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

  • 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!

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