• October 31, 2014
October 31, 2014, 7:28:01 AM *
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.

Login with your Chronicle username and password
News: For all you tweeters, follow The Chronicle on Twitter.
 
Pages: [1] 2
  Print  
Author Topic: Coping with sick children/work  (Read 8210 times)
britmom
I'm a grant getting
Distinguished Senior Member
*****
Posts: 1,223


« on: August 12, 2008, 6:30:35 AM »

I was wondering how dual career couples negotiate the problem of who stays home with a sick child? I'm finding that, because my job's flexible, I'm the one who is taking off the most amount of time to care for my daugter whenever she's sick. (At a ratio of around 6 days for every 1 my husband takes off). My daughter's been sick a lot over the last 4 months (since she started daycare), and the lost time is really starting to have an affect upon my work. For example, my daughter's currently on her second tummy bug in two weeks, with no signs of her being on the mend yet. I've taken almost two weeks off work. My husband seems to think that, because I won't have somebody shouting at me if I don't turn into work, that I can get away with taking time off.  I understand that my husband's job is no where near as flexible, and that he's afraid of annoying his boss with last-minute requests for time off, BUT I'm starting to resent being the one who has to drop everything  each time my daughter gets sick. I try to catch up with work on an evening, but after taking care of a ratty toddler all day, I rarely get much done. It also bugs me that my husband gets to sit downstairs watching TV and relaxing, whilst I desparately try to catch up with work. Any advice on how to negotiate this?
Logged

Sometimes the only way to stay sane is to go a little crazy - Girl Interrupted
zharkov
or, the modern Prometheus.
Distinguished Senior Member
*****
Posts: 9,567


« Reply #1 on: August 12, 2008, 7:28:55 AM »


There is no easy solution and it can be an ongoing source of tension.

Over the past couple or so years, we basically took one day or so at a time and tried to figure out who could stay home the "easiest."  My "rules" are I won't stay home if I have a scheduled test or if it is a class before a test.  (I avoid changing test dates.)  My non-academic spouse has the flexibility to work from home (pretty often) and to have coworkers "cover" for her at meetings, etc.  Not that that is easy, but it is doable.

My take is you need to lean on your spouse more to take on a greater share of this stuff, which may mean figuring out how to work from home, or having coworkers cover for him at meetings (and covering for them, natch), and maybe just taking a "personal" day to cover the sick kid.  If he works at a place with other parents, he should find our how they handle this stuff, since I am sure it comes up.  At worst case, he may want to find a company that is more family friendly.


Logged

__________
Zharkov's Razor:
Adapting Zharkov a bit to this situation, ignorance and confusion can explain a lot.
new_bus_prof
Distinguished Senior Member
*****
Posts: 1,698


« Reply #2 on: August 12, 2008, 9:57:26 AM »

Initially, we attempted to split up who could cover, but this only aggravated both of us, since sometimes one sickness lasted longer than another sickness. You know, most places call the mother first and don't even bother calling the father in some parts of the US.

When my oldest was around 2, we finally sat down and made the difficult decision of who has to ask first and then call for back-up from the other. This was an extremely difficult decision to make.
We finally settled on the person who can handle all the sickness related ailments without getting hysterical.

But, the deal is laundry, supper, house cleanup, and general errands are all the responsibility of the person not caring for the sick child for the entire sickness period... In other words, the ONLY RESPONSIBLITY when taking care of a sick child IS THE SICK CHILD.

Oh, and the best solution...tell your husband... the time off caring for a sick child is starting to affect your work and if this keeps up you don't know how much more flexible they will be willing to be in the future.
Logged
new_bus_prof
Distinguished Senior Member
*****
Posts: 1,698


« Reply #3 on: August 12, 2008, 10:01:03 AM »

It also bugs me that my husband gets to sit downstairs watching TV and relaxing, whilst I desparately try to catch up with work.

This would cause a fight with me. Why on earth would your husband just be sitting when there is cleaning to do? There are tables, counters, bathrooms, floors, and whole lot of general disinfecting that needs to be done throughout the whole house. Plus there's toys to wash, blankets and towels and a whole host of clothing that has to be washed.
Logged
madhatter
We proudly present the fora's Least
Member-Moderator
Distinguished Senior Member
*****
Posts: 8,095

Just killing time


« Reply #4 on: August 12, 2008, 10:19:24 AM »

This is clearly a broader issue than just figuring out how to divide up sick days. I seem to recall you had a similar complaint about your husband's willingness to help out with getting to and from day care.

I don't claim to have a perfect marriage, but we've managed to negotiate a pretty good arrangement for dividing household responsibilities. That doesn't mean everything is equal or accounted for, but we're mostly content with who is doing what. When our child is sick, we consult quickly to see who is most easily able to stay home with her. This generally takes into account: a) who has the most flexible schedule for THAT day, b) who has enough sick time saved up, c) who feels most willing to do it. If we're both really busy that day, we usually try do a mid-day handoff to the other parent, so we each get some work time in.

