Who stays home when a child is sick?

Lilina came down with a cold and couldn’t go to preschool last Wednesday. It wasn’t a big deal because I was at home, just like it’s been for the last 10 years. Anything I needed to do could be arranged around caring for my sick 4-year old.

By Thursday afternoon I was getting worried. She didn’t seem significantly better, and I didn’t think her preschool would even let her through the door on Friday. However, Friday I had to be at school teaching for five hours.

I wasn’t sure how Michael would react. I’m not making very much teaching but I really can’t miss a day since it’s just one day a week.

I was surprised when Michael said it wouldn’t be a problem for him to take Lilina with him until I could get her after class. (My class starts earlier than he has to be at work.)

I have a friend with several employees, and one of the dads is always the one to take off.  It drives my friend crazy – why can’t the mom take off sometimes?

My sister-in-law and brother often split who stays home. I think it depends a lot on how sick the child is. If you’re really sick, then you get mom!

How do you decide who is staying home with a sick child? Do you go back and forth? Does it depend on who has the more rigid schedule that particular day? Who has more days off? Who makes more? Who has the more understanding boss?

72 comments Add your comment

mom2alex&max

August 31st, 2011
6:42 am

About your friend Theresa: maybe mom has a crappy boss. Maybe mom has used up all the sick days herself in some illness. Maybe she has the kind of job that doesn’t have sick days. Maybe the mom is self-employed and when she doesn’t work, she doesn’t get paid.

I really, REALLY, think that all employers should implement family policies for EVERYONE not just moms. I’m tired of hearing that moms are “slack” and that “everyone else picks up their work when they take off”. Maybe if more dads picked up their share without bad consequences, that wouldn’t be the perception.

As far as we go, I am always the one that takes home; unless it happens to be on a day that I have to go to a client..then he stays for the morning until I can pick them up.

catlady

August 31st, 2011
7:05 am

In our family it was almost always me. My job had sick days; his did not. By temperament, I was better suited.

Me

August 31st, 2011
7:40 am

Both of us work in IT and can work from home as needed. Plus, we both have jobs that provide sick days so we basically took turns predicated upon whom could more easily stay home that particular day. With the last of our 3 now 16 it’s virtually a non-issue as he can “fend for himself” for the most part. Plus, he knows he can call/text and at least one of us will be able to assist as needed.

DunwoodyMom

August 31st, 2011
8:01 am

Both of us work in IT and have fairly flexible jobs, but it’s usually me because I have been at my company longer and I have twice as many vacation days as my husband does. I work from home as much as possible when he naps and after daddy gets home. My son was home sick for 2 full weeks in July. It makes me wish we had grandparents in town to help out sometimes.

RJ

August 31st, 2011
8:04 am

My hubby leaves at 4:30am, so unless a kid is extremely sick the night before, I am the one to take off. It is a pain and I end of using so many of my sick days, but when you wake up and a kid is sick, what are you to do? We moved closer to our parents, so sometimes I will drop the sick child off with them. It really depends on how sick they are. If there’s a high fever then we’re going to the doctor’s office. If it appears to be mild, I’ll send them to the grandparents house.

JJ

August 31st, 2011
8:08 am

As a single parent, it was always me. Until she got older (Middle School), and could stay home alone. There’s no need for me to stay home, unless she was throwing up or something serious. She used to get a lot of headaches, and she would stay home by herself. I was 15 minutes away, so if she really needed me, I could get to her.

boogeysmom

August 31st, 2011
8:08 am

I lost my last job because my son was sick and couldn’t go to daycare. Now it’s not a problem because I’m unemployed….

irisheyes

August 31st, 2011
8:15 am

My husband works nights, so he’s the one to get them from school if they’re sick. I will take time off to take them to the doctor, though. (Something about being afraid that he won’t ask the right questions or remember important info. I know, I should trust him. But I don’t. :) )

Ooh, Irish eyes......

August 31st, 2011
8:23 am

…don’t get Theresa started on trusting the dad to ask the MD the right questions and how her husband just NEVER asks the right ones and she does not trust him to ask them…

MomOf2Girls

August 31st, 2011
8:28 am

No choice with us – it’s me. I can either take a sick day or work from home (depending on my boss’ mood when I call), but my husband works for a catering company doing a specialized job that requires certification. If he’s not there (or another certified person), the catering company isn’t allowed to function. There aren’t many people with the certification, and it’s tough to get someone last minute.

