Sick Days


So, I’ve been sick for the last week. I’m fortunate to have a job with generous paid sick leave, so I’ve been home with my family. As we homeschool, my wife and all four kids were there as well. At first it was easy; I’d like to think that I’m a “good” sick person, meaning that I don’t whine and don’t put a lot of demands on other people. The problem with our particular situation is that, having been exposed to my illness, everyone else was soon sick as well. That’s when things got complicated.

It’s a truism that parents don’t get sick days. Having children at home does not suspend any of the duties involved in taking care of them. It just means that we do it while we’re sick. So when the kids are all up several times in the night coughing or presenting with fevers (and rarely at the same time), a lack of sleep certainly raises the stakes for adults who are trying to get better.

Last week I went in to the doctor and took the four girls with me. The good news is that none of us have the symptoms of whooping cough, which has been going around. The not so good news is that it is viral bronchitis, for which there is basically no treatment other than to wait it out and to try and not spread the contagion back and forth like a game of volleyball. How many times a day can you remind a four year-old to cover her cough? The answer is many, many times.

As I mentioned, I am fortunate in my job; I know that many working parents have it much harder, as many employers don’t look kindly on parents taking time off to care for sick children. Still. It’s an uphill battle trying to recover when everyone else now needs extra time and attention.

What’s good about sick days? The lowered expectations. The slowed pace of daily life and the imperative to take it easy. Reading books, when my voice will hold up, and watching movies when it doesn’t. A marked increase in board games and drawing. Laying around listening to audiobooks. Sitting in the sun like a lizard, when there is sun. Early bedtimes. And lots of homemade chicken soup. Come to think of it, my time home sick has worked better than some of our vacations.

If it wasn’t for the sickness part, it would be perfect.