Taking Time off Work to Stay Home with a Sick Child

Updated on June 12, 2010
L.E. asks from Boise, ID
16 answers

Hello. I am a full-time working mom. I have two little boys ages 7 and 5 years who tend to get sick alot. It seems like when it rains it pours. I'll be home with one of my boys due to illness and then it dominoes to the rest of us in the household and I'm home for most of the week from work. Then the following week when I think we're on the mend one of the boys gets pink eye and again, I'm home. How do you handle this type of situation? I want to stay employed, but, my main priority are my boys.

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answers from St. Louis on

If my kids are sick and it's before 2pm (when my husband leaves for work) he'll go get them from daycare and I'll be home in time for him to leave. My boss is very generous and lets me make up time. If that is not an option, I take a vacation day. If that happens more than 1-2 days then my husband takes off a day. But I always offer first only because my job is more liberal about leave.

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answers from Washington DC on

Maybe you and your husband could switch off when the kids are sick. You could stay home one day, then he could stay home the next day and so on. If nothing else, this will let your employer know that you are truly trying to give your best to everyone and they should be a little more understanding.

That being said, kids in government schools tend to get sick a lot. It's just the way it is. The best thing you could do is to make sure they're getting a balanced diet and plenty of sleep (kids their age generally need between 9 and 10 hours per night).

Make sure that you are strengthening their immune systems in any way you can. Garlic is good. I put it in most of the things I cook and we're almost never sick, but my kids aren't in government school either, so not sure which is helping the most. Also always go for the antioxidant rich option. I use several spices that are very high in antioxidants, like currey powder, a LOT. Make sure that they are taking a comprehensive multivitamin every day and that they are brushing their teeth at least once a day (the mouth is the most common path to infection). Teach them about the importance of washing their hands several times a day, especially before they eat. Pink eye is caused by contact with fecal matter, so they are either not washing their hands after using the toilet or someone physically near them isn't. Either way, the best way to prevent it is to make sure they are washing their hands. Ask their teachers to remind them to wash before eating. Make sure that all of their meals include a starch, a fruit or vegetable and a protein. Berries have very high levels of vitamin C, especially strawberries, so they are very good for the immune system. In fact, pound for pound strawberries have many times the amount of vitamin C that oranges do. Pro-biotics will help strengthen the immune system too. And make sure they're staying well hydrated with sugar-free beverages, preferably plain, filtered water.

If you can get them to swallow pills, then when they are getting sick or all through cold and flu season have them take Vitamin C and Vitamin Zinc. This combination ALWAYS knocks out a cold before it can get it's teeth in me. As an adult, I take this combo twice a day when I feel a cold coming on. My symptoms don't get the chance to get worse and what I do have disappears within a few days.

Also, make sure that your food handling practices at home are sanitary. Often a "stomach bug" is nothing more than a mild case of food poisoning from improper food handling/storage at home.

Anyways, best of luck! I hope you can find some resolution or at least something that will make things a little better.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I used to work in HR and this was always a big issue.

The bottom line is that you need to work (for the money/benefits), someone needs to take care of the sick kids and your boss needs someone to do the job. Since you can't be everywhere at once you're going to need a gameplan.

Talk with your husband, and your employer. Find out what flexibility you have. Can your husband take a day if it goes past two days off of work for you? Will your employer let you "telecommute" or make up time when you are home? Can you come in on the weekends on those days when you have to stay home with the kids?

Your employer wants a good, reliable employee. Some feel that if you aren't there Monday thru Friday, 8-5, then that's a deal breaker. Others feel that as long as you get your work done, it doesn't matter if your IN the office. And still others are very flexible and encourage employees to take care of their families with the "sick days".

As long as you talk with your boss and HR and come up with a gameplan, you'll know what you need to do going forward. I think most people understand that sick kids are an inevitable part of family life. However as long as you aren't always the "go to" person, then your boss will probably understand.

I agree your husband should help out. If your boss is very strict or your husband can't help, then you should set up some sort of "sick sitter" who will be there for your kids when you can't leave work, be home with them and Dad can't either. If it's not a relative then maybe it can be a neighbor? college student? or someone you trust who can be "on call" at 6am if you need them to come over before you leave for work.

