere is becoming more and more a reality. So why not from home if your child, not you, is unwell? I was once fortunate enough to be the front desk officer for a school like environment, on the days that my children were unwell, I was able to take them with me and they stayed in the ‘sick bay’ just next to my office. This worked a treat for all of us. We need to think outside the box for this one, so that we can move forward, into a future where we are free to do what is necessary for our family, but still meet our working expectations. Guilt free!

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