The dreaded lurgy. It came to visit our house this week, and it was not good. All of us were impacted by it at some stage throughout the week.
Sick Leave for Working Parents
Coughs and colds are nothing new. I would have managed to pick up a couple of viruses each year for as long as I can remember. It’s just one of those things, an unavoidable part of life. Thankfully, here in Australia we have robust sick leave policies and whenever I have fallen unwell, I have simply had to call my employer and inform them that I won’t be coming in. I still get paid, and after a day or two of solid rest, I’m ready to get stuck back in and be productive at work. Ultimately employers know that a day off to get better is far more valuable than a sick and unproductive employee at work.
Parenting, however, has added an extra layer of complexity to sickness. This past week demonstrated just how complex it can be in our house.
On the first day, Hannah fell ill. She had a fever overnight, which immediately disqualified her from childcare the following day. Emma and I discussed arrangements for the following day. We decided that I would stay home, as I had a lighter workload that day. I notified my employer and used one of my sick days to stay at home and look after Hannah. My employer understood the situation and was fine with me using a sick day to look after my child.
The next day, Hannah was fine. Her temperature had returned to normal and she was ready to return to childcare. I, however, was not. A day of staying home with a sick toddler had taken its toll, and I was too unwell to go to work. Emma took Hannah to day care, and again I notified my employer that I wouldn’t be coming in. I spent the day sleeping.
Neither of those scenarios caused a problem for me. The next day, however, did.
What About The Stay-at-home Parents?
I wasn’t feeling better by the next day, in fact I was feeling far worse. The bug that had given Hannah a slight temperature for half a day had well-and-truly flattened me for the best part of a week. This is where it got tricky.
It was my day to look after Hannah, but there was no way that I was feeling up to the task. I needed bed – a lot of it. There was no sick day to take. I couldn’t call it in to the boss and take the day off. Thankfully, Emma contacted her mum and she was only too happy to have an impromptu day with her grandchild. She had to move some stuff around, but it was all good.
That worked out well for us, but what about for people without that level of family support? I know that we are extremely privileged to have family who are so willing to help out, but there must be huge amounts of people who don’t have that luxury. How do they cope?
I assume most just battle on. They drag themselves out of bed and get on with the task of being a parent. After all, they have no option. An energetic toddler isn’t about to grant a sick parent a quiet day in bed, and there isn’t anyone else to take over. My experience of working through illnesses in the past is that it then drags on for a long time. Without that vital rest, parents without support must often have to deal with sickness that drags on and on.
I know I now sound like the man who has just “discovered” something that stay-at-home parents have been talking about for a long time, but wouldn’t it be great if there was some way to provide those parents with “sick leave”? Of course, it is such a complex problem and there is no easy solution. One that came to mind was the provision for a certain number of free casual day care days. I’m sure that still wouldn’t cover the needs of every stay-at-home parent, but at least it could be a start.
What do you think? Should stay-at-home parents have access to some kind of “sick leave”? What could the solution be?