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 email@example.com.
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