When your child is in school or daycare and you are expected to be at work all day, the unexpected sick day can cause a lot of stress. The routine that you work so hard to balance becomes a challenge and that you need to decide how to provide for your child while still going to work. Some companies are flexible with their personal time policies and some are not. In some jobs, you could work from home while in others, that would be impossible. Parents need to have ideas for how to handle childcare for a sick child.
What do you do when your baby wakes up at 2:00am with a high enough fever that she’s not going to be able to go to the daycare?
What do you do when your little boy spends the night vomiting and is too sick to go to school?
It’s best to think about your options at the beginning of each school year. Whose job is typically more flexible and can stay home with the sick child? Are there particular days of the week when you and your spouse will not be able to stay home with the sick baby? What happens if one of you is traveling and the other has an important meeting at work? Make a list of your options so that if your baby vomits on the way to daycare and you must turn your car around you know what calls you need to be making first as you rearrange the plan for the day.
Here are ideas to consider when planning for childcare coverage when your baby becomes sick and you need to get work done.
1. Work from home
Can you work from home for the day your child is sick? You may have to loosen your rules on how much tv your child watches that day or what toys he’s allowed to play with to keep himself busy. You may not get to put in as many hours as you want because you’re having to clean up messes, calm a crying baby, or entertain a bored little boy. You might be able to participate in the phone calls that were scheduled or work on data analysis or reports you need to get done. Prepare ahead of time by making sure you know how to access work files from home, whether it be on a company laptop or dialing into your company network.
2. Use your personal or vacation time
This may sound obvious but it may be very hard to do if you don’t have a lot of time off. Always save some time for the unplanned illnesses or snow days. If you don’t use that time, you can extend the amount of time you take off at the end of the year for holidays.
Is the babysitter that you use when you and your husband go out with friends available to watch your child during the day?
4. Switch work shifts with a coworker
If switching shifts is allowed, find someone to switch shifts with you so that the work is covered and you can stay home with your child.
5. Take time off without pay
This isn’t a great option and can look unprofessional if you’re using more time off than you have available to you.
6. Find a family member or friend
There’s that saying “it takes a village.” Do you have a have family or friends that can help out?
- Do you have any family or friends living near you that do not have to work during the day or may have more vacation time than you do? Grandparents are great coverage for the occasional sick day if you have some living near you.
- For unexpected snow days: Does your child have any friends in the daycare or school where the families could take turns watching the kids for each snow day? If you know snow is in the forecast, arrange this as far in advance as possible. Sometimes schools get canceled way before companies close and you must get to work. If that’s the case, arrange this in advance. If you know you can take the day off, offer to watch some of the other kids in the neighborhood this time, if one of the other parents will watch the kids the next snow day.
7. Take the child to work with you
Would you be allowed to bring your child to work with you? If she can entertain herself with books, small toys, coloring books, homework, and an IPad then pack a bag, a lunch, and take your child with you to work. Set up a spot in the corner of your office for your kid to sit and play quietly.
Additional items to consider ahead of time:
- Make sure anyone who may need to pick a child up from daycare or school is covered in the required paperwork from the school ahead of time.
- Make sure any potential caregiver has emergency phone numbers (including the pediatrician’s number) ahead of time, as the caregiver may not always provide care in your home.
- If someone else is going to pick up your sick child, can you be the one making the phone call to the doctor if a sick appointment is needed?
- If you’re not the one picking up a sick child, make sure it is someone with appropriate car seats if they are required.
Those of you with small kids know a plan is necessary for most days. Babies like routine and can get fussy if their routine is upset. Just like kids, when you’re balancing so many things in life, a disruption to the routine can cause stress. Some of that stress can be reduced by thinking about your options in advance and working out plans with family and friends.
What other ways have you been able to balance an unexpected illness and your work schedule? Please share in the comments.