How do you handle sick days and snow days?

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse  March 1, 2010 09:28 AM

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The call came Friday morning around 6 a.m., after nearly two days of snow and sleet and rain: A transformer had blown, and since the preschool had no electricity it was going to be closed for the day.

We don't have back-up childcare right now, and so my husband and I went into juggling mode. He went in to the office for part of the day, while I was on kid duty, and we planned to switch late in the afternoon so I wouldn't leave my coworkers hanging. It's similar to the routine we followed last week, when our 3-year-old spiked a fever while at preschool and, thanks to H1N1 and stricter policies, had to stay home until he went 24 hours without a fever. That took three days.

My husband and I are lucky; we have paid sick time to tap into (which we almost never use when we're the ones who are sick, of course) and enough seniority to have some flexibility at work. And we also have colleauges who have been there, done that, laundered the germ-infested T-shirt; it's not convenient for them when we have to juggle like this, but they understand because they've had to do it themselves.

Plenty of people have none of that -- no support, no flexibility, and no paid sick time. How are they supposed to cope when this happens to them?

In New York City, a bill was introduced late last summer that would give all private-sector workers in the city paid sick leave -- nine of them each year for those who work for companies with more than 10 employees (smaller companies would only have to give five). And in 2007 the late Senator Edward Kennedy reintroduced the Healthy Families Act, a years-old effort to institute similar measures at the Federal level.

But while those plans are in the works -- which may be a while, given that the Heathy Families Act went nowhere when it was first introduced in 2005, had has plenty of opposition from businesses now -- parents are going to have to amp up their work-life juggle, and probably end up going to the office when they're sick themselves.

What do you do when your kids are sick or school is closed and you have to work?


Lylah M. Alphonse is a Globe staff member and mom and stepmom to five kids. She writes about juggling career and parenthood at The 36-Hour Day and blogs at Write. Edit. Repeat. E-mail her at lalphonse@globe.com.


 

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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33 comments so far...
  1. The gov has no right to tell private companies to give workers 9 sick days... None... Oh the Nannystate and liberals... God bless them.

    Posted by Linds March 1, 10 01:33 PM
  1. Whatever we can, that's what we do. I work part time, but when I have to work I HAVE to be there (I'm an adjunct professor with no benefits). Husband can work from home if he really needs to. If all I have is office hours, I can do that remotely via email and phone, so hubby works. But there have been times that hubby has had to give up important meetings because I couldn't leave 85 undergrads with no lecturer. This has probably cost my husband a few promotions over the years, but what can you do? If I spend all my salary on child care for sick kids, we don't get ahead. So we telecommute, make lots of chicken soup, and hope for the best.

    Posted by BMS March 1, 10 01:35 PM
  1. If you've cost your husband "a few promotions over the years" what's the monetary difference between that and spending all your salary on child care.

    Posted by zitface March 1, 10 01:55 PM
  1. 1. My husband or I uses a family illness, personal or vacation day*
    2. My father sometimes can come to the house to watch the sick kid
    3. My husband or I can sometimes work from home
    4. Depending on the child's illness, one of us might bring the sick child to the office (for non-contagious illness, like ear infections).

    *My company only allows use of "sick" days when the employee is sick, and we only get 2 "family illness" days each year. It's better than nothing, but I try to always have some vacation/personal days available for occasions like this.

    Posted by Karen March 1, 10 02:11 PM
  1. I am very fortunate in that I can work from home when I need to. Everything I do can be done over the phone and an internet connection.

    Posted by CQA March 1, 10 02:45 PM
  1. I don't work (I don't have paid employment out of the house). And this is a large part of why. I couldn't manage the sick days, and the teacher training days, and the vacation days, and and and. It was costing me serious money to work - about $10K per year.

    Posted by Lizzie March 1, 10 03:18 PM
  1. Linds - why are you reading a Boston Mom's article? Are you a mom?

    Posted by JDR March 1, 10 03:22 PM
  1. zitface- why are you reading a Boston Moms' article? Are you a mom?

    Posted by JDR March 1, 10 03:23 PM
  1. Now that my husband was laid off, it is obviously no longer an issue.

    However, this he was only laid off a few months ago and our oldest is 8 so we have many years dealing with this issue. We are both paid by the hour and he makes a little more than double an hour what I make and he has no sick time what so ever. I have 5 sick days a year. So I was the one always taking off, falling behind in work(no working from home). I have never once used a sick day for myself and have had to use some vacation time to cover since with 3 children that never get sick at the same time, 5 days a year is not enough!

    Posted by liz March 1, 10 03:37 PM
  1. "The gov has no right to tell private companies to give workers 9 sick days... None... Oh the Nannystate and liberals... God bless them."

