My baby woke up this morning with one of her eyes swollen shut. Poor baby! Luckily, I had a relatively clear calendar today, and I work for myself, so I was able to cancel my work obligations, take her to the pediatrician, and spend the morning cuddling with her. It made me think, though. There was a point in time when both my spouse and I worked at very demanding jobs with close to zero flexibility.
Back in those days, a kid getting sick almost always led to a fight.
As soon as a toddler spiked a temperature, my husband and I would immediately open our calendars and start arguing over whose day was more demanding, and who could more easily cancel their roster of meetings. We’d negotiate over who could take the morning shift and who could take the afternoon shift, and whether one of us would hit up our parents to come help out. It was awful and stressful, every single time.
Plus there was a big helping of working parent guilt thrown on top, because of course we felt bad for the sick kid. But staying home almost never felt like an option for either of us, at least not a penalty-free option.
Luckily things are easier for my family these days, but it makes me wonder. For two-parent families where both of you work, what do you do when one of your kids is sick? Does one of you stay home as a default? Or do you take turns? A study published in 2014 found that, in heterosexual couples, moms are 10 times as likely as dads to stay home from work with a sick child, and five times as likely as dads to take a child to a pediatrician appointment. That is a wild imbalance.
Candidly, Heather and I have no great suggestions or ideas here. Very few American workers have access to back-up or on-call childcare, so this is a very real problem for almost everyone we know. If you’ve figured out a way to deal with this without you and your spouse wanting to scream at each other, we’d love to hear from you. Post in the comments or send us an email, firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
OK off to wash our hands for the tenth time today!