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Busy professionals challenged when children get sick

You’ve worked for weeks on a presentation that can make or break your business. Your husband has a meeting he has to attend. But your child has a scratchy throat and fever. What do you do?

Many working parents have a network they can depend on when a child gets sick. Grandparents, neighbors and friends are potential care givers for a sick child. Because illness often comes suddenly in children, having a plan ahead of time can make those unexpected times less of a nightmare.

Susie Brock, with SourceLink in Madison, is the mother of three girls, ages 18, 16 and 20 months.

“The baby is always an issue with illness, but my husband and I have a good system that has always worked over the years. We simply split the day. One takes the morning shift and the other takes the afternoon shift. Also, we both have the ability to check e-mails from home and we both have companies that have always been very understanding when it comes to sick children. Cell phones are a huge help, as well. When our two oldest daughters were little, we did not have so many options to stay in touch with our offices and it was a bigger challenge than it is now. Today’s electronic super highway has made this problem quite manageable at the Brock household.”

Maggie Clark, owner of Maggie Clark Media Services in Brandon, thinks moms need to stay home with their sick child.

“I firmly believe that if a mom has a sick child she should have the right to stay home with her child. I think a sick child will bounce back from colds, flu, etc. quicker if they are in their own comfort zone — meaning their own bed with their mom to tend their needs,” she says.

Clark has been in the role of both employee/parent, as well as an employer. Her son, Ken, is now grown with children of his own. “In my experience, the employee will return to work more quickly and will be at peace knowing they fulfilled their ‘Mom-duty.’ They will also be appreciative (and, loyal) of employers who take an understanding position in this matter.”

Joanne Mathison, a sales representative for TWO’S COMPANY, is the mother of a four-year-old daughter. She says that she’s lucky that she works out of her home. “I do travel the state, because I am in sales, but the VP of sales one time told me that none of us would be here if we didn’t have moms, so that has always made me realize that my sick child comes first, and that my business will survive without me for a day or so. Luckily, I have a wonderful mother-in-law in town who has helped me out, and if she can’t step in, my husband and I ‘tag team’ days.”

Mathison advises all working moms to have a friend who doesn’t work, or someone who may be “on call” for those terrible days. “Then you just go above and beyond to pay them back. This month, I have had to be out with Kate almost seven days, and while it is very hard to miss that much work, I can always make it up by working overtime the next day. I figure my daughter needs me holding her while she has an earache, more than any meeting needs my presence.”

Being very pro-active is important for working parents.

“I would say we nip any sickness in the bud at the first sign of it,” says Mathison. “Thank goodness Children’s Medical Clinic is open on the weekends. It’s a fact of life that children are going to get sick, so surely employers understand that and will make provisions for that. Most moms work these days. I have friends who works in an office. She simply loads up the sick child, a DVD player and a pillow and tries to get as much done as she can in the office. You just make do.”

For Clark, bringing a sick child to work isn’t an option. “The last thing I want is a sick child on work premise to expose others unnecessarily. You should never make a mom feel guilty for taking care of her brood. Children up to six or seven years of age are going to get sick. That’s just a reality. Until then, you can count on a child getting sick about three or four times throughout the year, requiring employed moms to stay home a couple of days each episode.”

Amy Lee, a music director for a church in Florence and full-time Southern Living at HOME consultant, says that she depends on her mother for help when one of her two children get sick.

“But that’s not something I can always count on, since my parents are getting older. I had several meetings planned for today, and my mom was going to keep my sick child. But my dad ended up needing an unscheduled medical procedure, so I had to find alternative arrangements for my child,” she says. “I’ve learned to keep a list of college-aged kids handy. They have varied class schedules and they’re always willing to make a few bucks.

Contact MBJ contributing writer S.J. Anderson at andersonwrites@yahoo.com .

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