    So aside from generalizing by saying that only "liberals" think that this should happen, you are also saying that people with more money (i.e. corporations) have the right to limit the amount of sick time you can take. When you think about that for a minute, that's kind of disgusting, especially since most of these fat cats have plenty of dough to spare when it comes to this, they just choose not to

    Posted by emcee414 March 1, 10 03:43 PM
  1. Just curious, if the preschool didn't have stricter policies, would you have sent your child to school with a fever? It doesn't seem to me to be that strict of a policy if you want to avoid getting the other children sick.
    That said, this article is timely for me as my child is home sick today with a fever. And if I didn't have my mother in law to watch him, I would be having to miss work.

    Posted by Mel March 1, 10 04:00 PM
  1. It appears that Zitface believes that all men should make 90K per year, and all women should stay home with the kids. It would take quite a few promotions for me to make up the salary my wife would give up by staying home. I think I'm pretty smart, but not that smart. You should try to make that argument to your hero Sarah Palin, who also had to scramble for daycare despite her conservative values.

    I love how this conservative resurgence allows idiots who have forgotten the arguments they lost twenty years ago to bring them up again like their fresh ideas.

    Posted by Misc March 1, 10 04:22 PM
  1. It's a heinous thing, this dearth of sick days. I say 1 month vacation minimum, and that's at entry-level, and 30 days sick leave, along with six months for each parent to take care of a newborn; and/or an adopted child, or an aging or sick parent - and that's yearly.

    S*ck it up, corporate fat cats.

    Posted by reindeergirl March 1, 10 04:35 PM
  1. It is a tough situation. We have 2 children (4 yrs and 8 yrs old) and no family at all (our parents are deceased), no friends living locally, no neighbors to help out in a pinch. There is no back-up plan for us. On occasion my husband has taken a personal day if the kids are sick, but how many days can you take before it impacts career advancement? Having no social support has seriously impacted my career (I have a PhD and a post-doc). I just completed an 18 month contract with a local 'esteemed' ivy league university which boasts about it's family-friendly job flexibility. Huh! My "flexible, part-time" research job was anything but that! On a regular basis they squeezed 40+ hours of work out of me and only paid for 20! According to university policy-exempt employees get no extra salary and no comp time! My supervisor - a woman!- frowned upon time taken to care for a sick children even though HR policy supposedly had such allowances (and yes, we had a swine flu episode).The demanding nature of my employer culminated in a 5 day business trip to Atlanta during the first week of school in September that I was not told about when the job started. I missed my 4 year old's first day of preschool! On that business trip, I worked 60+ hours over 5 days-got paid for 20 hours-period! My husband had to use up a week of vacation time to care for our children. Basically, I was paying the employer to work there! Never again. Right now I am teaching adjunct college classes like the other reader-but only on Saturdays when my husband is home to watch the kids. Of course as an adjunct there are no benefits, sick-time and no guarantee there will be courses to teach each semester.
    I am looking for work-but after my last experience, I am very weary. Employers are not flexible and do not care. It seems to be OK when employers need your time above and beyond normal work hours, but they are inflexible when your kids get sick, have vacations and snow days. Basically, it's a no win situation.

    Posted by bambinosmom March 1, 10 04:40 PM
  1. Thanks for commenting, Mel. My little boy didn't have a fever when I sent him to school, but he developed one while he was there. Before H1N1, the rule was that if a child spiked a fever of 101 or more, he or she was sent home and couldn't return for at least 24 hours. With H1N1, the threshold was dropped to 100 degrees. So a child with a temp of 99.9 would be allowed to stay, but a child with a fever of 100.1 would have to get picked up, whereas before he would have also been allowed to stay. Not complaining about wanting to keep other kids from getting sick, and I'm not saying that the policy is horribly strict, just more strict than it used to be... -- LMA

    Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse Author Profile Page March 1, 10 04:47 PM
  1. I agree with Lizzie - if I was still working AND paying for childcare, they would basically balance themselves out. And unfortunately, I don't have relatives in the area who would be able to watch the kids when I would be at work. After careful consideration, quitting my job made the most sense financially.

    Posted by Rachel March 1, 10 04:51 PM
  1. Yep, it's hard. On one hand, you have a sick kid and you can't very well leave them home alone or bring them to work. On the other hand, it isn't "fair" to your job, coworkers or yourself to give up sick time and sacrifice promotions. I spent about two years going to work when I was sick, because I had to save my paid time off for when my son got sick.

    However, once he got through a year or two of day care, he had just about every minor contagious illness there is and has not been sick more than once or twice a year for the last several years. I also moved to a town that has a great after school and snow day program.

    Having lived through it, I can say it was hard and I was written up once for being absent from work, but I really think the best long term solution is not for government to mandate paid sick time for minor illnesses. Flex time, telecommuting, job-sharing, these are free-market innovations that have changed and are changing the workplace.

    Posted by dbug March 1, 10 05:20 PM
  1. Sick days also affect non-work relationships. The man with whom I was in love (and whom I thought loved me just as deeply) ditched me because of "sick days." We were to go off on our dream holiday together, no children (he doesn't have any), in Montreal. A day before the trip, my child told me of a scratchy throat - given her history, this portended strep. Six hours before the flight, she was running a fever. There was no way I was going to leave my sick child to be with my SO, even though I thought we were close to marriage. Later in the day, her rapid strep test came up positive, and her fever was higher. My friends told me to give her antibiotics and "just go" (to Montreal) (she wouldn't be alone, a friend's mom was staying with her). I don't understand how other parents could think of leaving an ill child for the sake of romance, even a relationship so important.