But that's just what works for us. I think you may have broader issues with how you feel you're communicating around dividing up the overall household workload that you guys need to work out. This is very common. It's a marriage, not a mind-meld.
Logged

"I may be an evil scientist, but it doesn't take a degree purchased from the Internet with your ex-wife's money to know how special and important you are to me." -- Dr. Doofenschmirtz
wilbrish
Distinguished Senior Member
*****
Posts: 1,236


« Reply #5 on: August 12, 2008, 11:22:30 AM »

I agree, this is difficult.  In my experience, tho, kids do stop getting sick so much as they get older.  But did you say your daughter has been sick for two weeks?  Does she get sicker more than other kids?  Just something to look at, perhaps.
Logged
mended_drum
Potnia theron and
Distinguished Senior Member
*****
Posts: 9,477


« Reply #6 on: August 12, 2008, 12:40:25 PM »

You might consider having your husband ask what the mothers who work at his job do.  Do their husbands take charge of sick kids, or does the sexist dynamic rule?  If so, his employer may be more flexible than he thinks (or wants to admit). 
Logged

"dr. mended_drum don't give a sh!t; she will chew me up like a cobra."
cleokit
Junior member
**
Posts: 68


« Reply #7 on: August 13, 2008, 12:14:29 AM »

Definitely a tough one with no one-size-fits-all solution. 

I find that I still am educating my hubby about academic jobs.  The flexibility is great but a few days of being out caring for a sick child can put your whole schedule off significantly and leave you scrambling to get work done.  No matter how many times I've tried to explain it to him, he still doesn't completely get the fact that, no - summers are not vacations and that the job doesn't stop when I'm out of the classroom.  He's trying and I keep explaining what I do so he can understand the bigger picture a bit better.  When little cleo is sick and I have to stay home with her, we have an agreement that he will take over evenings and weekends so I can catch up.  Falling too far behind is so stressful that he realizes it's not in his best interest not to do this.
I, too, will not back out of a scheduled test or faculty meeting so if this means he needs to come home during these times, he has to find a way.  It's hard and there are, imho, gender issues rampant in the balance of caring for children and working.  Keep the communication lines open and I hope you can figure it out soon.  It took us awhile and, yes - illnesses diminished significantly over time.
Logged
offthemarket
Still a
Distinguished Senior Member
*****
Posts: 1,851


« Reply #8 on: August 13, 2008, 2:10:54 AM »

One of the best pieces of advice I received when I had my kid:

From the perspective of work, it's never the child who's ill, it's you.  If you need to miss work because of illness - then don't call in a child care day, call it a sick day.
Logged
bronwyn69
Distinguished Senior Member
*****
Posts: 2,084


WWW
« Reply #9 on: August 13, 2008, 6:16:38 PM »

Hi, britmom. I sympathize. I think what you're getting at is the universal primary vs. secondary parent dilemma, which is particularly acute with young children. The broader issue, in my thinking, is how the primary parent gets logistical details (e.g., taking off work to care for sick kids; evening baths; putting little Johnny to bed; meals; etc.) on the radar of the secondary parent.

Every working mother I know has this issue. To echo what another poster said, there's no magic solution.

Personal, relevant anecdote: One day when Miranda Jr. was about 1 year old, I was strolling through the park with my husband and pushing her in the stroller. Husband happened to be telling me that if I need additional help with baby, all I needed to do is tell him and he'd happily pitch in more. So I said, "I'd like you to give our daughter 1 bath per week, and change more diapers."  Husband looked at me puzzled and replied, "Why?"

I'm sure he meant that in the most helpful way possible. And did not see the irony. Sigh.

I recently discovered that simply telling my husband what I want doesn't get things on his radar. We end up having a conversation that I find aggravating. However, if I write it in his calendar - the same one he uses to schedule his clients - then he'll do what I ask him to do without a fuss or a discussion or saying anything aggravating.

Oh, that I couldn't have discovered this a few years ago.

Best of luck. No magic solution. Talk to him. Fight about it. Leave him post-it notes ("Tuesday: Dad takes off work to care for sick little angel while Mommy teaches classes"). Print out this thread and show it to him. Make him read it outloud. Find a way that works. Have faith that things improve (seriously) once your child is older. It really does get better.

Best of luck. *Hugs* for britmom.

MirandaF
Logged

I'm all, "Up yours with your arugula in March."  
msparticularity
Distinguished Senior Member
*****
Posts: 18,502

Assistant Professor cum bricoleur


« Reply #10 on: August 13, 2008, 6:58:28 PM »

I don't know if my experience is normal, or discouraging to working women, or what...

