Um, I won’t be in today…
Staying home to care for a sick child is bad enough. Telling the office is worse.
Layla is sick, poor baba. She has a nasty fever, sore throat and puffy eyes. She’s sleeping next to me as I write this (as she always does, stick that up your jumpers and smoke it, Own Bed Nazis); burning me up and making those pitiful snuffly groans.  So no school tomorrow and no work for me either. The doctor will tell me it’s a virus, no antibiotics necessary (yay), extra fluids and bedrest yadda yadda. Nothing I don’t know already, but I’ll feel better for going. Ponstan for Layla and placebo doctor-speak for mommy ; everybody wins. 

Just the small matter of making the Phone Call to the office.  I always dread this chore. I know I’m entitled to my three days family responsibility leave, I know that there’s nothing that can’t wait until Tuesday, and that nobody is even likely to notice I’m missing. I have a healthy sense of my own place in the food chain, and really I’m not that important. I also know that I never take time off unless it’s unavoidable, to a degree that is ridiculously anal but looks good on a CV. Still, I always overexplain myself, providing detailed descriptions of every snotty symptom, as if to prove I’m not making it up.

Then I spend the rest of the Day Off (when not wiping up vomit) cringing every time the phone rings in case it’s The Boss, demanding I return to my post. When I go back to work, I creep in apprehensively, expecting to be fired on the spot.  Overinflated sense of responsibility, that’s my problem. Why can’t I be more like those people who unapologetically take those Duvet Day thingies and feel fine about it?

I try not to weep with jealousy when The Boss leaves at 2pm again to watch a child’s cricket match. I try not to get snarky when Co-Worker goes on a cruise in the middle of an audit, in the hope that my support will be noted. I don’t go to as many of the daytime school functions as I should. I send my mother to minor dental appointments. My children read their school reports to me over the phone, dammit. 

Judge me not

Some argue that all this kid stuff is unfair to childless colleagues.

Some say I’m damaging my career prospects and should be more ambitious.

Then you get the ones who say I shouldn’t be working at all, working mothers causing irreparable harm to fabric of society and so on. I shall reply as follows:

To the first lot: I’ll scratch your back, you scratch mine. I’ll help out when you need me, and I won’t judge your reasons. Give and take, that’s how it works.

To the second lot: Pffft. There’s a reason why I’m a lowly pleb and not an ulcer-ridden suit-wearing manager. I take my work seriously because that’s how I am.  But make no mistake; it’s not my Real Job.  My joy, my inspiration and my ambition to do great things belong at home, with my family (and dare I say it, in writing for all of you). I lose out on the big money, but WTF.   

To the third lot: see answer above re. paying bills. Maybe one day we shall live in a world where only the independently wealthy are allowed to procreate, but until then, you’ll have to put up with us ordinary folk. Solly for joo.

So here’s the thing.  I’m staying home tomorrow, because my child needs me.  I will get a doctor’s certificate, and won’t take lunch for the rest of the week.  I reckon that’s fair.

What do you think? Is a sick child a valid reason to stay home from work?

Read more by Tracy Engelbrecht

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