Sick Days

My indoctrination into the politics of sick days -- my wake-up call that combining work and motherhood involved inescapable rocks and hard places -- came 10 years ago when our infant son got sick with a fever the day of a presentation I had to give. I blithely asked my husband to stay home with our child. I quickly saw evidence that men, especially primary breadwinners, suffer peer pressure at work as severe as everything I lived through in seventh grade, except that our financial future was at risk rather than my slot in the popular crowd.

So, I gave my son Tylenol to hold down his fever, dropped him off at the daycare center, delivered a killer presentation and scuttled back to his classroom where they reported X. was feeling a little warm.

Since that day, I've always been the one to stay home with our children when they are sick. I've tailored my career choices so that I can bow out on a second's notice if need be. My husband and I don't discuss what these sacrifices have meant for me. And in truth, I haven't forced the issue. We never imagined this type of pragmatic dilemma when we dreamed of having kids together.

A single mom friend brings her kids to the office when they are sick. Another working dad utilizes an "emergency" childcare center in downtown D.C. specifically designed for sick children under age 10 (which costs about twice as much as regular daycare, he reports).

My friend Page, who divorced her husband, learned a new way. They have joint custody, 3.5 days per week each. Nice and fair. Recently, on one of the dad's custody days, their daughter woke up too sick with a head cold to go to school. He called his ex-wife to see if she could stay home from work. She heard her daughter hacking in the background. She was torn. She was firm. "It's your day, honey," she said sweetly and hung up the phone. What did Daddy do? He dropped his sick daughter off at school. (Not unlike what I did with my own infant son.)

Baby advice books don't tackle Faustian torments like choosing between your job and an ill child. It's one of those terrible dilemmas where a supportive employer, partner, relative or friend makes your heart swell with gratitude -- or at least it would if you weren't too busy rushing to work while worrying about your child. But parents don't all experience that kindness every time we need it. When we're caught in a Catch-22, our kids are, too.

Do you have experience with other countries' kids' sick day policies? Are there any good solutions, anywhere? People always mention places like Canada, Germany, Sweden and France as more mom-friendly, but I don't know -- the grass is always greener, yadayada. There are hidden downsides to family leaves that are so comprehensive that employers become reluctant to hire women who might one day get pregnant.

How do you handle kids' sick days? How does your company handle kids' sick days? In an ideal world, what kind of policy would be fair to parents, kids and companies?

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  March 22, 2006; 8:00 AM ET  | Category:  Division of Labor
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My husband and I typcially swap sick days, but it doesn't make me happy. We are both Federal civil servants. Thankfully, I exhausted my sick leave while on maternity leave last summer. I'm grateful that I could use my sick leave, but at the same time jealous of friends who are given specific "maternity" leave, as in, not their regular sick leave. However, I'm still grateful that I got paid while I was at home with a new baby. It only irks me that my husband has well over 100 hours of sick leave banked, but we still swap off every other time (unless one of us has something VERY pressing, but we still swap off so it's even). My sick leave bank is so pitiful compared to his. But, again, I do realize how lucky I am to have a husband who not only will stay home with a sick kid, but also doesn't care if it comes with any stigma. Most of our co-workers think it's awesome that he's willing to stay home.

Our supervisors have always handled kid sick days just like adult sick days. We bank 4 hours a pay period and can use it when we are sick. Whether that's me or one of the kids.

I think our set-up is pretty ideal, except for the lack of "maternity" leave. But, then again, I know some women get no paid maternity leave, so I remain grateful that I could use my banked leave and still get a paycheck during that time.

Posted by: KS | March 22, 2006 8:19 AM

I am fortunate that my husband and I can alternate staying home for our kids on sick days. There have a few times where one of us can't do it b/c of an important commitment (it usually seems to be me, I have a lot of board meetings and stuff), but we have always been able to sort it out.

However, I have made it a point to work in an industry that tends to provide generous benefits (albeit with somewhat lower pay)....I work in the non-profit association field. My current employer provides 18 sick days a year, so I have been able to create quite a pool of leave. Of course, not all non-profits are this last employer provided 6 sick days a year, and you could not carry them over from year to year. Of course, they also gave my 8 weeks of 100% paid maternity, so it wasn't all bad :)

Posted by: Mom of 2 | March 22, 2006 8:33 AM

Leslie states:
"There are hidden downsides to family leaves that are so comprehensive that employers become reluctant to hire women who might one day get pregnant.'

WRONG!! Leslie, a TRUELY comprehensive family leave policy would apply to both moms AND dads! That way employers couldn't "become reluctant to hire women" because it would be just as likely that the DAD would take off as the mom. The dads of today-- those in their 30s and early 40s, recognise that the kids are theirs as much as the moms! They are confident that they can be just as loving and caregiving as the mom and that their career is no more important that the mom's.

Posted by: L.Smith | March 22, 2006 8:48 AM

KS-- Sounds like your husband didn't take as much paternity leave as you took maternity leave. That being the case, it only seems fair to expect him to cover all the sick days until the days add up to the time you took as maternity leave.

Posted by: LSmith | March 22, 2006 8:59 AM

I was amazed by the statement that "We never imagined this type of pragmatic dilemma when we dreamed of having kids together." Seriously, it never occurred to you that kids get sick?

I guess I've known this was (or would be) an issue ever since I was in college--I interned in an office with someone who alternated kid-sick-days with his wife. My husband and I are expecting our first. We're certainly not Super Prepared Parents or anything, but we've already been talking about this, and we'll be alternating.

Posted by: expecting1 | March 22, 2006 9:12 AM

We have a nanny, which is ideal for both the WOH parents and the sick child. My husband and I do not need to miss work (although we often go in late and/or come home early to provide comfort for the sick child) and the child can rest comfortably at home.

A solution not available to all, I know, but one that works for us.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 22, 2006 9:17 AM

After reading this column, I realize how lucky I am. As a lawyer in a big firm, what part of the day I work is not as important as how much I work. So, for some sick days, I work at home (a little), take care of my son, and then work until late in the evening to catch up after he goes to bed -- assuming that I don't have client meetings. If I do, my husband stays home. He is FANTASTIC about carrying more than his share of household and sick day duties. I'm very lucky.

Our third alternative is to have a backup nanny (from Mother's Aides) come in. Prior to my husband's job switch, we paid for this if neither could stay home. It was not cheap! With his new job, the company provides 20 days (fully paid by the company) of in-home daycare by the same nanny service when your child is sick. This is a fantastic benefit -- and one we have availed ourselves of on several occasions. We're both grateful that this generous benefit exists. Many companies offer backup daycare, but this is structured for healthy kids and for instances when daycare or school is closed (snow day, federal holiday, etc). So while I have that option available, my husband's benefit is a lifesaver when our toddler gets sick.

Posted by: CKV | March 22, 2006 9:18 AM

There is no ideal solution. As long as we have competing priorities and responsibilities, we should expect to remain torn and conflicted about our choices. As I have become older (more mature?), I am more comfortable putting my child's needs first and hoping that my employer is understanding. When younger, I was more fearful of the ramifications of absences away from the office. Accepting my priorities in life has gone the furthest to allow me to breathe a little easier....

Posted by: TLM | March 22, 2006 9:26 AM

My husband and I alternate, or call in "the reserves" (our moms) if our little girl is sick more than a day or two. I must admit that I don't consider it awesome or even remarkable that my husband is "willing" to alterate. He is the daddy, that is part of his job as a daddy.

Posted by: Shannon | March 22, 2006 9:29 AM

the company I work for provides for both maternity and paternity leave - but it comes out of your accumulated sick leave. And your amount of sick leave, at the beginning of employment, is minimal. Luckily, when I had my first child, I was earning 6 weeks of sick leave a year, and was able to take a full six weeks off.
As for a sick child - my employer expects you to use vacation days - after all its the child that is sick - not the worker.
this has caused much angst among those of us with kids, and I find myself hoarding vacation days for this reason.
I am appreciative that when my son ended up in the hospital with RSV, my immediate supervisor gave me excused leave to be with him.
my husband is very supportive, but as a college student, he is also restricted due to teachers who will drop his grade if he misses too many classes. but when possible, we have split child sick days, where he stays home in the morning, and I come home early.
for those who get to use sick leave instead of vacation, count yourself lucky.

Posted by: WilliamsMom | March 22, 2006 9:30 AM

My kids are now 15 and 18 but when they were small My husband and I handled sick days by both working a half day. We could put out the essential fires at work that way. Note my currently boss, a male, is the primary care giver when his kids are sick. Dads who share equally in the care of their children in sickness and in health can hve a great bond with them as they become teenagers.

Posted by: AMB | March 22, 2006 9:31 AM

Honestly, I am really angry to hear that you knowingly brought your ill child to day care.

You do realize that your important day probably resulted in one or more children (and teachers) at day care becoming ill, don't you? Thus you forced other parents and children into the same bad situation out of which you tried to squirm.

I am a responsible parent. If my child is ill, either my husband or I take off the day to stay home. Some days we've been known to swap off, each taking off a half-day. I expect the same of other parents.

Gah, I hope one of those other kids who caught your child's illness puked on your shoes the next morning.

Posted by: HollyP | March 22, 2006 9:40 AM

My husband and I make the decision to care for our sick son based on which has the more pressing work responsibilities that day. Since we work in the same field, we tend to agree with each other on which type of commitment is really most important. I can't think of a single time when we didn't agree on who should stay home. We don't keep track, but if we did, I'm certain it would work out to 50/50. Sometimes we've split the day and switched places at midday. (I realize that this is only an option for those with short commutes -- we chose to make a big financial stretch and live inside the beltway, in part, so we could have these kind of advantages. I recognize that many folks cannot afford this kind of choice.) I can use my personal sick leave at work to care for family members, with the support of my boss and peers. (Yes, the nonprofit/academic world is most definitely better than most workplaces on this front. Over half of my colleagues have kids at home. While one of my female colleagues clearly always gets sick kid duty in her family due to her husband's incredibly demanding job, two of the men with kids clearly stay home with their sick kids at least as often as the working wife does.) My husband is in an academic setting that doesn't have true sick leave policy for faculty, so that helps with flexibility, but he always has to reschedule numerous meetings to stay home, and hasn't yet received any opprobrium from his colleagues when he does. We're lucky in that our jobs allow us the flexibility to work this out fairly well, but I think it's important to emphasize that workplaces like ours do exist here. I share the outrage that many parents justifiably feel towards their employers, bosses, colleagues, and spouses who are not reasonably accomodating, but I wanted to share our experience to emphasize that it's not all bad out there. Some workplaces/bosses are enlightened (and can afford to be), and many couples manage to share the responsibilites in a fair and reasoned way. If my husband and I were both in different careers, we'd probably have to do things differently, but I've sure we'd come to an agreement that would seem fair to us both.

Posted by: DY | March 22, 2006 9:45 AM

I forgot to weigh in on good work solutions: I think large employers who don't have a sick-child program are really losing out. Providing a drop-in child care center on-site with sick-child capability (or that nanny service, wow!) would be win-win.

Posted by: Shannon | March 22, 2006 9:49 AM

Gosh, Holly, what do you do with all the spare compassion you didn't use in speaking back to Leslie?

Posted by: SJG | March 22, 2006 9:50 AM

I have a wonderful, supportive husband who happily does 50% of everything- except sick days. When I really need to go to work when one of our kids is sick, I practically have to write him a memo justifying it. The kicker is- not only does my husband work at home, he's got the world's most flexible schedule! Most of the time, he could easily just wait until evening when I return home to do his work. It must be some Y-chromosome thing or something. :)

Posted by: randommom | March 22, 2006 9:58 AM

Like Holly, I am angry that you knowingly took a sick child to daycare. I understand that your husband faced pressure to carry on as though nothing had happened, but you compromised your child's happiness and that of the other babies at the center so your husband wouldn't suffer the ignominy of missing work once, just long enough for you to give your presentation?
My career advancement has stalled while I make myself the more-available parent for such crises. My husband with the thriving career pitches in as much as he can. Even as one of the ones who decided on this arrangement, I still feel resentful at times (and my husband feels guilty/grateful). But I'll take that resentment over being someone who's indifferent to the needs of children.

Posted by: JobMom | March 22, 2006 10:00 AM

I remember reading that the only statistical difference between the children of WMs vs SAHMs is that the working moms' kids miss less school.

I'm pretty disturbed that Leslie sent her sick kid off to day care and mentioned it as choosing between her sick child and her presentation (or her husbands' fears of judgment over missing a few hours of work for his child). What about the other infants that her son was infecting? She showed no remorse about that. Illnesses in infants can be serious, and exposure like this could have a negative impact (perhaps even long-term) on another baby. Would she have done the same during flu season? I wonder what kind of career Leslie's husband has that will not allow him to take even a few hours off to take care of his child while his wife gives a presentation.

Posted by: Ms L | March 22, 2006 10:04 AM

My husband usually split a sick child day, with one taking the morning and the other taking the afternoon, depending on who has scheduled meetings, etc. We also both have great employers who have Paid Time Off (PTO) that can be used for whatever reason you need to be out. My employer is especially great in that you don't have to wait until the PTO hours have been accrued to use them. This means that when my son had a fever of 105 and had to go to the ER recently, I didn't have to think first about whether or not I had enough time accrued to be able to leave the office. As long as we both get our work done on time, our employers are happy. In this, we are both so fortunate and we know it.

PS: I wish you hadn't taken an obviously sick child to daycare, Leslie, but I understand. I've been there myself and it's a hard choice.

Posted by: mharvey816 | March 22, 2006 10:06 AM

This discussion should answer yesterday's question regarding when we are going to stop fighting parenting wars. It'll stop when women fully expect their husbands to contribute 50% to raising their child (this doesn't apply to SAHMs - I'm speaking primarily to DIFs..double income families who have to deal with this problem). I totally agree with Shannon that it isn't "awesome or remarkable" that some dads stay home - it should be expected. If you and your spouse have similar educational backgrounds and are both working, then sick days should be split days. Alternatively, one could argue that males owe about 3 months worth of sick days for all of the time women take off for maternity leave.

Posted by: Wondering Aloud | March 22, 2006 10:09 AM

It took a few years, but my husband and I have finally worked out the sick child problem. Since neither of us are allowed to use sick leave to care for a sick child (it must be annual leave) we handle it in shifts. I have the morning shift, so I go in early in the morning and come home at 12:00. Then my husband goes to work and stays till 6:00. We both end up working only 5 hours that day but we can do this over several days and only end up with a day lost for each of us vs. 2 or 3 days for me/him alone. This has worked really well for us.

As to bringing them in sick to school, I just can't bring myself to do that because I get upset with other parents that knowingly send in thier child when he/she is sick and then my child gets sick because it turns out the child had strep throat or some other infectious illness. I truly understand the problem of having meetings scheduled that you can't miss. My husband and I do a juggling act when these days occur. But it's unfair to other parents, when you bring in your child because you don't want your schedule disrupted. The result always ends up being a bunch of other parents having to deal with sick children.

Posted by: Working_Mom | March 22, 2006 10:10 AM

I agree with Holly. Don't take sick kids to school. Maybe there is a single mom there who can't take sick days at all.

Not to mention the day care workers who can't afford to get sick and miss work. I never got paid for sick days when I worked in day care. Have some compassion for other people too.

Posted by: scarry | March 22, 2006 10:14 AM

When my kids were small, and before we divorced, my husband and I would generally each do half days - and we found it surprising how much you could get done at work in half a day if you knew you had to go home, just about as much as a full day. But then we are both research scientists and had few meetings or firm time commitments. It worked out pretty well.

