This is a very common but extremely frustrating problem for all working mothers: who will take care of the kids when they are sick? In my new YouTube video I will talk about this challenge, typically falling on mothers and I will give you 3 powerful tools to deal with the situation.
I clearly remember an occasion when I had an important online presentation at 9 am and my son got sick the night before, he had a fever and was very vulnerable and just wanted mama. My partner needed to leave early for the office, but I was lucky to have help, my in-law promised to come over and take care of him, but at 8:58 she was still not there yet and I remember that frustration, anxiously watching out of the window every second to see when she appears, preparing everything as much as I could to connect immediately while holding my crying son and just getting very stressed out about how I was to manage the presentation, and how much I was to be late and what would people think about my professionalism.
As much as it sounds trivial, it is a real problem. Kids get sick, always. Sick kids mean unpredictability and require extra flexibility from parents and employers. Some countries have great legislation, supporting parents with paid sick leave when their kids are sick so that they don't need to use their paid holidays. There are schools with a strict policy of taking turns which parent to call so that it doesn't fall only on the mothers' shoulders. So there are great examples, but what can you do if you don't live in one of those countries and you get anxious whenever your kids start to cough again?
There are certainly some obvious options like asking for help from family, or grandparents or calling a babysitter, there are even apps for that. You or your partner might take the day off, but what if none of these options works and you need to spend the day in home office? How can you survive such a day?
1. Go with the flow
Might sound oversimplifying, but what if you let yourself go with the flow and you take it easy?
What do I mean by that? Flexibly arrange your schedule, so that it is less meeting heavy or you need to deal that day with fewer tasks requiring deep focus. It could be maybe an ideal day to still do some useful work, like setting up meetings, doing some admin things, sending out some emails or even voice mails that you can easily do while taking care of your kids. I know it sounds strange, but at least my son requires less attention and focus when he is sick as he mainly wants to sleep and cuddle on the sofa, which allows me to do a ton of things on the laptop and phone.
2. Ease your day
Think about it, what else could make your day easier? Obviously, this will not be a day when you can cook for hours, clean the house and work and take care of your kid. So just take it easy, this is the day when you might allow yourself to just switch into survivor mode, meaning that you can order food, forget cleaning, and just focus on the top 2 priorities, in this order: your sick kid and doing some work in the meantime, maybe manage a couple of work stuff that falls into the category of urgent and important, all the rest can wait. For me, this is the day when it is okay to have more screen time if that helps all of us to be less stressed out. So this is not the day when you need to show to the world or yourself how fantastic you are in every life area, this is the day to lower the level and just survive.
We just arrived at the point that is the biggest key here: expectations!
You might have a perceived image of what your colleagues or manager expects from you when you work from home with a sick kid. They might have kids, and they might understand it on some level... the question is, how much do you want to allow your reaction to being influenced by what they might think? Will they judge your performance and your added value based on a day like this? If yes, are those company values you are happy to make sacrifices for?
The other side of the coin is your own expectation, what do you expect from yourself, how should you be able to perform at work and at the same time, be at home with a kid?
You are so eager to accomplish, but does it worth it even if you get overwhelmed by the pressure you put on yourself? I mainly work with mothers from the IT corporate world and let's just say it, that is not a hospital, so most probably no lives depend on you.
I think that it is not fair if any working mothers feel that they should be meeting some unrealistic expectations and suffer from anxiety and stress-related health issues as they try to meet others or their own high and unrealistic expectations and do both: take care of a sick kid and give 100 % work at the same time - which is an urban legend by the way and don't exist for anyone, nor for people sitting alone in a closed office room with zero interruptions.
But remember, if you take away just one thing from this video, let it be this: it is up to you what you expect from yourself on such a day and rescheduling or re-organizing tasks and meetings doesn't mean that you are not a great employee and despite the huge pressure on deadlines in the corporate world, things in the end usually can wait and no lives depend on one day.
Now that you are able to see those terrifying sicknesses from another perspective, check out the description box below and download my free 3 steps guide towards a balanced life that can further help you to successfully align motherhood and work.