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Playing Fair: Should it Always Be the Mum’s Responsibility to Take Time Off When Their Child Is Sick?

As a working mum, one of the most difficult things is juggling being a Mum and doing well in your career.

I love my job and have found the transition of returning to work full time easier than most. I’ve taken each day in my stride and found a balance that works for me and for my family. I have found a wonderful childminder and I am lucky that I have a supportive line manager. The people who I work with are fabulous and we have had a great five months together working hard to become the number one branch in our area.

But, just when you think you have this working mum thing nailed, something comes along and bites you in the bottom.

Last weekend, Dexter had a temperature and it meant he and my husband stayed home while I traipsed to Manchester for a blogging conference. To say I was happy about it is a slight understatement. A bed all to myself and no chance of being woken in the night by a toddler who needs me? I was living the actual dream! It was the first night I’d spent alone in a bed for a good few years. Of course, I felt guilty that I’d left my poor hot baby behind, but he had his daddy to take care of him and I knew my husband would ring me if I was needed in any way.

On Monday, although his temperature was largely back to normal, he still seemed a bit whiny and had been up numerous times in the night resulting in very little sleep for us all. I made the decision to take the day off work so we could both recuperate. I have been suffering with a cold and cough for three weeks and have been powering through. I think my colleagues were quite pleased to have a day without me standing behind them spluttering down their ears.

Monday night came and went and Dex slept a lot better. I had a commitment to meet my manager and decided to go into work on Tuesday whilst Dex went to the childminder. All was well. Wednesdays are my days off and Dexter and I spent the day at home while the car was in the garage. It was nice to spend some time relaxing and although Dex was quite whiny and slept a lot, I didn’t think much of it.

On Thursday I went to work as usual, dropping Dex off on my way. I was having a great time catching up with one of my colleagues about her recent trip away when I got a message from the childminder to tell me Dex had done five runny poos within the space of an hour. Five.

I asked if I should collect him and she said she’d see how he got on after he woke from his nap. He woke up to a poonami so she was back on the phone saying he needed to go. Now what?

Luckily, work are great and I had enough staff in to cover, so I hopped in the car and went to collect him. I rang my husband. He didn’t pick up. I rang again, nothing. I text him saying I’d come by his workplace and collect him as he was finishing at 4pm and received a stern reply. ‘Why? Am in a meeting!

Secretly fuming, I drove home. After getting back, putting on CBeebies, emptying the washing machine, putting the dry clothes away, loading the dishwasher, sweeping up the remains of last night’s dinner off the floor and finally collapsing on the couch, he rang me back. I asked what we should do about the following day considering Dexter can’t go to the childminders for 48 hours after having diarrhoea and I was informed in no uncertain terms that I would have to take another day off.

Now correct me if I am wrong, but aren’t we all, Mums AND Dads covered by a law that states we can all take time off work if required to care for any dependants we may have? Why does it fall to me as the mother? Or is it simply that my career is not as important as his?

So what next for me? Well, another day off work it and lots of hopes and prayers that Dex has no more diarrhoea before Monday. Typically, after arriving home there was not one release of gas, let alone any poo, and he seemed as right as rain. He ate me out of house and home, devouring two bowls of pasta, three crackers and two rice cakes and promptly headed to his bedroom, collecting his bunny and dummy and pointed to his cot. 

I’ll guess I’ll just have to suck it up that as the Mum, it’s my responsibility to stay off work when something goes wrong. As if it isn’t hard enough having to do all the running around picking Dex up and dropping him off because I am the only one who drives, I now have to be the one to compromise my career.

Perhaps my husband is right, after all he does earn more money than me. Probably as a new mother in my thirties, senior management don’t see much opportunity for me to progress now within the business anyway as chances are I’ll be pregnant again in the next few years. This doesn’t stop me feeling more than a little disappointed though. I want to be happy that I have an extra day off with my little man, but the truth of the matter is, I enjoy being at work and I can’t help but feel guilty that I am letting them down. Maybe I care too much? Maybe I’m overthinking things. I just can’t help but think that if mine and my husband’s careers were reversed, I’d still be the one taking a day off today. 

How do you work it when your child is sick and somebody has to take a day off work? Do you take it in turns or do you as the Mum always have to do it? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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22 Comments

  • Reply Nicola

    We have only just had this debate! I also have to take annual leave when out childcare are on holiday etc simply because they are my family! It is infuriating. In my experience, I have had to show more commitment to my role since returning from maternity than my male colleagues, they seem to have made the decision to sideline me because I’m a mother now.