Fortunately, my children very rarely get sick, so this is seldom an issue.

Augusta

August 31st, 2011
8:35 am

It constantly amazes me that a woman will marry a man, have kids with him, but yet doesn’t trust him with their kids. She can’t leave him with the kids and go do something by herself or with friends, and he can’t be trusted to take his own children to the doctor. WOW….

mom2alex&max

August 31st, 2011
8:47 am

Augusta: it’s actually not like that. I can’t speak for everyone else, but here’s my situation: we have a pretty defined division of labor in my household and I am the one that takes care of all the minutia of running a household. I know more about the kids’ every day situations, I am more in touch with their doctors and teachers and I am the one that deals with all their issues day in and day out. It’s not that I don’t “trust” my husband or that I think he’s a complete idiot, it’s just that he’s not as involved as I am. And I don’t mean that in a bad way; we divided the labor because I only work part time and he has a demanding job and it is in the family’s best interest that he dedicate time and effort to his career.

So I liken it to this: I am not a dumb person, however, I couldn’t hold my own in one of his work meetings. Just because I am not there every day, I don’t know what they are working on, and I don’t know much about the personalities involved. So I couldn’t say the right things and ask the right questions, simply because I don’t know the every day issues of his workplace. The same goes in reverse: he probably doesn’t think to ask some questions to the doctors or the teachers, simply because he is not involved in the every day issues of my “workplace”. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t know and love our children and it doesn’t mean he doesn’t know how to take care of them. I am perfectly comfortable leaving my children under his care for hours, a weekend, a month, whatever.

HB

August 31st, 2011
8:49 am

My friends seem to alternate based on their work. Whoever has work that can wait or that they can do at home later that evening goes home while the spouse who has a presentation or meeting stays at work. Sometimes, they each take a half-day. A few years ago, it was more often Dad who stayed home because his job had greater flexibility, a situation they knew would change within a couple of years.

JJ

August 31st, 2011
8:52 am

My dad was home more than my mom. My dad is the one who took me to the ER on three occasions, once when I fell off a trampoline (Had to have 3 pins put in my elbow to put it back in place), the time when I took a spill on my bike and had to get stitches in my knee, and after a pool accident, when I had to get stitches in my chin. All three times, my mom was working, and he managed to take good care of my brother and I. He was the one who was home with us on the weekends, my mom had to work every other weekend. I think she trusted him, and we turned out ok with out Mommie there 24/7. But then again, we were tougher back then.

Techmom

August 31st, 2011
8:56 am

I used to cringe every time I thought my son was getting sick b/c I knew I’d be the one to miss work… that is until I started working from home. What a relief to not have to worry about things like that. I really am thankful for the stress relief I’ve been provided. I definitely cannot work with a child in the house all day but on occasion, it’s never been a big deal (plus when he’s sick, he usually wants to sleep). Prior to that, it used to be a big juggle. I didn’t work for a company that had sick leave (b/c no one EVER gets sick, right??) and my husband is a work-a-holic so unless I told him “you have to stay home,” he wouldn’t even think about calling in. I used to tell him that if his job couldn’t go one day without him, he was in big trouble. I did get to the point where he was the one taking our son to annual checkups and dentist appointments. If I couldn’t count on him to take the unexpected day off, I could at least make sure he did the planned stuff.

JOD

August 31st, 2011
8:56 am

Some jobs are just more flexible than others. I work from home, and have a lot more flexibility than Hubs, who is a police officer. It takes a death in the family or something very serious for him to be able to take off on short notice, so sick days fall on me. I’m okay with that – it’s part of why I love my job. I can always work while she naps.

I don’t know how families with 2 inflexible jobs would handle it – it would probably be very stressful.

Margaret

August 31st, 2011
9:14 am

Husband and I stay home with our toddler dependent on who has the most flexible day at work that day. We’re both lawyers, so if one of us has court, a meeting, or something else we can’t get out of, then the other stays home. Sometimes when we’re both slammed at work, our mothers (and once even my dad!) have pitched in. I think it’s important and wonderful that my husband is such a hands-on parent, and I appreciate not having to use up every last sick day I have available. We want another baby, and I need to bank those sick days for more paid maternity leave.

jarvis

August 31st, 2011
9:18 am

50 / 50 just like everything else we do.

