I wanted to write this blog post when I was still in my day job. I remember creating this draft when I was off work sick with a problem with my neck. It was stress related – linked to my work – and I just remember how hard it was to ring in sick. But, back then it wasn’t appropriate to write about this or anything stemming from it.
But even now the thought of having to ring in sick leaves me feeling cold. I always used to prefer going to work sick than having the stress of ringing in sick. Plus, our managers insisted that you rang in sick every day of your illness so if you were off for a week you would have to wake yourself up in the morning and ring in every single day. It didn’t really help you to relax and rest properly and I always used to go back to work before I was fully better.
Every time I rang in sick I felt like I was letting someone down. I felt like I was weak, like I should be able to just power on. Like I should just keep going, no matter what. But there were always times when I just couldn’t do that. When my neck hurt when I tried to move my head. When it hurt to lay down, when it hurt to sit up. Or the times when I had migraines during my second pregnancy, when I couldn’t see to drive, when I couldn’t get myself to work let alone my toddler to the childminder.
Those days I was off sick yet had to look after a toddler when I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. As a parent of a toddler often going to work was a break – I could chat to other grown ups and have a hot drink. But those days when I was sick and couldn’t make use of childcare it was worse than being at work, so much worse. Yet ringing in sick was still so hard.
But worse than that, as a working parent there were times when I had to ring in sick because my child was ill. When they couldn’t go to the childminder or to school and yet ringing in sick because someone dependent on you was sick was so much harder than when I was actually sick myself.
But as a parent all of the cogs have to be in place and turning for you to do anything. School has to be open for the children to go there, if the children are sick they can’t go to school and if the school is closed they can’t go to school. If the children don’t have somewhere to go then you can’t go to work. It’s not as simple as having another option – sometimes there just aren’t any other childcare choices and as a working parent that is so, so hard.
And now, as a work from home parent I should be living the dream. If I’m sick I don’t have to ring in sick. If my child is sick I don’t have to ring in sick either – I just stay at home with them.
But, when I’m sick there are still school runs to do, there are still swimming lessons and meals to cook. There is still so much life admin to organise – as well as my actual work to do. And when the children are sick I can’t go to work meetings or even really have work phone calls. I can’t sit at my laptop all day and instead I sit with the children, offering them food, making them comfortable, giving them medicine and having cuddles in front of the TV.
When I’m sick or when the children are sick work gets put to the side. Getting better comes first and I think getting better is a little quicker now that I don’t have anyone to ring in sick to. But, after a week of chicken pox I wonder how we would have coped if this had been 18 months ago. How my work would have dealt with me being off for a whole week, maybe longer, because LP couldn’t go to school with chicken pox.
I have a good idea how they would have reacted. And I have a good idea how I would have felt in that situation. I would have been stressed and upset. Emotional anyway because LP was poorly but even more so because I had that weight of work on my shoulders and that requirement to ring in every, single, day.
Ringing in sick to work is so hard, and so stressful and I am so glad I don’t have to do it anymore. But, aside from ringing in sick, being sick or having a sick child isn’t any easier when you work from home. As a working parent, whether you work at home or away, life is a constant act of keeping plates spinning and when sickness is added to the mix it means that those plates change, they spin at different speeds or they may even be a different shape – and you have to just keep them spinning, no matter what.