Balancing act: Would you lie to your boss to stay home with a sick child?

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 9 2010 8:43 p.m. MST

I don't know what it's like around your house, but since the weather started to change a couple of weeks ago, we've had an attack of the sniffles at the Kratz home.

All four of our children have had minor colds recently, and we've heard those dreaded nighttime sounds of coughing and sneezing as our little ones try to sleep.

Fortunately, my wife and I have stayed fairly healthy — or as healthy as two 40-somethings who don't get enough sleep or exercise and drink way too much Coke can be.

We're also fortunate because, if one of our children is too sick to go to school, my wife is a stay-at-home (or, more accurately, stay-in-the-minivan-and-run-kids-everywhere) mom and can take care of him or her.

I don't know how families manage when a child is too sick for school and both parents work, or a single parent is trying to hold down the fort. And since we're moving into cold and flu season, I found a new survey on that topic interesting.

The survey of 324 working women was commissioned by — not surprisingly — TempleTouch thermometers.

The first finding was to be expected, showing that 57 percent of respondents had taken unpaid leave to care for a sick child.

But the survey also indicated that 34 percent of the working women said they had sent a child to school or day care even though he or she was sick. And 73 percent of moms said that, due to the struggling economy, they felt pressure to go to work instead of staying home with a sick child.

Furthermore, 33 percent admitted that they had pretended to be sick so they could stay home with a sick child, and 22 percent had faked an illness so they could leave work and help a little one who wasn't feeling well. Along with that, 40 percent said they do not consider their workplace to be family friendly, and 43 percent said they are not allowed to work from home when their kids are sick.

It was surprising and a little disturbing to see some of the comments the stressed-out moms made in the survey. For example, one said, "I've brought my child to work and made them sleep on the floor of my office for hours while I stepped over them to continue my work." Another said, "I hid my son on my boss' office couch while he was out of the office."

It's too bad some people feel their only choice is to lie to an employer if they want to stay home with a sick child. A few times in the past, I have had a sick wife and sick children at the same time. When I called to explain that to my boss, he or she always let me take a sick day to stay home and help. I hope most employers would be understanding like that, but perhaps I'm naive — and I know I'm lucky.

If you don't have a compassionate boss and find yourself in such a situation, TempleTouch suggests seeking out "sick child day care" facilities, which are becoming more common; creating a network of neighbors and friends with whom you can swap favors; taking your child to work with you, if your boss will allow it; or working out an agreement with your spouse to each take a half-day off so neither of you loses a full day of work.

Those sound like good ideas, generally, although I can't imagine you'd get much work done if you had a sick child with you at the office. In our family, I'm the only person who is whinier than our children when any of us are sick.

Also, as a manager, I think I'd rather have an employee home taking care of a sick child than have that child in the workplace where he or she could potentially spread an illness to other workers.

What are your thoughts on this? Have you lied to an employer to stay home with a sick child? Have you ever taken a sick child to work with you, and if so, how did that work? What tips would you give working parents who find themselves in this situation? Please drop me a line to let me know.

E-mail your comments or financial questions to gkratz@desnews.com, post them online at our website or send a letter to the Deseret News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, UT 84110.

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