Working and taking care of sick kids can be incompatible, as anyone who has dealt with this situation surely knows. But while the “doctoring” responsibility comes with the territory and is a natural extension of our parenting role, we frequently must find a way to balance it with our professional commitments. Kids get sick and they get sick often, and the challenge, for us, as parents, is to not only get them well, but to keep our lives – and our work - humming along.
“Am I ready to tackle this challenge?” is a question that my clients who want to re-enter the paid workforce often ponder. Managing sick days is a top concern as they contemplate their job re-entry.
There is no doubt that navigating these unplanned events is difficult. It is a juggling act that requires flexible work policies, understanding managers, good channels of communication between you and your employer, and a bit of a sense of humor! Luckily, many workplaces have started to recognize the need for and provide this kind of support.
But while the logistics of balancing work and sick kids is an oft-mentioned concern, what surprises me is how few women consider – or talk about - the emotional toll that comes with this type of a juggling act. The stress of balancing work and family responsibilities is real and can be damaging in the long run – sapping women of energy and affecting their ability to perform at their best. But it is preventable – if only we don’t hesitate to ask for help!
Yet many women do, for fear of burdening others.
Shouldering the weight of others needs in our roles as a mother and a professional is often a woman’s choice as much as a duty. We want to be there for our kids, for our partners, for our clients, for our employers, and we are often excellent at making sure everyone else is happy. We want to be able to do it all.
But what about ourselves? How do we ensure that we do not burn out in the process? When our different obligations threaten to pull us apart, shouldn’t we let go of our “I can do it all” mentality and reach out to ask for help? Really. It can make the difference between a manageable day and a back-breaking day.
Ultimately, I think the outcome of combining our work and family responsibilities depends on our ability to say “no” to things that are non-essential in our lives, and to say “yes” to those that are. And saying “yes” to actively seeking and embracing the support of our community shouldn’t be questioned. There is a reason why the adage “it takes a village” continues to resonate today. We aren’t meant to do it all alone.
I had to confront my own independent demons this past week. I hadn’t done much but take care of my daughter for a couple of days. Although my work is flexible and deadlines are self-imposed, I treat them as non-negotiable – otherwise, nothing gets done. I was falling behind and stressing about preparing for a client call and about writing for my blog. Stressing about the fridge out of food, and about the laundry piling up. With one kid sick in bed throwing up, the other at school, and my own temperature rising, I entertained scenarios of how I would manage the school pick-up. Why did the image of hoisting my sick daughter on my back enter my mind before I hesitantly picked up my phone to text a friend and ask for help?
I don’t know…but I am glad that I reached out. It helped me emotionally, it helped me physically -- it helped me to stay afloat that day.
Looking for more balance in your life? Here is a bit of recently acquired wisdom: You don’t need to do it all. Don’t be shy about asking for help – it’s not a burden, it’s a gift. Seek the support of your community. Don’t forget to text your village!