When Daughter was little and I was a single working mom, I had an employer who pretty much only allowed sick days if we could document our own death. My ex-husband lived nearby, but was congenitally opposed to taking time off from work for much of anything. Very fortunately for me, I lived in the same city as my parents, and my mother was a university librarian. She had generous sick leave, and could use it for either herself or for caring for an ill family member.

The year Daughter was in first grade, we had strep at our house five times - the last in the form of scarlet fever, which I caught also. My mother came and picked up Daughter and took her away to be pampered. I got to stay home and actually rest in bed until the antibiotics kicked in. Heaven.

I guess the real moral is that it is terribly, horribly hard to survive even the normal childhood stuff without an extended backup system.
Logged

"Once admit that the sole verifiable or fruitful object of knowledge is the particular set of changes that generate the object of study...and no intelligible question can be asked about what, by assumption, lies outside." John Dewey

"Be particular." Jill Conner Browne
britmom
I'm a grant getting
Distinguished Senior Member
*****
Posts: 1,223


« Reply #11 on: August 14, 2008, 6:08:06 AM »

Apologies for not responding sooner (but the little one is still trying to fight off a horrible tummy bug - the second in two weeks.)

My husband is very good about caring for her daughter (we split changing nappies, bed times etc).  He's also ok about cleaning the house. I've found I've ended up doing all of the daily stuff, though (laundry, cooking), which is becoming an issue for me.

You might consider having your husband ask what the mothers who work at his job do.  Do their husbands take charge of sick kids, or does the sexist dynamic rule?  If so, his employer may be more flexible than he thinks (or wants to admit). 
This is really the whole problem. He works for a small company, where there is a very macho environment. His department is understaffed and overworked. I don't think anyone else has a family and a wife who works. He's asked at work about what the policy is regarding taking time off to care for our daughter, but has had no reply. Unfortunately, employment opportunities for him around here are limited. That all makes me feel a little guilty for complaining, but I've taken so much time off to look after our daughter over the last few months and I'm sinking fast. I'm taking over as director of basketweaving studies next semester, have a new class to prepare for, a book manuscript to revise and just don't know how I'm ever going to get it done. My Mum's offered to come up and help, but I don't want her to catch the bug (I've had it, and it was really nasty.) Oh, and my daughter starts at a new daycare centre in 10 days. <Deep breaths, count to 10>

Hi, britmom. I sympathize. I think what you're getting at is the universal primary vs. secondary parent dilemma, which is particularly acute with young children. The broader issue, in my thinking, is how the primary parent gets logistical details (e.g., taking off work to care for sick kids; evening baths; putting little Johnny to bed; meals; etc.) on the radar of the secondary parent.

Every working mother I know has this issue. To echo what another poster said, there's no magic solution.

Personal, relevant anecdote: One day when Miranda Jr. was about 1 year old, I was strolling through the park with my husband and pushing her in the stroller. Husband happened to be telling me that if I need additional help with baby, all I needed to do is tell him and he'd happily pitch in more. So I said, "I'd like you to give our daughter 1 bath per week, and change more diapers."  Husband looked at me puzzled and replied, "Why?"

I'm sure he meant that in the most helpful way possible. And did not see the irony. Sigh.

I recently discovered that simply telling my husband what I want doesn't get things on his radar. We end up having a conversation that I find aggravating. However, if I write it in his calendar - the same one he uses to schedule his clients - then he'll do what I ask him to do without a fuss or a discussion or saying anything aggravating.

Oh, that I couldn't have discovered this a few years ago.

Best of luck. No magic solution. Talk to him. Fight about it. Leave him post-it notes ("Tuesday: Dad takes off work to care for sick little angel while Mommy teaches classes"). Print out this thread and show it to him. Make him read it outloud. Find a way that works. Have faith that things improve (seriously) once your child is older. It really does get better.

Best of luck. *Hugs* for britmom.

MirandaF

You're right, the primary/secondary caregiver issue is something that I've struggled to deal with. No matter how good my husband is about cleaning floors or the bathroom, he's useless at making sure my daughter is fed, has slept etc.. He'll do it if I write it down or ask him without a word, but otherwise he's oblivious to it all.