After I was on my own as a single parent, I just called in sick if one of the kids was sick. My employer had a strict policy of no child sick days, only days off if I was sick, but basically how were they to know. Plus luckily, I was rarely sick and the kids weren't sick often either. So it worked out.

As for dropping the kid off at the daycare when sick... I think this isn't such a black and white issue. I admit to dropping them off when maybe they were OK, maybe they were getting sick, sometimes it is hard to tell. OK maybe there was some wishful thinking on my part too. You just try to use your best judgement. If you stayed home for every hint of a sniffle you would lose your job. I wouldn't take them if they were definitely sick though.

Posted by: Catherine | March 22, 2006 10:15 AM

My husband & I both work in DC but live in Virginia. He is a fed and I work for a nonprofit. Sick child care is not an option when our children get sick (thankfully, it's rare when they do) so we trade off staying home.

When our youngest was between 1 and 2 years old, he became sick at daycare. Daycare called me just as I was going into a meeting that I was expected to lead, which made leaving not an option. I tried calling my husband but got his voice mail. Daycare kept calling me while I tried reaching my husband. Finally, I did reach him and he picked up our son, who turned out to have RSV. I can say it was the only time in my career where I didn't have an easy answer to the situation.

I'm less than thrilled with dropping off a sick child at daycare. I know it's done because sometimes people feel they have no other choice but I hold my breath and hope my kids don't get sick as a result.

Posted by: Corinne | March 22, 2006 10:20 AM

I agree with Holly and the others - if you're child is sick, please be responsible and keep them out of daycare. It's so unfair to expose other kids/families to the illness unnecessarily. One of my former bosses was so serious about not spreading illness around the office that she would send us home if we showed up sick. I know that's a rare quality for a manager, but I wish more people would adapt that attitude. US companies have to learn to be more understanding of family life, and the only way they do that is if more of us hold strong about sharing childcare and putting family first.

Posted by: Ms. H | March 22, 2006 10:21 AM

PLEASE don't bring sick children to the workplace either! It's bad enough when my coworkers come in sick and infect us all - not sick children too, please!

Posted by: Jane | March 22, 2006 10:24 AM

Hey everybody- let's not act like Leslie was Typhoid Mary for bringing a sick child to day care. Day care centers are not exactly sterile environments. If your child who goes to day care gets sick, it's probably something that is already going around the whole class. (And no, I am not in favor of bringing sick children to school. Let's just not overreact.)

Posted by: randommom | March 22, 2006 10:28 AM

Wow. All I can say is that there is a lot of score-keeping out there. What's important is who is in the best position to handle the sick child. My husband is the primary sick-child caregiver in our relationship. His job allows him to work from home and mine has only paid-time-off. I am very disappointed to hear that even though you had a big presentation, your husband was unwilling to help out because of some perceived stigma at his workplace. I think mothers really need to be unafraid of addressing this at home; fathers need to step up. And about taking a sick-child to daycare, it really depends--they were probably contagious days before they got sick. And daycare policies can be very inflexible. My child has been sent home with a "fever" of 99.5. My pediatrician doesn't even consider that a fever!

Posted by: Anonymous | March 22, 2006 10:29 AM

What terrific solutions parents are finding for this situation! Very resourceful thinking.

When my children were small it was often a juggling act with my husband to care for the sick child. These are the kinds of memories that add sweetness to the relationship: if you haven't been there, how could you imagine the importance of sharing the workload?

It has been my experience that occasionally a child has a slight fever, but is not contagious and the fever just passes. That's a different story from, say, the one who is vomiting or sneezing and coughing.

Every parent regrets certain choices and wishes he/she could go back and do it better. Sometimes I think the role of parent is about compassion for yourself - as Maya Angelou says, "you did the best you knew how, now you know better, you'll do better."

I'm sure that the best I can do for my daughter after my first grandchild is born this summer is to comfort her as she finds herself between a rock and a hard place.

I could have used more comforting words from friends and family and co-workers when I was in this situation. In addition to the wonderful practical suggestions made here, maybe we could be on the lookout for opportunities to sympathetically smile or nod or even pat each other on the shoulder when these situations arise.


Posted by: Nana | March 22, 2006 10:38 AM

I am shocked about the defensive responses that say it's okay to bring sick kids to day care. There are rules and day care is a service--please keep the rules (and it all ties into the golden rule).
And sick kids at work is just as bad if not worse. When I began my current job (at a non-profit) a volunteer brought her sick kid in to my office--and I got bronchitis two weeks into the job. I have to admit that I still haven't quite forgiven her 3 years later :)
My husband and I usually trade off based on our work needs and there have been times (few) when I've had to be out at a bad time. Those are the breaks!

Posted by: only one | March 22, 2006 10:38 AM

My 6 month old has been sick twice. When he was younger (and slept more) I would bring him to the office. Then my husband and I each took 1/2 days - he would come home around 1 pm and I would stay late in the office. Our son is getting sick again and we don't know what to do. I hope (for his sake and ours) that it's just a runny nose.

I've used most of my sick days for the year now! My husband loses his overtime and a sick day (which we don't think is legal).

Posted by: NewMom | March 22, 2006 10:38 AM

In response to Catherine:

Catherine, you're right it's not black and white if they have a sniffle or running nose. But there is a big difference in not sure if he is coming down with something and giving him a Tylenol to bring his fever down.

I realize that the child was probably infectious prior to being sick, but if he comes in totally sick, sneezing and coughing, more germs are spreading around. My child is very good about washing her hands which keeps her fairly well. But if she's sitting with an obviously sick child at school, she's going to get sick herself.

And this problem doesn't even have to be illness. The school is currently fighting another round of head lice because the parents sent their child to school without notifying the teacher of the problem. Of course, now lots of kids in the school have it.

Posted by: Working_Mom | March 22, 2006 10:40 AM

I agree I am shocked that someone would drop off a clearly sick kid at day care just so her husband wouldn't have to stay home with him. What makes your lives so important that you feel free to risk getting everyone else's kid sick? Is that how you would like other parents to act?

Posted by: Doh | March 22, 2006 10:46 AM

I never post comments online, but this article made me so sick that I can't help myself.

It makes me sick the way you so easily let your husband and otehr men off the hook. "Peer pressure." Give me a break! I'm assuming you had children on purpose, so you AND your husband are responsible for caring for the children. It is ludicrous that in the year 2006 that a man cannot feel comfortable standing up to their management.

Posted by: webothstayhome | March 22, 2006 11:05 AM

We always did extended days when the kids were sick -- I would leave for work at 6 AM and come home at 1:30. DH would then head into the office and stay until 10-11 PM. Rinse, lather, repeat. I worked for a guy with four young kids, and DH had flexible hours/could do some things from home.

Luckily the kids didn't get sick often, but I will admit the four weeks where they *consecutively* had chicken pox (10 years ago, before the vaccine was given routinely) were quite challenging!!

Posted by: Parent of two | March 22, 2006 11:07 AM

It's not just sick days parents have to cope with -- it's parent/teacher conferences, school breaks, etc. etc. And what if your child has special needs, like one of mine -- he's autistic. The amount of time I have had to take off for meetings about him has been enormous. I am grateful for a supervisor who is understanding and a company with flexibility. Still, I am a single Mom and I am constantly torn between children and work. I don't think there's an easy answer, especially bringing sick kids to work. Great way to infect your colleagues.

Posted by: Denise Brooks | March 22, 2006 11:08 AM

It seems really sad (and really odd) that the writer would silently assume all the sick days without even discussing it with her husband.

Unless you make an agreement that one partner is going to work outside the home and/or work a more demanding job while the other does more childcare, of course both parents should share in caring for children on sick days. (Obviously, various factors contribute to how you do this: number of sick days available, work priorities that week . . .)

Posted by: NW Mom | March 22, 2006 11:09 AM

What I noticed from Leslie's post was her idea that her and her husband's jobs were SO important to the well-being of their family and their employers that they COULD NOT take that day off. Yes, I know that you have to work to make money to buy food to feed your kids....etc.etc. But, you could not have rescheduled the presentation? Your husband could not have taken the day off? Where are the priorities here? Is the earth going to stop spinning on its axis if you stay home?
When my son is sick, my husband or I call in sick, cancel meetings, cancel my private therapy sessions and whatever else is happening that day. Nothing he or I do during the day is so incredibly important that if it doesn't get done, loss of life or economic catastrophe will occur. If mys husband doesn't get his full paycheck because he missed a day, well I guess we don't get to go to the movies or out to dinner for a while. But we survive anyway. And I'm pretty sure the same is true of Leslie and her husband's jobs.

Posted by: AWB | March 22, 2006 11:11 AM

I really feel for the difficulties of parents of young children, juggling illness, work and home. The good news is, most young kids outgrow the constant colds, etc they first get when they go off to school. By 3rd grade or so I found it tapering off a great deal, and my child built up his resistance as a result of exposure at daycare. So hang in there, it will get better! I found myself constantly sick too in those days - when my son got sick I usually caught it too no matter how careful I was (my friends and family consider me a germ-o-phobe). It was SO hard trying to deal with work, a sick child, and my own illness. I barely kept it together. My ex-spouse was very little help.

Posted by: GO | March 22, 2006 11:31 AM

Don't worry--all of us single folks will pick up the slack for you married-with-children types when you take days off to tend to your kids' illnesses, leave early to ferry them to soccer practice, or duck out of that deadline-driven overtime we're all working with an excuse about picking up your kid. Yes, we'll pick up your slack and pull half your weight as you whisk out the door to deal with yet another family-related work interruption. We always do.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 22, 2006 11:35 AM

This may be a little off the main topic of the comments, but the thing that jumped out at me from this post was the custody arrangement between Leslie's friend Page and her husband. 3.5 days each a week? Yikes. When I was in junior high and high school, my parents had a 7-day each schedule for me that was essentially unliveable. Shuttling oneself between two homes on a short, regular basis feels like having no home, not two. I understand both parents wanting their share of time with their kids, but yeesh...that's a hard knock life.

You may now return to your regularly scheduled slugfest.

Posted by: Sasha | March 22, 2006 11:37 AM

I do get tired of the comments--and luckily there have only been a few here--that say "you should have thought about how you would handle this before you had kids." Please. Even if you do talk about it, it doesn't mean that one (or both!) of you will have a work crisis that exact day your kid is sick, or be out of town, or whatever.

My husband and I can generally do the trading thing--I go in early before they are up so if he decides in the morning that our kid is too sick to go to school, I can come home at noon and he goes in and stays late so we each get about 5-6 hours of work done. But if our kid gets sick at school, I'm the one that has to drop things because I can get there much faster.

I will say, however, that he specifically took a job with the gov't instead of a law firm so that he would have the flexibility to be a fully-involved parent. He made a significant trade-off in terms of salary (and some would argue, prestige) to be able to do this. If he's gone to work at a big law firm...don't know what we'd be doing now since my job is also demanding. Clearly not all men (or all people, I should say), are willing to make these trade-offs, or tolerate the pressure from their employees so that nothing ever changes.

Posted by: Arlingtonmom | March 22, 2006 11:41 AM

It bears repeating and repeating: please do not bring your sick child to your office! Last year, I had to spend hundreds of dollars on health care and use more than half my sick leave because of illnesses I caught (or vaccines I had to get to prevent catching illnesses) from a coworker who consistently brought her child into the office when he was sick. I get paid a lot less than she does, and I can't afford the lost money or the lost sick time.

I know it's tough, especially for a single mother, but please remember that when you bring your kid into work because you don't want to use up a sick day, you're making your coworkers use their sick days.

Posted by: Anon Worker | March 22, 2006 11:43 AM

Two things that jumped out from Leslie's blog:1)The fact that she was surprised that her infant son would become sick and conflict with work and 2) She dropped him off at the daycare knowing that he was infected.
My ex and I alternated days and sometimes split days to stay home when my son was sick. How dumb of you to not know this may happen and how selfish of you to knowingly exposed other kids to your son's illness.
The daycare center my son attended would call parents and have them pick up there sick kids. The kids were isolated until the parent came. Not a pretty sight for the parent

Posted by: Angela | March 22, 2006 11:51 AM

I had a very sick child and after month after month of spending at least a few days in the hospital (always done by me because hubby didn't bother to learn Cassie's medical history) the doctor told me flat out that if Cassie got the flu she would die. Because so many parents are forced to take their sick kids to daycare when they are sick I knew Cassie couldn't be in a daycare any more so I put my professional career (as a QA tester) on hold and quit my job to be a stay at home mom. It was the HARDEST thing I have ever had to do but we made the decision in 2 hours because it was what we had to do for our daughter. Unfortunately Cassie passed away last April (not from the flu) so I have resumed my career path but this time hubby and I pull 50:50 duty on sick days and doctor appointments. I had to learn to have faith in his ablilities (there is not some mommy gene that makes us pay more attention to what the doctor is saying.. if they are the only one there they will pay attention) and to let go a little. I have also been blessed with a job at a new company where sick days are unlimited on your honor for employee and dependants. CAN'T BEAT THAT WITH A BASEBALL BAT!!!!

Posted by: Daria | March 22, 2006 12:00 PM

I've got two little ones, including a 4-month-old that is just beginning the exciting and fun rounds of childhood illnesses (I swear, the boy's nose hasn't been clear for a full week since he was born). My husband always assumes that when the kids get sick, he is responsible for half of the day (we usually do the morning/afternoon shifts that some others have already reported). It's not rigid, though; in practice, we tend to work around each other's schedules, based on who has more pressing work needs. Typically, that means I handle more sick time than he does -- I'm a lawyer, so like the earlier poster, I usually have more flexible hours (not to mention fewer meetings, hallelujah!). Plus, frankly, sometimes I like a sick day. It gives me some downtime, a chance not to have to deal with frantic phone calls and e-mails and crises, an opportunity just to sit and snuggle with kiddos who are usually too wiggly to want to do that. And it makes me feel needed -- my 4 year old may be rapidly learning to make her way in the world, but when she's sick, it's suddenly all about mommy again, and I feel big and strong and protective and her shield against All Things Bad.

One thing about Leslie's story that resonates with me is the report of the "peer pressure" her husband faced. I am not going to criticize the choice they made; I wasn't there, I don't know the details of the various meetings and pressures, etc., but I have been a mom long enough to realize that we're all going to face some challenge like that that seems just insolvable, and so we all have to find our own way. It's just that the peer pressure on dads, and the fact that he felt compelled to listen to it, makes me sad. Women had to face this decades ago when we started to enter the work force -- my mom wouldn't dare take time off work for anything short of an emergency room visit, because it would have given the men in her field a reason to criticize her dedication and ability. But over time, we managed to prove through experience that women can be both moms and valuable employees, to the point where I think most employers now recognize that the fact we have children doesn't mean we can't be great assets in the office.

But it seems that husbands still face the same assumptions and pressures that wives did decades ago. And I don't think things will ever change until husbands face up to those pressures as their wives had to -- why would a boss ever have reason to believe a man can be both an active father and outstanding employee unless and until some working dad proves the point? You have to be willing to question and challenge assumptions before you can ever expect to change them.

