The downside to being a working Mom

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.

9 comments Add yours
  1. Oh no! My enire family also had swine flu once accept me, I just ran around breaking fevers and cleaning vomit. It’s the worst thing ever. I’m sorry you had to go through this. I often wonder what it would be like to go to work every day and just be my person for a couple of hours a day but my kids and the chaos always wins. I take my hat off to working moms, especially when things go bad. Sending you love x

  2. I hear you on Megan. D and I don’t have any family around us that would be able to assist during these times or help at home, but fortunately, D’s work is loads more flexible so he is able to work from home at times like this. But it can be a challenging and stressful period when you’re trying to be there for your sick child and maintain your work commitments up to date. Great post!

  3. This was so my life before I had my second child prematurely last year. I think it was God’s way of giving me pause. I needed to focus on my kids instead of chasing money. I’ve been very fortunate that my husband has been able to hold us down while I stay home with bithy kids. I’m lucky that I am more involved with my eldest and I’m there to witness every milestone with my preemie.

  4. Oooh this topic is ALWAYS hot stuff. I really don’t know how employers expect employees to manage 5 days of family responsibility leave per annum. I work half day, so already my day is crammed to the max as there is no such thing as a half job. I do a full days work in half the time. BUT I’d like to think that my kids are priority. Of course I have days when things are hectic on the work front but then my husband and I juggle the days off. We don’t have a family support structure around and neither do we have a helper. WE ARE THE SUPPORT. Our bosses have learnt that come hell or high water one of us WILL be taking off. It’s just a matter of seeing whose crisis is takes priority at that time as we value both our jobs. No one job is more important than the next.

    I do think we need to be more flexible, on the work front, with parents. At least in terms of time off when kids get sick. Like you said you don’t choose/ask to be sick. Life happens. Great post

  5. Aw friend, I am so sorry you guys had it so rough! And being a working mama is tough any day but ESPECIALLY on these days. Praying for you all x

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