By Fi Edwards, Founder + Managing Director
I am a professional juggler.
Not the circus-tent, flaming-baton-throwing type of juggler. The working parent type of juggler. As the founder of a healthcare communications agency and a mum of three “spirited” (read: relentlessly energetic) children between the ages of 3 and 8, I now consider myself a master of the juggling act.
One of the most challenging types of juggling that a full-time working parent faces, is when one of your children gets sick. In the past, employers gave me disapproving looks when I told them I had to go to nursery or school to pick up a child in the aftermath of a projectile vomit. And when I told them I’d be back online once I got said child home, I’d be met with more disbelief. “Don’t bother,” they’d say. “You can’t work with a poorly child.”
So, I’m here to dispel some myths about working when your kids are ill. Because most of the time, you can work as well with your unwell child at home, as you can when they’re at school.
For a start, a lot of absence is mandatory. At my daughter’s nursery and my boys’ primary school, there is a non-negotiable, 48 hour absence requirement after they throw up. Not to get into gory details, but my kids can recover pretty instantly after the most spectacular of incidents – leaving them as good as new, but unable to return. Parents are then stuck at home for 2 days, with no choice but to work from there.
And when they are feeling poorly, I’ve always found ill kids to be like ill adults. When you’re ill, I bet you want to curl up on the sofa with your duvet and watch the entire Netflix back catalogue. Children are no different. Sometimes they require a lot of love and attention, but often they just want to be left to binge watch Ninjago® all day long – leaving you free to crack on and get work done between cuddles.
So, if the kids aren’t really a problem, it’s got to be the adults who need to change. If you’re the parent of an ill child, be open and honest with your team about what you can achieve and when. For example, “I can work on the urgent presentation before tomorrow, but I’m not going to be able to join you for the conference call.” This is harder said than done, but don’t feel guilty for having to look after your child – it’s nobody’s fault that they’re sick, it’s just one of those things. The work will still get done, the world will keep on spinning without your attendance at a conference call and, let’s face it, we could all do with a few less conference calls.
If you’re the employer of a parent, understand that very occasionally they will need to prioritise their child over their day job. Encourage them to be transparent about what they can deliver and see who in your team can cover the rest. A large proportion of Skin and Blister are working parents, so we’re used to people juggling their workload around their family commitments. We actively encourage everyone to work when and where it suits them best, so they can handle the different priorities in their lives. It also means we sometimes have a child sitting in on our Zoom chats, which can be as hilarious as morale-boosting.
As a proud working parent, I wouldn’t trade either of my jobs for the world. It should be easier than it is to juggle them both guilt-free, so it’s time for businesses to change the way they perceive working mums and dads and help them to thrive in whatever way suits them best.
This article was first published on our LinkedIn page:
Poorly kids aren’t the problem. It’s the adults who need to change by Founder + Managing Director Fi Edwards