Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Working Mom's Blues

We were having a good run.  Since Christmas there hadn't been so much as a runny nose in our house.  No trips to the doctor or the pharmacy were taken.  All three of us were feeling good. Then last week, as I was packing up after a long day at work, a number popped up on my caller ID.

Day Care.


"Hi Ms. P-, this is Ms So-and-so from Maxwell's daycare. He's running 102.5 underarm and we need you to come pick him up."

That was last Tuesday and he hasn't been back to day care since.

This fever issue was generally mild.  Between working strange hours, switching shifts and one round at the sick room at work (where Max will never go back too, but that's another story), Brett and I actually managed to work a full week.  By Friday he was good as new and we enjoyed a nice weekend as a family.

Since I work part time, I was off on Monday.  Max was acting totally fine and I was accomplishing some serious house cleaning.  At 3PM, things changed. First there was the diaper which I heard from across the room. An hour later I was cleaning vomit from the front of my shirt. And I continued to clean vomit as the poor child counldn't keep even the smallest amounts of liquid down.

I felt terrible for my son. He was (and still is) absolutely miserable. However, I also panicked.  How can I call in sick AGAIN when I had to do the same thing last week?  I don't have family in town.  Most of my friends work full time and if they don't, they also have kids and don't want to run the risk of catching Max's bug. Brett and I have no choice but to creatively rearrange our schedules so we can watch Max yet make important meetings and deadlines.

I'm lucky- my boss is fabulous (and no, she doesn't read this! I'm not sucking up!).  She has children and has been in my shoes.  She's told me time and time again not to feel guilty about taking care of my sick kid. My schedule is flexbile and I can work whenever I can. Still, as her assistant, I know she depends on me and I hate having to call in so frequently, espeically when it's two weeks in a row. My husband too works for a family friendly company, but they are in critical mode right now and it's a lot harder to get away. Plus, his job is our primary income, so he can't take as many risks.

So now, as I sit here, waiting for my husband to be done with his half of the day so I can run to work and play catch up, I wonder how much of this is worth it?  At what point does the lost vacation, lost money (day care still gets paid even if the kid doesn't show up) and stress from being off start to trump the little bit of extra income I bring home?

At what point do I step away from the job I love, at a company I love, with co-workers that I love because of guilt?  Guilt that I need someone else to take care of my kid when sick.  Guilt that I can't do my job to the best of my ability.  Guilt that I'm not Supermom, SuperEmployee and SuperWife.  Guilt that I am working because I want to and not because, financially, I have too.

There's no easy answer.  Some people love being a stay at home parent and swear it is the only life for them.  Others claim they are a better parent because they work and cherish the time they do have at home.  I have my foot in both worlds and still can't manage to make it work.

This is an issue that requires more discerment and I'm not quite ready to make a decison.

So for now, I just sit an sing the Working Mom's Blues.

PS.  Sorry for the bloggy absence, but I'm back!  Miss me?

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Cecelia Winesap said...

Oh Laura. I could have written this myself this morning. My kid is sick AGAIN today. I have had to take days off almost every week since Christmas. My son gets seizures when he gets a high fever, so sending him to daycare is nerve wracking for me every day. Unfortunately, we need my job to stay afloat as I carry the health insurance for our family. Even though my husband is home with him today and is taking him to the doctor, I feel horribly guilty for not being there. I have to go to work over taking care of my son and that kills me.

The other thing is the bitches at work who look down on me for having to take so much time off. I just want to scream at them, I would much rather be here than have my boy be sick. It's not like having a sick child is a vacation you stupid bitches.

Anyway I know how you feel. You're lucky your boss is so flexible with you! I'm here if you need to vent! :)

AJsArts said...

Laura -
As someone who has been there I completely understand where you are coming from. I will also say only you can make that decision. People can give you advise but it is what will work for you.

I made the decision that my job was really stressful and making me sick. They were taking complete advantage of me. My weekends were me getting constant phone calls from work on my one day off.

It sounds like you are in a completely different situation than I was in. One thing I will say is that you will always have a degree so you can always go back. If you feel guilty then you need to make a decision - whether it be SAHM or WOHM. Only you will know what is best for you, your family and your co-workers.

Unpolished Parenting said...

:( Definitely no fun. Any of it - the sickness, the arranging of schedules, the stress it all causes. I don't know what is best for your family, but just remember all of this crappy stuff passes and isn't the norm. Praying for you - health for the family and direction on what to do.

PS - yes we did miss you! :)

Anonymous said...

What a tough situation. I think that every mother needs to decide what works best for her family. There's no right or wrong. But I do wonder if you decided to quit, then would you regret it come spring?
Hope that sweet boy feels better soon.

Jen said...

As a part time RN and full time mom, I can tell you that I know this juggle all too well. And its really hard when they are babies but it does get better. When he is older you can medicate him, send him to daycare/school knowing the meds will get you at least a half day in and then go from there.

Not that I have ever done this. ;)

Brett said...

You are too SuperWife!

Anonymous said...

Been there, done that. I think you just have to follow your gut. You are the ONLY one who knows what will be best for YOU. And ultimately whatever is best for YOU is also best for your family. You know the old...if Momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy...