    The next day, the SO told me that in the intervening 24 hours, he had time and space to decide that, as much as he cared for me, and as much as he felt I was correct in attending to my daughter, he didn't want to be with a woman who had a small child. Family emergencies can always come up. Lucky for her, and for all of us, she was only beginning to get to know him, and had formed little attachment.

    Too bad there aren't sick days for relationships, too. But I know I did the right thing. Daughter was sick for almost a week, and although I was heartsick about the SO, my family comes first. He wanted to stay friends, but it was hard for me after that. He's moved on, and I have, too, but I feel there are parallels between romance and work when it comes to family issues.

    Corporate America and boyfriends alike - and even small businesses - should think about family coming first, and give us the leeway to stay home with our children. Sickness happens.

    Posted by reindeergirl March 1, 10 05:21 PM
  1. Seriously People. Didn't you chose to have children? So just make it work w/o getting all of this extra stuff, like 9 sick days. I wish I had that much, so I really could stay at home when I'm sick and not lose any pay (no children).
    Working from home when your kid is sick? You're not really WORKING at/from home then, but rather taking care of your sick child. Another great benefit you have there. Again, I wish I could work from home. And if would really WORK from home.

    Posted by Sick March 1, 10 05:44 PM
  1. Wait, I'VE cost my husband promotions? Don't think so. We made a decision as a family that we were going to do the best we could not to use child care - for monetary and personal reasons. Occasionally, this means that my husband has to forgo shooting for high pressure management positions, and we get along with a few less frills and an older car. We manage. But it is a fact that you can either choose to chase the money, or choose to live with less so that someone can stay home when the kids are sick. Of course, it would be nice if I had some benefits, or if he had more sick days. But we manage.

    Posted by bms March 1, 10 06:10 PM
  1. The juggling was less difficult for us -- my husband had plenty of days he could take to care for sick kids/snowed in kids. Although I have and had days I could take, I had meetings/clients/ etc that made it difficult from a practical perspective to stay home. So usually he simply stayed home. That made his work a bit more stressful ,etc, and we didn't like the daycare costs. So my husband left his job and is staying home now -- it is a lot less stressful to have a parent home full-time, and we are very lucky in that we can swing it and that he has a good temperament for it.

    Posted by jlen March 1, 10 07:20 PM
  1. we are lucky enough to have family willing to help in a pinch. however, there have been times where we have had to call in ourselves (unpaid )

    Posted by lala March 1, 10 09:55 PM
  1. Lylah, this article would have been a great place to mention the Massachusetts Paid Sick Days Act that is making it's way through the legislative process (S.B. 688 and H.B. 1815). The bill would allow all employees in the state (private and public sector) to earn at least one hour of sick time for every 30 hours of work, up to 7 sick days per year. The bill was voted favorably out of the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development last Friday (2/26/10). I don't know what the next step is, but if anyone is interested in learning more about the bill and supporting it, masspaidleave.org is a good place to start - you can click on the Legislation tab to see if your state senator and reps support the bill or not and can contact their offices to voice your support.

    As to the question, I am lucky to be able to work from home and have ample paid sick days and vacation days. My husband has flexibility too so we try to share the burden so that I'm not always the one who has to call in or work from home. In a real pinch, my mom helps out but I'd rather not expose her to germs and risk having her get sick too so that's only a last resort.

    Thank you, Jen! -- LMA

    Posted by Jen March 1, 10 11:04 PM
  1. For the past 12 years, every daycare, preschool, and public elementary schools my kids have attended had the policy of *any* fever requires 24 hours fever free before returning to school.

    Nothing to do with H1N1, nor has it changed. I can't believe your preschool/daycare has an empirical cut off. Either a kid has a fever and needs to go home, or he doesn't. That's nuts. No need to blame H1N1 for the change in policy.

    Honestly, lack of common sense policies like this would make me question the judgment of the daycare/preschool facility. Is it a new facility with first time directors/teachers?

    Thanks for commenting, Melissa, but the change at my kids (well-established, well-rated) preschool had to do with lowering the cutoff temp from 101 to 100, and yes, parents were notified that it was because of H1N1. The 24-hours part has always been the norm, there and at other schools. A policy of sending kids home if they show *any* sign of fever is a bit much, don't you think, given that kids routinely get low-grade fevers when they're teething or have mild ear infections?-- LMA

    Posted by Melissa March 2, 10 06:19 AM
  1. Speak for yourself, Sick. You might not actually work if you worked from home (that's probably why you aren't allowed to ;)). I most certainly DO, I actually end up putting in more time because there commute isn't there to suck some up. Yes, even when my child is sick. Sick kids tend to be pretty quiet compared to well children...they want to lie on the couch and watch TV rather than be taken out to the playground.