Again, not judging -- don't know the situation, don't know the potential consequences; in fact, there have been a tremendous number of changes over the past ten years that make it impossible to envision what Leslie's husband faced. But it does make me extremely grateful for my husband. He works in a very old-line, male-dominated industry, with a bunch of male friends and bosses who have spouses who cover all of these kinds of issues (example: my firm gave me 3 mos. leave when our son was born; his honestly thought they were being generous offering 3 days off). And yet my husband routinely covers sick days, birthday parties, parent-teacher conferences, you name it, because he presumes that is his job. As he puts it, we shared the decision to have the kids, which means we share the responsibility for taking care of them. And if his bosses don't like it, well, they can just -- ok, I will spare you his full explanation.

And you know what? He's never faced any negative reactions at work. I think people are frankly surprised that he views a lot of these things as his responsibility, but they judge him on his abilities -- and he's great at his job, extremely responsible, always meets his deadlines, etc. So in some way, I think his willingness to face the potential consequences of disregarding the peer pressure has been a good lesson for some of the old-fashioned folks he works with, because it shows them that men can be active fathers -- including dealing with crises -- and still be highly productive employees. Yes, not every husband is in a situation to stand up to the pressure; I get that. There are clearly some environments in which this would be a career-killer. But I would also argue that those are the very environments that are most in need of someone to do just that. I hope that those who are in a position to do so will not let the fear of potential consequences drive them to stick with the tried and true -- because in some cases, those fears may well be unfounded, and questioning the basis for them could help everyone.

Posted by: Laura | March 22, 2006 12:05 PM

I would like to follow up on all the comments about parents dropping their kids off at daycare when they are sick. In our house it was truly life and death when Cassie came in contact with another sick kid. So I think it is very sad that parents drug their kids up and ship them off without thinking of the other babies and caretakers. BUT on the other hand there are people out there who will lose their jobs if they don't come to work, they may live far away from family or firneds who can help them. We should hate the companies that put people in the position of not being able to take a sick day not the people who are economically bound to a job that would have so little disregard for employees and their families.
I think this issue will be revisited after the next flu epidemic. When they trace a major amount of transmissions to daycares and schools because sick kids attended instead of staying home like they should.

Posted by: Daria | March 22, 2006 12:07 PM

Seems we know who is sick here..not the child, but the irresponsible parent who would give a sick child medicine, cheerfully drop them off at daycare/school, and skip off to work to satisfy the power-hungery corporate climb to the top at all costs. Sorry to hear this and suspected as much, that there are self-centered parents willing to sacrifice their children and force their sick child off to school and infect others simply because it was inconvenient for their work. As they get old enough to understand, please tell you child what you did so that they could tell you the difference between right and wrong.

I won't even consider it. I have sick days, if I am punished for caring for a sick child, time to find another job with a better employer. I will work devotedly for a 'family-friendly" company, who treats me and my family with dignity, respect, and compassion..look those words up.


Posted by: JP | March 22, 2006 12:08 PM

If your child is sick, someone has to stay home. Period. It is irresponsible and inconsiderate to send your child to daycare or school. We pulled our daughter from daycare recently in part because so many parents so regularly sent their sick children to daycare. I am certain those parents also all have good legitimate excuses like that in the blog (an important presentation, peer pressure, etc.). Yes it can be logistically and/or financially difficult to skip a day of work, but as a parent, you owe it to your kid, and as a member of a community, you owe it to others in your community to make that sacrifice, rather than putting other children at risk and other parents in the same dilemma.

Posted by: Tim | March 22, 2006 12:17 PM

My mother became seriously ill at 48. She is now disabled and 53. I am eternally grateful for my employer for the past six years who has let me take off at a moments notice to take my mom to doctor's appts., hospital visits, etc. I wish all employers would view caretaking, whether for a sick child or a sick parent, as a full-time job. I have to pay the bills, so I must work. But having a flexible and supportive supervisor makes all the difference in the world. I am now 35, but I have decided not to have children largely because I don't have the time to care for another individual.

Posted by: Jennifer | March 22, 2006 12:17 PM

To the single person who was afraid to put a name:

All of you single folks can't even begin to keep up with us married-with-children types. We're WAY more experienced with handling all kinds of things. And let me tell you, I do my share and then some despite having to occasionally take off for such silly things as child illnesses, school activities, and such.

Seriously, get a life! My priority is my family, and work is what enables me to live. I don't live for work...and I am a professional who enjoys her work!

Posted by: Soup | March 22, 2006 12:18 PM

What strikes me in all this discussion is that there is so little compassion for the sick child. Everyone is so concerned about their own job, about fairness to other adults as far as infectious diseases and leave balances, about what their managers say, etc., but no one seems to understand that it's not the child's fault that he or she is ill, and that he or she probably hates being seen as such an inconvenience by the very people who should be dishing out TLC. Why not try to be a little kinder? How about using the golden rule to say, "How would I want to be treated if I were sick? Would I want to be taken to school/work anyway? Would I want to be the subject of an argument between resentful people who each wanted someone else to take care of me?"

Posted by: Mary Julia | March 22, 2006 12:22 PM

This comment by L.Smith is perhaps the most outrageous thing I've read in a long time: "Sounds like your husband didn't take as much paternity leave as you took maternity leave. That being the case, it only seems fair to expect him to cover all the sick days until the days add up to the time you took as maternity leave."

Was maternity leave such a chore for you L.Smith that you feel you need to settle up? Where does this idea of equal paternity leave come from? Most companies don't give much paternity leave at all! I got a week. That's it. My wife took four months off (combining sick and vacation leave, which I am not allowed to do). I would have loved a four month sabbatical, even recognizing how difficult caring for an infant is. So you would have me somehow accumulate four months of leave (I get three weeks vacation a year) just to "attone" for my failure to take enough paternity leave? Unbelievable.

We will deal with our infants sick leave based on who has the ability to stay home that day. Its really not that hard. If it is a problem for L.Smith and Leslie and others, I respectfully submit that it has nothing to do with your children and everything to do with your self-esteem and you marital communication skills.

Posted by: DC | March 22, 2006 12:29 PM

for those that do work for large companies, please find out if they sponsor a "sick child" daycare associated with a local children's hospital. and if they don't, talk to HR about doing so.
after my son got out of the hospital for RSV, I had him in the hospital's associated "sick child" daycare right next to the hospital - staffed by nurses with means to isolate a child if necessary. while generally double the cost of a day at traditional day care - cheaper than if I had taken the day off, and my employer picks up half the tab (because they sponsor the daycare). I would not hesitate to use it again if he came down with the flu or other issue which required him to miss regular day care and I or hubby could not take the day off.

Posted by: williamsmom | March 22, 2006 12:30 PM

Mary Julia's post is right on. The workplace will not change until the priorities of its workers do. Will you really get fired if you put your kid first once in a while? Maybe for some, but I doubt most of the folks who have time to read and comment on this blog during their work day are in that position.

Posted by: DC | March 22, 2006 12:31 PM

WOW! What a great topic. How nice to know that I am not alone!

I'm one of the lucky ones -- my husband is a Fed and has enough tenure to take off when he needs to. My job offers me a lot of flexibility as well -- but there are times for me when NOT coming in to work is not an option (for example when I am scheduled to teach a seminar for 40 people who signed up weeks earlier).

I would NEVER, EVER, EVER send a sick child to school -- except for that one time when she had a bit of a fever and neither of us could figure out an alternative solution and YES I gave her some Tylenol and YES I still feel guilty about it and YES I can see that there might be a day in the future when I might have to do it again.

I find that gray area of being sick the hardest. Should you send a kid to school with a temperature of 99? Her school won't send a kid home with a temperature of 99 without other symptoms. What about 99.5? 100? And what about the days you DO stay home with them -- and by 10:30 they are as perky and energetic as you've ever seen them -- without a trace of whatever reason you kept them home in the first place? This is not a black/white issue.

By the way, when I was a kid, my stay at home mom almost NEVER let us stay home if we were sick. She loved us dearly -- but you had to be really, really, really sick in order for her to let you stay home. Perhaps my angst about this issue is a combination of my Puritan upbringing (as related to sick days) and my deep seated guilt as a working parent... :-)

Posted by: Nancy | March 22, 2006 12:31 PM

Remember, nobody ever died saying "I wish I worked more..."
Take the day off to stay with your sick kid. Believe me, the world will survive.

Posted by: a Real Dad | March 22, 2006 12:34 PM

First, let me say to Daria that I'm sorry to hear of your loss about Cassie. My prayers are with you and your family.

Second, please keep in mind that many moms [esp African American moms] are the breadwinners in their family b/c they might have more education/experience than their husbands or are single moms, so this entire conversation is a moot point for alot of us.

I am the breadwinner in my family and my husband and I split 70/30 re staying at home when our 2 girls are sick. He takes off 70% of the time, I take off 30% of the time so there's a switch for you.

Neither of our jobs allow employees to bring children to the workplace. Nor do we have leave [other than vacation/sick] to use specifically for caring for sick children. And we can't afford a nanny either so there goes that elitist idea.

Lastly, you should never [under any circumstances] place a sick child in daycare out of respect for the other childen and just plain old common sense.

And for the hostile and ignorant single person who wrote their comments about how they pick up our slack as working moms, you need to stop hating and get a grip. I work at 40-50 hrs work week and take work home daily as well. I go above and beyond the call of duty at my job esp since I'm the only one here who is married and has small children and I don't expect for anyone to do my job for me, nor do I dart out to soccer practice or lunches w/ my children at school. I work hard every day just like you do.

In fact, I work harder b/c I unlike you, have 2 jobs. A full time one at work and a full time one at home.

Posted by: Breadwinner Mom in Silver Spring | March 22, 2006 12:40 PM

I hesitate to respond to any of these things, don't know why I was even reading it! My children are gone now, one is an adult, and two are deceased. I raised them as a single parent - in the 70's and 80's. We were never special considerations then, and I get very frustrated now seeing the time parents, both mothers & fathers, are out of the office for one thing or another. Leaving at 3:30 or 4:00 to go to a soccer game - what is that? My boys all did extra-curricular things (scouts, basketball, baseball) but I NEVER got (or would I have dared ask for) special time to get home to make dinner, then leisurely make my way to the ball field. I'm not management, I'm a secretary, in non-profit, and I think there are two of us here that come in on time and leave at the appropriate time every day, and yes, we have to take up the slack for the secretary's who get to leave at 4:00 whenever they have a mind to, or have a 'conference' of some sort once a week that takes them away for a considerable time; and certainly they never give up a lunch hour to do any of those things! Last year we all got a memo about not having flexible summer hours - but any parent should certainly feel free to take whatever time they need for their children's activities. So, I was punished for being a responsible parent in the 80's and now I am being punished for NOT being a parent in the 2000's. So, of course many of us hard going to harbor bad feelings about the time off parents get today.

Posted by: Linda | March 22, 2006 12:41 PM

I guess the really disturbing thing for me was that there was no discussion of the situation between Leslie & her husband - and that is a pretty recurring theme on the postings I've seen. I like to think my marriage is a partnership - we've been known to talk things to death - we may not agree but we understand the other side. I wonder if she had asked her husband to stay home he would have surprised her and said yes?

Posted by: nokids | March 22, 2006 12:42 PM

To Leslie: I can't believe your husband would not share sick duty! How old-fashioned. For any family having two parents, I think one of them should stay home with the sick child! Isn't this a no-brainer? When a child is sick, that is a time when he or she needs a parent the most. All of us want to feel protected, loved and cared for especially when we are feeling our worst. I think it is awful that one of you didn't stay home with your child. What does that say? Sorry kid, you can only get sick on my schedule--otherwise, you are out the door!

Posted by: 21704mom | March 22, 2006 12:44 PM

What about a colleague who hasn't completed a full week of work because of her kid's repeated sick days? She's in the hole for leave - she's taken more sick leave in her first three months here that I do in a whole year. I don't have an answer - it just seems unfair to the employer and other colleagues to not figure out a way to get to work with more regularity. I have an ancient cat who needs a lot of care and attention - but I can't use my sick leave to stay home with him. I had to use vacation leave to attend the funeral of my father who died suddenly - even though I have a gazillion hours of sick leave stored up. Tough issue for sure....

Posted by: Childless | March 22, 2006 12:44 PM

Quite simply, you and your husband CHOSE to put your own interest ahead of the health & well-being of your child.

Then to top it all off, you & your husband CHOSE to put your interest ahead of the health of other kids & dropped him off at daycare to infect the other kids.

It's abundantly clear where your priorities are. I guess parental responsibility & consideration for the health of others is an anachronistic cosmology, eh?

I sure hope that presentation worked out for you...

Posted by: Registered Voter | March 22, 2006 12:47 PM

To the people who are so grouchy about parents taking work time to care for children - for better or worse, reproduction is the foundation for the continuation of the species. Not to oversimplify, but sometimes it helps me (a fellow, childless co-worker) to think of it this way: what if the child of the co-worker we are covering for, grows up to care for us in a nursing home when we are old? Or finds a cure for MS or Alzheimer's?

Posted by: Anonymous | March 22, 2006 12:54 PM

It's a sorry fact that sometimes kids who are a bit under the weather get sent to school or daycare. Not everyone has leave to spare, and the realities of making a living mean that sometimes you've just got to be there.

If a person has an 'always on' job then they should consider in-home daycare so it's not such a problem.

I'd love to say I always put my children first, but making a living and keeping my job are in the best interest of my kids too.

That said, anybody who wasn't at the doctor this fall getting their kids and themselves a flu shot is too stupid to have kids or a job.

Posted by: Roseg | March 22, 2006 12:54 PM

I saved my compassion for the kids who caught whatever illness Leslie's child brought to day care.

I have a child with asthma. What is sniffles with other kids, turns into a cold that usually results in being sick for a week and requires a trip to the doc's if not to the ER.

While day care is not the most sterile environment, the centers my kids have been to have been excellent about sterilizing toys and enforcing state regs about when ailing children cannot attend day care. Any temp above 100.5, and the child needs to be out of day care for at least 24 hours.

I can relate to the peer pressure from dad's employer, as my husband and I have faced that. Our solution was for my husband to get a job at a slightly lower salary in a place that was more family-friendly.

Posted by: HollyP | March 22, 2006 1:00 PM

I am a working mom, and have been in exactly this bind. I do have a husband, thankfully, who is willing and able to take time off to help when one of my two children is sick or has a doctor's appointmment. For that, I am fortunate. It is amazing to me to read the comments of non-parent workers who think all working parents who take time off are "leisurely" on their way to some fun, recreational activity. When I have to take time off for a sick child, it is on an emergency basis, is not "fun" or "leisurely" and usually causes me to have to make up the time elsewhere. Let's hear from all those working parents who find themselves somehow making up the difference when they have to take time away from their jobs when needed at home...I know there are lots of us! Reading these comments reveals the quandry we are in: If we take the time to be with our children, we're being "unfair" to co-workers; when we don't take the time, we've got our priorities backwards. Huh?!

Posted by: JS | March 22, 2006 1:03 PM

For childless:
How do you dare to compare a sick child with a cat??????

Posted by: Working mom of one | March 22, 2006 1:03 PM

This is a no brainer topic for me. I stay home 95% of the time and my wife 5%. I have made it very clear at work that the only reason I work is to provide a comfortable life for my children and if not for them I see no need to work. This philosophy allows me to handle any stigma that might be attached to a man staying home all the time to care for a child

Posted by: MS | March 22, 2006 1:03 PM

I am single with no kids and I have started to read this blog for pure entertainment as the comments on this blog borderline on pure comedy most days.

Look. Why do you people spend so much time criticizing each other? When I read Leslie's blog or some of these comments I recognize that I may not agree with some of the statements or thoughts. However, I realize that when I have kids I will raise them based on MY OWN STANDARDS. Not anyone else's standards.

