An interesting article was published this week on working mothers not taking sick days. The conclusion was that mums don’t take sick days in order to make sure they have enough sick days to care for their children when they are sick. Now, this article was research-based, so I’m not going to dispute it. I am, however, going to say that – in my case at least – that’s not the only reason mums don’t take sick days. Up until this week, I had not had a single sick day for the year; a fact I had been bragging about before a dreaded lurgy came down upon me and took me out. Have I been sick this year? Absolutely! Am I short of sick days/carer’s days/personal leave? No. After five years in the same job I have accrued nearly five weeks of sick days. For me, that doesn’t come into the equation. So, why then, do I not take sick days? Let’s go through the week …
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Monday little miss spends the day at home with my Mum. It’s a pretty special day, full of chaos … in my home. It goes without saying that taking a sick day on a Monday would be anything but restful. And I couldn’t possibly loll around in bed while my mother looks after my child. It might not bother my mother, but I just couldn’t do it.
Tuesdays is Daddy day. And, while Daddy is wearing the badge of preferred parent with pride this week, when missy has us both around she is at her happiest. There is no way she would let me get away with lying in bed while Daddy’s at home. I can already hear her yelling, “up, up!” to me, as she does whenever I dare to put my head to pillow while she is awake.
Related: Why we need to do more for Dads
Wednesday is childcare day. The perfect day for a sick day, right? Except that I work a four-day week and I’m not in the office on Thursdays. Wednesday is the day I have to get everything done in order to have a day off that doesn’t involve checking in on email (I set pretty strict boundaries on this). I have to be feeling really, really unwell to take a Wednesday off.
Well, Thursday is missy and Mumma day. No time for being sick here!
Friday is another childcare day. However, after a day out of the office I typically have 70-odd emails in my inbox. Usually at least five of these require immediate attention and action, the rest I plough through during the day. If I take a Friday off I know that Monday will be horrendous. I also have a bit of a problem taking a Friday off because it looks like I’m having an extra long weekend. Perception accounts for a lot.
The research in the article I mention indicated that parents are more likely to have a sick day for their child than themselves, to which I respond, “of course they do”. I would have had sick days this year if missy was unwell, without question (as would her father, I wish to acknowledge that this issue is not owned by mothers). For the most part, parents put their children first, they always have. I will always make sure that I do everything I can to make sure little miss is of the best of health. I have never done the same for myself. I have been working sick for years, hell, I once worked with glandular fever (yes, I am a hero/idiot).
For me, the decision not to take sick days isn’t about “putting my health second”. If anything, now that I have to look after another human being, there’s more of an impetus to keep myself well than every before! Sometimes I’m just being selfish – I only want to have a sick day if I can relax and know that I’m not going to face a truck-load of stress when I return to work. This week, however, I’ve allowed myself a day on the couch, but I know I’ll pay for it all next week while I play catch-up!
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