    On the rare occasions when my ill son needs so much attention that I can't work, or when I'm too sick to work myself, I call in sick. I don't get nearly enough PTO to cover every fever, every teacher in-service day, every Monday holiday, etc...and, I have too much work to do to take all those off. My employer is smart enough to know that allowing us to work from home when needed is good for them too. They'd rather have the work get done than worry about micromanaging us. There are very easy ways to tell if work is getting done at home...watch the output!

    Posted by CAQ March 2, 10 08:55 AM
  1. Oh, and BTW, sick, people without children can also work from home here, it's not something restricted to parents at all. They work from home because the roads are bad, because they are waiting to let plumber in, because they fell like it, etc... As I said, we are fortunate because our employer treats us like the grownups that we are.

    Posted by CAQ March 2, 10 09:00 AM
  1. Melissa, Many schools and daycares have empirical cut offs as Lylah describes. My kids' schools (well established daycares or public school) have always called it at 100.1. And yes, many policies DID change when H1N1 came on to the scene -- for example, sending kids home for seven calendar days for suspicion of H1N1, no ifs ands or buts, which happened to my family when my son came down with a mild fever and a cough. Just because it didn't happen in your experience doesn't mean a preschool isn't a good preschool.

    Posted by glg March 2, 10 09:32 AM
  1. Either my husband stays home, or we try to split it up, in order to be somewhat fair. When we split up the day, my husband goes into work early, and I go in for the afternoon/evening. We've got a nine month old and 3 yr old.
    It is challenging, and my boss recently commented that it seems like either I am sick or there is always someone sick at home. Yes, it's definitely been a rough few months, and it's been noticed at work.

    We usually go into work when we don't feel well, so we can save our time off for when the kids are sick. We don't have a back up. That's just the way it is right now. If we had different schedules, it might make it easier to manage these issues...but that's not the case. Neither of us can stay home, nor can we get a nanny.

    My only consolation is that others have gone through it, and now it's our turn. I do check email, bring work home, etc. to try to stay on top of things, but it's a poor substitute for being physically present at work.
    I think I have been out of work 4-5 days in the past 3-4 months.....1-2 days for norovirus which struck everyone in our house, another couple days due to snow/kid/daycare provider illness, and the last b/c i came down with pneumonia. Doctors suggested I stay home for a couple of days, but I couldn't, because i was running out of time. I compromised, and stayed home one day...I am at work today, feel lousy, but am not contagious, so it's all good.
    After this, I will have less than a week of paid time off left (all our time is lumped together into one pool, and we earn it incrementally). I am not taking a full week of vacation this summer, in the hope that I can shore up my time, so that I will be better prepared for next winter, and we might actually be able to take a full week off next summer.

    Overall, we are lucky..I have the option of buying a week of time off (which I did-specifically for the sick/snow day thing) at work,and my husband has close to 4 weeks of vacation time at his job. We just have to manage it carefully...because no matter how well things seem to be going, something always tends to happen. Case in point--I develop full blown pneumonia, and end up in the hospital overnight (but thankfully, over the weekend!).

    I am looking forward to spring...when hopefully a lot of this will go away.

    Posted by mm March 2, 10 12:30 PM
  1. " Massachusetts Paid Sick Days Act that is making it's way through the legislative process (S.B. 688 and H.B. 1815). The bill would allow all employees in the state (private and public sector) to earn at least one hour of sick time for every 30 hours of work, up to 7 sick days per year."

    Jen, 7 days a year isn't enough. For example, I've had the flu three times since last fall,a nd daughter has had it once (we've both had out shots). Many people are sick enough not to go into work for than 7 days a year. But thank you for posting about the bill, it's important even in its limited way.

    I'd also like to hear from more single parents with no family/friends support.

    Posted by reindeergirl March 2, 10 12:40 PM
  1. "The gov has no right to tell private companies to give workers 9 sick days... None... Oh the Nannystate and liberals... God bless them."
    Nor should the gov't tell private companies they can't hire children, or tell them not to expose knowingly employees to hazardous conditions, or tell them they can't discriminate. Seriously?
    Laws exist to protect citizens from being exploited. This isn't 1890.

    With that being said, nine paid sick days may be a lot, maybe half pay. But an employee should be entitled to be sick, or take care of a sick dependent without fear of losing their job.

    Oh, and as for choosing to have children, give me a break. Having children is a pretty standard human action. In fact, I'm pretty sure its the human norm. Let's not be bitter because you chose to be different.

    Posted by lala March 2, 10 02:48 PM
  1. I'm pretty sure that just because a company has to give you 9 sick days, doesn't mean all employees are always going to take all 9 sick days. I certainly never took most of my sick days before I had kids, and even after having them, the only times I've ever used up all my sick time was when I had to use it as part of my maternity leave.

    Posted by MamaCat March 2, 10 03:12 PM
  1. Amen, lala

    Not everyone is cut out for kids. And people probably don't need to go out of their way to have 20 of them, especially given the resources that we Americans tend to use. But if no one chose to have children, then who is going to provide your elderly self with nursing services when you get too old to take care of yourself?