To that end, if you disagree with what someone else has done or said, why not characterize your response as simply an alternative view rather than an attack on someone else's values?

Finally, please remember that the biggest influence in your child's life is you. Accordingly, you should always act in a way that promotes positive behavior. Why not start that behavior in the comments section of this blog?

Posted by: Single-No children | March 22, 2006 1:03 PM

After reading these comments, most of them really mean, I'm very thankful for my job and my husband. I got 3 months paid maternity leave (no deduction of sick leave) and our sick leave is accrued w/each pay check without an maximum. I also work in an office primarily of all women, many of them mom's, so it's a common occurance that someone might have to leave early to take care of sick kid. My husband works from home so he watches our daughter when she is sick and I try to leave early to relive him.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 22, 2006 1:04 PM

Simple solution: Plan ahead, don't have children if you can't take care of them.

Posted by: ChrisC | March 22, 2006 1:09 PM

One thing that I find interesting while reading these comments is that people see staying home with a sick child as a completely black and white issue. Ideally, we all would prefer to stay home with the sick child, but there are degrees of sick. How sick is too sick? By the way, what is RSV? - I am an older mother and not famililar with all the new shorthand.

I have a flexible job, but my husband doesn't, so I feel like I understand different sides of this issue. It is very easy to say that someone should stay home, but if you could lose your job, then it is a different story. It's also easy to say that if you can't, then it's time to get a different job but that takes time, and not everyone is able to afford a long stretch without pay. Also, maybe the job provides health insurance, which NO ONE can afford to lose.

I worked with a woman who stayed home with her daughter who had chicken pox and also kept another child who also had chicken pox. She didn't meet the other mother until she was dropping the child off to be cared for. Before you gasp in complete horror, listen to the story.

The second mother was a nurse who had spent 2-3 years caring for ill father who died and then her ill husband who died, caring for her children, as well as working to support the family when her husband was sick. There were also extensive medical bills outstanding. When her daughter got the chicken pox and she called her job, she was told to make arrangements for the child and get to work or she was fired. She couldn't send her child to school and/or daycare because of the chicken pox and desparately asked the school nurse if she knew anyone else with a child with chicken pox. She contacted my co-worker who agreed to keep the child. She saw it as an opportunity to help out a mother who was between a rock and a hard place, and also company for her daughter for the day.

I just can't imagine how awful it was for the mother to have to choose between leaving her child with a stranger (known to the school but not to herself) or losing the ability to support her family. I have compassion for her and do not feel that anyone should criticize her for making the best decision she could at the time.

I think that the point of Leslie's story is to show that we all have decisions to make in life and that the decision-making can be very difficult. Contrary to JP's comment, I thought that Leslie was very torn by her decision and didn't "cheerfully" drop off the child at the day care.

Posted by: workingmom | March 22, 2006 1:13 PM

I'd just like to reply to Linda. First off, many jobs today don't require people to sit in their chair all day. If I wanted to go to a soccer game, I could take my laptop with me and do work from the stands.

Second, If you wanted to attend functions for your children, you should have ask. If you don't think you are worthy of a good life and better benifits no one else will either.

"My boys all did extra-curricular things (scouts, basketball, baseball) but I NEVER got (or would I have dared ask for) special time to get home to make dinner, then leisurely make my way to the ball field."

Posted by: Anonymous | March 22, 2006 1:16 PM

A bit harsh ChrisC. Has daily life always turned out as you planned? If so, what's your secret? My crystal ball went on the blink years ago...come to think of it, right after I had children!

Posted by: LostInThought | March 22, 2006 1:16 PM

I feel genuinely sorry for the American parents, mothers and fathers, who grapple with such tough issues in a complete vacuum from their families. Are these parents orphans? In Europe, in those countries whose child care and sick care policies you want to emulate, the family support structure is much more intact -- there is always a grandmother (or grandfather, an aunt, or some other kind of relative) that is willing to help out. Societal priorities are different and that's why there are state mandated standards for day cares, generous maternity/paternity leaves, and other family related benefits that American parents only dream about. The self-reliance of the American society and American workplace works against everybody but especially parents. I would imagine that if Leslie cancelled her presentation it would have been held against her for a long time despite her other accomplishments. And maybe her husband's workplace keeps tab on how many times a year somebody is out. I grew up in a country much poorer than the United States, raised by a single mother and she tells me that the life of a working mother in the US is harder than hers was. Her mother was always around, my father's mother, despite the fact that they were divorced, always helped out, and my mother always helped my aunt who had two kids. And btw, for me it is a no-brainer who stays home when my kids are sick. It's me. I would feel awful going to work and knowing that my child is home with high fever and suffering.

Posted by: also working mom | March 22, 2006 1:22 PM

I have to say that by reading the first few blogs, I can see that the folks mostly posting to these blogs have expendable money and stable jobs. They aren't worried that they'll lose their jobs if they stay at home when their kids are sick. They are more worried that they'll be viewed as slackers, or have to cancel meetings, or somehow not be on the fast track at work. What about folks who literally are on the edge? Who have no expendable money for nannies or daycare, and who risk being hired if they don't get into work. It happens, folks. Which is why our government has to do something to make it easier to raise children in this society. To those who would say that we should have thought of that before having them, understand that raising children is a contribution to society. There should be some consideration for people who take on this incredibly demanding and important challenge.

Posted by: cg | March 22, 2006 1:22 PM

I am in charge of a health clinic in a school. It is against school policy for children to come to school when they are sick! All schools have this policy. If your child is sick I will have to send him or her home. We really don't want sick children at school.


Posted by: Anonymous | March 22, 2006 1:22 PM

Leslie: You really let your husband off the hook too easily. "Peer pressure"? I'm guessing you know how stupid that sounds. The nice thing about growing up is that we're no longer bothered by "peer severe as everything I lived through in seventh grade." I certainly hope he reads this blog and all the subsequent commentary. This isn't the first time you've alluded to the insufficient parenting of your husband. To drop your kid off at day care when he's sick because your husband is too cool, too macho, or too whatever, to stay home with his sick kid is pretty pathetic. Don't you think?

Posted by: It's time for hubby to start doing his share... | March 22, 2006 1:24 PM

My children are much older now, but when they were younger (ages 2-10), my husband and I split days whenever possible. Our youngest son has chronic health problems and every year he had at least 3-4 serious illnesses. My previous employer was not open to flexible hours, so this placed a lot of pressure on me to be in the office during regular working hours. I would stay home in the morning and work afternoons from 1:30 to 7:30pm. My current employer is much more flexible and as part of my employment contract, I negotiated the right to work from home when my son is sick. This has really been a blessing. Now I can give him the care he needs and stay on top of my work. During his last illness, I worked from home 4 days and went into the office once to follow-up on projects that I completed while at home.

Posted by: CLB | March 22, 2006 1:34 PM

Would the comments change if the mother was going somewhere other than work? How about to the hospital where a parent was having surgery or a heart attack or dying from cancer. You definitely can't bring a sick child there. Would you still chastise the mother for administering Tylenol and dropping the child at day-care?

What about something fun? If you are on vacation and the child gets sick, do you stay in the hotel room the entire time, or would you treat the child with medication and take them along so the other children in the family do not have to give up their vacation? What if it is Disney? Lots of kids there you might infect.

What about a family reunion you have been anticipating for months with relatives from all over you haven't seen for years? Do you say no thanks and miss out, or do you convince yourself that it will be OK - after all it's family and it's important and maybe this is only a little sickness that it past the point of being contagious.

I admit to taking my sick daughter to a Christmas party with the healthy daughter because she had been looking forward to it and was very excited and I hated to disappoint her - and after all, if my other daughter was sick, then obviously something was going around and maybe the other kids had been exposed already. I'm sure other mothers may not be happy that I did this, but it was the decision I made at the time and I refuse to be beaten up over it.

All of us have made decisions that would have been made differently by someone else. And many of us have agonized over those decisions. I believe that there is too much judgment going on in these comments.

For the workers who must take up the slack for the others with family committments, I agree that this is not fair to you. However, the resolution lies with the employers, not the mothers who are doing what they must. Maybe the employer should adjust the staffing level in order to offer more time off for everyone and still maintain the workload. The problem with that is that most people would not be willing to take a reduced salary in order to hire additional people - I would love to have situations where 3 workers could each work 5 hour days (total 15 hours) rather than 2 people work 8 hour days (total 16 hours).

Posted by: maryland mom | March 22, 2006 1:35 PM


Since you are in charge of a health clinic in a school -- perhaps you can answer the question -- what is sick?

Is it a runny nose? My daughter has allergies and spends a great deal of the Fall and Spring with a runny nose. (not contagious, obviously)

Is it a sore throat? My daughter's allergies often cause her to wake up with a sore throat (post nasal drip) -- that almost always clears up within an hour or so of waking up. Do I keep her home?

Is it a fever? My daughter's school won't send a kid home unless they have a fever of 101 -- unless they have other symptoms that warrant it.

Although my daughter's school does not want us to send our children to school sick, they constantly stress that school is important and don't want our kids missing school for every sniffle or cough.

As a parent, it is a tough call -- working or not.

Posted by: Nancy | March 22, 2006 1:37 PM

Don't worry--all of us single folks will pick up the slack for you married-with-children types when you take days off to tend to your kids' illnesses, leave early to ferry them to soccer practice, or duck out of that deadline-driven overtime we're all working with an excuse about picking up your kid. Yes, we'll pick up your slack and pull half your weight as you whisk out the door to deal with yet another family-related work interruption. We always do.

Don't worry, single person. My kids and other kids will pay your social security benefits, be your doctors, lawyers, accountants, government workers, nurses, and other myriad things when you are old and decrepit and can't even remember your own name and don't have any kids or friends to help care for your because you were such a nasty person all your life. The little kids of today will be the ones who are burdened by you.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 22, 2006 1:40 PM

I am absolutely appalled at the number of people who get sick leave but can't use it for a sick child. I know a large number of people who only get annual leave (no separate sick or vacation) and people who don't get any leave except LWOP. I have never heard/read about anybody getting a sick leave benefit and not being able to use to care for a sick child or spouse.

As for my wife and I, we have only each other to rely on, so when our son is out of school for any reason -- whether sick or leave -- somebody has to take time off from work -- whether vacation or sick. Or arrangement is that she covers all of the "fixed" leaves, like school breaks and I handle all of the "emergency" leaves, like illness and snow days, with an odd day here or there to help out with huge amount of "fixed" days.

(Note: my child suffers from a chronic condition that requires ALOT of trips to doctors and therapists. Except for the appointments that can be scheduled in the late afternoon, I take the time off from work.)

It has never occurred to me NOT to take time off. Besides, I would miss all of those days where we get to go to our favorite hot dog stand after stopping by the doctor's office.

BTW, my compensation is the primary source of income and benefits. My wife has consciously chosen a career path that gives her more flexibility. This arrangement was a conscious decision that we both made.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 22, 2006 1:41 PM

Every neighborhood has one. You can tell by the tricycles, scooters, soccer balls, and baby toys left in the yard. They have the highest dandelion coefficient on the street and you can see their recycle bin overflowing on trash day with a steady mixture of juice boxes, Coors Light and Natural Ice beer cans. They have a bunch of kids, apparently too many to raise effectively. Perhaps just last week you saw one of them riding a bike without a helmet.
You know them because your child was in the same class, girl scout troup, soccer team with one of their kids. In fact, you know them well enough to have invited their daughter to your child's last birthday party. You've had many short light conversations with the parents and they seem like nice people, that is, until you hear all the gossip on bunko night. There, you hear the Child Protection Service mentioned several times, a depiction of the sink full of dishes and living room clutter by a friend who has actually dared to venture inside their house. And the worst thing you find out that really tips the scales of these people into the unwanted neighbor catagory, - Their cat just had kittens!
Then comes the call from the elementary school at 10:02. Your child has vomited. It's the absolute of worst times. You have an extremely important ten thirty that you must attend. Hubby is out of town on business. A call is placed at 10:06 to the best friend who has helped out in the past. No answer on the home phone, but fortunately, because of your exceptional organizational skills, you have her cell number stored in your address book. Time is wasting away, there is still preparation that needs to be done for the ten-thirty. So you call your best stay-at-home friend and explain your desperate situation. The very sweet voice on the phone says "Of course I can pick up your daughter",. Your heart leaps with relief. The very sweet voice continues, "but I have planned a volunteer luncheon for the teachers. I have a powerpoint presentation..." "Thanks," you interrupt as you hang up the phone, "for nothing."
OK. Let's move down the list. How about the assistant girl scout troop leader. You know her well enough. Dial! Ring! Ring! ring! "Hello". No time for light talk, this time its "I'm in a terrible situation..., My daughter is sick, hubby out of town. Can't get there! Help!" The answer: "I'm sorry, I'm just leaving for a doctor's appointment." Then there is a moment of silence, possibly prayer involved. "Any suggestions?" "Well", says the girl scout leader, "Alice has helped me out before. You know her.. the one with the pregnant cat."
The mood hits dirt rock bottom. There is no time for an update on the cat situation, and one other huge hurdle: no phone number. So you ask the troup leader "You don't happen to know her number, do you?" Now you feel really low. However, the troup leader answers in a chipper voice, "Yep, she's right here on the girl scout roster."
It's 10:18. You take a deep breath and Make a mental contract with God, negotiating your least significant venial sin, and make the call. What will the bunko friends say?
"Hello." A very pleasant male voice answers and identifies himself. "How Can I help you please?".
Making note of the dorky salutation and the misuse of the English language, you say "May I please speak to Alice"
The pleasant male voice replies: "She took the baby and went out shopping for groceries. Can I take a message?"
Completely deflated, you just merely identify yourself and decline.
But the pleasant male voice persists "Yeah, your daughter and mine play soccer together. you OK? It sounds like an emergency"
The cheerless explanation: "Sick daughter. School pickup required. Stuck downstream. No paddle."

And more silence.
And then I could hear her begin to cry.
Even though I knew she had the SUV, lawn service, Disney World vacations, Pro-Choice bumper sticker, and was part of the Bunko group that never invited my wife to play, I felt sorry for her. So I offered, "It's my work at home day. I can pick her up. My wife should be back shortly. " I could hear the sobs. Every Mommy warning light was flashing. Every Mommy siren was blaring. I assured her, "Been there, done that. My wife is a nurse. I understand"
To my amazement,she accepted my offer.
What's the moral of this true story?
If you accept favors from the family that has lots of kids, toys and crabgrass in there front lawns, you just may be the next proud owner of a pair of kittens.

Posted by: Father of 4 | March 22, 2006 1:42 PM

I want to follow-up on Mary Julia's comment. As a 23-yr-old woman, who's had a lot of health issues over the last six months, I am now realizing the impact of my parents' decisions when I was sick (a lot) as a child. Up until I was 7, I had a nanny, and I would guess that she took care of me when I was sick. My mom worked a high-pressured part-time job that was essentially full-time. Altho it was frowned upon (not b/c I was sick, but b/c I was a child), my mom, on occasion brought me into work. My dad never did, I assume b/c he was a gov't contractor. Eventually my mom became a preschool teacher, and any time someone in her class got sick, I did, too. By this point, I was old enough to stay at home by myself. But a lot of times I would get sick at school, and would have to be picked up. Usually, my dad would do it, as my mom couldn't get a sub. But on occasion, neither could leave, and I would have to call my grandparents. This was a hassle for them, but they did it b/c it was an emergency. In fact, my grandmother was the one who brought me to the dr when I first got an inhaler. All this taught me to be very self-sufficient when sick, and taught my mom that I am very self-sufficient.

