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Single Parent At Home With A Sick Child
How effectively do you juggle work and sick children when you are a single parent
Even though my son is now 15, whenever he gets sick it’s forever a tough decision between work and my “baby”. It’s rush hour at work, it’s the end of the month and the books need to be closed, your boss has your back and you’re a responsible person by nature, time is against you as you race to finish everything. With a million things flashing through your mind that you still have to do, the phone rings. It’s your child’s school nurse. He’s running a fever, body aches, and needs to be picked up. It’s only 11 o’clock and he was fine when you dropped him off at 7:30 this morning.
Her father is nowhere to be found and there are no relatives who could drop their life at 11 in the morning and drive a mile or so to pick up your little girl. You might think of a few trusted people (friends, neighbors, in-laws), but you don’t have their numbers with you.
You can never really plan your child’s sick days like this, but you can establish some procedures. Here are some ideas that may help before you find yourself in what looks like chaos:
1. Buy a day planner with an address and phone number attachment, or use your phone as an organizer, if possible, save the people who are your support network in case of illness. Always keep this with you.
2. Get an erasable magnetic monthly calendar and attach it to the refrigerator door. Record all support contact information (including contact information) on the appropriate dates. Don’t forget to link your activities to phone numbers as well. Then when you get sick, everyone in your house knows where and who to call.
3. Hold weekly family meetings. Keep the lines of communication active. If there are changes to the family’s sick day plans, everyone must be included in the discussion.
4. You should never be the only person who knows how to do your job, train others for situations you can’t avoid, keep a line of communication open for times like this when you have to leave, you can always have support for your duty.
5. Tell your boss from the start that you have a child and ask for flexibility in unseen situations.
6. Allow a little extra time and demonstrate team building and work performance so your manager is flexible with you when these times come.
7. Think about the job before signing the employment form, if you have to consistently choose between work and your child, you may not be happy and it may not be the best place for you.
8. If possible and your company allows, ask for flexibility to work from home during these times – you’ll never know if this is possible unless you ask.
All working single parents have faced this problem. We love our children deeply. But how can we effectively juggle work and sick children – especially as a single parent? This balancing act is sometimes very challenging. Do we ignore the children and continue working, do we let the school and the janitor take care of them, or do we put the needs of our child/children first. Sometimes, when our only financial support is your work, it seems like we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place!
According to the National Association for Sick Child Daycare, every day more than 350,000 children under the age of 14 are too sick to attend school or day care. Working mothers stay home from work 5 to 29 days a year to care for their sick children (a fifth of all children living in US families are single parents). So how do you prepare for those unexpected sick days with your kids?
Because being a single parent stresses a certain thing, there isn’t a single parent who can say they haven’t experienced stress and/or anxiety at some point. So here’s the key to survival: You have to be flexible. Composition. Non-impulsive and think things through. Well, that’s easier said than done, but in practice it’s achievable. Single parents must be open to constant change. Growing to accept and adapt to this daily pressure helps.
Find out the degree of your child’s illness, if you can, do it before sending him to school or day care – this is a plus. In order to get through the door, some parents assess their child under an illness and send them to school or day care just so they can pick up the child after 9 o’clock. If your child wakes up with a fever over 100 degrees or is vomiting, he is likely contagious and should stay home. Most other symptoms – runny nose, pain, sore throat – are speculative. Also try to see if his symptoms of “illness” are the result of some other psychological event in your or his environment that has caused this illness in your child. Some children find it very difficult to deal with the changes of being a single parent, so consider if you are traveling this coming weekend? Have there been any changes in your personal life (eg new romance, unexpected death, recent move, remarried ex)? Does your child struggle with his teacher or friends at school? While these questions won’t immediately help you in the morning when you’re trying to get out the door, they are questions to think about and discuss with your child when you get home that evening.
Keep an eye on your child’s illness and start making arrangements for the “maybe”. If things are really bad, remember to call your manager at least 1 hour before your shift and leave a very clear message that you will not be there. If this happens too often, some supervisors may want medics – it’s just something to keep in mind at all times.
Develop a support network of family and friends that you can call to babysit. Don’t wait until your child is sick. Discuss your plans for a sick child with these people thoroughly. For example, ask how they feel if the child has a fever or a sore throat at home. This type of foresight also helps you consider whether your child is old enough to be left home alone.
Look for facilities that offer day care for a sick child. In 1986, there were 36 nationwide public day care organizations for sick children. Today, there are more than 300 such facilities. Perhaps there is one near you. Contact your local hospital for more information or search for it on Google.
Work respectfully with your superiors. Help them understand that you want the situation to be a win-win. This could be an opportunity for the company to reduce overall costs. In her article “Chicken Soup for the Working Parent,” author Sandy Wendel shares how CIGNA Corporation developed the Working Well Moms on-site breastfeeding program to support new moms who want to breastfeed at work. CIGNA has reduced healthcare costs for nursing mothers and their children by $240,000 annually and saved $60,000 due to reduced absenteeism among nursing mothers. If your workplace does not have programs for parents of sick children, talk to your human resources manager about possible options.
Manage the guilt. Dr. Marilyn Heins, pediatrician and author of ParenTips (Development Publications), says the best way to prevent guilt is to “(1) accept yourself and your position, (2) be aware of your child’s illness patterns so you can best assess your child’s symptoms, (3) don’t let your child think that being sick is the only way to get time with mommy (or daddy).” Guilt can rob you of the peace God wants for you.
Remember to “cast all your cares on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
Finally, enjoy the time with your sick child, never make them feel like they have done something wrong when it is clear you have to stay home, use this time as an opportunity to enjoy your child. Make the most of your day at home. Offer cuddles and listen instead. Sensitive comfort through touch can actually nurture a sick child toward wellness.
A sick child is inevitable and it can seem like it happens at the worst time. Remember that your child(ren) are very precious and you have many job and career options where you can win, so you can fail. But if you fail to exist as a loving parent, no one can win. Trust your instincts when determining your child’s level of illness. To ask for help. And above all trust God. Nothing happens today that hasn’t first passed through His hands. He knows both you and your family before you were formed in your mother’s womb.
Prayer changes things. I always pray for favors for my work and for everyone involved with my child.
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