Booyah's Momma said...

Oh, Laura, I could have written this post myself. I actually have something similar in my drafts, but you said it so well, maybe I don't ever need to publish it.

The juggling act never becomes more apparent than when your child is sick. I've found myself re-evaluating my priorities lately as my kids have been sick. Is it worth it? Am I there when they truly need me? I don't have answers. Just a lot of empathy for you.

Katie said...

It seems like when they are sick, its a violent rollercoaster for awhile. That's how we were in December, and I didnt have a day of time off left b/c of maternity leave and all the other illnesses.

It seems awful at the time, but remember, he will get better and is building up antibodies, so hopefully this is not the norm.

I HAVE to work, so I cant even contemplate the thought of staying home, but I know you'll make the right choice.

And yes, I was concerned about you and Max b/c I hadnt seen a blog update in quite some time!

KLZ said...

If you love it, go! Do! Don't let guilt keep you from something you love.

I personally can't stand my job so I suppose my response is a bit biased.

Anonymous said...

I quit my job...on a whim. Because I was tired of leaving my babies at home and feeling guilty about it. After I quit I came home and I cried, "Oh my god...what have I done?" So there's guilt either way.


Jenny said...

I totally missed your blog posts while you were away!

Wow, this is a big dilema, Laura. I am one of those people who claims staying-at-home fulltime is the only life for me BUT I would never say that I love it. A lot of the parts of being at home all day every day are a total pain the ass and I miss daily adult interaction, corporate America and the thrill I would get when I completed a big project. Luckily, my blog's picked up some speed and I'm starting to see more of those aspects come back. Unfortunately that usually means a lot more TV for my kids to keep them occupied. You see? It's always a win-lose situation no matter how you cut it.

You'll figure out what's best for you and your family and I also have a hunch that as Max gets older things will get easier. I think. I'm not sure. Maybe. Hopefully. :)

Lynn said...

There's definitely no easy answer. I worked at first and it was just too much for me. I didn't quit because it was my calling to be a SAHM but because I couldn't juggle everything and I was about to collapse. And daycare just exacerbates everything because they are so much more likely to get sick. Those years before school suck balls as far as that goes. I loved my job too, but I just couldn't do it all. I admit defeat. So glad that you are back :)

Anonymous said...

Along with the breastfeeding struggles that we hit earlier, the Working Mom Blues is apparently another passage of parenthood that we all go through. Someone else already posted that there are pros and cons to both. I wish there was a magic answer, but you & Brett (and Max!) will figure out what works best for you, and make it work. I'm in the SAHM position right now, and while I wouldn't trade it to go back to my previous job, there's a *teeny tiny* part of me that misses the feeling productive part of a work day, and the gentle camaraderie of coworkers. Not that chasing a toddler and being a milk machine for a baby isn't productive, but a different challenge. *sigh* Hopefully, Max gets better soon, and you find your way back to an easy rhythm where you can have your cake and eat it too.

Liz said...

It's always when you least expect it. Things are going good, you all are healthy, and then - BAM - it hits the house.

I hope you all are back on track soon.

tulpen said...

I don't know what to say!!

I'm "lucky" in that I can work an off shift. I do 3-11, so I only need child care for a couple hours from when I go to work, til hubs gets home. And I work every other weekend.

Sometimes I appreciate getting out of the house, I don't know if I could do the FULL TIME SAHM gig. But the flip side is that I'm never NOT taking care of someone.

And if it makes you feel any better? My kids have not been to day care, but just being in school, they've been sick for WEEKS. Like since Christmas. I don't expect the boogers to end until May.

Kids are gross. All there is to it.

Steph said...

I could have written this exact post myself.

But let me start out with the timing of our daycare calling us ;) They ALWAYS call me right as I'm packing up for the day and heading to get the kids anyways...why do they do that? Sigh. It's not like I can drive any faster to get there to them.

We have my father in law here in town but there is no way I could ever depend on him to watch the kids as he has troubles washing his own clothing. It's a super long story but his wife (my MIL) lives in PA and she used to watch the kids while we worked. But then she got this itch to move to PA, about 7 states away from us, and right before my son turned 2 we were looking into daycare for him and my 9 year old.

In the beginning he was so, so sick. Taking him from a fairly controlled environment and then putting him into the petri dish that is daycare really did a number to him. And if a kid has a fever they're not allowed back for 24 hours (unless they've gone to the dr. and have gotten a note). Same with runny poop diapers; if they have 3 runny poops in 1 day, they have to be out 24 hours (unless they go to the doctor).

So then, we were both missing work and starting to rack up bills with the doctor...$50 a visit gets expensive. Then when I got sick at the end of the year with the flu and had no more sick time, it turned into a hairy situation.

Interestingly enough, I used a sick day today as I was under the weather (combined with "that time" whee) and sure enough, at 4:45 my phone rang and it was daycare calling to say my son had a 101.1 fever. Appointment was made for the dr. My husband will have to stay home tomorrow if it's something really serious (apparently both strep and scarlet fever are running through the school) and I am just shaking my head at the $100 in the last two weeks I've had to spend at the doctor's (my daughter had an ear infection and daycare called about that as well).

Parenting and working doesn't seem to mix well....

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