Today I am not going to work because Master One is unwell. To be honest, I feel pretty cruddy too, but I am functional and could have managed it. I don’t WANT to miss any work, given I have about 35 days left of my job before I leave. 35. That’s not all that many, and there’s a lot to do between now and then. And when you only work part-time, every day off has a snowball effect. A while ago we had a run of illness combined with professional development days that meant I was at work something like one day a week for a number of weeks. Makes it difficult to do your job well.
But this is one of those things they don’t tell you before you become a parent. Until I had kids, I had an attendance record to be proud of at work – barely a day off, as I was a pretty healthy person, and I like my job, so wanted to be there! Then come the children. If you’re lucky, you get about 10 paid sick days per year in your job. Sometimes they’re given up front, sometimes you have to accumulate them before you can take them. Healthy people might get a bout of tummy bug or flu that means they can’t function in a work environment a few days a year, requiring sick leave. My aunt, when she needed cancer treatment, was able to take more than a YEAR of paid sick leave, after over 30 years of service with hardly any days off! But when you’ve got little kids, suddenly, your sick leave is not just for YOU any more. Because (rightly), daycare won’t take kids when they’re ill. Well, you wouldn’t want them to really because a) that spreads the disease and b) you want to look after them yourself when they’re unwell. So when kids are sick (bad colds, tummy bugs, conjunctivitis and all the other lovely goopy things they pick up), you have to stay home. 10 days per year. I have three kids. If I’m lucky, they get sick at the same time. THAT HARDLY EVER HAPPENS. I have a husband who works away for at least half the year. If I’m lucky, he’s at home when kids are ill. THAT HARDLY EVER HAPPENS! So basically, I have 10 days between four people. That’s 2.5 days per person. And you know what else? Kids, particularly babies, GET SICK LOTS! Their immune systems are developing, they put all sorts of things in their mouths, they are around other sick kids a lot (at daycare/school). It doesn’t take long to use up sick leave when you have kids!
There’s no solution to this. I love my job and I love working, but I’m not the main income earner in my household, so it’s not like I can say to my husband, “I want to work full-time, how about you stay home with the kids for a couple of years?” I like my standard of living, and most of that is because he works hard in his job (which he also loves – dammit, why couldn’t I have married a slacker!?). Instead, I’m working towards a situation where I do most of my work from home, with a view to moving back into libraries proper once the kids are all a bit older and less prone to requiring days off. To that end, I’m also instilling in my kids the same view that my mum instilled in me – you don’t take days off unless you’re physically unable to get out of bed (or away from the loo!). Or otherwise extremely contagious! Hopefully that will serve us all well in the future.
This post brought to you courtesy of a sick baby and not quite well mummy 🙂