There have been a lot of discussions about how important it is to strike the right work-life balance. Of course, we all know that it is essential to have a healthy mix of work and personal commitments. But that’s easier said than done, especially when it comes to caring for children. As a working parent, I’m sure you dread that mid-day call from the school asking you to pick up your sick child. Or the middle-of-the-night stomach flu, followed by high temperature that your child contracts. While the heart is not willing to leave your sick child with the nanny or at daycare, the head is thinking of all the tasks you need to complete at work the next day. How, then, do you deal with this conflict?
All of us have been through this situation, and learn to cope with this challenge as the situation demands. It’s not easy, and there will be days when you just cannot make it to the office. Here’s what you can do to make it as non-stressful as possible for yourself at such times.
- Make your child comfortable. Your child is your top priority. Give her medication, and take her to the doctor if required. Dress her in comfy clothes, and feed her whatever she is able to eat. You can help her sleep, or find a book for her to read in bed.
- Provide support to your child. Spend time reading or playing simple non-strenuous games with her, or get her books or TV to keep her busy. You should also explain to her that you might need to work for part of the time.
- Take things calmly. Don’t stress; think through your priorities at home as well as work. Finish your chores as per your usual routine, keeping your day free for doctor visits, helping your child and any work-related tasks you may need to complete from home.
- Email your boss and also call up. Message your superior and team members before the start of the workday, and explain the situation. You should list out the status of your current projects, and ask for any urgent tasks to be assigned to colleagues.
- Ask office colleagues for help. Prioritise follow-ups required as well as urgent tasks, and ask colleagues to help out. Email clear instructions (with a copy to your superior), and be available on phone and email to clear doubts or answer questions.
- Offer to work from home. Postpone your meetings or convert them to conference calls. You could also work from home, if your child can be left alone for brief periods of time.
What if your superior demands that you come to work when your child is sick?
There may be times when your superior is not too sympathetic to your situation, and demands that you complete your work. Don’t panic or lose your temper. Be calm and reasonable and offer to work from home, or come in on the weekend to meet deadlines. Say that you will be available on phone and email through the day.
That said, it is important to plan for such sick days in advance. Your sick child will surely wreak havoc with your work schedule sometime or the other. Having a back-up plan in place will help lessen your own anxiety in such situations. Here are some things you can do:
- Save up a few sick days of your own. You could use these to take time off for such unforeseen circumstances.
- Be prepared and create a plan with your superior. Talk to your boss proactively and work out a flexi work schedule for such days.
- Be up-to-date on your work. Try to manage your work efficiently, by completing important tasks first. This helps keep your projects on track, even if you have to take a day off in an emergency.
- Telecommute or work from home. Keep your laptop work-ready.
- Work out a plan with your partner to care for a sick child.
- Have a support network in place. Find backup caregivers amongst your extended family and friends. Also look for daycare facilities you can use in emergencies.
- Do your utmost to prevent illnesses. Try to make sure that your child is up-to-date on her immunisations. Don’t neglect that cold which could lead to the flu tomorrow. There is only so much you will be able to do, but it surely is worth the effort and will save you at least a few illnesses.
Illnesses are a part and parcel of a child’s and a parent’s life. Plan in advance on how you will tackle your work schedule in such situations. This will help you in the long run. Your children are going to grow up, and you won’t need to juggle home and office pressures forever. Be prepared and enjoy this phase of life as well.