The Chaos of a Sick Child for a Working Mom

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re a mom of some sort. So you all know being a mom is hard – whether you’re a stay at home mom, working mom or something in between. Parts of this mom gig are amazing and awesome, which makes up for the parts that flat out suck.

The Chaos of A Sick Child for a Working Mom

I am a full-time working mom with two boys ages 4 and 2 and pregnant with my 3rd who is due before the end of the year. With kids these ages, I am in a season of life where work has to stay at work. I also have a substantial commute which complicates things at times. My husband works full-time himself and travels at a decent frequency. So at times, life is just pure chaos. We are in survival mode more than I want to admit.

Recently, my four year old got sick. At first we thought it was bacterial – strep to be exact – easily treatable. I’ve learned this is the best case scenario for sick kids – a more predicable timeline of when things will return to normal.  Unfortunately, this turned out to be one of those week-long illnesses that throw every dual-income household into complete chaos.

For the next 7 days, the more days the 4 year old (which later turned into both kids) were sick, the more stressed and frantic I became. Between a huge project I had been working on for six months, trying to save PTO for maternity leave, and a husband with a limited number of days for the next month, it felt like a balancing act that I couldn’t possibly manage.

Oh, and throw 3rd trimester pregnancy hormones in for good measure. Let’s just say there was more than one break down by yours truly.

As a working mom, sick kids don’t just mean a day off work to snuggle a sick child. It means:

  • Determining which deadline can be pushed out a day or two. Sometimes there are deadlines that can’t be pushed. That means, working while the sick-one is sleeping or taking a phone call with a crying, uncomfortable baby on your hip.
  • Not just my deadlines – my husband and I have to compare schedules for the week and sometimes if we both have important things going on, flip a coin as to who has to figure out a way to deal with it.
  • Not only worrying about my kid(s) who don’t feel well and all the normal “Do I call the doctor or don’t I call the doctor?” inner monologue, but also struggling with the guilt of letting coworkers down.
  • Handing the sick child off to the other spouse the second they walk in the door so I can check email and deal with any fires that may have popped up that day. If I’m lucky, I can get an extra 30 minutes to sift through the 100+ emails I received throughout the day to filter out the junk and send some quick responses on the easy ones. This makes coming back in the next day slightly easier.
  • Dealing with the reality that, in this season of life, our PTO has to be saved for sick days. Not for fun days. Because we can’t predict when our kids will get sick, and with what, and for how long. Or which of the illnesses we will pick up from the kids.

It sometimes is a vicious cycle – we send the kids to day care so we can work. But then the kids pick up lots of fun germs from said daycare, which complicates work. Have we thought about going down to one income and thus eliminating at least the balancing act of sick kids/days? Yes, we have. Quite seriously, in fact. But, I am a better mom as a working mom. Our kids’ daycare is amazing and provides things for them that I would struggle to provide.

So for now, I will continue to check myself for work-life balance. I’ll remind myself that, at the end of the day, the kids are always #1 on whatever list I have going. If they need me at home, work has to wait. Some days it’s easier to keep this perspective than others, but it will always remain constant.


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Katie Ripke
Katie is a mama of two rambunctious, sweet, cuddly and highly energetic boys. Growing up in Mount Vernon, Iowa, she briefly left the area to attend college at the University of Northern Iowa, had a brief stint living in Chicago before settling down in Lisbon with her husband Bryan. Katie has been in the marketing field for over 10 years and is currently a marketing manager for an area health care organization. When she is not balancing life as a working mom, Katie enjoys binging on Netflix/Hulu, learning about all things boy and squeezing in a workout from time to time. Her current addictions include coffee, LaCroix, and cookies.