This is the depressing truth about being a mom who puts your kid in childcare to return to the workforce: You’ve got months of coughing, sneezing, fevers, vomiting and possibly explosive diarrhea ahead of you.
And unless helpful grandparents live nearby, you will almost definitely end up taking time off work. Quite possibly, lots of it.
How about if you’re a dad with a kid starting in childcare? Well, that’s usually a different story. Chances are, you probably won’t take too much time off work at all.
Now, an employment expert is calling on moms to stop being martyrs and dads to start doing their fair share of looking after sick kids.
Listen: Dealing with mom martyr syndrome in the workplace on Mamamia Out Lout. (Post continues.)
Kiri Stejko, an executive coach with Parents At Work, says childhood illness is a big issue for working parents. She says although some kids seem to have strong immune systems, most will have two tough winters ahead of them when they start in care.
“If you’ve got multiple kids, you’ve got multiple years of winters,” she points out. “They can have weeks off.”
Stejko says most childcare centers have policies where kids with a temperature aren’t allowed back for 24 hours. “They can be fine, but they’re not allowed back," she said.
New research by Cenovis has found 90 percent of the time, it’s moms rather than dads who stay home with ill kids. Once we’ve used up our sick and carer’s leave, some of us even start using up our paid leave.
Stejko agrees it tends to be moms who take leave to look after unwell kids. She says they need to talk to their partners about it before they return to work.
“If there is a partner, don’t just take the martyr mentality,” she advises. “Don’t take it all on yourself. Do consider this to be a team effort. Have the conversation now about how you’re going to handle it."
“The martyr syndrome with women is pretty significant. Women just say, ‘Okay, well, I’m the one who has to take the day off,’ and they don’t ask. They just assume that they’re the ones. There needs to be more expectation on men to take this on 50 percent of the time.”
Then there’s the burden of guilt. Stejko argues that women, many of them working part-time, feel bad about taking days off work to look after their kids.
“If they’re now only working three days a week, and out of those three days they’re taking two days, they’re only there a day. They do feel terrible.”
She believes that as well as dads picking up the slack, employers need to be more flexible. She thinks they need to allow people to work from home when it’s possible.
“Sick children can sleep a lot, so you might get half a day’s work done, and you might make up the rest in the evening,” she explains.
“Employers need to get better at recognizing that people can do jobs outside of normal working hours. The big employers are getting better at this, slowly but surely.”