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Sick Days for Mental Health

The Universe and Ferris Bueller teach me a lesson

by el-e-e  |  4220 views  |  3 comments  |        Rate this now! 

Late last Wednesday, I got the dreaded phone call:

"Hi, Mrs. Thrash? It's Darby at (my son's daycare center)."

Darby's the front desk manager. I like her. But I don't like getting phone calls from her; as you working moms know, it usually means something is not right. It usually means The Grand Plan -- the working-in-an-office-slash-mothering plan -- has unraveled. It means I cannot perform both as employee and as Mom for that moment. "Oh well," I think. Then… "Ooh, I bet I'll get to leave right now!" That usually buoys me up for the bad news of sickness or injury, and I'm willing to admit it.

Two-year-old AJ had a red irritated eye that day, and the daycare does not mess around when it comes to possible pinkeye. They wanted him out of there. I was not convinced it was something contagious, but the next morning he woke up puffy around the lashes like so many Stanley Cup contenders, so I went ahead and called the doc.

To make a long story short, it was NOT pinkeye, and AJ felt perfectly fine all day... but I chose to keep him home. Meaning, we had a day off! An absolutely fine-as-a-fiddle "Sick Day." Those are the best kind, after all -- just ask Ferris Bueller. I had been thinking, just the week before, that I needed to take a "mental health" day and spend some fun time with the kid, for both of our sakes. But I'll admit something else: I'm not very good at releasing myself from my commitments.

Working moms, I think, are so bound by guilt and loyalty that we try to do it all, all the time. I never take a personal day of my own volition, because I don't know when I'll have to take one. With all the germs floating around in day care centers, there's a chance for real pinkeye, or a cold, or a tummy bug, all year long. And since I sometimes work from home, I feel like the office gives me plenty of flexibility on my time. They give me vacation days, which I take for vacation. I can't just LEAVE, any old time I choose with no calendared reason. That would be… selfish? Not up to gold-standard employee-ism? Something.

It was nice that the opportunity -- the possibility of pinkeye -- presented itself. I told my office he was sick and they were none the wiser. Now, I'm not suggesting that we all regularly LIE in order to navigate the work-life balancing act… but sometimes, when the universe hands you a freebie, you have to take a lesson from it.

AJ (and his sty) and I went to lunch at McDonald's -- he DID have to endure a doctor visit, after all, and what better 'treat' than McNuggets and a stint at the PlayPlace? We had an afternoon "book picnic" in the front yard, complete with cold grapes and Make Way For Ducklings, and we played one heck of a lot of hide-n-seek.

About the Author

Lee is a full-time Web Producer in Atlanta, and mom to AJ, 3, and KT, who arrived Feb 15, '08.

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3 comments so far...

  • I used to consider snow days as "freebie" days off when my son was younger. They were pretty rare where we lived - not more than one or two most years - and they were like a free pass to stay home and enjoy some time.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Florinda Pendley Vasquez on 15th June 2007

  • I had a morning like that today. I had overcommitted myself this week at work, and was stressed about it. I got the call yesterday from my babysitter, my daughter was throwing up. By lunchtime, I had picked her up and taken her to the doctor. This morning, she ended up being fine, and I still cancelled the first part of my day since I wasn't sure she could keep down her breakfast and medicine. I did need to go in this afternoon, but it was nice to have a few hours to play and catch up with my kiddos today.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by amanda on 15th June 2007

  • What a great idea! I enjoy any fun time I can "steal" from when I'm supposed to be productive--especially if it's playing with my daughter.

    Susan at Working Moms Against Guilt

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Susan Wenner Jackson on 11th June 2007