16 Things Working Parents Should Know About the Horrors of Caring for Sick Children
My twin daughters are home from daycare this week with something called Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease, which sounds like the most terrifying disease imaginable to those that have never heard of it. OH MY GOD. DID SHE EAT TAINTED MEAT. HOW LONG UNTIL HER BRAINS LIQUIFY? In reality, it’s a mild illness accompanied by blistery spots on the hands, feet, and in the mouth, a low-grade fever and a lot of crankiness. It’ll go away in 7-10 days, and while my daughters feel well enough most of the day to participate in daycare activities, they are wildly contagious, so they have to stay at home this week. With me. While I continue to attempt to put together a website full of pop culture idiocy and Tom Hiddleston’s latest adorable attempts to promote his movie.
This happens a lot, actually. Far more often that I might have ever imagined before I had children. I never would’ve guessed how much of parenting is devoted to taking care of sick children. There’s nothing you can do to plan for it. You cannot mark it in your appointment books. You cannot schedule around an illness. It’s just one of those things that you just have to deal with, and it doesn’t matter what your profession is. If you don’t have a stay-at-home parent, you have to make allowances for it.
So, for those of you contemplating children, while my own children are lazily draped over me as snot and drool pools onto my shoulder, I thought I’d offer a quick outline of what you and your spouse may have to look forward to once you have children.
1.You child will get sick at the most inconvenient time possible. Every time. Trial about to start? Your kid will get sick. Big interview for a promotion the next day? Your kid will get sick. Huge event you must absolutely attend? Planning to take the afternoon off and sneak over to see Thor: The Dark World while your kids are still in daycare? Your kid will get sick. Guaranteed. You know how the old saying goes, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him that you really need to get to work tomorrow.”
2. If you have a child under three or four, he or she will get sick approximately 10-12 times every fall/winter season. This is SCIENCE. It cannot be avoided. There is little you can do about it, and the very reason you enrolled your child into daycare — so that you can work during the day — is the very thing that will increase the odds that your child will get sick and make daycare unavailable to you. Daycares are incubators for DISEASE. Vile, filthy diseases that are accompanied by rashes and snot and diarrhea and phlegm and congestive sounds that would make Linda Blair blush.
3. On that rare day that there is no snot streaming out of your child’s nose like the Niagara of mucous, snap as many pictures as possible. Post them to Facebook, so that people in the real world will think this is what your child always looks like. These days are few and far between because snot is just part of a child’s life, like sippy cups and diapers. Carry Kleenex with you at all times. During particularly heavy periods of snot activity, a small bucket may be necessary. When all else fails, there’s always your shirt.
Never wear black.
4. Those with employers and co-workers without children will say they are caring and understanding about your need to take off for the 7th day in two weeks, but they really aren’t. They’re bad-mouthing your lack of productivity behind your back. “Can you believe Sally is taking off AGAIN? What is wrong with that kid of hers?” You know what is wrong with the kid? SHE’S A KID. They get sick. A lot. Jerk.
5. Remember this, though: Before you had children, you were one of those jerks that scoffed at parents for taking time off because you didn’t understand how it is possible that one kid could be sick so frequently. Here’s the thing, though: PARENTS HAVE NO CHOICE BUT TO MISS WORK. Unless they have retired or unemployed relative close-by, there is nothing they can do except stay at home and watch Elmo laugh until their ears bleed.
6. Here’s the double-whammy: Most daycares you pay for on a weekly or monthly basis, whether your child is in attendance or not. That means that, not only are you missing work, but you’re still paying for someone else while you’re looking after your own children. It’s an evil consequence of the daycare system. There’s not a damn thing you can do about it.
7. The number two argument (behind, “What’s for dinner?”) between couples with children is not about money and it’s not about who forgot to do the dishes, it’s about who has to stay home that day to take of the sick kid. You will both trot out a list of things you have to do that day, and there will invariably be a game of oneupmanship. “I have to get this report in by 2.” “I have an important client meeting at 11.” “Oh yeah, if I am not at work today, PEOPLE WILL DIE.” Occasionally, the argument will end like this: “If I don’t get to my job today, I will be fired. THEN I CAN STAY HOME EVERYDAY. IN OUR CARDBOARD BOX.” This person will probably lose the argument for being a drama queen.
