A Lack of Laws
Staying home to take care of a sick child is just not possible for many of the more than 40 million working people who don’t have a single day of sick leave, paid or unpaid, for themselves or to care for a child. Some parents who are allowed time off fear that actually taking it will send a message that they’re not serious about their work. And this May, a study published in Pediatrics found that in 57 percent of cases, child-care directors send children home unnecessarily because of mild illnesses, making the need for paid sick time even more evident.
The Secrets to a Smart Backup Plan
“Many arrangements self-destruct because parents aren’t prepared,” says Michelle LaRowe, author of Working Mom’s 411. “You’d be surprised how many people don’t think about the what-ifs ahead of time.” In an ideal world, you’d head straight to a center created especially for mildly ill kids (see “Sick-Child Day Care? Yes, It Exists!” at right). But most parents will need to consider these strategies.
Create your own village. You may have more available connections than you realize. Ask family members or friends who have a part-time job or a flexible schedule if you can work out a reciprocal arrangement when a backup plan is needed. Chat up other moms at school drop-off, birthday parties, sports events, or church about organizing a backup co-op. And then get everyone together first, of course, to make sure you’re comfortable with one another’s parenting style and to hammer out specific requests and availability.