Juggling skills needed when kids sick


Some mothers seem to have it down pat. Without a second's hesitation, they tuck the patient up into bed, whisk up some fortifying chicken soup, call into work sick and settle into a day of watching The Wiggles on repeat.It is a universally acknowledged fact that children never get sick at a convenient time.

Not for them the Friday night virus that will be gone by the time the school bell calls them to class on a Monday, nor shall they ever be struck down with a sore stomach on a public holiday.

No, children invariably fall sick on school days, or more to the point, on parental work days. Which means, for the working mum, the plaintive cry of "my tummy hurts" or the sighting of a flushed and feverish brow is accompanied by a mental check of the day's diary and a resigned reshuffling of events.

As the invalid is sent back up to bed, the working mum starts the mental debate. Is he really that sick? How many days have I already used of my measly sick day allocation this year? Maybe he will bounce back by lunchtime? Don't they say fresh air is healthy?

Some of us are lucky to have grandparents or other family members around, who, through some strange connection of blood, don't seem to mind looking after the sick offspring of relatives.

If you have one of those around, my advice to you is to treasure them.

Don't allow them to book holidays unless they are willing to commute for measles, mumps and tummy aches.

For the rest of us, though, we have to find the balance between work and children. Some mothers seem to have it down pat. Without a second's hesitation, they tuck the patient up into bed, whisk up some fortifying chicken soup, call into work sick and settle into a day of watching The Wiggles on repeat.

Others go for the rulebook approach. The rulebook approach is simple. They have a copy of the Ministry of Health poster listing common childhood diseases stuck to their fridge, and so can confidently determine if the oozing spots little Johnny is sporting are really contagious. In case of any doubt, a quick trip to the doctor is organised, where the desired outcome is not a sick note but a "perfectly fine to go to kindy/school" note.

This is the same mother who can be overheard arguing with the head teacher at daycare about the specific colour of little Johnny's runny nose (for the record, green means home, clear means can go in), with statements such as "I wouldn't call that green, it is just the lighting in this room".

Most of us, myself included, fall into a middle category. I won't claim to be as selfless as the chicken soup-making Mummy Nightingales. I am nowhere near that.

Instead I tend to sigh, resignedly reorganise my day and start a barter with my husband: "I did the chickenpox week, and I did the viral spots last Tuesday. If you do today, I will do the rest of the week" while mentally wishing my work perks included a nanny or two. Equally, however, I don't send clearly sick children into school or kindy, and have been known to shoot a fierce glare at the rulebook mothers as they push snotty and spotty children into the playground to infect their playmates. Instead we find ourselves trying to juggle a laptop and a cool flannel, as we soothe fevered brows while finishing a report or spreadsheet.

Maternal Musings is a column written for us by a local working mother. With three children, a cat, a dog and a husband sharing her home, she has plenty to write about and assures us that at least one of the above is housetrained. Look out for her column every fortnight in the Stratford Press.

- Stratford Press

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