The stomach flu hit our house twice last winter (any other mother's dreading the shift to winter in anticipation of the onslaught of illness??) and we fell like dominoes; first my husband, then me and then my toddler daughter. You have been there right? Comforting each other, lots of (icky) cleaning up, crackers and water the meal of choice for days. To add it to it all, I had bouts of anxiety about the amount of work I was missing managing this round of illness.
Clearly the priority when ill is to get healthy and to support my family, particularly to help my daughter. I called in sick at work, checked in on emails, popped on conference calls as I could, but I still felt guilty about not being fully present on the job. Is there ever a time where I won’t feel guilty about something as a mother?
As usual, I reached out to some of my mom friends for support and advice. Here are my two favorite truths from moms and the last is mine:
- You will remember and value time spent with your child(ren), including stressful time such as during an illness, more than you ever remember a day or two at your desk, even if you love your job. Presuming you have sick leave and your job is safe, take the time off.
- You need to be there for your child, especially when they are ill and vulnerable. This is non-negotiable; missing a meeting is survivable (for most people). It’s also ok to fall behind when you or your family are ill. You will catch up.
- You also make sacrifices to be there for your work. Remember that business trip, where you had to leave your child for a few days, missing bedtime and meals together, so that you could be a good employee? Working motherhood is a two-way-street; a give and a take.
My experience last winter with working and illness was a good reminder that I am my own harshest critic. The last thing we need to do as overloaded working moms is to pile on other stress. Remind me of this the next time we're all sick; on that note, I'm going to go get some hand sanitizer now.