two jobs and a baby: the sick days

We are a two-parent, full-time working household. I’m not just a “working” mom… we’re a working family. And this is no better illustrated than what happened this week, or late last month, when the baby gets sick. Kids get sick. They get colds, earaches, fevers, etc. no matter if you stay at home with them and keep them away from germs, subject them to the snot of their best buddies at daycare, douse their hands with sanitizer every 30 minutes or let them eat dirt. It just happens, and you have to know what your plan is when it happens.

For us, we are incredibly lucky to have amazing people caring for her at daycare each day, who call with the inkling that something just isn’t right. That’s how each of the colds have started… with a call to my cell phone, or Mr. M’s cell if I don’t pick up, and then calls to our work numbers at last resort. “Baby M just isn’t acting as herself this morning/afternoon.” They continue to describe her sitting quietly in the corner, or being incredibly fussy with her friends. Once one of us gets the report, we inevitably call the other to discuss the options. Sometimes I have a deadline to meet and sometimes Mr. M has a meeting to attend. We figure out what we can do, and one of us leaves the office to pick her up from daycare.

We’re also really lucky to have jobs where our work can be done remotely, if necessary, but working at home with a sick baby isn’t what it sounds like. Sick babies are snuggly little koala bears that cling and snuggle at every opportunity. Therefore, if you ask to leave work and plan to “work from home” … it usually means you can hang out on email via iphone/blackberry, and field some calls, but that’s it. The “work” part of any task needs to get done in the after hours, post bedtime. This is difficult to do if you have a sick baby who can’t sleep, is vomiting, or is otherwise just so fussy that they don’t know what to do. In that case, you need to make sure you’ve got sick hours for the baby as well as yourself. And if you don’t, know that (if you’ve been at your job for long enough) you can always use FMLA leave days as unpaid days to care for your sick one if their illness causes you to miss 3+ sequential days of work. It may be unpaid, but at least it’s good to know that your job isn’t on the line because your child caught the flu you gave her. So you have to think ahead about saving your vacation and sick hours… and pregnant ladies, realize that if you use up all of your extra time for bonding, you may not have any left when you really need it.

OK… so what happened this week? Well, on Monday we got the call around 10:30am. Mr. M, who wasn’t feeling too hot himself, opted to make it his day and went to pick her up. On Tuesday, she still had a fever so she stayed home as well… and with a huge impending meeting on Wednesday, I went to work to prep. And then, on Tuesday night, we faced decision time as we knew it was a big possibility that she wouldn’t be going to daycare on Wednesday. In my corner: a big giant huge once a year meeting with people whose names are thrown on education papers hourly for our $3 million grant. In Mr M’s corner: a desperate need to get back to the office and a mid-day trip to San Francisco for his current giant project. The decision… I’d wake up early, take her to my office for the meeting prep, and then take her to the meeting.

Yup. I took her to my big giant huge once a year meeting with those crazy important people.  I took her baby bag, her stroller, and planned to camp outside the room with her until my time to present came up. I’d present, answer questions, apologize for my baby, and leave. And it worked. I’m amazingly thankful to Baby M for being so quiet and calm (I mean, she is sick), and hanging out with my co-workers while I presented what I needed to. And to my boss, who let the whole thing happen in the first place. And to Janie and Jack for making clothes that will let people look past the sick drawn out eyes and just comment on how darn cute and sweet your baby is. And to all of those important people who understood my plight, and thank god, work in education.

This is just the beginning of the path for the sick days ahead, and I can’t wait for the winter to fly by… and, yes, little Baby M got her 2 flu shots in December. I’m not sure we could survive the sympathetic response to her getting the flu… we’ve run ragged once again with heart sickness from this one!


  • Maya

    You and Mr. M are such great role models for working parents out there. H and I plan to be working parents whenever we have kids someday and sometimes I get overwhelmed/scared thinking about juggling work/kids. But it’s clear by your posts that it can be done and be done really well (although it won’t always be easy). Cheers to you guys!

  • HamiHarri

    Phew! How stressful! Good for you guys for working it all out, and having such incredibly understanding employers!

  • tracey

    i can’t stress enough how important it is to make sure that 1 – you have enough sick days to cover yourself but also 2- have enough sick days to cover the wee one. i rollover sick time not for me as much as it’s for rosie. i can come to work sick (bad i know !) but she CANNOT go to dc sick.

    it’s all a part of the working parent(s) juggling act.

  • Jade

    Well I’m pretty sure it is the other way around… Janie & Jack thanks beautiful children like Baby M for making their clothes shine and stand out the way they do (as evidenced in her calendar photo shoot). I hope she is feeling better. Kudos to you and Mr. M on being the awesome team that you are.

  • kate

    Wow. This really puts so much in perspective when thinking about both what I want to do when it’s baby time, as well as realize how hard my parents worked to keep my brother and I safe and healthy and cared for. I had working parents too, and to be honest, I never knew it could be a different way because of how well they loved me and cared for me, despite working my entire life. I so deeply value hard work now because of their example. I am sure your kids will feel the same way, even though it’s so incredibly hard to do this now. :)


    Posts like this make me so happy. I really worry about career life post baby, and it’s nice to hear that people just get it that you have to balance and need to do what works. So, I’m so happy for you. :)

  • Jen @ Living a Brighter Life

    Thanks so much for this post. I love getting the “working parents” perspective on parenting. It shows me that although it may be challenging, it can totally be done! You guys make a great team! :-)

    Also, thanks for reminding me to save some of my FMLA leave as well. I have been racking up the vacation and sick days for whenever I DO get pregnant since my company doesn’t have maternity leave.

  • Julie

    You guys really have a good system. I can’t imagine how tough that would be for 2 working parents, but you make it work! I hope Baby M is feeling much, much better.