When I blew out my knee in Sept, my mom got mad b/c my ER visit made her late to work (my dad left work early to pick me up and bring me home). She wanted me to go to my parents', but I insisted on going to my own place and sleeping on the couch. I woke up the next day w/ a high fever and sore throat. Unable to take care of myself, I text messaged my dad, who called my mom. My mom and brother came and dragged me out of my house, comlpete with my mother's nagging, "I told you you should have come home." I had a 102 fever and strep throat and was back in the ER the following day. My mother refused to deal w/ my sickness anymore, so when the strep came back two weekends later, she (and the rest of my family) refused to bring me to the ER, and I called a friend. After knee surgery in Nov, my knee swelled up, and I had to go back to the ER. My mom walked out while I was in hysterics, and left my dad to bring me to the ER. I have my 2nd knee surgery on Tues, and my mom insists I spend the week w/ her. My dad will be traveling for work. We are already fighting about this b/c I want to be self-sufficient and she doesn't actually want to take care of me, but she just doesn't want to drive down from MoCo to Capitol Hill if something goes wrong.

Growing up, I saw that my being sick was a burden on my family, and I sought to relieve that burden. And still, I try to avoid being a burden, and my mom doesn't like to take care of me. (My mom is a very caring person, and has no problems taking care of other people in my family when they have problems, but no one has health issues as often as I do.)

Posted by: Aliza | March 22, 2006 1:42 PM

Once again, a plea: arguing and negotiating about "his share" and "her share" are for issues like mowing the lawn, washing the dishes, and scrubbing the toilet. Taking care of a child (whether sick, or needing help with homework, or needing a ride to soccer, or needing consolation after a broken heart) is a sacred duty. I really appreciated the comment from the person who was a caregiver for her mother, too. I also took a lot of time off when my mother was dying lasy year. Again, what would I want if I was dying -- would I want to be thought a burden by a loved one who wished to be at work instead of caring for me?

Also -- it is true that my sacred duty should not make me expect that other people should be "carrying" me at work, as several people in this conversation have been forced to do. If I can't manage all my responsibilities, I should not think that a childless person should do my job for me.

Posted by: Mary Julia again | March 22, 2006 1:45 PM

I don't think that I've ever experienced any stigma with staying home/leaving work early to take care of my sick children. Maybe I've been ignorant to this fact, or just plain don't care what management or my coworkers thought about me staying home/leaving early to take care of my sick children, but I don't think that it's as crushing as people think.

In every job that I have taken, I have made it plain that I have a family and life outside of work. I have also made it known that sometimes work is my #1 priority, but there will be times that my family will come first.

This may have cost me in my advancement in my career, but not so in my conscience. I don't really see the debate between who should stay home, the mother or father and the potential negative impact at work. If it's that big a deal at work, demand something else.

Both need to take an active role and demand respect and understanding in the workplace. Only when enough people stand up and say, "Enough!" will the employer culture change.

I have always made a conscious decision to work for companies that allow this type of freedom. If they don't then I look elsewhere. Life is too short and work is not as important as family. Period.

For those single co-workers that are complaining, get a grip. These children that you don't care about, and feel no responsibility towards, will ultimately be running the country. Remember that.

When you're old and infirm, your former job isn't going to take care of you or give a damn, as evidenced by Enron, Tyco, GM, Ford, United Airlines, and a slew of other corporations.
These are just and you're just a cog in the machine.

You're not going to miss your job, but you will miss your children and the times that you spent together.

Posted by: Stigma? | March 22, 2006 1:48 PM

When one of our two kids is ill, or has to see a doctor, without question I volunteer to stay home. Though we both work for the US Government, I have a much higher annual leave balance than my wife. In addition, I can log into my office computer station from home. My wife cannot. However, if one of the kids fall ill in the evening or at night, I get to sleep while mom attends to them. For us, when the kids are ill, it is a matter of who can do what needs to be done.

Posted by: CSMorgan | March 22, 2006 2:00 PM

For those other working Mom's out there -- while I was reading/responding to this blog, my daughter's school called! The irony really made me smile. Turns out a piece of her braces broke off -- so not an emergency -- just have to schedule an appt -- but the timing was pretty ironic!

Posted by: Nancy | March 22, 2006 2:01 PM

we try to alternate, but the deal has always been that i would work full-time and my wife would work little or not at all until the both kids are school age, when I will cut back to half-time mornings while the she works full time..right now she gets the brunt of the sick days.

...and, like others, I'm past appalled that you drop off a feverish kid to infect other children because it was an inconvience to your or your husband's schedule: frankly, you ought to be horsewhipped.

Posted by: Doc | March 22, 2006 2:13 PM

Now hear this: a sick person needs TLC. It doesn't matter if it's mom or dad who stays home as long as that person knows which end is up on a themometer and is capable of preparing noodle soup for the kid. And it doesn't end even when the kiddo is in college. I recently made a "sick bay" run to the supermarket, complete with mylar balloon, for a junior in college who was home for Christmas vacation. Put the kid first or you are going to be sitting in the old folks' home alone someday...every day.

Posted by: Texas Mom | March 22, 2006 2:15 PM

Response to DC: You asked "Was maternity leave such a chore for you L.Smith that you feel you need to settle up?'

Not at all! I truly enjoyed maternity leave. It did however impact my career considerably. Enough to determine that for our family, it makes more sense for me to work every day possible to make up for lost time.

You ask " Where does this idea of equal paternity leave come from? Most companies don't give much paternity leave at all!"

I believe the Family Medical Leave Act is gender neutral. I am so sorry that you received so little leave from your employer. That is outrageous! I wonder if their policy violates FMLA.

Regarding your statement: "So you would have me somehow accumulate four months of leave (I get three weeks vacation a year) just to "attone" for my failure to take enough paternity leave? Unbelievable."

I thought you had just written that you would have loved to have stayed home for 4 months? Do you see how you suddenly change gears and talk about "atonement?" You have nothing to atone for! For goodness sake, it sounds like you wanted to stay home and were not able to because of some sexist policy of your employer that treats Dads differently than moms.

You also say "We will deal with our infants sick leave based on who has the ability to stay home that day. Its really not that hard. If it is a problem for L.Smith and Leslie and others . . "

What makes you think I have a problem with that? My comments were directed to KS who said she wasn't happy with spliting the days because he was sitting on a nice stockpile of leave and she wasn't because she used her's up with maternity leave. I was trying to give her some support.

Finally you state, "I respectfully submit that it has nothing to do with your children and everything to do with your self-esteem and you marital communication skills."

where you are getting this stuff? Marital communication skills? My husband and I have this all worked out and are happy with our decisions. Our son hasn't had ANY sick days yet in daycare, so my husband has not had to take any time off, but he believes that it is only fair that if someday our son does get sick, my husband will have the opportunity to stay home with him -- unless of course there is some reason he can't and then I'll do it.

DC, really need to redirect your anger to your crappy employer, not me.

Posted by: L Smith | March 22, 2006 2:15 PM

As an aside to those of you who smugly, and self-aggrandizingly, crow about your important contribution to society as a parent (and who apparently believe you should receive special treatment because of it): give it a rest. In this era of overpopulation and strained social services, you really aren't doing anybody any favors by introducing more humans to the planet. Many of us remain unimpressed, and just wish you'd show up to work more regularly.

What you do in your personal life is your own business. Please don't make it everyone else's by forcing us to help you raise your kids as we fill in for you as you take another "sick" day.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 22, 2006 2:19 PM

I also am appalled that you would drop off a feverish child to infect others at daycare. I think this is selfish in myriad ways. How little concern for the child who is not well. That would be my first priority. Second, how little concern for other kids and parents who may become infected with whatever bug the poor child is carrying. Third, how about the poor teachers, who probably do not have as much leave as you, and who also may get sick with your child's illness. I am sickened by the selfishness and thoughtlessness of your actions, Leslie. I would have been more sympathetic, perhaps, if I thought you were a struggling parent who might lose your job or means of support but for sending a sick kid to school, but obviously, that's not the case here. Shame on you for thinking only of yourself when making these decisions. You give working parents a bad name.

Posted by: cg | March 22, 2006 2:20 PM

When my stepson was causing me to miss to many days at work, I ended my career to stay home with him. This cost us dearly in income, but I don't regret giving up years of my career for a child. My husband, in the military, took off whenever he was able, but since I worked closer to home I was able to reach school first--a priority with a sick or hurting child. And a military career is harder to walk away from, all I had to do was give 2 weeks notice! But a child doesn't stay a child long, and nothing is more important then a child, at least to me. I didn't hesitate a second.

I feel that, if you decide to have children, you have a responsibility to put them first. And, yes, sometimes that means going to work because otherwise you can't pay the rent. But if you do have a choice...

I remind myself that no one, on their deathbed, wished that they had spent more time in the office.

Posted by: DP | March 22, 2006 2:23 PM

"As an aside to those of you who smugly, and self-aggrandizingly, crow about your important contribution to society as a parent (and who apparently believe you should receive special treatment because of it): give it a rest..."

That's what we're all genetically engineered breed and overpopulate the planet.

Good grief, so much anger.

Didn't you ever hear the saying, "it takes a village to raise a child."

What's it matter to you what the sick days are used for? As you say, it's none of your business.

Please get some counseling, and don't populate the planet.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 22, 2006 2:30 PM

I never expect the childless (or those with grown children) to pull my weight at work when I'm out with sick kids. Typically I end up working until 9 or so one night a week, four hours after everyone else is gone for the day. Since I do it nearly every week year round, it more than makes up for the day here and there I'm home.

Posted by: HollyP | March 22, 2006 2:32 PM

I frankly don't feel guilty about taking my sick days. I'm can get more done in two hours than a lot of people can get done in 4 hours. I'm smart, efficient, and I get the job done. My employer knows that. They never give me a hard time about sick leave, or taking time to care for my kids, because they know that I am worth my weight in gold. As for the childless workers who are ticked off when I take time off, I couldn't care less. I always tell them to take it up with management if they have leave issues. If they spent less time griping and more time working, maybe they could get their work done in less time also.

Posted by: cg | March 22, 2006 2:39 PM

Look, I am married and childless. We intend to have a child in the near future. But, I have to say that I DO have empathy for the single and/or child-less folks picking up the slack for others. BEEN THERE and have done that. Maybe the childless people on here have not expressed it well in some folks' opinion. And, maybe you as an individual uphold your share of the work at the office. It is great if you do. The fact is that there are those that don't. And, it is unfair to the childless co-workers. (And the "our kids might possibly run the country someday" argument is not persuasive. I could die tomorrow.)

That being said, life's not fair. If you think your companies benefits aren't fair or equally applied, make an issue out of it, lobby congress for better "work-life" laws. Don't just point the finger at those with kids.

And, while I am also sympathetic to the sick child situation and am willing to cut parents some slack (less so needing to make the weekly soccer game), all parents should make sure that they are carrying their "load" at work and not pushing things off too much on their co-workers.

Posted by: in DC | March 22, 2006 2:41 PM

This is for Nancy who wanted to know what the definition of sick is for a school. Allergies are not an illness and we see and care for many children with these issues at school. Allergies will of course include sore throats and runny noses. Parents share this information with the school and it should not be a problem once the diagnosis is in place.

Vomiting and fever are indications of illness and children need to stay home. Persistant sore throat without a fever needs to be evaluated as strep is always a possibility. If a child does not feel well he should stay home. It is very hard for children to muddle through a long day when they feel bad.

Posted by: Patty | March 22, 2006 2:44 PM

Everyone seems to think that it is only people with kids who don't carry their workloads and make other people cover for them. Not so. You cannot generalize. I have seen plenty of single or childless people who don't do their share, are slackers, lazy, incompetent, or unwilling to work. Some parents are that way too. It has nothing to do with having or not having kids. Some people have a good work ethic. Others don't. It's that simple.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 22, 2006 2:45 PM

Grrr, your column is like a scab. It hurts to read but I'm compulsively drawn to it to spot so many of the things that annoy me. It even puts me off having children altogether. I think your sour cynical outlook has less to do with balancing children and work and more to do with your lack of self-esteem and reasonable expectations.

If all of you in this forum spent half as much time actually doing your jobs and/or raising your kids as you do bickering about pointless age-old stereotypes, maybe you'd all be happier.

Listen up: Do what's right, whatever that means for you and your individual circimstances. Stop worrying so much about peer pressure and trying to keep up with everyone who doesn't matter. Enlist (and if necessary, demand) help from your spouse. Stop trying to be a perfect parent and a perfect businessperson simultaneously. Evaluate and re-evaluate your stressors, your salary, the cost of living, division of time, priorities, the things that upset you and the things that make you happy. If your career is thriving, grab it with both hands and talk to your spouse about having a more stay-at-home role. If expectations are discussed beforehand, there's no reason why men can't be just as good at raising children as women. Stop hiding behind stereotypes. I know lots of stay-at-home dads.

FWIW, my father had an incredibly stressful job in military public affairs (working 14-hour days), but he ALWAYS made time for me growing up. And, my Mom did mostly stay home to raise me, but she still kept her hand in her career from home and rejoined the workforce fully when I was in high school. She was my summer activity buddy and my friend, my idol and inspiration, and she led me by the hand through discovery and wonder. I became a stronger women because of it, and I'm succeeding in my career now too.

Ick. Your whiny, unhelpful articles leave bad tastes in my mouth. Just... do your best, be happy, and be satisfied with it!

Posted by: you can only juggle so many balls | March 22, 2006 2:52 PM

Leslie, please tell about your job, I am wondering what sort of work you do. If you work at, where your blog is posted,and if that is the case, and your blog was needed--you can blog from anywhere, why would you need to go to work and drop your sick child at daycare? If you just blog for and work elsewhere, then you are juggling two jobs and the sick child? Some background, please--I guess I missed the introduction of your journalistic credentials when the blog was launched, and am curious about how you came to blog about your family and the balacing act that is life. Thank you very much.

Posted by: Kat | March 22, 2006 2:54 PM

I've had a kid home for several days and it hasn't been an issue. This is definetly one in favor of SAH's.

When I was working my husband and I shared 2-1 on days at home with a sick kid. I actually gotlots done when working from home -- coding with no interruptions -- but there's still the need to get in and talk with people and just let them know you care about your job. My husband totally agreed with me and, besides, he's a sucker for the kids when they're sick.

I worked with one man who was always the one to stay home with a sick kid and boy did that kid get sick a lot. It was a pain for the rest of us to always has to pick up his slack.

I think that for one parent to always be the one to stay at home misses a couple of points: 1) it isn't fair to the people you work with and 2) taking care of a sick kid is a special way of bonding with your kid and parents should share.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 22, 2006 2:58 PM

I have to agree with the parents who are APALLED at parents, including Leslie, who take sick kids to daycare. Get over yourself and the importance of your work please. Because of 1 parent that brought a sick child (with pink eye) to our daycare, my daughter was the 13th child (out of 16) in the classroom to get it. It resulted in my husband taking leave (luckily, he gets to use sick leave) to stay home with her, and 3 visits to her pediatrician. The initial infection progressed to an ear infection which required 2 rounds of antibiotics to treat. Not to mention I caught it too. Wasn't that nice, and all because some parent thought their time was too important and the daycare facility could deal with it. I would guess that one decision not to keep a sick child home resulted in thousands of dollars of costs (doctors appts, missed work) to other parents. Not to mention the discomfort to other children. No one's meeting is that important, be a responsible parent and member of your community please. Spare me your "agonizing" about your decisions that are so costly to others. You have no right to make such decisions.