    None of us sprung from the womb fully formed. We all needed care in sickness and in health as kids. Used to be that one income (usually dad's) was enough, many moms stayed at home, and it was the norm to have a lot of nearby family in case mom couldn't stay with the kid. This has changed, and the business world needs to acknowledge that. Parents shouldn't get carte blanche to skip work, but with all the technology available these days, telecommuting to allow at least some work to get done when kids need to be home should be a no brainer.

    Posted by bms March 2, 10 05:01 PM
  1. Before I had kids, I had one week of paid sick time. I usually used this time as "extra" vacation time. Now, since I've been with the company a little linger, I have slightly more vacation time but I use my sick time for when my kids get sick (as the writer says, I never get to use it when I get sick!). I don't need more time than those without kids. What I have is sufficient. I think everyone should have the same amount - kids or not!

    Posted by melsau March 2, 10 08:06 PM
 
33 comments so far...
  1. The gov has no right to tell private companies to give workers 9 sick days... None... Oh the Nannystate and liberals... God bless them.

    Posted by Linds March 1, 10 01:33 PM
  1. Whatever we can, that's what we do. I work part time, but when I have to work I HAVE to be there (I'm an adjunct professor with no benefits). Husband can work from home if he really needs to. If all I have is office hours, I can do that remotely via email and phone, so hubby works. But there have been times that hubby has had to give up important meetings because I couldn't leave 85 undergrads with no lecturer. This has probably cost my husband a few promotions over the years, but what can you do? If I spend all my salary on child care for sick kids, we don't get ahead. So we telecommute, make lots of chicken soup, and hope for the best.

    Posted by BMS March 1, 10 01:35 PM
  1. If you've cost your husband "a few promotions over the years" what's the monetary difference between that and spending all your salary on child care.

    Posted by zitface March 1, 10 01:55 PM
  1. 1. My husband or I uses a family illness, personal or vacation day*
    2. My father sometimes can come to the house to watch the sick kid
    3. My husband or I can sometimes work from home
    4. Depending on the child's illness, one of us might bring the sick child to the office (for non-contagious illness, like ear infections).

    *My company only allows use of "sick" days when the employee is sick, and we only get 2 "family illness" days each year. It's better than nothing, but I try to always have some vacation/personal days available for occasions like this.

    Posted by Karen March 1, 10 02:11 PM
  1. I am very fortunate in that I can work from home when I need to. Everything I do can be done over the phone and an internet connection.

    Posted by CQA March 1, 10 02:45 PM
  1. I don't work (I don't have paid employment out of the house). And this is a large part of why. I couldn't manage the sick days, and the teacher training days, and the vacation days, and and and. It was costing me serious money to work - about $10K per year.

    Posted by Lizzie March 1, 10 03:18 PM
  1. Linds - why are you reading a Boston Mom's article? Are you a mom?

    Posted by JDR March 1, 10 03:22 PM
  1. zitface- why are you reading a Boston Moms' article? Are you a mom?

    Posted by JDR March 1, 10 03:23 PM
  1. Now that my husband was laid off, it is obviously no longer an issue.

    However, this he was only laid off a few months ago and our oldest is 8 so we have many years dealing with this issue. We are both paid by the hour and he makes a little more than double an hour what I make and he has no sick time what so ever. I have 5 sick days a year. So I was the one always taking off, falling behind in work(no working from home). I have never once used a sick day for myself and have had to use some vacation time to cover since with 3 children that never get sick at the same time, 5 days a year is not enough!

    Posted by liz March 1, 10 03:37 PM
  1. "The gov has no right to tell private companies to give workers 9 sick days... None... Oh the Nannystate and liberals... God bless them."

    So aside from generalizing by saying that only "liberals" think that this should happen, you are also saying that people with more money (i.e. corporations) have the right to limit the amount of sick time you can take. When you think about that for a minute, that's kind of disgusting, especially since most of these fat cats have plenty of dough to spare when it comes to this, they just choose not to

    Posted by emcee414 March 1, 10 03:43 PM
  1. Just curious, if the preschool didn't have stricter policies, would you have sent your child to school with a fever? It doesn't seem to me to be that strict of a policy if you want to avoid getting the other children sick.
    That said, this article is timely for me as my child is home sick today with a fever. And if I didn't have my mother in law to watch him, I would be having to miss work.

    Posted by Mel March 1, 10 04:00 PM
  1. It appears that Zitface believes that all men should make 90K per year, and all women should stay home with the kids. It would take quite a few promotions for me to make up the salary my wife would give up by staying home. I think I'm pretty smart, but not that smart. You should try to make that argument to your hero Sarah Palin, who also had to scramble for daycare despite her conservative values.

    I love how this conservative resurgence allows idiots who have forgotten the arguments they lost twenty years ago to bring them up again like their fresh ideas.

