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Top Tips to Balance Work, Sickness, Childcare and School

Sickness was a rarity before my first child started childcare. In that first year I took more sick leave than I had ever had in the previous 5. I have had to manage my own self-care better, stop being a hero and and talk to my employer about times where I am struggling. I’ve collaborated with one of my lovely ‘day job’ colleagues who will be know as Miss K who is currently pregnant and has 2 primary school age children to share our top tips!

  1. Pregnancy

If at home by yourself, take the opportunity to care for yourself and relax. Keep meals simple and basic and live off left overs! 2pm in the afternoon? Sounds like a lavender scented bath time! Enjoy the lovely sense of calm and quiet before your pack returns home for the day.

Workplace days:

Its essential when you are pregnant to reframe your thinking around when it’s appropriate to be at work. It seems to get easier when bub arrives as bub will not be able to attend child care, but when you are pregnant, you often fall back into feelings of obligation, guilt or even just plain determination to attend work when we’re sick to prove I am a Super pregnant lady (I wear my adjustable waist undies on the outside like any regular super hero). Its important to care for yourself more than you ever have before as you are working twice as hard. So, if you are married to your job and need some external direction as to when to take time off here are our self care tips on when not go to work:

1. You can’t drag yourself out of bed
Even if you do the roll thing and remove your ginormous bed pillow, that baby orca in your belly is staying put.

2. The thought of doing ANYTHING post work day is too exhausting, which includes the basics like having a shower

3. Going to work would potentially drag it out and make it worse/longer. Get used to the concept of secondary infections. If you don’t now it will hit you like a MMA slap down with the concept when your first child enters childcare. It’s when you haven’t quite got over the first infection and you got back to work/childcare and catch something else. BAM!

4. The potential of passing on to colleagues or clients. Ok, pregnant lady, it’s not ALL about you, despite what your partner knows and has come to understand. If your colleagues get sick when you pass on your lurgy that’s going to put more pressure back onto you!

5. (My personal favourite) If you were meeting with a client, would they feel comfortable chatting to you? When you have episodes of spontaneous snot exiting your nose, when people recoil when you go to shake their hand and when you feel like you moving like a Thunderbird puppet on a string and your head isn’t attached to your body, press the red button and get outta there.

Its easy to write this list and give advice, but it really boils down to – how supportive is your workplace to sick staff? My workplaces’ culture around sick leave has changed significantly in the last few years. When people are sick, they now tend to take longer off and we have fewer sick days taken in total each year. We used to all take turns being sick, but now we isolate ourselves at home and people are happy to pick up other peoples work instead of potentially catching the same illness! This is a micro-culture within our team because we and our manage recognise it’s not all about ‘face-time’ (turning up and being seen) it’s about productivity.


  1. Under 5’s – Child care

Mum is sick and kids are not – Child care pick up/drop off

There is nothing harder than trying to get the kids dressed, fed and packed into the car when you are struck down with a cold. Parents dig deep for this super human strength (mums in particular, I think) because you don’t want them hanging out with your germ self all day. A healthy, rested parent is a delightful parent with the patience of an angel. See if you can drop them off and negotiate a pick up via a friend/family member.

Mum and child are sick 

I remember a friend telling me once the whole family got the noro virus, the vomiting and diarrhea one. They could barely leave the house, they made desperate phone calls to the mobile doctor, friends and neighbours, to pick up prescriptions and managed to get through. This scenario is your worst nightmare! Sometimes if you have little support you don’t have the strength or don’t want your sick child looked after by someone else you could try to ship in some interstate relies? You could get your partner to take time off or hire a short term nanny to help out? Take time off work. We all know how clingy they get when they aren’t well, sometimes it’s just going to be horrible for a few days but you get through. DON’T drop your child to childcare it’s not fair on your child, the educators and other parents. I remember one of the saddest sites I saw was a little child in my childcare centre that was peaky white, passed out in a bean bag and their parent said they couldn’t pick them up or arrange an alternative pick up. It’s hard sometimes to manage commitments but with children we know we should always be prepared for the unexpected

Mum is fine but the kids are sick

Depending on how ill your child is try to negotiate with your employer to work from home. But don’t delude yourself. Sick kids need alot of attention and you might be putting yourself under additional pressure by trying to undertake your work commitments. No doubt you have been pulling a few night shifts and they have a habit of catching up with you. Try and prioritise your choices and honour them. Often you need to articulate the employer, right I need to take today off, I’ve rescheduled my 3 meetings and I will have to push back that report due Wednesday. Clear communication is essential and setting realistic expectations. Some employers are more understanding than others and you need to know your employer to tailor your communication to them. If you are working for yourself you need to know what is absolutely essential. Often there is no backup for you so you need to do certain things but be mindful if you don’t take the time to recover, your recovery could be longer.


  1. Primary aged children


The sniffles:

Primary school aged children often go to school with a little more sniffles that small children, as the sniffles will often last a lot longer! Pack tissues, hankies and nutritious food that’s easy to swallow. Encourage them to drink lots of drinks and not to go too hard in the playground. Often this advice goes unheard so on days where they have had a big day at school, consider cutting out after school activities and having an early night.

Prevention: Take full advantage of preventing this sniffle getting worse – head to toe warmth, soups, vitamins, Vix – you name it, I’ve done it. TLC has magical power so a bit of extra attention will go a long way.

Prioritise: This is when I also check my work schedule and workload for the week and start to prioritise and swap things around. What’s urgent and what’s not? I work with mostly mums, so when someone flags that they’re getting sick or their child is, I immediately reorganise the next 3 days in the schedule for them so there is the lowest possible ‘obligation or guilt’ for them to return earlier than necessary.  This tactic also works best for the team as if absent staff member does not return, there is no additional workload and swapping around each day.

Full blown sick:

Tricky kid and not sure how to tell? Tell child to lie down in their room after school when they say their sick and they’re out like a light in 1 minute – they’re sick! If they stay on their bed for more than 10 minutes – they’re sick!

We all have our own ways to deal with sick kids, warmth, sustenance, hydration and lots of cuddles and sleep.


Back up: Do you have a support network to assist you with childcare on your workdays? Parents, aunts, stay at home friends? Check in with members of this group in the afternoon, as you will probably need one of them tomorrow! Still have a block chocolate hidden in the back of the cupboard? Hand that over the caregiver as they take your sick child for the day. Nothing says “I love you, you’re a lifesaver, sorry there’s a lot of snot” like a block of chocolate.

No back up: So it looks like either you or your partner will be taking the day off work? Who usually takes the day off? Do you take turns? Does it depend on workload of each of you? Discuss the next three days just in case that long for your child to be back at school. This is a team effort!

When letting your boss know that you’ll be taking the day off, mention that you think the child may be sick for a few days – this is a good way to let them know in case you are uncomfortable directly letting them know you won’t be in for 3 days. In most cases you will update them every morning. Don’t be shy, I’m sure most people don’t want to get sick and your team does support you. We have leave for a reason.

And lastly I suppose without dragging out my soap box and preaching to all y’all, sometimes having a cold or being unwell reminds us all how awesome it is to be healthy and how much better parents we are when we are feeling 100% There are many parents across Australia who operate below 100% most days due to a range of illness, and I can’t imagine how that must be, knowing it’s long term. Having 3/4 of the family just recovering from bronchitis, I’m so enjoying the little things, like breathing in through my nose!




About Rebecca

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Hi I'm Bec and this is my my blog Daycare Decisions. I am a mum of 2, passionate about early education, nature play and a parents' transition back to the workforce after having a baby.

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