Nothing can cramp the status quo day of a working parent more than a sick kid. I wake up in the morning eager to greet the world and earn my much-needed paycheck when my little angel stumbles into the kitchen.
“Mommy, I don’t feel good.”
The Virgo in me wants to immediately correct his grammar.
Well, Sweetie. You don’t feel well.
But because he don’t feel good, I hold my tongue and touch his forehead.
Damn. It’s warm. But I tell myself otherwise. It’s not a fever. Perhaps he was just too bundled up while he slept.
Ditto damn. I try to ignore it. He’s almost 6. Maybe his voice is changing.
Then I hear the gag. I try to pretend I didn’t notice it. I instinctively jump out of the way as he vomits all over my jammies.
Crap. I guess he really is sick.
Some working parents earn a salary and can take time off work. Others get an ample amount of sick pay and can take a day off with pay, then take the second day off after they catch the nasty bug from their bedridden babe.
The unlucky working parents who don’t get compensation or time off have a lot of choices, but they’re all between a rock and that place that’s even harder than the rock: stay home with the kid and miss work, pay, and possibly jeopardize their jobs; sneak their sick child into work and risk contaminating the whole office; pump the sick kid full of medicine and send them to school with fingers and toes crossed; or let their little Typhoid Mary stay home from school alone, risking dire consequences and the possible wrath of a Child Services intervention.
Unlike most working parents, I have one big advantage.
I work from home, so if my kids are too sick to school, I put them back to bed, turn on the tv, and plan on taking a few more breaks playing nursemaid – serving soup and medicine, and sucking up to lots of whining. I can stay home and cuddle with them because although they’re sick, what really makes them feel better is to just have their Mommy. I fantasize about wearing a surgical mask and latex gloves and protecting myself with a 10 mil full body bubble, but since I don’t wear protection when I’m hugging and kissing their sweaty foreheads, or wiping their green snot, or double-wiping their diarrhea butts (thankfully the girls are older and I make them do that themselves) there’s a chance that all those abnormal bodily fluids pouring from my kids’ orifices today are going to be leaking from mine tomorrow.
I don’t think childless adults can possibly comprehend the sheer panic that goes into the instantaneous schedule juggling that goes into effect when your child suddenly takes ill. Any plans you might have – work, social or otherwise – must immediately be cancelled. The problem is, it’s hard to find the time to cancel those commitments because your child has a bowl resting in his lap while you race for the pediatrician’s office before the small window of drop-in hours closes. The minivan careens through early morning rush hour traffic with the parent voice-dialing her iPhone, and in between business calls she shouts in the direction of the back seat at her ill little imp:
“Aim for the bowl! Aim for the… DAMN!”
And as Brando himself would pine:
“The horror! The horror!”
You can spend 200 bucks on an auto detail, but that putrid puke stench is never going to completely come out of your carpet.
Last Friday, Jake woke up crying. He said his throat hurt – so bad in fact that he couldn’t even eat Cookie Crisp cereal, so I knew it must be bad. I tried to take his temperature, but our thermometer is a little off, so what I have to do is take my own temperature and assume it’s normal, then take his and add or subtract. I was 95.1˚ which would normally mean that I was already dead from hypothermia, and Jake was 98.4˚ which would in Goldilocks terms seems just about right, but by making me 98.7˚, Jake was actually 102˚ which means that he officially had a fever. This combined with the sore throat could possibly mean strep throat, which apparently is incredibly painful and therefore would explain Jake’s tears.
Call me Sherlock Holmes. That was exactly the doctor’s diagnosis.
After the pediatrician visit, a trip to the pharmacy for an antibiotic, 2 oz. of cough medicine and 1-1/2 oz. of Children’s Advil, Jake was happily clutching his favorite blanket and looking forward to an entire day watching SpongeBob.
And after walking about 30 feet away, I went back to work.
Thank you God for my work-from home job, for walk-in hours for pediatricians, for children’s liquid antibiotics that taste like bubble gum, for Otter Pops, for fluffy blankets that are machine washable, and for husbands who will eventually come home from their jobs and take over nursing duties.
But thank God mostly to Nickelodeon for SpongeBob. Now I can get some work done.