I think 7 and 5 are very difficult ages because they seem to catch everything right now. Your not crazy. Their immune systems aren't built up yet, so they are bringing home everything from school/daycare and they haven't yet mastered good hygiene.

Get a gameplan and you'll feel more comfortable when you do stay home with them.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Tulsa on

Call around and find a sick child care center. We have one here that takes children with certain symptoms, such as puking, colds, etc....They are hosted by our local hospital and they use an old doc's office, that way each kid has their own area with a cot, a tv with DVD or VCR player, and they can also play with some toys that are separate so they can be sanitized after the child leaves.

You can call your local hospitals, local child care centers, maybe a college or university, vo-tech with a child care teacher program, etc...even your local Department of Human/Family Services.



answers from Denver on

Put your little guys on a cleaner diet, add supplements, increase rest and have them adjusted by a chiropractor often to boost their immune systems. These things will help them to be healthier and the result will be the priority still focused on your family while also decreasing the amount of time lost from work. Everyone will benefit!



answers from Denver on

This happened to me too a lot this past winter, and I was feel guilty for taking a lot of time off. I'm the head of my dept, so it was easier for me to just say I was staying home, but I still felt like I was letting my team down. One of the things that helped was letting my team know that I was still available for them while at home. They knew they could contact me via email or by phone. As well, due to the nature of my work, I can easily do a lot of my work from my home computer. If you have work that you can do at home, perhaps you could suggest that as an option to your boss?? I've found I can actually get a lot more done at home then at the office because, for the most part, its distraction free.



answers from St. Louis on

I think most employers understand--especially if they have kids. If they are NOT understanding, then you are correct--your main priority is your boys. You can't send them to school with pink eye! Offer to make up the lost time in the evening (if you have a spouse/significant other that can stay home with them) or see if you can work from home if that is possible. Maybe a relative can help out? Good luck! We've all been there.



answers from Honolulu on

Maybe, you need to get a Baby-sitter or relative or family friend, who can stay home with your kids.

I know its hard.. and employers don't like it, having to take off work so much due to sick kids....
My friend has 3 kids.... and so she never really goes on vacation because she 'saves' all her days and sick days, for her kids... in times like that.
AND, she also has her Mom and sister.... who will pitch in as back-up, for when she can't stay home with her kids. They all sort of save their days off of work... to help with the kids.
It takes a village...

Also, and I don't know if they still do this, but one of our local Hospitals, has a "Sick Daycare" for kids to go to when they are sick, and no parent can stay home with them. It is not advertised though.
Maybe, try calling your local hospitals and inquire. Or any other social services programs.

all the best,



answers from Denver on

I sympathize with you. I worked my job for approximately 10 years, married and have children. One is autistic. Even though illnesses were not an issue with me, my son's autisim was my issue. I did not go on vacation since I had to use these days as well as sick days accrued for my son and other children. I thought this was great however my absence even paid with sick or vacation was still an issue with my employer. They claim to be understanding however in each of my annual evaluations this was noted and used against me in possible promotions an raises.

After so long I was blessed to be introduced to the Scentsy product line and I am now a Certified Scentsy Consultant. I work from home, choose my own hours and always available now for my children. I can actually bring home my income to support my family. My husband works driving so he is out of state often, and my income has been still as supportive as when I was working. If you are interested in talking to me about this business email me at [email protected]____.com far as your kids sickness, I can suggest to encourage them to wash their hands throughout the day. This can help cut down on the germs. Encourage vitamins, especially Vitamin C. I use chewable Vitaman C by NatureMade. It helps build the immune system. It has a great orange flavor and the kids love it!! I don't have to remind them of their vitamins and I even take them. We take them together and it is sharing time with us. My son will sometimes get the vitamins and remind me it is time to take our vitamins and share that time together. Hope this helps you. Stay strong for your kids. You are more than right...our kids come first!!



answers from Denver on

The good news is that with the FMLA and different laws around that protect you from being fired for this sort of thing. There may be some rules and regs about that but you are pretty protected. I am not sure if you are married or not but leaning on each other here is a good option too. If you take two days off one week then your husband can take two days off.

Another thing to do is see if you can make up time when your husband is home at night or bring work home to do while you are there. This shows your boss that you are a team player and interested in making sure your work is done. In short, you don't want your absence to become a problem for your boss. Not getting your job done will get you fired.