    Posted by Misc March 1, 10 04:22 PM
  1. It's a heinous thing, this dearth of sick days. I say 1 month vacation minimum, and that's at entry-level, and 30 days sick leave, along with six months for each parent to take care of a newborn; and/or an adopted child, or an aging or sick parent - and that's yearly.

    S*ck it up, corporate fat cats.

    Posted by reindeergirl March 1, 10 04:35 PM
  1. It is a tough situation. We have 2 children (4 yrs and 8 yrs old) and no family at all (our parents are deceased), no friends living locally, no neighbors to help out in a pinch. There is no back-up plan for us. On occasion my husband has taken a personal day if the kids are sick, but how many days can you take before it impacts career advancement? Having no social support has seriously impacted my career (I have a PhD and a post-doc). I just completed an 18 month contract with a local 'esteemed' ivy league university which boasts about it's family-friendly job flexibility. Huh! My "flexible, part-time" research job was anything but that! On a regular basis they squeezed 40+ hours of work out of me and only paid for 20! According to university policy-exempt employees get no extra salary and no comp time! My supervisor - a woman!- frowned upon time taken to care for a sick children even though HR policy supposedly had such allowances (and yes, we had a swine flu episode).The demanding nature of my employer culminated in a 5 day business trip to Atlanta during the first week of school in September that I was not told about when the job started. I missed my 4 year old's first day of preschool! On that business trip, I worked 60+ hours over 5 days-got paid for 20 hours-period! My husband had to use up a week of vacation time to care for our children. Basically, I was paying the employer to work there! Never again. Right now I am teaching adjunct college classes like the other reader-but only on Saturdays when my husband is home to watch the kids. Of course as an adjunct there are no benefits, sick-time and no guarantee there will be courses to teach each semester.
    I am looking for work-but after my last experience, I am very weary. Employers are not flexible and do not care. It seems to be OK when employers need your time above and beyond normal work hours, but they are inflexible when your kids get sick, have vacations and snow days. Basically, it's a no win situation.

    Posted by bambinosmom March 1, 10 04:40 PM
  1. Thanks for commenting, Mel. My little boy didn't have a fever when I sent him to school, but he developed one while he was there. Before H1N1, the rule was that if a child spiked a fever of 101 or more, he or she was sent home and couldn't return for at least 24 hours. With H1N1, the threshold was dropped to 100 degrees. So a child with a temp of 99.9 would be allowed to stay, but a child with a fever of 100.1 would have to get picked up, whereas before he would have also been allowed to stay. Not complaining about wanting to keep other kids from getting sick, and I'm not saying that the policy is horribly strict, just more strict than it used to be... -- LMA

    Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse Author Profile Page March 1, 10 04:47 PM
  1. I agree with Lizzie - if I was still working AND paying for childcare, they would basically balance themselves out. And unfortunately, I don't have relatives in the area who would be able to watch the kids when I would be at work. After careful consideration, quitting my job made the most sense financially.

    Posted by Rachel March 1, 10 04:51 PM
  1. Yep, it's hard. On one hand, you have a sick kid and you can't very well leave them home alone or bring them to work. On the other hand, it isn't "fair" to your job, coworkers or yourself to give up sick time and sacrifice promotions. I spent about two years going to work when I was sick, because I had to save my paid time off for when my son got sick.

    However, once he got through a year or two of day care, he had just about every minor contagious illness there is and has not been sick more than once or twice a year for the last several years. I also moved to a town that has a great after school and snow day program.

    Having lived through it, I can say it was hard and I was written up once for being absent from work, but I really think the best long term solution is not for government to mandate paid sick time for minor illnesses. Flex time, telecommuting, job-sharing, these are free-market innovations that have changed and are changing the workplace.

    Posted by dbug March 1, 10 05:20 PM
  1. Sick days also affect non-work relationships. The man with whom I was in love (and whom I thought loved me just as deeply) ditched me because of "sick days." We were to go off on our dream holiday together, no children (he doesn't have any), in Montreal. A day before the trip, my child told me of a scratchy throat - given her history, this portended strep. Six hours before the flight, she was running a fever. There was no way I was going to leave my sick child to be with my SO, even though I thought we were close to marriage. Later in the day, her rapid strep test came up positive, and her fever was higher. My friends told me to give her antibiotics and "just go" (to Montreal) (she wouldn't be alone, a friend's mom was staying with her). I don't understand how other parents could think of leaving an ill child for the sake of romance, even a relationship so important.

    The next day, the SO told me that in the intervening 24 hours, he had time and space to decide that, as much as he cared for me, and as much as he felt I was correct in attending to my daughter, he didn't want to be with a woman who had a small child. Family emergencies can always come up. Lucky for her, and for all of us, she was only beginning to get to know him, and had formed little attachment.

    Too bad there aren't sick days for relationships, too. But I know I did the right thing. Daughter was sick for almost a week, and although I was heartsick about the SO, my family comes first. He wanted to stay friends, but it was hard for me after that. He's moved on, and I have, too, but I feel there are parallels between romance and work when it comes to family issues.

    Corporate America and boyfriends alike - and even small businesses - should think about family coming first, and give us the leeway to stay home with our children. Sickness happens.

