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Working Parents - Taking Care of Sick Kids Again...

Three tips to reduce conflicts.
  • 29 May 2024
  • 4min

"I actually took care of the kids last time!", "I can't today, I have an important meeting!", "But I have to be at the office today..."

Does this sound familiar? Are both of you working parents? Agreeing on who should stay home with a sick kid is a real test for the relationship during the early childhood years.

Three tips on how to reduce the risk of conflicts related to taking care of sick kids!

1. Create a plan together!

Avoid negotiating whose job is more important in the morning when you're already stressed. Make sure to have a plan (especially during sick season) and find a division that works for both of you. The important thing is that both feel that the division is fair.

A common division is to take turns every other day. This is the simplest division if your job doesn't allow you to schedule meetings or important tasks on certain days.

If you have flexible jobs, you can instead create a schedule in advance. Maybe you are on duty on Monday and Wednesday, and your partner on Tuesday and Thursday. Or you can split the day differently in the morning/afternoon. Then you can schedule extra important meetings at times when you are not on sick kids duty.

Get outside help! If you have family who can help, involve them in advance. Maybe grandpa or grandma wants to be part of the schedule? Talk to them beforehand so they are prepared that you might need help for a while!

2. Understand each other's needs and support each other.

Prioritise and maintain a warm feeling between you even in tough times; you are going through this together as a team! And remember that both of you are working parents.

No matter how well you try to follow your plan, it's impossible to control and be prepared for everything. You will end up in situations where your needs collide, like days when both of you have important work tasks.

Check in with each other regularly on how taking care of sick kids/working is going and how the workload is at the moment. Knowing more about each other's situation makes it easier to show understanding for each other - and to be understood in return!

3. Accept the situation and your (sometimes different) conditions

Lower your everyday expectations! Even the one who is not taking care of the sick kid may have been affected by a lousy night's sleep with a coughing three-year-old in bed. You are both likely extra tired and stressed - find a way to reduce the pressure. Order takeout, have higher tolerance for a messy home, or allow extra screen time.

Can one of you work from home while the other can't do any work from home? Keep in mind that this can be stressful for both of you. Working from home while caring for a sick kid can add to the sense of inadequacy (I have to be there for my child and be a working parent). At the same time, the flexibility can reduce stress (I know I often get two undisturbed hours when the child naps and can catch up then).

On the other hand, never being able to work from home means you can't work at all with the slightest symptom in the child. This can lead to strong stress over the piling up of work tasks and guilt towards colleagues who have to take on more in your place. At the same time, it can be nice to fully focus on being home with a sick child, creating calm and recharging energy by completely leaving work tasks those days.

Some families have a large network of relatives and friends who can step in and help with caring for your sick kids. Other working parents are entirely dependent on each other to solve the daily logistics. It can feel unreasonably frustrating to work part-time week after week while the neighbour has grandparents fighting over who gets to help with the sick grandchildren. It's stressful - but often very difficult to change.

And don't forget - this time is special! This is how it is right now, but not forever. Caring for sick kids and during sick season as well is a big part of early childhood life, this time will also pass even if it currently feels like an eternity.

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