8. You say you don’t believe in allowing your children to watch television? Or that you limit your child’s screen-time to one hour a day? Let’s see how far you bend those rules on the fourth day your child is at home, after you’ve completed enough art projects to fill the Louvre, and after you’ve read every kid’s book in your home 47 times. Television is the opiate of the people, and your child is sick and needs a lot of opiates, OK? IT’S MEDICINE.
9. Do you work at home? Then you’re double-f*cked, because your employer will expect the exact same of you because to him or her, working from home with a sick child is no different than working at home without a sick child. Congratulations! It’s one of the many downside of working from home that office workers never consider. Indeed, you will have to do the same amount of work in a shorter period of time. I hope you don’t like sleep, because most of your work will be accomplished during your child’s sleep time (which just happens to coincide with your own), or while your child is pulling your leg and demanding another rendition of “Puff the Magic Dragon.” AGAIN, DADDY. AGAIN. PLAY THAT SONG ABOUT THE THE LITTLE KID THAT LIKES TO GET HIGH.
10. Though your child is sick, and probably very contagious, Tylenol and Advil work absolute wonders on them. In fact, during most of the day, they will exhibit few or little symptoms of their illness, so they will be free to be the needy crumb snatchers you’re accustomed to, except during that half hour between the time the medication wears off and you re-dose them. Those half hours will be your own personal versions of Hell. Invite high school classes over and use those moments to teach teenagers about birth control. I promise, they will listen.
11. Some kids do not mind taking medication. You probably do not have one of those kids. Your kid will probably kick, and crawl, and scream, and wail, while you attempt to pin that child to the floor and inject a dose of medication into the back of her throat, which she will then proceed to spit all over herself, necessitating that you complete the process again. Do not do this in front of strangers. They will call DHS on you.
12. Be careful about Tylenol and other acetaminophen products. I don’t mean to alarm you, but too much will KILL YOUR CHILD. Accidentally double dose your child two or three times in a three day period, and your child can die of liver failure. You want to know what true terror is, listen to the “This American Life” podcast on Tylenol. Good luck sleeping tonight.
13. But what if you and your significant other also contract your child’s debilitating illness at the same time? TOO F**KING BAD. You must continue to make meals, change diapers, bathe and entertain your child because your child doesn’t give a sh*t how sick you are, she still wants her fake Morning Star chicken nuggets, damnit. Turn on the television and pray for a few moments of sleep before your adorable child slaps you awake and screams, “MO YO GABBA DADDA.”
14. Babies and toddlers are insanely sensitive when they are ill, and they will want to be in your presence at all times, which makes it difficult to work on your laptop when someone is occupying your lap. Also, be prepared to sleep in your child’s room on the floor or a make-shift bed, because if you are not there when she wakes up, she may wail, and you may have to go through the process of putting your baby down again. Beware, also, that if you bring that child into your bed, you may unravel a sleep routine that took you six months to finally perfect.
15. Children with colds or the the flu sleep much better in the upright position. This is often accomplished by allowing your child to sleep on your chest while you are sitting in a chair in an uncomfortable position. At some point, you may have to make a choice: Sit uncomfortably knowing that your back will probably never bend into its natural position again, or stir your child awake in order to reposition. Most of us will choose the long-term consequences.
16. Twenty-four out of twenty-five times, a doctor’s visit is pointless. It’s always a virus, and there’s nothing you can do about a virus except wait it out. Still, the more cautious of the spouses will insist on a doctor’s visit, while the other will suggest riding out a 103 fever. The more cautious parent will almost always win this argument, and you will waste two hours to find out that it is indeed a virus. That, however, is better than the alternative, which is hearing the cautious spouse remind you about that time you tried to ride out strep throat for six days when a simple antibiotic could have cured it in one. SHE COULD’VE DIED, YOU ASSHOLE.