    I personally don’t believe it is always the role of the mother, it should be a compromise on all sides. The pressure as a working mother is hard enough, being the one who does morning routines, pick ups and drop offs too mean that we’ve often done a couple of hours before we get to the office. The men simply get themselves ready and go. They also seem to forget the years in which our incomes were the ones that were relied upon whilst they were getting to where they are now!

    29th September 2017 at 8:33 am
    • Reply mummytodex

      I couldn’t agree more Nic. I am pretty sick of getting up in the morning and getting myself and Dex ready while my husband lies in bed. I know that is not the case in your situation as your partner as such a long commute himself. Nobody seems to realise what work goes in to making sure everybody is ready for the day ahead though: washing, cleaning, intoning, packing etc.

      My income is definitely still relied upon now. There is now way we could survive with just the one income. (Well we could, but it wouldn’t be a *nice* life) but does that mean it is left down to me to be the primary caregiver, taxi driver and full time branch manager?

      29th September 2017 at 8:59 am
  • Reply OddHogg

    Gah this would drive me insane! I know it would be the exact same if I were still working in an office though. JHogg is a contractor so if he isn’t in work then he isn’t getting paid so it would always be up to me as I had a staff position.
    OddHogg recently posted…Tour De Trike with VTechMy Profile

    29th September 2017 at 1:01 pm
  • Reply Emma Raphael

    Oooh that’s a tricky one. I think it kind of reflects a lot on England to be honest, and how certain aspects of life here can be, it’s just a natural way for a lot of men to think. I have lived in Denmark and in Bavaria now and in both places it’s a lot more equal in terms of parenting (LOVED the maternity/paternity leave in both places!) and that was really refreshing to see! Hope your little one is better now! 🙂
    Emma Raphael recently posted…The Feather Islands – Fjäderholmarna StockholmMy Profile

    29th September 2017 at 2:31 pm
  • Reply Sinead (shinnersandthebrood.com)

    Interesting argument. We definitely share. There are only so many days off I can actually take so it has to be shared in this house. It’s never easy though and sharing the morning and bedtime workload is so important, even when one parent ISN’T working!

    29th September 2017 at 2:35 pm
  • Reply Becky @ Educating Roversi

    I commented on this on your Facebook post but just wanted to stop in from #KCACOLS ☺️

    1st October 2017 at 9:29 am
  • Reply fivelittledoves

    This is interesting, I think for me it would depend on the job. I know with my eldest I worked as a teaching assistant and his dad worked as a deputy head, in that case I found that it was easier for me to take that time off than for him?

    1st October 2017 at 7:28 pm
  • Reply Lily

    This is a debate that is happening in homes across the country and just goes to show how important feminism still is.
    We need to fight the good fight in our homes and hopefully our children will not have this same argument.

    Having said that, I do think my husband does more than my dad did (although still not equal to me by a long shot), but so far I’m the one to take all the necessary days off. Admittedly, I do have loads of annual leave to use up because I only went back to work after maternity leave in August. Next year when we’ve got similar amounts of annual leave the arguments will start. Surely it is only fair that we alternate?!

    Also, LEAN IN! If you want to get promoted, make it known. Don’t let yourself get sidelined. Don’t be shy about your work achievements and maybe on day you could earn more.

    1st October 2017 at 7:38 pm
  • Reply Katy - Hot Pink Wellingtons

    I totally understand the frustration! I only work two days a week, so thankfully this hasn’t been too much of an issue for me, but it’s definitely come up over the years. For us, it’s an odd one maybe – I’m freelance, so if I’m not working, I’m not getting paid, but my husband earns a lot more than me and works in a far more responsible job that is more difficult to abandon at short notice. Add in the fact that I work from home, so I’m always closer to go and do the pickup, so it always falls to me. And it’s expected that when both my son and I’m ill at the same time, that I’ll just plough on through. I have to explicitly make it known that I’m too ill to be looking after my children – otherwise he’s happy to head off to work as normal.

    1st October 2017 at 8:06 pm
  • Reply Hayley - Devon Mama

    I know exactly where you’re coming from. We’ve been fortunate that we haven’t really had to deal with any time at home because of sickness or illness just yet. However, when my parents are away, it’s usually assumed it’ll be me that will take time off. I don’t mind it, I like spending the time with my boy but the assumption that it’ll fall to us mums drives me a little potty. Thankfully Dave is really good. Sometimes, I need to be in work on different days and the only childcare option is for him to take time out. Sometimes we’ll split a day with him working the morning and me the afternoon. The reality is that it’s easier for me to do my work at different times and still be available at home so it does make sense. It’s more the fact that I have to ask him to do it rather than him offer… I think it’s just a societal thing unfortunately, but one that I really hope will change more and more! Interesting post x
    Hayley – Devon Mama recently posted…Living Arrows: Week FortyMy Profile

    2nd October 2017 at 10:24 am
  • Reply Laura - Dear Bear and Beany

    This must be a tough one to manage. At the moment we don’t have this problem as I’m at home and I know my husband appreciates that this makes his life easier knowing I’m there for the kids when they need me. But I also know that if I did go back to work it would be me that took the day off, but that would be my decision as I know I would want to be with them x

    2nd October 2017 at 11:46 am
  • Reply Nicola

    Why so @fivelittledoves ? Surely the teacher and the class are then impacted by your absence, however, presumably as the DH, your child’s dad would not have had any teaching commitments therefore the impact of him taking a day off would be less?