Posted by: DS | March 22, 2006 3:03 PM


That says it all about Leslie's priorities. Presentations first. Kids later. And why doesn't the husband do it all?

This woman SHOULD NOT HAVE KIDS. She sees her children as grist for her blog. She lacks a mother's compassion.


This woman is in many ways a freak. She shouldn't reproduce.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 22, 2006 3:12 PM

Sick kids come first. Period.

Posted by: ab | March 22, 2006 3:15 PM

My son comes first. That is what I made clear to my employer before he hired me. And he hired me anyway. He allows me to work from home when I need to...and I log in at 9 a.m. and stay in contact with the office all day, until I sign off at the end of the day.
I have sent my son to school with an ear infection as long as his fever has abated and if he is on antibiotics. That normally happens if he gets sick on the weekend and I can take him to an urgent care center for treatment.
Unless there are short-term daycares that open cater specifically to sick kids, we will have to patch together options as best we can. I would gladly pay for such an option.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 22, 2006 3:15 PM

I have to say that I also think that it is selfish to leave sick kids at school, but to the unnamed person with the allcaps who is claiming Leslie is a freak and should not reproduce, you go too far. Way to far.
We are all human. We all make mistakes, and in the realm of parenting, if this is the worst mistake you make, you are blessed and lucky and a wonderful parent. Where on earth does all this vitriol come from?
Being appalled at a decision is one thing. Name calling and stating that a person you don't know should not reproduce is just mean. I'd rather be selfish than mean.

Posted by: cg | March 22, 2006 3:19 PM

I read all of the responses and had lots to say to each (especially to the childless people responding), but I don't know where I would begin. As for who stays home with my son when he's sick, I don't have a choice. My ex-husband's illness prevents him from assisting me with child care or financially, so all of you married people should just be thankful you have a spouse that can help at all. But even if my ex-husband could help, I'm not sure I'd want him to. When my son is sick, I want to be with him and comfort him. He is the most important thing in the world to me, and those of you who don't have children and are so hateful towards parents... being a parent is the most rewarding experience you can ever have in life, and you are the ones missing out.

Posted by: Single Working Mom | March 22, 2006 3:24 PM

My child is a senior in high school and has been complaining about sore throat, coughing and not feeling well for a little while now. She does have seasonal allergies. Yesterday a.m., I took her to the Dr for a throat culture which was negative. He said that it was most likely a sinus infection and wrote a prescription for antibiotics and a release to go to school. I said she could stay home since she wasn't feeling well, but she chose to go to school since she was ready to take a test that was scheduled. The pharmacy wasn't yet open, so I dropped off the prescription and went to work late where I stayed until I had put in a full shift. After work I picked up the prescription.

When I got home, she said that she was feeling much better even though she had not yet taken any medication.

Today I received a call from the Dr's office stating that the culture turned positive for strep after the 24 hour growth period. So, my child went to school with a contagious illness.

The moral of the story is that you don't always know when your child is contagious, just a little run down, or trying to get out of school. If I kept her home every time she said she didn't feel well, she would be 17 years old in the 8th grade.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 22, 2006 3:34 PM

Single Working Mom said: "being a parent is the most rewarding experience you can ever have in life, and you are the ones missing out."

You have to say that -- if only as a coping mechanism -- because now you're in it and there's no way out.

You have no choice but to bear the burden of motherhood, so you convince yourself that it's the best thing on earth because you're stuck with it. You can't let yourself imagine that you might have been happier/better off before.

I would like to believe you, but many things convince me otherwise.

Posted by: Beatrice | March 22, 2006 3:38 PM

Hey Beatrice,
If you have such contempt for motherhood, what are you doing on blog that deals with the issues of motherhood. Please go somewhere else, you are not forced to join us in our discussions. Perhaps there's a blog devoted to bitter childless women somewhere. You could join up there. Maybe you would be happier.

Posted by: cg | March 22, 2006 3:41 PM

Beatrice, you don't know me from Adam, so you don't know what my life was like before I had my son. I had a choice, and the choice I made was to have my son. Motherhood is not a burden. It is a blessing. But if you're not a mother, you will never understand that.

Posted by: Single Working Mom | March 22, 2006 3:43 PM

This was my first blog -- and probably my last. I've spent WAY too much time reading/responding to it today -- I agree with the previous writer that it was like a scab I couldn't leave alone.

There is SO MUCH HATEFUL name calling and judging! I suspect some of the mean, nasty, anti-working Moms consider themselves good Christian mothers/fathers who think we working Mom's are selfish, evil and have no right to be parents. My faith teaches me not to judge others -- what does your faith teach?

And for those without children -- why are you reading this blog? If you are concerned about us missing work to take care of our kids -- wouldn't your work day be better spent reading about subjects a bit more relevant?

This was an interesting experience. Done that -- now I'm back to work -- and my kid.

Posted by: Nancy | March 22, 2006 3:53 PM

Single Working Mom--

You don't know Beatrice either, so how can you say that "being a parent is the most rewarding experience you can ever have in life" with such certainty?

Personally, I find general work/life flexibility, less stress, loads of disposable income, and the relative freedom to come and go as I please to be a particularly rewarding result of NOT having children.

If you thrive on the sacrifice and enormous responsibility of raising kids, great! Not everyone has the same worldview, and not everyone should be forced to celebrate your personal decision to devote your life to raising a kid.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 22, 2006 4:00 PM

I have noticed that there are roughly two ways to divide the way people feel, and of course, this is a vast generalization. The working moms vs the stay at home moms. Obvious.
But we also have the moms vs women who are childless. Interesting.
The selfrightousness of each of these groups vs the other is interesting. It is almost as if working moms have to convince stay at home moms why working is a better choice, and visa versa. I also see how childless women seem to want to think that not having children is better than having them, and visa versa. Interesting.

My sense is that this is just a part of the way women's roles have evolved in practice over the last few decades. Our thinking has just not caught up to the reality that women do both. We work and raise children. We stay at home and raise children. We choose to have children, we choose to be childless. And we struggle with these choices because they are new to us. They have only become available to us over the past few decades, whereas we have been raising children and keeping the home fires burning over the millenia. It is only natural that we struggle with the options that are available to us. It is natural that each of us wants to think we made the better choice. It is natural to snipe and argue over it. It is part of change, and man, are we changing.

Posted by: cg | March 22, 2006 4:04 PM

You are not going to find much Christianity and or charity communicating with well educated, highly important professionals who are angry that their very important role is not being recognized. Poor souls! You may want to pray for them. Pointing it out to them will only propogate the anger and lead to more bashing and upmanship.

Posted by: Father of 4 | March 22, 2006 4:09 PM

Face it folks, we live to procreate. Every part of our biology is adapted to procreation. Anyone seen March of the Penguins. Procreation is the reason we live. Without it, there's no point. So the phrase that having children is the most rewarding experience we can ever have in life is technically true. Every part of our physical being speaks to its truth.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 22, 2006 4:10 PM

There was a time when having kids meant that you made sacrifices. Nowadays, you folks with kids expect to have it all. Stay at home and let your husband take care of you and your kids. Us single folks pay to educate the good kids and we pay to incarcerate the bad kids and yet it was your choice to become a parent and you continue to try to have society and the workforce accommodate to your needs and desires. The same society that cares very little about the sick, elderly, disabled and homeless will soon care less about your kids so brace yourself. You can say that you work because you want to provide your kids with more but when they grow up they will resent you for not being there. You work so that you can give them EVERYTHING and then you feel guilty because you give them everything but yourself. Devote yourselves to your kids and stop being so greedy and selfish. Your kids will respect you for it. Save your career goals for later.

Posted by: Lynn | March 22, 2006 4:21 PM

To Lynn and all of the other singles out there:

Why in the world would you be wasting your time reading -- much less responding -- to a blog about working parents and sick kids? Don't you have better things to do with your time?

Posted by: Anonymous | March 22, 2006 4:27 PM

Stay at home and let your husband take care of you and your kids.

I have to respond to that. No woman today should feel comfortable putting her fate completely in her husband's hands. Whatever you decide, to work, not work, have kids, not have kids, have dogs, have guppies, a woman today should be able to take care of herself and her kids, because one day, she may have to. Husbands come and go. They stray, they die, and sometimes, they never show up. Women, we should never "let" someone else take care of us. We must take care of ourselves.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 22, 2006 4:30 PM

Fair to employers??? That's a good one! How about they let us work from home on days when we have a sick child at home? I'm not talking about life-threatening illnesses or even need-you-every-second kvetchy sick kids. But in the majority of instances when my children had a minor flu, there's no reason I couldn't have sat at a computer in my house and done my work just as efficiently as had I sat at the computer in my office -- except that my particular federal agency won't allow it!

Posted by: lawyermom | March 22, 2006 4:34 PM

Goodness gracious everyone!

Please stop the flaming, the hating, the self-righteousness! Instead spend your energy by going home, and hugging your husband, child, cat, goldfish, etc. They need the love more than we need the hate.

Posted by: L | March 22, 2006 4:37 PM

"Procreation is the reason we live. Without it, there's no point." what you are saying is that the lives of the following people were pointless: Louis Armstrong, Susan B. Anthony, Jane Austen, Francis Bacon, Anne Bronte, James Buchanan, Copernicus, Leonardo DaVinci, Rene Descartes, Emily Dickinson, T.S. Eliot, William Faulkner, Diane Fossey, Greta Garbo, Katherine Hepburn, Oliver Wendell Homes, Immanuel Kant, Helen Keller, Sir Isaac Newton, Friedrich Nietzsche, Florence Nightingale, Goergia O'Keefe, etc.


Posted by: Anonymous | March 22, 2006 4:46 PM

so what you are saying is that the lives of the following people were pointless: Louis Armstrong, Susan B. Anthony, Jane Austen, Francis Bacon, Anne Bronte, James Buchanan, Copernicus, Leonardo DaVinci, Rene Descartes, Emily Dickinson, T.S. Eliot, William Faulkner, Diane Fossey, Greta Garbo, Katherine Hepburn, Oliver Wendell Homes, Immanuel Kant, Helen Keller, Sir Isaac Newton, Friedrich Nietzsche, Florence Nightingale, Goergia O'Keefe, etc.


I'm just saying, that without procreation, none of the remarkable folks you list would have existed. Not a single one of them.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 22, 2006 4:49 PM

For those women who can never completely trust their husbands. I'm sorry you been slighted on love. You can always trust Uncle Sam. Put your faith in him and see what you get.

Posted by: Father of 4 | March 22, 2006 4:51 PM

To Procreate: If you believe that having children is such a "rewarding experience," why don't you devote yourself to the concept of nurturing them instead of putting the responsibilities off on others while you selfishly seek success in a career? What you're saying is that those who are unable to bear children or who choose not to have children, have no reason to live. You really sell yourself short Ms. Procreate. In addition to your being given the necessary components to procreate, you were also given a brain and a heart. Maybe if you showed a little understanding, respect and compassion for others, those things would come back to you.

Posted by: Lynn | March 22, 2006 4:53 PM

to father of 4

Nothing against you personally. But look at the real world. Notice that there are not a lot of men worrying about what to do with their kids when they are sick. You might be the exception. Plus, women should take care of themselves not because they don't trust their husbands, but because life is unpredictable. Suppose your husband dies. Suppose he gets sick. Good reasons to to know how to take care of yourself. The age when men took care of their wives, comepletely and forever, is over. Women should not count on men or Uncle Sam either. We can do it ourselves, thank you very much. In case you hadn't noticed, we've been doing it for ages.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 22, 2006 4:56 PM

"I'm just saying, that without procreation, none of the remarkable folks you list would have existed. Not a single one of them."

Actually, that isn't what you wrote at all. What you wrote was "Procreation is the reason we live. Without it, there's no point," which has a different meaning entirely.

Furthermore, if you seriously want to pursue your new line of reasoning, I'd submit that without procreation, people like Ted Bundy, Pol Pot, John Wayne Gacy, and Osama Bin Laden wouldn't have existed either, so I guess that throws the whole "procreation is always great" idea right out the window.

...but we digress...

Posted by: Anonymous | March 22, 2006 5:00 PM

So, how many of you are posting on company time?

Posted by: Anonymous | March 22, 2006 5:00 PM

I find it disturbing that the only sacrifices being recognized are those made by SAHM. I have been a WOHM for many years since my children were born. I feel that I have made considerable sacrifices. I have less material possessions; and the material possessions I do have are less expensive than most of the SAHM I know. What I do have is a husband who makes less money than the other husbands, but he is a wonderful husband and father. Even though we both have to work (not really a choice for us), we devote our non-work time to our children and family. I would venture that we spend more time with our children than some of the SAHM who are busy with volunteer projects and/or other things.

What I have sacrificed for my children - 1. Sleep, and lots of it. 2. My figure - I refuse to go to a gym or take exercise classes because it would take time from my family. 3. T.V. (not really much of a sacrifice). I watch 2 shows a week, but that is only recently. I have never seen Sex in the City, only saw Friends about 10 times, don't know exactly what a "Survivor" is. 4. Quiet time with my husband - we never sent the kids to bed early - we wanted to be with them as much as possible. As my husband is fond of saying, "we had our time before children and will have it again when they are gone". I have gone to the grocery store at 10:00 p.m. more times than I can remember. 5. A clean house - play with the kids, go to the park, sit on the sidelines to watch their games, or stay home and clean house - this is a no-brainer, but it would be nice to have one of those "magazine" houses. Some friendships have been sacrificed as well. I don't blame the friends, but it rare that I was willing to give up my time with the kids for a night out with friends. Also, I do use my sick time for my kids, and therefore,have none for myself. I go to work sick and miserable so that I will have the time when my kids need it.

I wish I were a SAHM, but i am not, so I do the best I can. For those of you who can stay home, embrace it, enjoy it, don't judge those who can't/don't stay home.

My mother was a SAHM, but my father left and did not support us and mom had no skills and had to take a low paying job and we almost were homeless. I completely understand those women who believe that you must always be able to support yourself and your children.

We all make sacrifices and we should be trying to help each other, not tear each other down.

Posted by: mom | March 22, 2006 5:02 PM

There REALLY IS no point without procreation. Say we all stopped procreating now. Human race dies off. Pretty simple.
Not saying that there are no other facets to life. Literature, science, politics, etc. Sure, they are all great, but without the human race continuing, they cannot exist. Procreation makes sure our species continues to live. That is the point. Everything else is secondary, whether you like it or not.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 22, 2006 5:02 PM

I wish I could talk to other working parents about how they handle sick kids! :-( That would be a worthwhile conversation. Isn't that the topic here?

Posted by: GF | March 22, 2006 5:04 PM

I never said procreation is always great. But I would say that if we want our species to continue, so that that we can enjoy literature, science, math, blogging, you name it, it is ALWAYS necessary.

