So today I talk…sick children and work.
Seriously these two subjects are like oil and water, strawberries and houmous or fasting and hangovers…they very simply DO NOT MIX. It doesn’t matter if you’re your own boss or you work for one, the struggle’s the same and the reality is you always know in your gut when ‘that moment’ is approaching, but foremost on your mind (well my mind anyway) is…’Please no not now, don’t get sick now…I’ve got such a busy day tomorrow. Be well for just one more day and then, I promise, I’m all yours’.
Ring any bells?
I work in the corporate world, Finn goes to all day nursery and Jack goes to breakfast club – school – and then after school club, so we rely upon lots of other people looking after our kids while we work. And one of the things I dread is when they get ill (not because they’re ill as such but more because our meticulously worked out routine will be broken). In black and white what I’ve just said sounds awful, I mean why would you think twice about not being at home with your kids when they’re poorly? God, you must be such a bad mother to choose work over looking after your sick babies. It’s only work after all, surely your children are your priority? Yep…I’ve certainly felt all of the above over the years, ten times over, and I’m sure I’ll continue to do so but not being able to just ‘drop’ work and stay at home when sickness arrives on the doorstep is part of being a working parent. That good old mum numbing guilt, frustratingly not being able to please everyone, at it’s very best.
I can honestly say I have rarely felt guilty for working even when both kids are being looked after by others from 08:00 – 18:00, it’s just something we’ve had to do as a family. Finances dictate that we both have to work (full stop), and I worked full time until Jack was five. It wasn’t until he had started primary school that I felt the overwhelming need to reduce my working week and have just one day to take him to school at a normal time, pick him up at the normal time, meet the other parents, speak to his teachers, and basically get to know his new school life. Luckily it was at a time that it was ok financially for me to take a salary cut, so thankfully I was able to start the ‘flexi working’ discussion at work. That whole process took a lot longer than anticipated (which I’ll save for another time), but ever since I’ve had Friday’s off I feel so much more balanced, plus I’m definitely a better mum for it…four days working (which I enjoy), plus a three day weekend (which I cherish). It works for us.
As is with I’m sure most working parents our normal week is very structured, strict on time keeping, precise, and everyone knows where everyone is, every day, but throw in a sick child and it tests even the tightest routines and most robust of extended caring networks.
Take last week for example…more juggling than ever, numerous quick decisions needed, not many highs and a hell of a lot of low lows. None were catastrophic lows (obviously) but they were definitely tricky.
Just to set the scene…we’ve experienced gastroenteritis only once before when we went away as a family of 16 (11 adults and 5 kids) to a beautiful farmhouse in the South of France for 2 weeks over the summer in 2015 (while I was on maternity leave with Finn). The first couple of days were a total dream. My sister was the first to get ill on the second evening and then it literally was a human domino effect…Jack threw up next while sat on the toilet, then me, then my mum, and so on. It was like living in a life size petri dish. No-one actually fully recovered during that holiday, we just kept passing the bug around (through the swimming pool which we didn’t realise at the time), Finn had to go to the doctors at one point and my mum was so poorly she didn’t properly recover for at least a couple of weeks after we’d returned home. A holiday to remember.
So imagine my absolute pleasure at getting it for the second time last weekend, luckily only as a family of 4 and no swimming pool in sight, but ferocious none the less. It obviously came from Finn, and obviously from his nursery (the one very annoying thing about nurseries…you get a dose of every bug going). Totally hideous but no actual throwing up at first (just dodgy stomachs), and so we continued as normal on Monday and Tuesday, as Finn seemed fine in himself plus he was eating. (Jack was also by the seaside with a grandparent so luckily wasn’t party to it).
It then turned into sickness hell on Tuesday night at around 9pm. I moved Finn into our bed (as his was no longer fit to be slept in), Mr LMA slept in Jack’s top bunk, and I was then on vomit watch for the next five hours. Poor thing. He hasn’t been as poorly since ‘that’ holiday, but if I’m completely honest all I remember thinking at 2am, whilst he was projectiling strawberries into a saucepan, was…’Please stop soon. I need sleep. I have to go to work tomorrow’.
Awful mum? Maybe. But not really, I just can’t help my head spinning at times like this, trying to figure out how the next few days are going to work, who’s going to look after Finn if he’s poorly tomorrow, how will I manage work on 4 hours sleep, (with coffee obviously) and it’s fine, I can cope just as well as I used to when I was 23 and out until 3am stumbling into work hungover and reeking of alcohol vowing, I’d never do it again.
This time Finn had actually timed it perfectly throwing up on a Tuesday, because it meant he could stay at home with Mr LMA on ‘daddy daycare Wednesday’, so phew…no need to ‘have that convo’ with my boss or call in the extra caring cavalry just yet. (Win).
If you were party to my insta stories last week you will also know this greatest of all timings was short lived and on Thursday morning when I dropped Finn back at nursery (with only a slight temperature, zero sickness plus a full stomach and a smile), I got to work just in time to receive a call from the nursery to say his temperature had rocketed to 39 degrees and he needed picking up. Great. Conversation with my boss had to then happen, work summer afternoon out was declined, and we have spent the last four delightful days at home, inside, Jack and I both placating / hugging / and sympathising with our little blonde ball of magic.
Normality thankfully resumed somewhat on Sunday morning, when Finn woke without a temperature for the first time, but then Mr LMA spent the entire morning rushing between the bedroom and the toilet so…it’s still very much with us.
Our Family Weekly Round Up
- Jack and I gorged on pork while the other two couldn’t eat a thing.
- I’ve re-realised I absolutely can’t sleep in the same bed as my kids (fidgets).
- I managed to sneak out and went to my first Juxlomama event (win).
- It’s day 43 of my intermittent fasting, and it might actually be working.
- There are only 2 weeks left of the summer hols (eek).
- Which means it’s only 3 weeks until our holiday!!!!!!
- Finn is not 100% so not entirely sure what this next week holds (wish me luck).