Working parents with sick kids have a lot more to worry about in addition to bringing their child’s temperature down. The moment they receive that dreaded phone call from their child’s preschool teacher, their hearts sink at the thought of what’s to come for the next couple of days.
On one level, there’s the immediate problem – dealing with the sick child. Medication, tantrums, whining, crankiness, and a whole lot of attention and tender loving care to be given. And then there’s the other (possibly bigger) problem – abruptly leaving the office to pick up your child, all the meetings that need to be rescheduled, that infamous glare from the human resource (HR) manager and the mountain of work that will pile up in no time.
In many Singaporean households, both parents work and solely depend on infant care or child care centres to look after their children. Not many have the luxury of parental support or a helper that they can entrust their children with. So when the child can’t go to school, they don’t have a back up plan.
Here are 5 things that Singaporean working parents with sick kids can relate to.
1. The anxiety of infamous red spots
If your child is down with a common cold or fever, then that’s not too bad. With enough rest, plenty of fluids and medication where necessary, your little one will be back on his feet in no time.
But if you hear of those vile red spots which are a harbinger of that nasty Hand, foot and mouth disease, it’s one of your worst nightmares come true.
Children with HFMD have to undergo a mandatory 10 day quarantine. Even if you and your partner split it 50-50, there goes 5 days of annual leave. And more often than not, it’s difficult to go on leave for a few days at such short notice.
Just what are you supposed to do in this situation?
Working parents with sick kids fear HFMD!
If that’s not bad enough, you’re going to be dealing with a child who’s extremely grouchy, doesn’t have an appetite and who’s at risk for dehydration and subsequently hospitalisation. Not fun at all.
And even if it’s not your child who’s gotten HFMD, hearing of a HFMD outbreak in their preschool is another cause for concern. You are caught between having no alternative arrangements and not wanting to risk them contracting HFMD.
2. Neither here nor there
Sometimes you are blessed with an understanding boss or a working arrangement that allows you to work from home on your child’s sick days. The good news is that you don’t have to burn your annual leave if you’re out of childcare leave. The bad news is that working from home means your colleagues need to reach you as and when they need to and working parents with sick kids know just how difficult that is.
You end up in a situation where it seems like the wisest thing to do would be to just declare yourself on leave because it’s really difficult to straddle both. You can’t concentrate on your sick kid with all your work on your mind and you can’t focus on your work with a sick kid whining and crying at the sight of your laptop.
And some have it worse. They aren’t even working from home, they are officially on leave. But because of the nature of their job, it’s not possible to entirely be uncontactable and they still have to attend to calls every now and then, or send an email or two.
Working from home makes you feel like you are neither here nor there.
Here’s what a Singaporean working mum said:
At times like this I end up on the verge of a nervous breakdown and wish that I could split myself in two! My child needs me and I need my job so I can’t just ignore everything but I really don’t know how to handle the situation!
3. That infamous glare
When you walk into your boss’s room to get that childcare leave form signed, it could go either way. Either you have an understanding boss who gives you a reassuring smile and tells you that she understands how it is, or you are met with a disapproving icy glare, or forced smile. And that leaves you feeling really lousy!
Or even if your boss approves, you have your HR manager giving you a ‘friendly’ reminder of how many days of childcare leave you have used up and how you are ‘only left with 2 days for the rest of the year’.
In some offices, colleagues aren’t warm and understanding and they don’t take well to hearing that someone has to attend to their sick child. They start the gossip and it creates a really toxic environment.
Here’s the personal experience of a Singaporean mum:
I have friends who told me that when I called in to say I was on urgent childcare leave, the admin manager rolled her eyes and passed remarks like, ‘again’ or ‘she’s always on leave’. They just don’t seem to understand that I’m not going on leave to paint the town red or to take a break. I’m working twice as hard tending to a sick child who needs me!
I also had a boss tell me before, ‘yes you are entitled to this number of days for childcare leave but of course, no one maximises it’. What am I supposed to make out of that comment? Is it frowned upon to take the leave I am entitled to take?
When your boss gives you a frozen smile and says, “Oh I see you are taking childcare leave, again!”
Working parents with sick children feel really miserable when people around them don’t understand their needs and take it as they are skiving when they go on childcare leave. It’s worse when the people around aren’t parents themselves and have no idea what it’s like.
4. They get sick at all the wrong times
Call it Murphy’s law, call it a cruel twist of fate or a cosmic joke on you but yes, somehow and someway, children have a tendency to fall sick at the worst possible times.
On that day when you have an important presentation that you spent the last two weeks working on, on that day when your boss wants to have a dialogue session with you, on that day when three other coworkers are not around, on that week when your spouse is overseas, that’s when your child falls sick.
Working parents with sick kids feel helpless when such things happen.
A mum shared her experience:
My spouse was working overseas and I had to take childcare leave for the second consecutive week. We were planning for an important event at work when this happened and without realising it, I lashed out at my son. I asked him why he had to fall sick then of all times?
He looked at the floor and said in a tiny voice, I’m sorry mummy, I didn’t fall sick on purpose.
I felt so awful I just broke down into tears.
Need I say more?
5. It triggers marital discord
Not surprisingly, mums bear the brunt of their children’s sick episodes. More often than not, mums stay at home to care for the child and when both parents are working, this can be a trigger for spouses to fight.
Sometimes the dads feel that it’s somehow less frowned upon when their wives apply for that childcare leave because bosses are more understanding towards women, at least that’s what they think.
In other cases, dads may feel that the child still wants their mum. Here’s what a dad had to say:
On a few occasions, my wife said it was difficult for her to get leave so I took the leave to care for our sick child. But it was pointless because my child was inconsolable and he just kept crying for his mother. Halfway through the day, my wife ended up having to come home. It didn’t make any kind of sense that both of us were wasting our precious leave on the same day!
Some couples argue over who’s going to take childcare leave.
Of course this isn’t always the case and many dads are more than capable of looking after the sick kids but you would imagine that working parents with sick kids do tend to argue over who’s going to be the one applying for the leave.
Well mums and dads, working parents with sick kids are in a terrible situation. Singaporean parents have a total of 10 days of childcare leave, of which four require your child’s medical certificate. If you have two or three children, or a child who’s simply prone to falling ill, this is hardly enough.
Don’t beat yourself up if you feel frustrated when your child falls ill. Of course you are frustrated with the situation and not your child, so don’t let the subsequent guilt overcome you. Neither should you allow yourself to feel guilty for having to take time off work.
Being a parent is hard and you are doing what you have to do. Just hang in there, be patient and try to stay sane!
Reference: Smart Parents
Republished with permission from: theAsianParent Singapore