Clay

August 31st, 2011
9:29 am

I know folks don’t like to hear this, but stay home and raise your children yourselves. When our third child was an infant, the light bulb finally went off for us. After dealing with “who stays home” for four years, it became apparent that staying home with your children is the most important thing you can do. I left my job for over three years and was a stay-at-home dad. When the youngest started pre-K, I went back to work. We had to make things work again until 2007 when my wife was able to start working from home. She has been working from home ever since and it has been wonderful.

I know there are many folks who don’t have the option to work from home or not work at all. I also know there are many folks who do–they choose not to. If you drive new cars and carry Coach bags and always have the newest iPhone or iPad and go to the beach and sporting events every year and have big screen televisions in all of your rooms, then you can afford to raise your children yourself. My wife & I gave up a lot financially when I stayed home for three years; but, the time I received with my children is worth much more and will never be available to me again. Raise your children if you can–you’ll be much better off for it.

Clay

August 31st, 2011
9:33 am

Hey Margaret, you’re a perfect example of what I was just talking about. Nothing you do at work is more important than raising your children. You and your husband will look at your kids one day and say “How did I miss the last 15 years of his/her life?” You’ll never get this time again. You must be pretty smart if you passed the bar. Don’t wait too long to figure this one out.

misawa

August 31st, 2011
9:34 am

It honestly depends on when the sickness hits. I travel a good bit, so those times my wife doesn’t have a choice unless she can get her mom or my mom to watch the ill one. When I’m in town, I’ve got some family sick hours that I’m perfectly fine using. My wife teaches preschool for half days, so I can still go to the office in the afternoons.

The rough days are when a kid is sick and a parent is sick in our house.

abc

August 31st, 2011
9:42 am

Your husband took your sick child to work with him?

Tig

August 31st, 2011
9:43 am

mom2alex&max – I definitely agree that all employers should implement family policies for EVERYONE not just moms. Heck, I would love to work for a company that allowed for both sick days for kids as well as allotted time for parents to volunteer up to x-many hours as their child’s school during the year.

I started back to work in July after being laid off (office closed) and job hunting for a year and a half. Now that I’m working again, I have a 40 mile drive to Atlanta to get to work + 40 miles home in the afternoon in rush hour traffic, and won’t have any paid time off until working at the new job for 3 months. And unfortunately there’s no option available to work from home.

Not a huge biggie since by October I’ll start accruing days off (can use for sick days OR vacation days), but I’m dreading the first time my daughter (in 1st grade) gets sick enough to warrant having to call into work. If she gets sick before I can use accrued time off, it would mean unpaid time for me.

My husband leaves for work before 5 in the mornings and has to pick out his vacation weeks at the beginning of each year, so if he had to stay home with kiddo, it would mean unpaid time for him unless by pure chance he had a floating holiday available to use. Plus, he’s already gone by the time kiddo usually gets up, so if she woke up sick, his staying home with her wouldn’t even be an option.

RJ

August 31st, 2011
9:45 am

@Clay, you’re very fortunate to be able to quit your job and find another when you were ready to return to the workforce. Everyone is not that fortunate. However, your insinuation that working parents are not raising their kids is incorrect. I not only raise my kids, I provide a comfortable home for them. My job allows me to afford all the “extras” like basketball, tennis, voice lessons, guitar lessons, summer camps, etc. I stayed at home with my son for the first two years of his life. I loved every minute of it. However we are in a very different economy and it wouldn’t be wise of me to quit when I have the new baby. I say different strokes for different folks. As long as your kid is happy and healthy, that’s all that matters.

Margaret

August 31st, 2011
9:46 am

Clay, I admire that you stayed home with your kids. Good for you. That model doesn’t work for everyone, and that’s ok in my book. My husband and I know that our child is the most important thing in our lives, and we prove that in big ways and daily in small ways. Let’s not turn this thread into a debate on the merits of staying at home versus working and daycare. That’s a different topic for a different day.

