You’re already 10 minutes behind and have been a few minutes late for work every day this week. You suddenly notice that your child looks a little wan as you rush out of the house. Who wouldn’t be tempted to grab that bottle of Motrin from the cupboard? The truth is that many, many parents have committed the act of sending a sick child to school. In a survey by the Today Show and Parenting.com, nearly half of moms confessed to sending a sick kid to school or daycare.
Prior to the swine flu outbreak in 2009, I think many of us parents simply did the best we could in a difficult situation. We had to go to work. So, we’d grab the Tylenol. We’d cross our fingers. And then we’d try to get to work on time.
I think most parents would think this was a relatively harmless crime, but then the swine flu hit and all bets were off the table. Honestly, I welcomed the crackdown initiated by Adam’s school. A few of the schools even closed temporarily in our town. It was a frightening time.
And now we are headed into flu season once again.
So what’s behind this? It’s not that we don’t worry about our children – the issue may be more a symptom of the tremendous pressure working parents feel to be present and accounted for, no matter what’s happening at home. Ultimately, we are sending our sick kids to school for the same reason that we don’t stay home ourselves. The reality is that, until workplace culture gives us the tools to stay away when we’re sick – and we parents actually force ourselves to stay home – it is very likely that our offices and our schools will continue to be petri dishes for germs and viruses. As a CEO, this is something I struggle with, both on an organizational level and a personal level. I am a repeat offender – not only do I have critical meetings at the office, but I am also traveling around the world. I don’t have time to get sick. I know that our Care Team feels the same way – we all have packed schedules with no time allocated for chicken soup and resting on the couch. So we push through it.
We’ve tried to come up with alternatives to the medicate-and-go method. We’ve developed Care on Call, which takes only seconds to broadcast a message to caregivers in the local area. By checking references and doing an online background check, parents can find a sitter to interview within minutes. I know that this feature has saved the day for our team on more than one occasion. We are also working with companies and organizations to offer Care.com memberships to their employees through our Corporate Employer Program.
Have you ever sent your child to school, despite a sneaking suspicion he or she might be getting a cold or flu? Did you stop doing this when the swine flu hit? How are you planning to handle sick days for this flu season? Does your workplace put pressure on you to be in the office even when you’re sick?