I stand by my assertion that procreation is the point of life. We live to procreate. We cannot continue to survive as a species without procreation. The folks you listed are a product of procreation. That they did not procreate themselves does not make procreation any less necessary to the survival of the human species.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 22, 2006 5:07 PM

My husband and I split the day - I take the morning, because my office is open until 7PM, and he takes the afternoon. Since I've only been with the company a little over a year, my PTO balance is woefully small, compared to my husband's PTO of 80 + hours (he's been with his company for 6 years), but in fairness, he is a supervisor (read: the only person who can do his job), and I am one of four people in my office who can do my job, plus he understands that I will stay late to make up hours on other days. Sometimes he will take the whole day, as he can work from home, but I know that it is difficult for him to work and watch a toddler. I can't work from home at all. Sometimes it doesn't feel fair, especially when I look at our respective leave balances, but there's more to it than that - it's the job responsibility, the ability to make up time, whether or not your work can be covered by others, etc. I am lucky - my manager, my supervisor, one of my coworkers, and I all have small children, and have all had to jump on the sick-day/doctor's appointment/snow day merry-go-round at one time or another, so everyone is very understanding. I am lucky in another respect: my husband does not try to shirk his parental duties, or weasel out of taking care of our son. If he says he can't do it, he really can't do it. Any other time, though, he practically dares his superiors to challenge his decision to put family before work, because to my husband - and to me - family always comes first. So far, he's never been challenged.

Posted by: Outer Fairfax | March 22, 2006 5:11 PM

Just to be clear, I never said people who choose not to have children or cannot have children have nothing to live for. I apologize if my words may have offended some for having a life that differs from mine, but after reading all of the negative posts from childless people criticizing the decision to become a mother, I had to write. I don't judge people for choosing not to have children (unlike Beatrice). On the contrary, not everyone is parenting material, and I applaud those people for knowing that and choosing not to have children. Many parents aren't parenting material, but choose to have children anyway, which only hurts the children. I still feel that motherhood is a truly rewarding experience and contrary to Beatrice's hateful comments, I'm not lying to myself. The reality is I spent many years not knowing if I wanted children, because I was living the high life someone else described ("work/life flexibility, less stress, loads of disposable income, and the relative freedom to come and go as I please"). And I didn't find it rewarding after all. If others do, then so be it, but don't judge me because it left me feeling like something was missing.

Posted by: Single Working Mom | March 22, 2006 5:12 PM

I have to admit. I love it when one of my kids get sick. They sleep a lot and I don't have to cook for them either. Then I get to waste my time entertaining myself on blogs while some self proclaimed childless office hero picks up my slack at work. As for women taking care of themselves... lol I suppose its the preferred method for them.

Posted by: Father of 4 | March 22, 2006 5:13 PM

Wow! Can't believe the amount of bitter people in this discussion. Somehow, having children/not having children, stay-at-home-adult/workplace-adult, religious/non-religious, democrat/republican, husband/wife, blah/blah, blah/blah...has become evil. People getting so riled up.

Makes for great message board material, but then any valid points get lost in translation, because no one can see straight through their own filter of anger.

Posted by: Bitter People | March 22, 2006 5:13 PM

Boy, this topic brings back bad memories. I had my first daughter when I was in graduate school. That actually worked out pretty well except the one time my daughter couldn't go to daycare because she was sick, it was during midterms, and my husband was out of town on business. I ended up not being able to study for midterms, had to drop 2 classes, and extend my schooling by a (very expensive) semester.

However, during one summer internship, I was called to pick up my daughter from daycare 8 out of the 10 weeks. It would have been nice to work for that company, but I didn't dare apply with them with that attendance record, and I didn't dare ask them for a recommendation either.

When my supervisor reviewed my performance at the end of the summer he advised me to consider whether I should really be working or not, given the fact that I had a baby. And that someday when he was married and had kids, his wife would definitely be staying home to raise the kids. Sure hope that worked out for him, and sure glad I'm not his wife! ;-)

And no, my husband's job was not flexible -- not because they didn't want to be but because of the nature of the work, he just had to be there.

As it turned out, I found work I could do from home. Unfortunately, it's not using the degree I am still paying for, but it is what has been necessary to care for my kids, the oldest of whom has several health problems that made daycare unworkable.

Staying home was not what I had planned for my life. My grandmother worked, my mom worked, and I just assumed I would work too. I have to say, though, that I am SO glad that I don't work outside our home. I laugh when I remember how I used to think it would be so boring to be a SAHM. I can't remember the last time I was bored! Exhausted? Yes. Frazzled? Yes. Completely fulfilled? Yes. Bored? Never!

I'm actually so glad for that botched internship. It was an easy way to figure out what was going to work for us, and what wasn't.

Posted by: Alexandria Mom | March 22, 2006 5:16 PM

Then I get to waste my time entertaining myself on blogs while some self proclaimed childless office hero picks up my slack at work. As for women taking care of themselves... lol I suppose its the preferred method for them.

LOL - certainly better than the alternative.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 22, 2006 5:17 PM

And without procreation, none of the bad results of some of you career moms would be around either. Sorry, but true. Devote yourselves to your kids. They need you. And yes I do have other things to do. But you all gripe here and you gripe at the office and while I may not be able to say it there, I can say it here: You CHOSE to have children, now stop complaining that things are difficult and stop expecting to be able to have it all. Stop resenting us childless by choice folks because you think we're rich and we have little reponsibility. Try to be happy with YOUR choices in life. We are.

Posted by: Lynn | March 22, 2006 5:23 PM

Hopefully, this is a productive comment. My pediatrician's practice is considering opening a sick-day care option in their office. Seems like a great idea. The children can be examined by the doctor and have a place to stay if they should not be in school/day-care but are not so ill that they should really stay home with a parent. The staff would be subject to the same standards and background check that is required by the state for any other day-care facility.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 22, 2006 5:25 PM

Hi GF,

Getting back to topic.

The way that my wife and I handle when one of our kids gets sick is to see who has the more flexible schedule for that day.

We have been very fortunate in that she works for the Fed and I work for a very flexible workplace.

Sometimes, she will stay at home with the sick child, while I go to work. I'll work half the day and then come home and watch our sick child while she works from home. Other times, we have done it the other way.

I realize that we have been very fortunate in having work places, bosses, and coworkers that understand our having to take time off from the workplace. I say workplace, because we both finish up our work at home when this occurs or work more at the office later to make up. This is something that some of our coworkers never see, but notice since our work is completed.

On days that we are called, it really depends on who has the lighter workload, and is able to get to our children faster, usually me, since I drive and she takes the Metro.

I'd love to hear how other people handle sick days.

Posted by: Comment to GF | March 22, 2006 5:25 PM

Posted by: Z | March 22, 2006 5:26 PM

Believe me, folks with kids don't resent you childless folks by choice, we don't think you're rich, and we don't care that you have nothing to do. We give you very little thought, to be perfectly honest, because we are too involved in our own rewarding lives. We may feel a little sorry for you, but truly, we don't care.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 22, 2006 5:27 PM

I am completely disheartened and not a little disgusted by the tone of this blog. I was hoping it would be a fruitful dialogue, but it's just both sides sniping at each other under the cloak of anonymity. Very, very sad.

Posted by: MomNC | March 22, 2006 5:27 PM

GF: DAH!!!!!! If your child is sick, stay home with it. If you lose your job, pull in the belt. What is it that you don't understand? Didn't you think about this before you chose to have children?

Posted by: Lynn | March 22, 2006 5:29 PM

Are you on your meds today?

Posted by: Anonymous | March 22, 2006 5:30 PM

No, you're too busy trying to figure out how to put your responsibilities off on others. You're trying to find a way to have it all and I wish you luck.

Posted by: Lynn | March 22, 2006 5:33 PM

As a husband and father of two children, I just don't understand all this negativity and "bad blood" between stay-at-home-mothers and workforce-mothers. It seems there is more of that here then between stay-at-home-fathers and workforce-fathers.

I also don't understand why all the mothers aren't demanding equal involvement and participation from the fathers/husbands in this and other childrearing issues. It seems that the guys are getting very light treatment here.

Posted by: Bad Blood | March 22, 2006 5:38 PM

To Bad Blood
You are so right about that. We women need to stop fighting with each other and we need to make our husbands step up and be more involved. Hurray for all those who are. But I keep on thinking of Leslie's hubby who seems to get a free pass from her because his job is not flexible. Believe me, it can be, especially if he is important enough to call some of the shots. I had a boss who was a partner at his very prestigious law office. He stayed home with sick kids, and made no bones about his right to do that. Everyone respected him for it. If more men did that, we women would not be in such a bind with our employers or with each other. It is time for men to take up the slack.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 22, 2006 5:42 PM

In response to the poster who asked about extended family pitching in: The US is quite a bit larger than most European countries. My husband's parents live 900 miles away and still work. My parents, who live close, are in their mid-50's to early 60s, and both have full-time jobs themselves, still. My sister is in the same boat I'm in. Given all that, there are no extended family members who can bail us out when our son is sick. We're lucky if a family member can babysit for a few hours so my husband and I can go on a date!

In this country, retirement is not even an option until your mid-60s unless you started aggressively saving in a 401(k) when you entered the workforce straight out of college. Times have changed - gone are the days when Grandma had loads of free time on her hands to help out. Now, Grandma still works herself! My dad can't retire for another 2 years, and my mom likely has another 10+ years to go.

Re: sending sick children to daycare - If my son has a runny nose but is otherwise fine and energetic, he goes to daycare. Lethargy, fever, other signs of illness are grounds to keep him home. That's how I call it - you may call it differently. Our daycare is good about sanitizing surfaces and toys and such. My son also received a flu shot this year, which was a lifesaver when I came down with the flu, because he never got sick.

Posted by: Outer Fairfax | March 22, 2006 6:12 PM

Mary Julia, haven't you noticed that this blog has very little compassion for children at all? You're right.

This is a blog for Leslie to speak about herself and how other people don't make any sense to her. Children really get the backseat in the 'mommy war' agenda. Such a shame.

I have severe phobias of germs and illnesses. It inhibits everything that I do. When people come into work sick or bring their sick gets to school, it's absolutely the most selfish act they could perform. Suck it up and stay at home! Is it really that confusing?

Posted by: Obvious | March 22, 2006 6:14 PM

I am so tired of hearing these cry baby single people talk about working parents. Get off this board. No one cares about your issues. Why don't you go form a "I hate working parents board becasue they do more work than I do in a typical day."

These peopel are probably the same people who call working parents breeders. However, if you called them a name concerning their lifestyle, you'd be in HR.

Get a life, find a new blog and let us talk about the issue "sick kids not sick co-workers."

Posted by: Scarry | March 22, 2006 6:51 PM

In keeping with my previous post. I work form home somedays when my kid is sick, I take PTO and my husband and I split these duties equally.

Posted by: Scarry | March 22, 2006 6:54 PM

Why do all these discussions end up with people who just want to sell a sob story!

KIDS are always going to be a problem, create conflict, and require schedule adjustments as well as life style adjustments. That is why they call them "Labor of Love" folks.

I have officially ended my contributions to these Blah Blah Blah Blogs - I am not a whiner and don’t enjoy being associated w/blogging whiners

I think someone needs to do a blog about blog edict and procedure- if you speak with your co-workers, boss, spouse, daycare provider and children in this manner - no wonder life is not providing many of the people who participate in this discussion with choices that will benefit and enable them to advance a career or motherhood or the day to day habits of just being on the planet.
In other blah blah blah say, write, or do something productive – no one wants to hear continuous sob stories.
This is life folks – these are the jokes, get positive, bring something to the party, Contribute words of thought, experience, insight – HELP others not yourself.
Good bye

Posted by: blonde 19 | March 22, 2006 7:08 PM

I've had great fun reading all these posts. My wife and youngest daughter are about to return from their girlscout meeting and the dishes are still stacked in the sink. I'll get a good spanking when my wife gets home, but it was worth it. My teenage daughter keeps asking what I am laughing about and its time to put baby boy to bed. I wish one of them was sick so I could have a flimsy excuse to blow off work tomorrow. No such luck. Nighty night!

Posted by: Father of 4 | March 22, 2006 7:48 PM

Are we all immortal? What happens when we get sick, ourselves - I'm talking too sick to go in and infect the rest of the office and pretend you're simply bulletproof.

You stay home.

A modest proposal: if there are two of you, tap the one with the more flexible schedule on that particular day. Client meeting? Move it if it's not an emergency, or have the meeting at home at your dining room table. I've done it - it's amazing how understanding people are. Everyone has been there. Rarely will there be occasions where both you and husband have to stand up before an audience of hundreds at the same hour of the same day. Don't manufacture a crisis where there is none.

If there's one of you - or if the two of you really are all that popular - try to have emergency backup lined up before the crisis happens.

I admit I'm old school. If my kids are sick enough to need me (or my husband), one of us is there even if there's a mid-day switchoff. If not - sniffles, tummy ache minus fever - it's off to class.

Posted by: Momworkstoo | March 22, 2006 7:54 PM

What happens when I get sick? I come to work. I don't have enough sick leave to cover myself AND my kids, so I suck it up, warn people to stay away from me, and come to the office. Folks complain either way. If I stay home, I'm slacking off and burdening those who are childless. If I come to work, I am infecting them with my cooties. I have to earn a paycheck, and if I'm selfish for working when I'm sick and exposing my coworkers with my germs, so be it. Anyway, coming to work is much more restful than staying home.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 22, 2006 8:17 PM

Just thought I would enter the fray to throw out a suggestion:

If more moms breastfed their babies they would get sick less. The passed down immunities/antibodies would help protect the children.

I know it isn't feasible for all moms to breastfeed (pumping sucks- I am the first to admit and trying to find privacy or time to do so are huge obstacles). However, any amount of breastfeeding is beneficial to the baby and better than none. So if you can only do it during your maternity leave (assuming you get maternity leave), then by all means do so. Join a La Leche League for support - that is what it is there for.

And for those of you who have already blown me off as some "breastfeed my kids til they are in kindergarten weirdo"- I weened my daughter at 15 months (she is 2 now) and she has only had a cold once. She has had lots of exposure to other kids and germs but I swear nursing her was the best thing I could have done.

"Breastfeeding the first step toward affordable healthcare." -bumper sticker I saw.

Posted by: pro-nursing mama | March 22, 2006 9:34 PM

Clearly this was a column that touched a nerve. That's OK: the cleaners will be in to mop up the blood by morning.

I read some thoughtful, honest posts here today. There was conversation here.

Hey, it's a start.

One thing I find in blogging is that you suspend the normal conversational rule that says you should acknowledge and respond to everything that is said/posted. Therein lies madness. It's more like a locker room (boy was it like a locker room today!) There are several conversations taking place at once, and you can choose which conversations to join.

That's my two cents.


Posted by: Nana | March 22, 2006 10:03 PM

I personally find it easiest to deal with the sick child problem if you know the child is sick! If you know in advance (before the work day), you can make plans. Thus, after the first day the child sick, when you know you have to stay home, it is easy. The problem is what I call -- whether to call it a sick day. Is it just a cold or is it an illness that requires staying home? Is it a stomach ache or is it a child who doesn't want to go to school? These are tough calls, and obviously circumstances may make it more appealing to go one way or the other. (And who wants to call it a sick day if it's the Christmas party or the field trip to the aquariaum . . .)

Sometimes you just don't know that the child is sick. My daughter at age 12 gets up on her own and goes off to school at 7 a.m. One day we got a call from the school nurse that she had a 102 fever. WE would not have sent her to school if we had known. She was determined to go to school because she was afraid that she would lose her part in the school play if she missed her drama club. Then she felt sick and saw the nurse!

At one point, my daughter complained of stomach aches in the morning. She had no fever and I sent her to school -- just as my SAHM mom did with my sister when she had a similar complaint. And usually, there was no problem. (Perhaps she was sick of school!)