    Posted by reindeergirl March 1, 10 05:21 PM
  1. Seriously People. Didn't you chose to have children? So just make it work w/o getting all of this extra stuff, like 9 sick days. I wish I had that much, so I really could stay at home when I'm sick and not lose any pay (no children).
    Working from home when your kid is sick? You're not really WORKING at/from home then, but rather taking care of your sick child. Another great benefit you have there. Again, I wish I could work from home. And if would really WORK from home.

    Posted by Sick March 1, 10 05:44 PM
  1. Wait, I'VE cost my husband promotions? Don't think so. We made a decision as a family that we were going to do the best we could not to use child care - for monetary and personal reasons. Occasionally, this means that my husband has to forgo shooting for high pressure management positions, and we get along with a few less frills and an older car. We manage. But it is a fact that you can either choose to chase the money, or choose to live with less so that someone can stay home when the kids are sick. Of course, it would be nice if I had some benefits, or if he had more sick days. But we manage.

    Posted by bms March 1, 10 06:10 PM
  1. The juggling was less difficult for us -- my husband had plenty of days he could take to care for sick kids/snowed in kids. Although I have and had days I could take, I had meetings/clients/ etc that made it difficult from a practical perspective to stay home. So usually he simply stayed home. That made his work a bit more stressful ,etc, and we didn't like the daycare costs. So my husband left his job and is staying home now -- it is a lot less stressful to have a parent home full-time, and we are very lucky in that we can swing it and that he has a good temperament for it.

    Posted by jlen March 1, 10 07:20 PM
  1. we are lucky enough to have family willing to help in a pinch. however, there have been times where we have had to call in ourselves (unpaid )

    Posted by lala March 1, 10 09:55 PM
  1. Lylah, this article would have been a great place to mention the Massachusetts Paid Sick Days Act that is making it's way through the legislative process (S.B. 688 and H.B. 1815). The bill would allow all employees in the state (private and public sector) to earn at least one hour of sick time for every 30 hours of work, up to 7 sick days per year. The bill was voted favorably out of the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development last Friday (2/26/10). I don't know what the next step is, but if anyone is interested in learning more about the bill and supporting it, masspaidleave.org is a good place to start - you can click on the Legislation tab to see if your state senator and reps support the bill or not and can contact their offices to voice your support.

    As to the question, I am lucky to be able to work from home and have ample paid sick days and vacation days. My husband has flexibility too so we try to share the burden so that I'm not always the one who has to call in or work from home. In a real pinch, my mom helps out but I'd rather not expose her to germs and risk having her get sick too so that's only a last resort.

    Thank you, Jen! -- LMA

    Posted by Jen March 1, 10 11:04 PM
  1. For the past 12 years, every daycare, preschool, and public elementary schools my kids have attended had the policy of *any* fever requires 24 hours fever free before returning to school.

    Nothing to do with H1N1, nor has it changed. I can't believe your preschool/daycare has an empirical cut off. Either a kid has a fever and needs to go home, or he doesn't. That's nuts. No need to blame H1N1 for the change in policy.

    Honestly, lack of common sense policies like this would make me question the judgment of the daycare/preschool facility. Is it a new facility with first time directors/teachers?

    Thanks for commenting, Melissa, but the change at my kids (well-established, well-rated) preschool had to do with lowering the cutoff temp from 101 to 100, and yes, parents were notified that it was because of H1N1. The 24-hours part has always been the norm, there and at other schools. A policy of sending kids home if they show *any* sign of fever is a bit much, don't you think, given that kids routinely get low-grade fevers when they're teething or have mild ear infections?-- LMA

    Posted by Melissa March 2, 10 06:19 AM
  1. Speak for yourself, Sick. You might not actually work if you worked from home (that's probably why you aren't allowed to ;)). I most certainly DO, I actually end up putting in more time because there commute isn't there to suck some up. Yes, even when my child is sick. Sick kids tend to be pretty quiet compared to well children...they want to lie on the couch and watch TV rather than be taken out to the playground.

    On the rare occasions when my ill son needs so much attention that I can't work, or when I'm too sick to work myself, I call in sick. I don't get nearly enough PTO to cover every fever, every teacher in-service day, every Monday holiday, etc...and, I have too much work to do to take all those off. My employer is smart enough to know that allowing us to work from home when needed is good for them too. They'd rather have the work get done than worry about micromanaging us. There are very easy ways to tell if work is getting done at home...watch the output!

    Posted by CAQ March 2, 10 08:55 AM
  1. Oh, and BTW, sick, people without children can also work from home here, it's not something restricted to parents at all. They work from home because the roads are bad, because they are waiting to let plumber in, because they fell like it, etc... As I said, we are fortunate because our employer treats us like the grownups that we are.