    2nd October 2017 at 1:41 pm
  • Reply Emma

    I know a lot of people who have this debate and quite honestly it all goes back to inequality and the perception that a woman’s job is in the home and not in the workplace. This is why feminism is such an important movement… we aren’t quite there yet!

    2nd October 2017 at 3:13 pm
  • Reply Vicki @ tippytupps

    Even as the main earner in my last job it was still my responsibility to take the time off work. In fact in almost 2 years of nursery not once did they call their Dad if needed, despite him dropping them off and knowing I was out of the country! It’s almost a change in societies assumptions that need to change too if we have any hope of convincing other people #HumpDayLinky

    4th October 2017 at 8:43 am
  • Reply Amie

    I’m a stay at home Mum so don’t really have this problem but because my partner is self employed it makes it a lot easier for him to take time off when needed. I don’t really agree that it’s just the job of the mother to take time off – it should be equal however my children only want mummy when they’re ill so I would definitely feel guilty if I wasn’t with them. It’s a really hard one! #KCACOLS

    5th October 2017 at 9:29 am
  • Reply Helen @Talking_Mums

    I think both parents should take responsibility for taking time off for sickness. At the moment I’m a SAHM but currently doing a course to enable me to set up a business and work from home, I do worry about sickness and I will automatically be the one ‘already at home’ to take care of them. Previously when I was at work it was usually me but he did take time off too x
    Thanks for joining #kcacols

    5th October 2017 at 1:54 pm
  • Reply Mudpie Fridays

    So this is a constant area of frustration in our household. My hubby is not working at the moment and so doing the majority of the dropping/picking up and it means he can have them when they are poorly. But he’s due back to work soon and then I know the expectation is that I will do something. Despite having the more senior role, responsibility and pay packet to go with it I will be the one that has to juggle. It always been that way. I have often thought about threatening to resign and seeing what the outcome would be – just to make a point that actually I can’t do it all! xx
    Mudpie Fridays recently posted…Piccolo launches One for One campaign – because no child should go hungryMy Profile

    5th October 2017 at 8:05 pm
  • Reply Bread // Queer Little Family

    I’m a new manager and a mum too, and try to give my staff members with kids as much leeway as I would like. I’m lucky, my wife stays at home with our son, but I always feel bad when I leave then and they’re both feeling ill. #kcacols

    9th October 2017 at 10:39 pm
  • Reply Crummy Mummy

    We work the same hours even though we don’t earn the same money so we share sick days 50/50 and all the getting ready etc in the morning. I wouldn’t have it any other way as it’s just not fair! And I don’t want the kids getting the idea certain things are ‘mum’s’ jobs #humpdaylinky
    Crummy Mummy recently posted…Why all mums deserve a break, by Marina FogleMy Profile

    10th October 2017 at 9:35 pm
  • Reply Lucy | Real Mum Reviews

    Ooh this frustrates me on your behalf Hun! I am very lucky that mike does more than his fair share and last week took the day off when Neve had a fever and took her to the doctors on his own. I have just started a new job though and as such I don’t feel I can ask yet! I think it depends on how flexible your employers are but it definitely should just be the mums responsibility #humpdaylinky
    Lucy | Real Mum Reviews recently posted…Hump Day Linky 11/10My Profile

    10th October 2017 at 9:43 pm
  • Reply Life as Mum

    That is a tricky one, to be honest. But it shouldn’t be you who has to miss work ALL the time. It doesn’t matter if he earns more or not, in my opinion. I’m a work from home Mum (blogger) and my partner goes out to work so I’m lucky enough that I get to work around the kids but it’s still hard – especially if they fall ill. I still have to stop working for a few days. However, with you both out work, it shouldn’t be you every time to take time off work if your child is ill. You’re both the parents.

    Great discussion.
    #KCACOLS

    11th October 2017 at 1:34 pm
  • Reply Kelly | and Jacob makes three

    We haven’t had to negotiate this yet, but it definitely should be shared half and half. I suspect I will be expected to do more than my half though… #kcacols

    12th October 2017 at 5:59 pm
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