I do think that one problem that has not been discussed is the over-use of antibiotics. It may be that sick child policies lead to over-use of antibiotics.

My daughter's first school had a policy that they would not allow children to stay at school if their snot was green; they thought that meant a bacterial infection and antibiotics were required. So every time my daughter had a bad cold with green snot, I took her to the pediatrician to see if she needed antibiotics. Sometimes she did, and sometimes she did not. The pediatricians thought the green snot rule (and also the rule that the child be on antibiotics for 4 days before returning to school) was silly.

Posted by: ES | March 23, 2006 1:17 AM

"Peer Pressure?"

Your husband is a wimp. I can just see the conversation when the kids get older:

"Daddy, how do you deal with peer pressure?"

"Well, kiddo, I cave in and worry about what people will think."

And as a part-time employee, I hate it when kids show up dosed with Tylenol. Because I'll catch the bug next, and I don't get sick days. At all.

Posted by: say no to peer pressure | March 23, 2006 1:32 AM

Fair enough workingmom...Leslie may have been very torn by her decision and didn't "cheerfully" drop off the child at the day care.

But, the fact is she did.

"Your Honor, I feel terrible about committing the crime....(but I did.)"

Who is to blame here?

Posted by: | March 22, 2006 01:13 PM

Posted by: JP | March 23, 2006 9:54 AM

JP writes, "Who is to blame here?"

Huh? Why do we need to blame anyone.

Posted by: dc | March 23, 2006 10:04 AM

LawyerMom: There are some workplaces with networks that, for one reason or another, can never touch the Internet. If they can't touch the Internet, you can't log in from home. That's the situation at my job. I don't mind so much - it means that I ALWAYS get to leave my work at work, unlike my husband, who for the past few weeks has had to do up to 3 hours a night of extra, unpaid work at home. Sometimes it's nice to know that you CAN'T work from home. When I stay home with my son when he's sick, I don't have to worry about squeezing in an hour here and there to work - I can devote my time to him. Now if only I had more accrued PTO... :)

Posted by: Outer Fairfax | March 23, 2006 10:24 AM

It seems that the crux of the problem is a lack of options when our children are sick. Children do not want to be a burden, and they must feel terrible if their parents are frantically trying to figure out what to do with them when they get sick.

What we need are more flexible workplaces that allow working from home and flexible time-off plans to allow for caring for sick relatives, whether children or elderly parents or ill siblings. Many workers would benefit from the ability to work at home, whether childless or not, and most of us will have at least one sick or frail relative who needs our help at some point in our lives, so this will benefit childless workers as well as those with kids.

For those jobs where you absolutely have to be there and/or can't work from home (I'm thinking of nurses, police officers, firefighters, along with many others) we need more of the sick care centers that others have mentioned. These are the kinds of things that will benefit everybody. Few moms stay at home the entire time their children are living at home, the vast majority work part-time or full-time at some point during their children's lives, and these things would help tremendously.

So I say we should stop complaining about each other's choices and start asking ourselves why our employers don't have policies like the above.

Posted by: MomCurrentlyWorking | March 23, 2006 10:45 AM

Us "child less" and / or singles are on here for diff reasons. My reason is that I intend to have children in the near future. I want to know what people are doing and thinking to see if I can learn anything. . . things that might help me make decisions about child-rearing.

People on here are always saying to think about issues before having kids. So, that's what I'm doing. I'm not trying to spy on the parent club . . .

Posted by: in DC | March 23, 2006 11:09 AM

I think it's unfair to bring up the breastfeeding argument here. It has nothing to do with future health, despite all the studies out there. Breastfeeding is just another guilt mechanism to unspring in moms. I was breast fed for a year by my mom, and I was sick, seriously, every year until I was in my teens. I now have terrible alleriges and chronic sinus problems. My husband was bottle fed and last took a sick day the first year we were married-5 years ago. I breast-fed and bottle fed my son who's been healthy, whereas my sister in law breast fed only her children who have chronic health problems.
So, please don't introduce yet ANOTHER guilt-inducing factor to this discussion. I think we've seen enough already.

Posted by: AWB | March 23, 2006 11:38 AM

When my child was in day care he was constantly exposed to other children with colds. I asked the day care manager if they could please enforce the policy about not bringing sick children to day care so my child would not be exposed to and get so many colds. They replied that the policy was enforced for illness like vomiting, chicken pox, etc. and they did not enforce it for colds. So my child got plenty of colds, but by the time he was in first grade he very rarely got sick, while those without resistance missed school frequently. So now that I look back on it, I'm glad his resistance was high in elementary school when it really was important for him to attend every day. And yes, I usually went to work and my child went to day care with colds often. I did what I had to do - it's not like there are affordable choices out there. It worked out well for both of us. Oh - I am a divorced Mom, and I have accepted lower paying work with less responsibility so I could maximize my time with my son. That means I couldn't afford caretakers for a child who had colds frequently. I caught colds frequently from my son, and went to work sick, saving my sick leave for my son's more serious illness. It was so hard. I did what I had to do and we got through it somehow. I think my son and I are stronger for it.

Posted by: Gayle | March 23, 2006 11:43 AM

i see that Leslie, who writes this blog is a washington post executive who is on leave from her job to promote her book. I am puzzled: why would someone on leave from a job have to go make a presentation and leave her sick child at daycare? i thought being on leave from a job means you do not have to go to the office. Doesnt someone busy promoting a book about balancing work and home and kids have some safety net in place for just such 'emergencies'? I would like to hear others' thoughts to see if I am the only one so puzzled.

Posted by: Roxcy | March 23, 2006 1:29 PM

AWB- Haven't you considered the possibility that your illnesses (and your niece/nephew's) might have actually been worse had you not been breastfed?

I was not trying to guilt-trip anyone, I was suggesting that if you can work any amount of breastfeeding into your life you might reap the rewards by having a healthier child. Thus reducing the impact of this problem on all of society.

Also, I am shocked you are questioning the veracity of all the studies indicating breastfeeding has huge health benefits for mom and baby (such as lower incidents of breast cancer for women and healthier smarter babies). Just because in your little microcosm you don't see a difference between bottle and breastfed babies doesn't mean there isn't one.

P.S. Good job on breastfeeding your own child, like I started off by saying- any amount is better than none.

Posted by: pro-nursing mama | March 23, 2006 1:52 PM

She mentioned in the beginning that it was 10 years ago when she was indoctrinated into the politics of sick days.

Posted by: pro-nursing mama | March 23, 2006 1:57 PM

take your breastfeeding comments somewhere else. That's not the topic of this discussion.

Feeding your kids veggies and fruits is better for them than burgers and fries, but no one is off on that tangent.

Posted by: pro-nursing mama | March 23, 2006 2:10 PM

I don't see why breastfeeding should be off limits. The question is how to handle sick days, and one suggestion, a very good one, is to try to minimize the number of sick days you have to deal with by breastfeeding. No one is trying to guilt anyone else. The fact is, it works. It worked for me, and I did not even exclusively breastfeed because I had supply issues. But I pumped and supplemented for three years, and guess what. My son who is now in kindergarten has never had an ear infection. He has had some colds, but not serious ones. He once had a fever of 102. He has no allergies, is healthy and strong and smart and happy, and I am a working mother with an accumulated sick leave balance of 260 hours. So don't let all the antibreastfeeders tell you its a tangent. It's not. It works like a dream.

Posted by: mom who nursed | March 23, 2006 2:32 PM

Rock on "Mom who nursed"!

Posted by: pro-nursing mama | March 23, 2006 2:52 PM

I would really like to know the names of the services that come and care for sick children, and the names of day care centers that take sick kids on a drop in basis. I would like to sign up.

Posted by: Falls Church mom | March 23, 2006 3:21 PM

Looks like I came to this blog late, but one thing no one's addressed is the manager-worker relationship. Particularly if you are a manager, supervisor, or more senior person, it can be in the best interests of your organization and your employees for you to take leave to take care of your kids.
For instance, my boss, who's a very hard worker, makes a point of sharing childcare duties with her husband--that tells me that I have the freedom in our organization to take that time off when I need it without fear of reprisals. As a result, my husband (who's in a similar situation) and I feel a lot of loyalty to our jobs and employers and wouldn't leave even though we might make more money elsewhere.

Morale--it you're in management, set the example. Even if you aren't, do what you should for your kid--you'll make it easier for the next parent as well. Work hard when you're on the job, and when you're not, don't worry about it again until you're back on the clock.

Posted by: A Fed | March 24, 2006 12:01 AM

I'm a single mom and my job doesn't give me the flexiblity of time off if my kid is sick. I get 3 days off in a 12 month cycle before a verbal warning...4 = a written 5-6 and we are discharged. So I save my sick days for my kid and i'm at work regardless of how I feel. Believe it or not I'm in the health care field..So I deeply appreciate consideration of others not sending their sick kids to daycare and school if you have the option of staying home with your sick child. My sick days are priceless are rare.

Posted by: Teddi | March 27, 2006 1:01 AM

I think maybe we should introduce the idea that our children don't live in a vacuum and that their ideas on "motherhood" may be shaped in an environment that is still quite hostile to working mothers and flexible/non-traditional parenting arangements.

Posted by: Chris | March 27, 2006 9:55 AM

It's hard to believe that parents who consider themselves "responsible" in many facets of life would be so irresponsible as to take their sick child to school to infect the other children and teachers and parents with their illness. What makes you all so much more important that the rest? Even if you don't care about the teachers or parents, you must know how awful and sad it is for a little one to be sick, even with "just" a cold.
Please parents -- be responsible! I work full-time (I am a doctor), as does my husband (he is a attorney), and if our daughter is sick, one of us stays here with her. Yes we've missed meetings, even a presentation, but we still have our jobs. And the respect of the teachers and other parents. You and your job are not more important than the rest of us! Keep your sick ones at home till they get better (means not just an afternoon; this means a few days!).
Teachers must also send sick children home immediately. Our school has a rule about this, but it is not enforced enough.

Posted by: Helenna | March 27, 2006 9:59 AM

We are so lucky to have a great solution that I wish could be available more widely, called "Tender Loving Care" for mildly ill kids, a sick kid daycare inside a local hospital, with nurses and caregivers to monitor the children, take temperatures through the day and administer Tylenol etc. There are toys, movies and gentle activities; kids are kept separated. My son loves it, maybe more than his regular school. Thank goodness! It has saved our lives over and over again. We paid $5 to register but the service is free, subsidized by my workplace (You Go University of Washington!). Several major Seattle companies are also members and provide the service to their employees. How do we agitate to get more of this kind of oppportunity available to working families?

Posted by: lucky mum | March 27, 2006 1:04 PM

My husband and I both work for the same company which is really family friendly. We decide on who will stay home with the sick child depending on who really needs to be physically at work. Our supervisors and the company allow telecommuting and we take advantage of that in such situations. We never keep tallies of who is staying home more often and my husband over the years has done more than his share.
I feel extremely lucky and privileged to have an understanding and suporting partner as well as a wonderful work place.

Posted by: sr | March 27, 2006 4:34 PM

It's a no-brainer for us if our kids are sick because my wife, Sarah, is a full-time Mummy. However, if Sarah is ill, then what? I think that's a no-brainer too: I stay at home.
Strictly speaking, my employer (a big bank) expects me to take this time as annual leave, but my manager is more laid back, and understanding, so I don't usually have to do this.
But when I find myself saying things like "I _have_ to go to work today because...", I just ask myself "What would I do if _I_ were really sick?" I would stay at home, of course. The world wouldn't end, and the firm wouldn't go bust. Oddly enough, neither of these things happen when I stay at home to look after my wife and children. :0)
- AJ

Posted by: AJ Finch | March 28, 2006 8:43 AM

Canadian here. My employer grants five days of family leave per year in addition to the 15 days of sick leave. The five days of family leave can be taken to care for a sick relative, or to take them to appointments. The only downside is that we tend to run out towards the end of the fiscal year. At which point we start using sick leave.

I work in an office full of women of childbearing age; two of us currently have kids. The others are recently married so I expect we'll see some more year-long maternity leaves in the next few years. It is a professional office and I can't see, if they were eager to avoid hiring women who would take a year-long leave, any evidence of such discriminatory practices. My manager is a woman with two children; her manager is a woman with one child; her manager is a woman with a child. All are cognizant of the realities of maternity leave and the balancing act of working motherhood. As a matter of fact, when I was hired, my current manager was on a year-long maternity leave which was then extended by three months. They were fully supportive when I went on my year-long maternity leave and are fully supportive now when I have to miss days to take care of my daughter. This idea that generous leave policies and family-friendly workplaces are somehow harmful to women's success is just a myth. Canada's levels of female achievement including women in the top echelons of business etc. are so close to US levels that it can safely be called within the margin of error and left at that.

Unfortunately, our leave policies don't apply equally to all women and the mat leave pay is not adequate in most situations--but I don't think anyone could put together a cogent argument that women would somehow benefit from a reduction in our leave policies.

The grass IS greener up here, and I'm not afraid to say so.


I think everyone should have access to the policies I do: paid family leave plus adequate paid sick leave, good maternity and parental leave policies upon childbirth or adoption with near income-replacement payment levels, and bosses who are human beings and who recognize that allowing you to stay home for a day and recover is ultimately more beneficial to office productivity than requiring you to come in sick, infect everyone, and be half as productive for the twice as long it takes you to recover. I am incredibly lucky; but I shouldn't be, this should just be standard. My daughter even goes to daycare in my husband's office building. Can I tell you how much easier that makes our lives? Excellent, affordable daycare in a convenient location--most of the teachers have been working there for over a decade, turnover is that low. And she loves it there.

Posted by: Andrea | March 29, 2006 2:15 PM

Wow, this has gotten nuts. breasfeeding? not having kids v. having kids? How incredibly private these decisions are. I love my kids, but totally respect the people who have chosen not to have kids. I breastfed both my kids for 1 year each. It is not for everyone, and my kids are as sick and well as my non-breastfed nieces and nephews. Women should not be guilted into breastfeeding. God Bless the single moms who have to work, and the women who chose to work, and those like me, who don't work but know where all the money is!! My kids are great, I help the working moms, and they give me great candle presents. I live through them, they need me.

Posted by: Karen | April 3, 2006 5:47 PM

My son is grown now, but because I was a single parent he was in daycare from the time he was 9 weeks old. He got sick a LOT during the time before he started school, but I was fortunate that my mother lived nearby and was able to take care of him. Once he started school, he never missed a day through sixth grade due to illness. My rule of thumb was that unless he was vomiting, had diarrhea, or a fever over 100 degrees, he went to school.

What's really sad is that there are millions of Americans who get no paid time off from their jobs at all, let alone sick days; and, of course, they're almost always the ones who are making the least money to begin with. There's a bill in Congress that would require businesses with more than 15 employees to allow 7 paid sick days per year. Then maybe working parents wouldn't send their kids to school sick or have an older child stay home from school to care for a brother or sister; and maybe parents would occasionally be able to use their sick days for when THEY'RE sick.

Posted by: Nurese | April 6, 2006 4:48 PM

I was substitute teaching earlier this year -- until about February. That's when I noticed that every time I spent the day in the classroom, I ended up getting sick and so did my kids. The cause? A classroom full of sick kids with Very Important Working Mothers, hacking and sneezing and breathing on me all day.

This is why people leave teaching -- because Very Important Working Mothers treat school like a daycare center. If you want to know why there are problems at your childs' school, look at yourself and your own behavior.

I'm not the only one who has left substitute teaching (or full time teaching) for this reason.

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