How to Work From Home with a Sick Kid

Germs Make Kids Sick

The minute your child starts daycare, they are introduced to a plethora of germs and you are stuck with a sick kid. This isn’t the same as going back to school, kids who have never been to daycare or school are in for huge exposure to germs. And all these germs are going to result in one sick kid.  This, in turn, results in mom getting sick, because, let’s face it, mom spends the most time with the little one, especially from 1 am – 6 am when the child seems to be the sickest….  But of course, the child is in daycare so that mom can go back to work.  But you can’t work when you’re sick and sleep derived…. it’s a vicious cycle.  Add on top of that, that we’re living in the middle of a pandemic, and “being sick” isn’t just as simple as a stomach bug.  Now it’s possibly the plague so you’re stuck at home, working from home, with a sick kid, but you can’t get help from anyone outside the 4 walls of your house because you have to stay away from the whole world until you’re all better.  Good times!

And so, as my son has been home from daycare now for the last several days “sick”, I’ve been running on fumes trying to stay always, keep him healthy, fed, hydrated, napped, happy all while trying to work on my real 9-5 job.

Every Mom's Struggle

 

This is the struggle of any working mom.  When kids are sick, they have to be the #1 go-to parent for making that kid better.  And somehow making life work while still maintaining a job also falls on mom’s lap.

I’m not a single mom, I have a husband.  I’m fortunate in that he’s very helpful around the house, with cooking, with the kids, and generally with every part of our life.  But even though he’s super helpful and a true partner, there are certain things that dads just can’t do.

For some reason, mom’s have a special touch with sick kids at 3 am.  A special snuggle that helps calm them down, a special song that will make then fall asleep, a smell that dad just can’t reproduce.  And as wonderful as it is to be needed like that, it’s not easy. 

There's always a catch

There’s always a catch.  But this time there’s another catch.   This time, we’re in the middle of a pandemic, and being a sick kid isn’t what it used to be.  Now there are rules about being sick.  You need doctors notes, you need testing, you need proof that your kid is not sick.  This adds a nice twist to being a parent because what used to be 1-2 days of a sick kid at home, is now 4-14 days of a sick kid at home.  And that amount of time can make some bosses a bit less excited.  

Being honest with yourself about what effort will be required to make this work is important.   This is no longer a sprint!  Having a sick kid home now is a marathon, and you need to pace yourself!

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Tips

I thought it was important to just write a few notes about how it is (somehow) possible to function as a parent and still work (mostly) successfully.

1. Don’t be a hero!

I know this sounds stupid, as moms are the biggest hero, but what I mean is, don’t overdo it.  Don’t take on more than you can handle, don’t punish yourself for not making everything work.  Things are allowed to slip a bit when kids are sick and you’re all at home.

sick kid super hero
sick kid in bed

2. Get Rest

At the end of the day, when you have a few minutes to go to bed early, take it!  Don’t get stuck in front of the TV or computer for an hour or two wasting away your time.  You can use this to get some rest before the night shift of chaos begins.

3 . Schedule Actual Work Time

You need to get some real work done, so you need to plan for this.  If there is a nap that happens, use that time to get concentrated work done. If they wake up late or go to be early, you can use this time.  I hate to say it, but even having the TV on for 30 minutes will give you time to work.  Stay focused on your urgent, most important tasks.  There are several opportunities to get small chunks of solid work time done.  Take this time as serious work events and focus, focus, focus.

sick kid time

4. Evening Work

I know it sucks having to work in the evening, but sometimes it has to be done.  Leave the more simple tasks for this time of day unless you’re a night person.  I find my brain starts to shut down later in the evening, so tackling hard tasks is very difficult.  I can spend 2 hours on something in the evening that I could do in 10 minutes in the morning.  Spend this time organizing your thoughts for what needs to be done tomorrow.  Draft some emails, organize some files.  Simple tasks that still need to be done, but don’t require your full brain capacity.

5. Take Shifts With Your Partner

Have a serious discussion with your other half about splitting the work-load of child care during the day.  You both need to pull in 8 hours of work.  If you’re both working from home you can work as a team to make this happen.  For example, split the 9-5 day up into 2 sections.  Morning and afternoon shifts. One of you works during each shift and cares for the sick little one for the other shift. It’s not ideal, but at least this way you’re not the only one stuck getting no work done.  If you’re not both working from home, you need to make a clear plan about a turnover after they come home so that you get your work time as well. 

 

asking for help

 

6. Ask for help

You can’t have people come to your house to help you, but you can ask co-workers for help.  They already know you have a sick kid at home.  Let’s face it.  They know.  And that’s ok.  So, don’t be afraid to ask for help.  If there is too much on your plate, ask for help.  Tell your boss.  If you ask for help early on, people will be able to help you, and you won’t miss deadlines.  If you wait until the last minute, this will not end well.  

Final Thoughts

Kids are going to get sick.  I hope my kids never get really sick, but at school and daycare, they will get sick.  They will catch a cold, or the sniffles, or the flu, or some other bug that’s going around.  It’s inevitable.  They’re kids!  They put their fingers onto every surface and then somehow those fingers get into their mouths.  They are going to get sick.  As parents, we  need to figure out a way to navigate through this new normal and still stay employed! 

But one day when your kids are all grown up, you will look back at these days when they are homesick and miss that wonderful time you spent together.

sick kid pin

Was this helpful?

Was this helpful?  What else have you done to stay successful as a parent while maintaining a full time job? Let me know if the comments below!

Cornerstones

This is one of my cornerstone documents.  If you liked what you read here, check out some of my other cornerstone articles found here

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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. hari

    this is a valuable article for every parent.
    I personally feel like it is a real challenge, but with a supportive partner, you don’t feel lonely.
    thanks for sharing this awesome post!

  2. Jen

    Good tips! Thanks Katherine

  3. Carrie Pankratz

    Yes! The pandemic has made this so much more challenging. As someone who works at a school, I feel terrible having to call a parent for what might only be a cold. We can’t take the chance. It is such a struggle for the parents. Last year, I would have just said, “Try to tough it out!” This year, that kid whose throat hurt a little turned out to have COVID. Thank you for the tips for all of us working parents.

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