Recently our entire family was down with swine flu. One by one, with me being second in line. Soph had had it for quite a while before she was actually diagnosed and I had to leave her at home with our helper for a whole week battling raging temperatures while I went to work. I felt like an awful mother. She was extremely sick, feverish, needy and all she wanted was her Mommy, but Mommy needed to go to work and perform her job. One day when it came time for me to leave for work she literally cried so much and got herself into such a state that she vomited.
Most companies offer 5 days of Family Responsibility leave – for circumstances just like this, but with two young children – who tend to pass bugs and germs from one to the other, those 5 days don’t last very long do they? Soph was off school for two full weeks and Oli was off for one week. That’s three weeks in total, excluding the week I was sick myself. What if you don’t have a permanent helper, someone you can leave your children with as a last resort, or a family support system? Do you take days off as Annual Leave? Or do you resort to unpaid leave? Having a helper five days a week has become a necessity for us and so many other families, not a luxury. Thank goodness, most companies are adjusting with the times and are allowing employees to work remotely, so you can keep a watchful eye over your sick child whilst still doing your job. As a working mother, a company that offers this level of flexibility becomes a critical factor when choosing one job over another.
Workplaces, and bosses, are so busy that its often forgotten that no one chooses to get ill, or worse off have a sick child or children. If I’m at home with one of my kids that are sick, I feel guilty that I’m not in the office, even when my boss has offered (without me asking) to stay home. If I’m in the office and have left my kids home with the helper I feel terribly guilty that I’m not with them knowing that I’m the one thing they need the most when they’re sick, and that I’m unable to cuddle and watch over them. Unable to make sure they’re getting their meds at the right time, at the right dose. In most South African families, both parents work. With the rising cost of schooling, medical aid and food, it’s become something of a luxury to have a mom who can stay home with the kids. I need to work, but I also need to be a Mom to my two children, and at what point do we realise that above everything else our children need to come first, our families need to come first.
Yes, I can go into the office and work whilst leaving my kids at home, but I can assure you my mind is not there. I’m wondering if my child will convulse on a 40-degree temperature. I’m wondering if my child will get to the toilet quick enough to be sick or if they want me, even just to stroke their hair and tell them ‘Mommy’s here, don’t worry’.
I guess the point I’m trying to get at is this: whilst being able to contribute, earn my own money, and have a career, there is definitely a downside to being a working Mom. There will be days you don’t know which to prioritise – your job and income, or your children. Maybe your boss or manager isn’t a parent themselves and asking for time off to provide your child with comfort is just not an option. We need to try remind ourselves that whatever happens, whether we’re leaving our kids in the care of someone else so that we can hold down a job, we’re doing our damnedest to be a good mother. Go easy on yourself Momma, you’re doing your best.