How to Handle Sick Days (And I Don’t Mean Yours)

POSTED ON 11/02/2016

How to Handle Sick Days (And I Don’t Mean Yours)

I wish I was talking about my own sick days. Seriously, as a working mother, does anything sound more luxurious than lying in your bed all day? Maybe with a little bell to ring to call forth a husband or child to serve you? For a blissful day of watching old 80s movies and sleeping, I might be willing to throw up a few times (OK, maybe even four or five times…every few hours).

But unfortunately I’m not talking about how to handle your own sick days–I’m talking about how to handle your kids’ days. Because, let’s be real, when moms are sick, the day just goes on as usual. When’s the last time you got to stay in bed?

But when kids get sick, it’s quite another story. They stay home from school. And this can go on for days. And due to the magic of Tylenol they may even feel like running around part of the time that they are sick. Or they might have something as painless to them but crippling to you as pink eye. And no one is going to believe you it’s just allergies and let you send them to school. Believe me, I’ve tried.

So, how do you survive flu season as a working mom? Here are some ideas:

Establish a sick day routine: When my kids are home they get their baby blanket and a pillow set up for them in the living room. They get full control of the TV. They get back to back on demand movies, even ones that cost money. Sure, that baby blanket doesn’t quite cover my 11 year old’s legs anymore, but he loves the comfort of the routine. And with them fully ensconced in the privileged place, you can go find somewhere else to get work done.

If you are going to do conference calls, don’t try and pretend that your kid isn’t home: They will come in at the most inopportune time every single time. And they will not hesitate to blow your cover. As a rule, I try to avoid calls if I have a sick child at home unless it is with very understanding clients (mainly other moms). You and I both know your kid will harass you the minute the call starts and go back to the couch the minute it ends. Why not avoid the misery all around?

With that in mind, don’t lie and say you are sick: Just fess up to why you are home. I hate it when moms try to hide that they are moms. Sure, no one wants to hear about your child all day but remember this when you are about to sacrifice your time: when a dad stays home, he is a freaking hero. Don’t be apologetic for being a mother–own it, kick ass at your job, and don’t look back. Please don’t blow a sick day. And don’t lie simply because lying never gets you anywhere–and then you are screwed when you do get sick and need to stay home. Back when I was in my 20s and first managing people, I was shocked at the crazy sick voices and stories people would give when they called in. I never believed any of them and things went way more smoothly when people would just admit what was really going on (at that age, mostly hangovers).

Make friends with a retired neighbor: There are times when you just have to go somewhere. Now obviously if your kid is seriously ill you aren’t going to dump him across the street with the neighbors, but if they just have a little case of strep throat or a headache, get ready to dump away. I am blessed to have amazing neighbors who have taken care of my kids when I’ve been in a pinch. Forget those last minute babysitter services, make a new friend that you trust who can help you out–and you’ll be amazed at how enriching having friends from different generations can be.

Sticky Notes: OK. you need to use this last tip at your own peril. My eight year old daughter talks. A lot. When you need to answer a work email, it can be quite disconcerting to have her staring at you asking (for the 80th time in that hour) “What do you want to talk about?” One strategy when a child like this is home and perhaps in your hair: give them a bunch of sticky notes. Close your door (any door) and work, promising to open it once every 30–45 minutes to review any notes and respond to them in writing. But you might want to set a limit because you could be spending the rest of the work day answering your daughter’s questions about your favorite color and food rather than your boss’s email about where your report is. And at that point, you might be feeling a bit sick yourself.

Originally published by OptBackIn, visit their blog at for great content and advice for women re-entering the workforce.