There really is no easy way to handle the working and sick thing. It is just plain hard. One thing to remember is that kids go through phases where they are sick all the time then they are fine for a long period of time. You can probably make up ground when they are healthy too.

Also keep in mind that there are tons of working moms out there and they all have to deal with the same thing. Maybe lean on some of them and see what they do.

Good luck!



answers from Indianapolis on

I, too, am a full-time working mom who has a husband who's a saint and has a more flexible schedule. I used to, but when laid off and re-employed, I joined a company that has stricter work hours (8-5, no exceptions), and I must use my personal time to be home if children are sick - even though my job can generally be done remotely via internet.

So, my husband tends to carry most of the burden there. Is it possible you and your husband can share some of the time home?

Also, I think it's a judgment call on what are illnesses that require you to keep them home vs. perhaps letting them be in school. Most schools have strict policies for things such as head lice, infectious disease (such as strep, flu), fever, etc.

Our kids are much younger (2 and 4), but we have to abide by the policies of the day care center and the pediatrician. When our daughter had MRSA recently, I was really surprised that she could return to day care immediately as long as the affected skin was covered (despite being a very serious condition).

I don't know if that helps. But, I certainly agree that our children are our first priority. However, most of us work out of necessity financially, and it's hard to compromise our job security - especially for companies that don't have as open minds about child care/illness.



answers from New York on

I would suggest talking with your employer to see if there are any options available. Like could you come in early or work late, or work on Saturday to make up the time. Is there any way that you could take some work home?

What about hubby? Can he take any time off? Even if it's a 1/2 day?

During the times when my nanny was away on vacation, my backup plan was my in-laws (either my MIL or SIL). Usually one of them would be available at last minute, or even if they were only available for the afternoon, I could still work a 1/2 day.



answers from Redding on

Some employers are understanding. Some aren't. Unfortunately, I was stuck with non understanding employers. They didn't care if the kid had to go to the emergency room, they didn't care if the school called because one of my kids was barfing at school and I had to go pick them up. My ex husband took me to court to get custody of my youngest child and my boss put it in writing that missing work for personal reasons was grounds to terminate me. What was I supposed to do, just not show up for court? He basically forced me to choose between my job and my child. I chose my child.

There are certain things you can't send your kid to school or daycare with and pink eye is one of them.
Hopefully your employer will understand that. Just try to be worth your weight in gold when you are at work so that you are valued even though you have to miss days sometimes.

Best of luck to you.



answers from Salt Lake City on

I too work full time but my husband will take his share of time off to be with sick kids. Fortuntely I have family members (sister, MIL, mom) that all stay home and if they are not busy we can ask them to watch my boys if they can't go to daycare or school. So if you have anyone around that you can ask to help out while you go to work that might eliminate your worries. Good Luck!!



answers from Denver on

I work full time too and have 1 and 3 year old boys. If they are truly sick, and feel sick, like with strep or a bad cold or whatever, I will stay home with them or my husband will take a day off. Something like pink eye, I would hire a sitter for a day. Can your husband help? It sounds like the full burden of staying home is with you. I wouldn't be able to stay employed unless my husband helped out, which he does. I'll be interested to read some of the other responses as we struggle with this issue too.



answers from Denver on

I am lucky to have a bit of a flexible schedule, but here's what we do with our 5 and 3 year olds.

1. My husband and I take turns who will stay home with the kids.

2. My FIL and mom will also watch the sick child if they can't be at school or daycare (as long as they are not busy).

3. We try to take preventative measures to avoid illness: lots of handwashing, hand sanitizer is available, daily vitamins, exercise, and lots of fresh fruits and veggies.

4. At school and at home we encourage the kids to sneeze and cough into their elbow pit or forearm to stop the spread of germs.

5. Lastly, I don't feel guilty. When I was sick I wanted my mom to be there for comfort, so now I want to be the one to comfort my own kids.

I believe in a coulple of sayings, "if you don't have your health, you don't have anything" (or something like that); "what comes around goes around" and "life goes on". If co-workers grumble, so be it. They either do not have kids or have forgotten how sick kids get when their young. You might need to take some time now for your kids, but ten years from now you will probably be forced to use your sick/vacation time because you have accrued (sp?) too much.

I hope this helps a bit. Good luck and good health:)

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