Dear mom dropping her sick kids off at school…
A few years ago, I would have been furious and irritated with you. I would have thought you were selfish, and that it was a mean thing to do. I mean, how could you? Leaving your poor child miserable in the hands of other people, infecting those around him/her with their germs. Well, I know better now… and I am so sorry. I am so sorry I judged you, I did not know your situation. I had no right.
Up until a couple of months ago, I hardly ever needed to take time off work when my kids were sick. I was lucky enough to have an amazing full-time nanny, and before we had her we also had the support of my husband’s parents – who were all to happy to look after our poor sick babies and spoil them rotten. I did not have to feel guilty, because I knew that they were in the best care and that they would be happy. Unfortunately, since the in-laws immigrated overseas and we lost our nanny, it has not been that easy. I have become that mom that drops her snot-nosed and coughing children off at school, because there is no other alternative. I am a full-time working mother with and insanely busy schedule and the same goes for my husband. We have no friends or relatives that could watch our kids for us while we go to the office and to be honest – the teachers at my kids’ schools are amazing and I know they would make my kids as comfortable as possible, and give them the attention they need while they are not feeling well.
You might think I am selfish, or even cruel… but I have already exhausted my family responsibility leave, annual leave and pretty much my sick leave. To some parents, not going to work might mean not getting paid, or even losing their job security – and not everyone can take that risk financially. What is the saying again? Don’t judge a person until you have walked a mile in their shoes? You have no idea what people might be going through – or how much it must be killing that parent to not be able to stay at home with their little sicklings, to follow their most natural and human instinct to take care of them.
People do not always have options. Not everyone is, want to, or can afford to be a stay-at-home mother or father and not everyone is afforded the opportunity to work from home. According to the South African Labour Act, a full-time employee is entitled to 1,25 annual leave per full month worked – you also get people who are in the same situation that I am in, where the company has a shut down period over December/January. That means that you need to build up your annual leave in order to get your full salary during that time. In terms of sick leave, a full-time employee is entitled to 30 days sick leave on full pay in a three-year cycle. That might sound like a lot, but it really is not. I was booked off work on bed rest for two weeks last month when I had pneumonia… that is 10 days – gone. That means I have twenty days left… but then there was the time Knox had a ridiculously high fever and couldn’t be left alone, and the time the whole family had a stomach bug, the time when my husband and both kids had the dreaded hand-foot-and-mouth disease, oh – and let’s not forget that time that Knox chopped off his finger. Yeah… those days add up pretty quickly. Many employers are also not very understanding when it comes to your responsibilities as a mom or dad, and taking too much sick leave can cause huge issues in the workplace. Family responsibility leave is presently an allowance of 3 days on full pay per year, which is so restricting. This leave can be used when your spouse or a close relative falls seriously ill – or in the event of death of a close family member. So what do you do when you do not have any alternatives?
Obviously it’s a little insane and quite irresponsible to send your kids to school if they have seriously dangerous and contagious diseases, like hand-foot-and-mouth disease, scarlet fever, chickenpox, measles etc., we have to draw the line somewhere. I would never expose my kids to others if they were extremely contagious, or if it could put someone’s life in danger – but I totally understand leaving your snotty kid with a cold in the hands of the teacher. And I know it is not fair to make other kids sick as well, but hopefully most schools have a sick room for the little ones and try to keep them isolated.
I don’t know, maybe I am in the wrong line of work, maybe I am selfish, maybe I am just a bad mom and human being – but I am doing the best I can. Maybe I have this all wrong, but I think we need to think about all these things before we judge other parents. Maybe, instead of glaring at the mom dropping her snotty kid off in the morning – offer a look of sympathy or a smile and ask them if they are doing okay.
So, to the mom dropping her sick kid off at school… you are not alone, I do it too. It sucks, I hate it, I don’t want to do it, it makes me feel like absolute crap and I cry in my car all the way to work – but we do what we can when we can. I get it. This parenting thing is not easy… we really need to help each other instead of tearing people down all the time.
What do you think? I would love to hear your opinion on this, please leave your thoughts in the comment section below <3