Sick days and not-so-sick days

Master Five was home sick with me on Friday. I envisioned a cosy day of cuddles and rest while I worked from home on my laptop, with a feverish, sleeping child curled up next to me relaxing. Of course, it was anything but relaxing. As I tried in vain to edit an article, Master Five begged me to read books to him, drew on my work notebook, sang to himself, and chattered incessantly – to me, to the dog, to his toys, to himself. Ah, sick days with kids - or not-so-sick days, as the case may be.

When I have sick days, I like to go to bed and stay there. I don’t want to answer the phone, or my email, or the door, or the dog when he barks wanting me to open the kitchen gate so he can get to that one cashew someone dropped on the floor. Kids have a different idea – they’ll puke all over their bedroom, and then want to build Lego. They’ll be coughing like a consumptive and still insist they should be allowed to play outside. Forget naps – unless they fall asleep on their own in front of the movie you put on out of desperation. (And then you know they’ll wake up grumpy and crying that they missed the movie and need to rewatch it.)

I think we have a lot to learn from children and the way they view the world. But when it comes to sick days, they have absolutely the wrong idea. And then I started wondering… Do I set a good example when I have sick days?

Despite my assertion that I *like* to go to bed and stay there, I rarely manage it. While I don’t *want* to answer the phone or my email or deal with the dog, I usually do anyway (although not nearly as competently – or patiently, in the case of the dog – as when I’m well). I still have to do the school run, or look after the baby, or put a load of washing on before I can give myself permission to have a nap. And even then, I don’t really rest – it’s just an interlude before the next thing that needs doing in this busy, busy life of a working parent.

A relative, who is a teacher, recently took a sick day to catch up on work which she couldn’t get done during her regular week in the classroom with 20 children. A friend took one of her sick days to catch up on paperwork she couldn’t concentrate on in the office because people kept interrupting her. Neither of these days was premeditated – they were both taken out of desperation, stress, and necessity. Both of them had spoken to their managers and asked for help, which wasn’t forthcoming, so they took matters into their own hands – at the expense of their sick days.

How can we reclaim sick days as precisely that – days to rest and heal? Not days to get on top of work or household chores or errands. And when we do take sick days, can it be acceptable to be out of contact for the day? Another friend struck down by flu tried to take a sick day, but spent the entire morning fielding calls, texts, and emails from her boss who just needed to “find out this one small thing”. When she finally turned off her phone and tried to get some sleep, her boss actually showed up on her doorstep! Sadly, this isn’t an unusual occurrence – I hear stories like this all the time from friends.

I’m still not sure how to convince Master Five that a sick day is a sick day. But perhaps I can set a better example when it’s my next turn.

What I'm reading this week: Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses, by Carole Matthews (Sphere $29.99)

Speaking of sick days, this is a perfect book to read when you're in need of a quiet, calm day without any demands placed on you. This is a very sweet, heart-warming novel about a single working mum, Christie, who spends all of her spare time doing papercraft. She's creative and loves making lovely things by hand, but her job as a secretary and her responsibilities to her teenage son Finn mean that her hobby seems destined to remain just that, a hobby. But then she enters a competition to become a new contributor for a papercraft business, and is surprised when she wins the role - and piques the interest of the handsome yet elusive Max Alexander, who runs the company. This romance novel with a crafty theme had me itching to get out my own unfinished projects and get to work. Perhaps a "sick day" is in order?

Have a great week!

Katherine Granich
Editor, Tots to Teens

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