    Posted by CAQ March 2, 10 09:00 AM
  1. Melissa, Many schools and daycares have empirical cut offs as Lylah describes. My kids' schools (well established daycares or public school) have always called it at 100.1. And yes, many policies DID change when H1N1 came on to the scene -- for example, sending kids home for seven calendar days for suspicion of H1N1, no ifs ands or buts, which happened to my family when my son came down with a mild fever and a cough. Just because it didn't happen in your experience doesn't mean a preschool isn't a good preschool.

    Posted by glg March 2, 10 09:32 AM
  1. Either my husband stays home, or we try to split it up, in order to be somewhat fair. When we split up the day, my husband goes into work early, and I go in for the afternoon/evening. We've got a nine month old and 3 yr old.
    It is challenging, and my boss recently commented that it seems like either I am sick or there is always someone sick at home. Yes, it's definitely been a rough few months, and it's been noticed at work.

    We usually go into work when we don't feel well, so we can save our time off for when the kids are sick. We don't have a back up. That's just the way it is right now. If we had different schedules, it might make it easier to manage these issues...but that's not the case. Neither of us can stay home, nor can we get a nanny.

    My only consolation is that others have gone through it, and now it's our turn. I do check email, bring work home, etc. to try to stay on top of things, but it's a poor substitute for being physically present at work.
    I think I have been out of work 4-5 days in the past 3-4 months.....1-2 days for norovirus which struck everyone in our house, another couple days due to snow/kid/daycare provider illness, and the last b/c i came down with pneumonia. Doctors suggested I stay home for a couple of days, but I couldn't, because i was running out of time. I compromised, and stayed home one day...I am at work today, feel lousy, but am not contagious, so it's all good.
    After this, I will have less than a week of paid time off left (all our time is lumped together into one pool, and we earn it incrementally). I am not taking a full week of vacation this summer, in the hope that I can shore up my time, so that I will be better prepared for next winter, and we might actually be able to take a full week off next summer.

    Overall, we are lucky..I have the option of buying a week of time off (which I did-specifically for the sick/snow day thing) at work,and my husband has close to 4 weeks of vacation time at his job. We just have to manage it carefully...because no matter how well things seem to be going, something always tends to happen. Case in point--I develop full blown pneumonia, and end up in the hospital overnight (but thankfully, over the weekend!).

    I am looking forward to spring...when hopefully a lot of this will go away.

    Posted by mm March 2, 10 12:30 PM
  1. " Massachusetts Paid Sick Days Act that is making it's way through the legislative process (S.B. 688 and H.B. 1815). The bill would allow all employees in the state (private and public sector) to earn at least one hour of sick time for every 30 hours of work, up to 7 sick days per year."

    Jen, 7 days a year isn't enough. For example, I've had the flu three times since last fall,a nd daughter has had it once (we've both had out shots). Many people are sick enough not to go into work for than 7 days a year. But thank you for posting about the bill, it's important even in its limited way.

    I'd also like to hear from more single parents with no family/friends support.

    Posted by reindeergirl March 2, 10 12:40 PM
  1. "The gov has no right to tell private companies to give workers 9 sick days... None... Oh the Nannystate and liberals... God bless them."
    Nor should the gov't tell private companies they can't hire children, or tell them not to expose knowingly employees to hazardous conditions, or tell them they can't discriminate. Seriously?
    Laws exist to protect citizens from being exploited. This isn't 1890.

    With that being said, nine paid sick days may be a lot, maybe half pay. But an employee should be entitled to be sick, or take care of a sick dependent without fear of losing their job.

    Oh, and as for choosing to have children, give me a break. Having children is a pretty standard human action. In fact, I'm pretty sure its the human norm. Let's not be bitter because you chose to be different.

    Posted by lala March 2, 10 02:48 PM
  1. I'm pretty sure that just because a company has to give you 9 sick days, doesn't mean all employees are always going to take all 9 sick days. I certainly never took most of my sick days before I had kids, and even after having them, the only times I've ever used up all my sick time was when I had to use it as part of my maternity leave.

    Posted by MamaCat March 2, 10 03:12 PM
  1. Amen, lala

    Not everyone is cut out for kids. And people probably don't need to go out of their way to have 20 of them, especially given the resources that we Americans tend to use. But if no one chose to have children, then who is going to provide your elderly self with nursing services when you get too old to take care of yourself?

    None of us sprung from the womb fully formed. We all needed care in sickness and in health as kids. Used to be that one income (usually dad's) was enough, many moms stayed at home, and it was the norm to have a lot of nearby family in case mom couldn't stay with the kid. This has changed, and the business world needs to acknowledge that. Parents shouldn't get carte blanche to skip work, but with all the technology available these days, telecommuting to allow at least some work to get done when kids need to be home should be a no brainer.

    Posted by bms March 2, 10 05:01 PM
  1. Before I had kids, I had one week of paid sick time. I usually used this time as "extra" vacation time. Now, since I've been with the company a little linger, I have slightly more vacation time but I use my sick time for when my kids get sick (as the writer says, I never get to use it when I get sick!). I don't need more time than those without kids. What I have is sufficient. I think everyone should have the same amount - kids or not!

    Posted by melsau March 2, 10 08:06 PM
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