The number on my display sent me into blind panic…it was the nursery. My son was sick! Find out what Emma learned the hard way and how you can be better prepared for an ill child when going back to work.
The first time it happened I was in a store in the middle of a formal investigation. A serious allegation had been made against the manager by a member of their team. It was likely that we would have to suspend them. During an adjournment of the meeting I took a moment to check my phone, and there was the number on my missed calls list, that sent me in to a blind panic!
The nursery! My son was sick.
Immediately my mind went into overdrive, and I was torn. I had been back at work for two weeks, I was working with a completely different team, and this was my first encounter with a somewhat difficult regional manager. I wanted them to be impressed with how easily I eased myself back in. I wanted to demonstrate my abilities and earn their respect. I categorically didn’t want to be ‘the one with the kid’. But my baby was sick, and I had to go. Why on earth had I gone back to work and left him with complete strangers? Here came the guilt trip – leaving my baby, letting down my colleagues, letting down my boss. And I was 45 minutes away.
Before the call came I hadn’t really considered how difficult it would be to manage the situation when it did happen, both practically and emotionally. I had no plan B, as I don’t have any family locally and all of my friends have day jobs too.
Now I am better prepared, and I will share what I do now.
Things to do at work to prepare for an ill child
- Discuss and agree with your partner, how you will share the responsibility for emergency situations
- Have the conversation with your boss upfront, as part of your return to work meetings. It will happen at some time, kids do get sick, especially babies.
- Arrange back up childcare from friends, grandparents, neighbours, specialist emergency childcare agencies
- Give yourself permission to deal with situations, guilt-free, as they arise, knowing that you will make up the time / work later
- Have a workplace buddy to support you with any vital work tasks
- Remember that the work will still be there when you have the opportunity to get back to it
- Know that you are legally entitled to take unpaid time off work to make alternative childcare arrangements in emergencies. See for more information the DirectGov website, or BusinessLink
What happened after that first call?
The regional manager was fine with it, my boss was really supportive and my baby recovered quickly. The only person beating me up about it was me. I was lucky to work with people who placed a value on their employees and their families. For those people who aren’t so lucky, it is essential to have contingency plans in place, and to look at ways and options to make it work for you.
The other thing to remember is that, for most people, these are rare occasions when you have to take unexpected time out of the business for very valid reasons. If you’re anything like I was, you will be working more effectively and productively because of your childcare commitments. Don’t give yourself a hard time about it. You are doing a fantastic job, of combining your work and family commitments.
Author: Emma Jackson is an experienced Personal and Career Coach, working with individuals to help them define, achieve and fulfill their goals and ambitions, in work & life.