Flip a Coin Mom & Dad: Who Gets Sick/Snow Day Duty?

Sasha Brown-Worsham

There are few things more heart-sinking than waking up in the morning and going to get the perfectly healthy child you put down to bed the night before and realizing they feel warm. Those tense moments while you take their temperature are often followed by the inevitable tug of war between you and your spouse: "I took the last sick day, honey!" 

In many cases, it is the mom who loses, at least according to the Boston Globe. In some ways, this makes sense. In many families, the mothers earn less or their schedules are more forgiving or flexible. Or they work part-time. It is a sad, but true fact that mom often takes the brunt of the sick day/snow day responsibility. According to clinical social worker, Mimi Licht:


In spite of the fact that people think that so much more is shared between men and women, in actuality people fall back on what they saw their parents do. I think there is implicit, not spoken, agreement between them (that the mother will cover it). Even the most enlightened couples tend to go back to what they saw as kids, so women end up juggling two jobs.

But what about when both parents have high-pressure careers and both need to show up? What then?

In my house, this year, my husband took all the sick/snow days because he has to go into an office and has a lot more sick time than I do. I work at home and sometimes there is flexibility with that, but often there is not. Calling in "sick" when you are at home anyway is a strange thing to do and something I usually only reserve for when either I or my children are so sick we need to see a doctor, which would take me away from my computer.

Of course, it is complicated by the fact that my husband makes three times what I make. Economically, we need his job far more than we need mine. And yet, I still win because the long term economics do not work without me keeping my job. Or maybe it is just because I have a very understanding husband. Either way, I know I am lucky.

For other couples, it is complicated. Some people do not have sick time and some companies frown on using sick time. To those companies I say: Why not just take it away then? I will never understand why a company would give an employee sick time and then yell at them for using it.

But I digress. In the end, keeping your eyes on the prize is sometimes the only thing to keep the situation from devolving into a fight. After all, what is the most important thing? That your child get well. In 15 years, you won't remember the meeting you missed or the boss you annoyed, but you will remember the day you spent home with your child.


Who wins in your house?


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