Amy in the ATL

August 31st, 2011
9:49 am

Clay, I’m very glad you are happy with your decision, but let’s not get into criticizing others’ choices. Various families work various ways….and kids thrive not because they have a stay at home parent or not, but because they are in a loving and functioning family environment. Each family needs to figure out what works for them, and there’s just no “one size fits all” solution to life, including raising your kids.

But back to the topic, as far as my family goes, both my husband and I work, but are fortunate enough to have good bosses who are typically willing to allow one of us to work from home if one of the girls can’t go to school. We choose on a case by case basis, depending on whose schedule is more flexible that particular day.

lurker

August 31st, 2011
9:59 am

@Clay – some of us have to have both parents working for benefits – health insurance. My hubby is self employed, makes enough $ for us to survive on but health ins would cost a fortune! I work for the insurance benefits.

jarvis

August 31st, 2011
10:04 am

Stay at home dad’s are douches.

jarvis

August 31st, 2011
10:05 am

dads….don’t know where that apostrophe came from.

JJ

August 31st, 2011
10:13 am

One of my male friends quit his job of 20 years to stay home with his kids. His wife owns a pet grooming business, and apparently makes enough for him to stay home…..but I do know they DO NOT have any health insurance. Which, with kids, you really need some type of insurance. Unless you are willing to shell out tons of money for a simple doctor’s visit.

ABC

August 31st, 2011
10:15 am

I am extremely lucky that both my husband and I work from home, so even if someone is traveling for work, one of us is always here in the rare event our child needs to stay home.

@ Clay......

August 31st, 2011
10:20 am

It took you until your third child before “the light bulb finally went off”
Maybe daycare was too costly?

Zedd

August 31st, 2011
10:29 am

Why would any of you have children with men that you don’t trust to take care of them? Are you stupid?

Teacher&mom

August 31st, 2011
10:29 am

As an elementary school teacher, one would always assume I am the one to take off work, but most of the time my husband stays with the baby. He can work from home. When I am out, students are not receiving the best instruction and parents start to complain if you are out too much. Teachers also are only allowed to miss a certain number of days before a note is placed in their file. It would be great to stay home with my baby, but in this economy if you have a teaching job you are fortunate. Teaching jobs are few and far between, so I fear I would not be able to find a job when I am ready to return to work.

JATL

August 31st, 2011
10:29 am

We take turns -although my husband has picked up a lot of the slack since I started a new position. I’ve been here long enough at this point to start pulling my weight though. We’re lucky to work for a company that gives 5 sick days in addition to vacation, so some of those get used for really sick kids when it won’t be feasible to work from home. Other times one of works from home while sick kiddo lies around being sick. We get two telecommuting days a piece anyway, so that also helps! I wish more companies would realize how much family friendly policies (that are also nice perks for the child-free), greatly help in employee retention and satisfaction.

Too bad we’re just all not like Clay, who is obviously a superior parent. Guess what -we enjoy being able to take family vacations and allowing our kids to participate in extracurricular activities! We love having a pool membership that gives my boys and us as a family year-round joy, and another reason we both work is that I don’t want my children to be saddled with the burden of taking care of me when I’m old! Retirement savings is good for the whole family! We’re actually rather frugal and savings oriented, but I decided after 4 years at home that I wasn’t doing our family, and especially my children, any favors by severely limiting our income.

Erica

August 31st, 2011
10:30 am

Short answer. It depends. Luckily, I have a job that allows me to work from home (travel and meeting schedule permitting) if my child is sick. So, typically, I’m the one that stays home with the sick kid (and by choice). However, if I’m travelling or have some sort of meeting that can’t be rescheduled, then my husband or my mom watch her. I just prefer to be with her when she’s not feeling well.

Me

August 31st, 2011
10:39 am

@Clay — If that works for you then by all means “carry-on” — For others, that wasn’t an option for whatever reason. I haven’t “had” to work since 1995 when I sold my business. I have no intention of this sounding ugly, but if I had stayed home all the time with the kids we would absolutely have driven each other crazy. There’s always “too much of a good thing”…

Martha White

August 31st, 2011
10:47 am

When a child is ill enough to be home, count yourself blessed for that two-parent household (two caring parents, that is). My daughter divorced an abusive husband on the west coast and moved here with her baby. She is fairly new on her job and nervous about taking time off.

