Moms Who Don't Take Sick Time Aren't Doing Their Families Any Favors

Mom Moment 14

sickDo you take time for yourself when you need it? If you are like me, I am sure you just laughed at the thought. I’m not even referring to "me time" so much as taking time when it is medically necessary.

Working moms are often reluctant to take sick time when they need it. But that resistance might just be making them sicker.

Why is it that we have to be on our deathbeds to take a sick day? Especially when it would be better for everybody if we did? For some reason, we need to give ourselves permission to be human. Sometimes the best thing we can do for our family is take the day off to get well -- because being perpetually miserable is helping no one.

Tis the season when soon everyone in my house will be sick. This makes no difference to me. I have already had sinusitis and double ear infections twice since August and I am sure, those will be joined in the near future by their friend bronchitis and maybe even, for a real treat, walking pneumonia.

Do you know why my sinusitis and bronchitis always turn into walking pneumonia? Because I'm so damn busy being nominated as mom martyr of the year that I don't take time to rest and recuperate.

A couple years ago, I had a particularly bad case of bronchitis and sinusitis, and my doctor had me on antibiotics and cough medicine with narcotics so that I could sleep through my coughing fits. A few days into being on the meds, I decided that I was well enough to run to the local Target for more. Not long after arriving, I noticed that I was getting dizzy, feeling seasick. I called my husband -- sure that it was a bad reaction to either the antibiotics or the cough syrup.

Within five minutes, I was home, but I was so dizzy that I was in cold sweats and could barely sit upright. No sooner had I walked in the door than I had to run to the bathroom and vomit. I stayed there, where I continued to throw up for the next several hours. About five hours into it, when I could finally hold my head up without projectile vomiting and I could go about 20-minute increments without running to the bathroom, my 4-year-old called out to me.

I stumbled slowly toward her like a weak calf and reached her just in time for her to get sick all over my feet. After I got her cleaned up, I then went back to my room and continued throwing up myself, only to have to go back to her bed in between hurls to rub her back and make sure that her vomit bowl was clean. This went on for 24 more hours. I wanted to die, but I couldn’t even do that because then who would have taken care of my daughter?

Being a mom who is sick stinks. Perhaps if I had sent my husband to pick up the medicine in the first place, I would never have gotten so ill. In my defense, my doctor says I had the stomach flu. Who gets the stomach flu on top of bronchitis and sinusitis? The world's unluckiest mom, that’s who.

The moral of the story is that sometimes, even if we feel it is impossible, we have to stop and just be sick. It's better to rest for a day than have bronchitis and the stomach flu simultaneously, which I learned from experience. My body was revolting and I was stopped dead in my tracks.

Do you take time to get well when you are really sick or do you soldier on until nature takes you down?

Image via The Giant Vermin/Flickr

cold & flu, energy & fatigue, time for you


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jhslove jhslove

Or their co-workers. I work in a very small office, and one of my colleagues, who is also a mom, came in with a cold. She worked sick one day, and then the next day we had to force her to stay home....her dedication to her job is admirable, but a couple of days after she came in sick, who came down with a cold? Me! Bleargh......

jhslove jhslove

I just have to ask--where was your husband while you and your daughter were both sick with the stomach flu? Couldn't he have taken care of her so you could get some rest? Seems unfair that you had to do it all on your own.

nonmember avatar kaerae

I can see both sides of this. I'm salaried and get sick days, so there's no good reason to come in and make others sick. But, when I was in my 20s I made an hourly wage with no sick time; If I didn't work, I didn't get paid, and I needed every penny to pay my bills and keep food on the table. A couple sick days may have meant no lights the next month. So, yes, I brought my germs to work. It can be a financial issue for many, rather than being a martyr.

cmjaz cmjaz

Same thing I was thinking jhs. Most husbands would've stayed home to help

jhslove jhslove

kaerae, I definitely see your point when it comes to hourly employees. But my colleague and I are salaried and we get sick days.......

The example you cite, though, is one reason that I think even hourly employees should get sick time. I wouldn't want a waitress who's going to be handling my food coming in to work with the flu......and I would think it would be good business practice. If I go to a restaurant and the waitress or cook is sneezing and hacking all over the place, I'll be grossed out and probably not come back. But if I knew a restaurant owner treated his employees well and allowed them to stay home when sick without sacrificing their much-needed pay, I'd be MORE likely to support their business.

jalaz77 jalaz77

I do when I need to. Not for the common cold but vomiting, diarrhea and a few others, yes I do. Bad thing is at my job if you miss 2 or more days a year you don't get the extra raise percentage and that adds up. I noticed I have missed more work for myself since having kids, they bring home nasty stuff! For some reason they handle it better than me ; )

Tracys2 Tracys2

Some moms are expected to stay home whenever their kids are sick, and that uses up as much sick time (or more!) than they are expected to take. They risk their jobs if they take any for themselves. As it is, in some jobs, ANY taking off is bad.

The hourly thing is definitely a problem, too. I used to get sick time when I was hourly, but I understand that many do not.

When I was in management, I could work from home, and that moderated the damage.

amazz... amazzonia

Probably many moms don't take sick days when they are sick because they had finished their paid sick days for when their kids were sick. This country needs a revolution when it comes to mother rights on the job.... Sign the petition I created on the website of the white house to allow all moms to be maternity leave

Eileen Magee Apple

I am sick right now and if I want a chance of keeping this job after the holidays I cant miss a day. I went to work last week with the stomach flu and a fever of 101 and today I have a nasty cold and a fever again.I hate allergy time I get sick all the time during it. But, I cannot take the time off, If I do I have no chance of being kept on after the holidays.  Normally I also would not take the time off either part time employees are basically considered replaceable and if you miss work you are a liability and are replaced. Part time workers usually do not get sick time either so if I miss work I dont get paid. Personally I need to feed my 4 kids so yes, I work even when I am sick I dont have the luxury of staying home I know what will happen I have seen it first hand with other people. And personal time, I dont know what that is. I have 2 grandkids 4 and 3 (special needs) and 2 kids 2 and 1 I am raising so "me time" is not part of my vocabulary and will not be for quite a few years. I am lucky to get out 1 or 2 times a year for a few hours alone with my husband to go out to dinner.

teddy... teddysmama09

I am a SAHM and I don't get to be sick. It never fails that when I get sick, everyone else in the family has something worse, so I'm the nurse by default.  My husband works two jobs (one in a factory, the other at the ice rink) and he's prone to chest infections, so when he gets run down and sick he REALLY gets sick and is totally incapacitated. That meanns it's up to me to care for his needs and those of my two kids (10months and 3years) while I just suffer through whatever I have. My kids aren't in school and the baby is still up all night nursing so I don't get any recovery time. I really think I may actually be dead, I'm just too busy to notice!

Thus is the life of a mother. My nanna who raised 7 kids and most of her 40 grandchildren  always says "No one deserves a nervous breakdown more than me, I just haven't had the time!"

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