Anyway, thanks for the support and suggestions. I'm the only one with small children in my department (in fact very few people have children at all), so it's nice to know there are others who have battled/are battling their way through this.
Logged

Sometimes the only way to stay sane is to go a little crazy - Girl Interrupted
liebling
New member
*
Posts: 7


« Reply #12 on: August 14, 2008, 8:18:36 AM »

Britmom, you have my sympathy... and my advice.  Mr. Liebling and I have just come out the other side of the same child-care-sickness phenomenon.  Lil' Liebling was home sick at least one day a week (mostly more) for the first 12 weeks. Initially it cost me and Mr. Liebling a lot of time away from work.  We traded off based on criteria that others have mentioned here, namely we discussed who could feasibly afford to miss each particular day off of work.  For the most part by the time we realized that LL was ill it was practically time for us all to be out the door, so this care calculus was a last-minute affair.  After 3 weeks of this and both of us parents falling behind on deadlines, etc., we decided to call in the cavalry: a babysitter.  We knew from others that the period of child-care-sickness would probably last another couple of months, so we basically had a babysitter on retainer and could ask her or her sister to come at a moment's notice.  If she couldn't come right away (i.e. in the morning), then she would come later in the day, giving the stay-home parent of that day at least some hours to do work from home and/or to high-tail it into the office.  This alleviated the late-night catch-up stress, too. 
If you don't want your mum look after your toddler (and may I say, I envy you having that option!) and you and your husband can't afford to take the time away from work yourselves, I suggest you hire someone else to do it.  For us, it was really worth it and our babysitters never did get sick from whatever cooties LL had brought home.  I guess because they never kissed and cuddled LL to the extent that Mr. Liebling and I did.  At any rate, it might just be worth the money to help alleviate those (understandable) bitter feelings and the lack of support from your husband's employer.

Good luck and keep us posted!
Liebling
Logged
britmom
I'm a grant getting
Distinguished Senior Member
*****
Posts: 1,223


« Reply #13 on: August 14, 2008, 9:49:05 AM »

Britmom, you have my sympathy... and my advice.  Mr. Liebling and I have just come out the other side of the same child-care-sickness phenomenon.  Lil' Liebling was home sick at least one day a week (mostly more) for the first 12 weeks. Initially it cost me and Mr. Liebling a lot of time away from work.  We traded off based on criteria that others have mentioned here, namely we discussed who could feasibly afford to miss each particular day off of work.  For the most part by the time we realized that LL was ill it was practically time for us all to be out the door, so this care calculus was a last-minute affair.  After 3 weeks of this and both of us parents falling behind on deadlines, etc., we decided to call in the cavalry: a babysitter.  We knew from others that the period of child-care-sickness would probably last another couple of months, so we basically had a babysitter on retainer and could ask her or her sister to come at a moment's notice.  If she couldn't come right away (i.e. in the morning), then she would come later in the day, giving the stay-home parent of that day at least some hours to do work from home and/or to high-tail it into the office.  This alleviated the late-night catch-up stress, too. 
If you don't want your mum look after your toddler (and may I say, I envy you having that option!) and you and your husband can't afford to take the time away from work yourselves, I suggest you hire someone else to do it.  For us, it was really worth it and our babysitters never did get sick from whatever cooties LL had brought home.  I guess because they never kissed and cuddled LL to the extent that Mr. Liebling and I did.  At any rate, it might just be worth the money to help alleviate those (understandable) bitter feelings and the lack of support from your husband's employer.

Good luck and keep us posted!
Liebling

Liebling, thank you so much for this. Why didn't I think of that? I've found a company in the UK specialising in emergency childcare (as I don't know anyone locally who I could use/would be available with little notice.) They claim to usually be able to get an emergency nanny to your house within 2 hours. It's not cheap (14/approx $25 per hour) and they won't care for children within a certain time period of them becoming ill (for example, the first 5 days of chickenpox), but it could just keep us afloat. I'm going to speak to my husband about setting up an emergency childcare fund. I suspect he'll agree.
Logged

Sometimes the only way to stay sane is to go a little crazy - Girl Interrupted
sweetater
Member
***
Posts: 138


« Reply #14 on: August 14, 2008, 1:26:13 PM »

I agree that every set of parents has to deal with this balancing act; and most children seem to prefer mommy when sick, even ones that I know have stay-at-home dads.

Unfortunately at our house, I shoulder most of the burdens and sometimes get really irritated while big 'tater watches TV and I am folding laundry and packing school lunches.

My best solution is to make a two column list:
What sweetater does/what big 'tater does
List everything from bill paying to children's clothing shopping and children doc visits.
Then after hubbie appropriately gasps at the disproportionality and insists that his activities take much longer times, ask him to take 3 or 4 things off your list and commit them to his. Then put them on his calendar weekly.
Repeat exercise every 6 months or so since backsliding is common.

Alternatively, I assign him chores that will be obvious if not completed. No one but you notices if the floors aren't swept but everyone notices if there's no food to prepare dinner. So, I compose the grocery list (3 apples, 'specific brand of spaghetti sauce' etc. diapers, size 3 brand,) and he shops. I put away groceries so I have an idea what he got...but grocery shopping takes a lot of time no matter who does it. Works for us.

It does get better when the baby taters get a wee bit older.
Logged
Pages: [1] 2
  Print  
 
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.9 | SMF © 2006-2008, Simple Machines LLC Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!
  • 1255 Twenty-Third St., N.W.
  • Washington, D.C. 20037
subscribe today

Get the insight you need for success in academe.