If not for the grandparents (my husband and me) I don’t know how she would manage when her son is ill – or on days when his preschool is scheduled to be closed for religious holidays.

I work and my job has some flexibility with hours, so usually I can keep the child when he is ill. I am happy to help out, but he’s been sick several times this past year. I never took a day off until my gandson arrived. Sometimes I sense disapproval from my employer although I still meet or exceed all deadlines and even ask for extra projects on my own time to compensate for minor inconvenience.

I need my job, but with no child support at all, my daughter would suffer more if she lost hers.

HB

August 31st, 2011
10:49 am

As a long-time babysitter/nanny, there is nothing I find more offensive than the implication that working parents have others raise their kids. I hope I was a positive influence on kids I spent hours with each day, but I did NOT raise those children. I reinforced values important to the parents, followed their discipline system, sometimes provided a way to get kids to and from schools/activities the parents chose for them, fed them food purchased by parents to fit the family’s chosen diet (junky, healthy, vegetarian, kosher, etc), and held down the fort for short times when a child was sick until mom or dad could come home and take them to the doctor. The children were raised well by their parents with some help from others.

Tiger Ochocinco Mellencamp

August 31st, 2011
10:50 am

I’m the dad and during the school year when my wife is working for the school district, I take sick days, she takes snow days since she gets them off anyway and all breaks. I have a pretty generous sick policy at my work and can always work from home and come in the office after hours, where her school year is a little more strict.When she’s off for summer, I’m home free and she takes care of all sick days.

Tiger Ochocinco Mellencamp

August 31st, 2011
10:51 am

Oh..and Clay, having your children educated at a school doesn’t mean they are “raising” your children. Any reasonable person knows that.

Jesse's Girl

August 31st, 2011
11:16 am

Boy….I have it pretty good. I am currently down with some kind of bug….icky, pukey, bitchy…ya know..the usual bug stuff. It was no big deal for Jesse to head to a cheer meeting for our oldest and then rearrange his schedule…LAST MINUTE…to care for the schedule of the other two as well. I think if both partners have a healthy respect for what they each do on a regular basis….its not a big deal to step up and fill in. I am never surprised when Jesse takes my reigns over for a bit. And likewise for me grabbing his(reings that is) when need be. Note to self: dress like Salma Hayeck for Halloween:)

jarvis

August 31st, 2011
11:48 am

In no particular order, here is a list of things Clay most-likely isn’t into:
Cars
Sports
DIY
Breasts
Gambling
Beer
Grabass
Scratching
Cursing
Meat

mom2alex&max

August 31st, 2011
11:58 am

Jarvis: are you implying that because a man is a stay at home dad he is not “macho” and not much of a man??????

jarvis

August 31st, 2011
12:03 pm

No. He is acting high and mighty, and he needs a reminder of what men think of him.

KoolAid House

August 31st, 2011
12:13 pm

How do you decide who is staying home with a sick child? No need to decide. It’s a given I’m staying home. That’s just way it is. Unspoken, yet very much understood.

Mo's mom

August 31st, 2011
12:29 pm

I am a single parent so there is no “who’s staying home with the sick kid.” The answer is ALWAYS going to be me. And the calls from the school are ALWAYS going to come to me so that I have to leave work to pick him up. And most times, I have to bring him back to work with me.

irisheyes

August 31st, 2011
12:47 pm

Like I said, I’m sure my husband would do fine taking one of the kids to the doctor. It’s the control freak in me (just like I’m sure he’d be fine grocery shopping for us, but I go because I think I’ll get better deals). I’m going back to work in two weeks and leaving the newborn with him, so, obviously, I trust him a little. ;-)

KoolAid House

August 31st, 2011
12:49 pm

Congrats on your newborn. I love babies.

Becky

August 31st, 2011
12:57 pm

I have been very blessed (or freaking lucky) my two haven’t been very sick, so days off to stay with them aren’t needed that often..If the husband can’t stay with them, I take off..No biggie..I don’t have sick days at work, nor do I have personal days..I just have a very understanding boss..And if she weren’t so understanding, I can always go to work for McDonald’s or Waffle House..

Love how people like Clay are always so uppity about “other” people raising your kids..News flash sweetie..You don’t have to be with your children 24/7..Kids need space just like adults do..So chill with the snottyness about people working to support their families..