The Battle We Wage: Who Takes Care of a Sick Kid on a Work Day?

My husband and I are not very competitive, except when it comes to one thing: Who's taking care of a sick kid on a work day.

This is how things went down the other night, when our daughter went to sleep with a very red eye that seemed like it could be pink eye.


Me: "Can you take her to the doctor in the morning if she has pink eye?"

Husband: "No, I can't, tomorrow's a busy day at work."

Me: "Well, I have a meeting at 9:30 in the morning that I'd rather not miss and I have a busy day, too, but if you don't have a meeting in the morning, can you take her?"

Husband: "Honey, tomorrow's a really busy day."

Me: "Mine is too!"

We both got off easy this time around because when Sabrina woke up, her eye was pretty clear. No pink eye. No work sacrifices made.

Sigh. Yet another round of the working mom/working dad sick kid playoffs.

I had an old boss who referred to the phenomenon this way: She'd say that parenthood was less about juggling the kids than about playing catch. Hey, catch, it's your turn to pick her up from the playdate! Hey, catch, it's your turn to buy the diapers! Hey, catch, you need to do bedtime because I have a client meeting tonight!

My husband and I have a sitter who watches the kids while we're at work. When the kids were little, we'd put them in back-up daycare if the sitter called in sick. But because the kids are now school-age, and back-up daycare near us is limited to young children, one of us has to come home early from work to get them off the bus if the sitter calls in sick. And one of us has to take time off from work if a kid needs to get to the doctor. In 11 years of doing this parenting thing, every single time one of the kids is sick, we freak out like it's the first time.

There is no winner in these standoffs, really, because if my husband ends up staying home, I'll feel a little guilty that his work day got messed up. But this is parenthood. It's messy. There are not always clear-cut solutions. Sacrifices are made.

When I'm the one who has to dash home early or go to work late because of a pediatrician appointment, it's stressful. But then I consider this: Someday, when I'm old and gray, will I be glad I made that work meeting or will I be glad that I was there to help my child when she really needed me?


Image via Kourtlyn Lott/Flickr

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