Emergency child care
October 13, 2012 7:18 PM   Subscribe

How do parents take care of sick kids when they MUST go to work?

I have a four year old, a full-time job and no family or friends to help out in emergencies. My commute to work is 45 - 60 minutes and I have some difficulty getting to work before 9, which isn't a huge problem generally as I have discussed this with my boss who said it was fine as long as I log my hour appropriately. But added to this, this past week my daughter has been on and off again sick with fever and vomiting. One day she is fine and the next she is not. I took her to the Dr and he said it was a bug, she will get over it. I have missed a few days of work and may need to again early next week. I just don't know how much of this my employer will tolerate, as I am getting the feeling that they are not so sympathetic now. I texted my boss on Friday I would be out and I didn't get a reply, which I normally do. Any advise on what to do about this? I could afford a sitter who would charge about $8/hour (~$70/day) but don't know anyone, and I don't know how I feel about hiring someone off Craig's list. Do people watch sick kids while their parents work, especially when it is last minute and for only $8/hour? I'm just at a loss about how to find someone to help me with this.
posted by waving to Work & Money (22 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Every middle to large city in the US has nanny services you can hire for per diem work. It is more costly than 8/hour though. If you do your research and find a good service they generally do background searches on all their sitters and require them to have CPR certification.

Alternatively you can look at the local university and see if they have a child development center/program. They may be able to set you up with student sitters.

It's tough to be away from family and work full time. I'm sorry you are in this tight spot. Hope you daughter feels better soon.
posted by teamnap at 7:25 PM on October 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

In my area, some daycare centers offer in-home sick child care. it costs quite a bit, but you know you're getting someone who's had background checks and CPR. I used it once when my husband was out of town and my daughter was sick. I was very pleasantly surprised. Maybe try google searches for something like this near you? Or call some centers and see if anyone has heard of that existing in your area? Good luck!
posted by crunchtopmuffin at 7:26 PM on October 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Are there sick child day cares in your area. Does your HR have a list of resources? Have you talked to your daughter's school or other parents?
posted by shoesietart at 7:27 PM on October 13, 2012

Is the work you do the kind you can do from home? If I see my son is coming down with something I bring home an armload of work to complete, even if it's reading boring reports or researching a future project. Would this be an option for you?
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 7:35 PM on October 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, this sucks.

Basically you either have an understanding boss or you suck it up and pay through the nose for a sitter.

It sucks.
posted by k8t at 7:40 PM on October 13, 2012 [8 favorites]

You may want to join Care.com and get started sifting through potentials. You can also search for a parenting group/listserv for your area to get recommendations. Some municipalities do have drop-in daycare for sick kids, although it's pricey. Sometimes, pediatricians and children's hospitals will know of a place that has come up a lot, so you might ask (and they might not know).

Most parents I know, though, to answer your essential question, are ultimately forced to be home more than they'd like (or, more importantly, more than their employers would like).

And here's the thing about that: in most states (not sure where you are or if US experience is relevant), being fired for needing to take time to tend your sick kid is not considered a valid reason to deny unemployment benefits. If you are fired for it, it is more likely than not that you can collect UI. As long as you make your best effort in completing your work, report your hours accurately, don't misuse company resources, and otherwise don't do anything that qualifies as misconduct, you should remain eligible.

If you want to be absolutely certain of your rights in your state, you can call an employment attorney. Many will give a free consultation that generally includes at least some advice on protecting yourself.
posted by batmonkey at 7:42 PM on October 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Are there other families in your daughter's class you know and trust? It isn't always possible for them to help out but you never know, especially if there are any stay-at-home parents who could manage more easily than you can. I'm always surprised at how willing (and even eager) people are to help if they see that you really need it.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 7:43 PM on October 13, 2012 [7 favorites]

I realize every office is different, but in mine, sick time can be used to care for sick family members. Our benefits office also partners with a local backup care company to provide last-minute, cheap care. Not all workplaces offer this, but it might be worth checking with HR / benefits to see if there are any policies or benefits that could help you.
posted by beyond_pink at 7:49 PM on October 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Your situation sucks.

For a long-term solution, if your family and friends can't help then you need to get busy making new friends who can.

Do everything within your power to become best friends with the stay-at-home parents in your neighborhood. Hopefully some of these friendships will eventually lead to a mutually beneficial arrangement in which they can occasionally cover for your last-minute workday childcare emergencies and you can reciprocate by babysitting their kids on evenings and weekends.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:54 PM on October 13, 2012

if there are any stay-at-home parents who could manage more easily than you can

Do everything within your power to become best friends with the stay-at-home parents in your neighborhood.

Wow, no, not with fever and vomiting on and off for days. I'm an at-home parent, and I've never said no to a friend who needed last-minute childcare in order to work, but I would not expose my whole family to a nasty virus like that. I think you will have to pay a person or a service that does sick child care specifically, or just hope your boss will forget about it when he remembers how valuable you presumably are in general; you can't really ask a person to bring a bug like that into their house as a favor.
posted by palliser at 8:31 PM on October 13, 2012 [18 favorites]

I would add talking to your doctor's office to the list -- when I was a kid the local hospital would take sick kids for the day if census was low. I don't imagine anyone does that anymore, but the nurses at your doc's office may have heard of a service, a local day care, etc.

And good luck - it's really tough w/o family backup, even though we're married. Thankfully we've made friends through day care, and I have a couple of friends I can call in a pinch if we're stuck in traffic and going to miss pick-up or something. Since they all work, too, they wouldn't be potential backup help for sick days, but they might know someone they'd recommend.
posted by hms71 at 9:10 PM on October 13, 2012

Some hospitals have sick kid day care, I know -- for this sort of situation, not just for hospital care. If you say where you are people might be able to recommend a place.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:28 PM on October 13, 2012

Do you get personal days/sick days? This seems like a pretty clear use of that sort of thing. Some work environments can be grumbly about this sort of thing, but shit happens and sometimes you just can't be at work. If HR gives you X days a year, and you're not going above your days, and it's clear that this is for a reason, it sort of is what it is. People get sick, they have family emergencies, they get jury duty, etc. Unless you work for the state department or something, chances are you can not go in for a few days and the world will march on, somehow.

In college I worked for a nanny service in Boston -- I'd guess that any US city of about that size would have something like that. I never personally sat for a sick kid, but I sat for plenty of kids on emergency evenings or weekends when parents had a work situation. Even back then (and as a part time college kid), I made more than $8 an hour, though.
posted by Sara C. at 9:38 PM on October 13, 2012

Yeah, it sucks. I assume that the biological father is out of the picture as well? Parenting is the most demanding job you'll ever have. She's at an age where she's likely to catch everything right now, too. But your daughter won't be four forever. It gets easier as they get older!

I would try to get a coworker to deliver any work you can do at home to you. I'd also log on to your work email while your child is napping, and basically do everything you can to keep up-to-date on projects and not inconvenience your office mates or your boss.

And then, personally, I'd stay home. Because if it's a choice between leaving a vomiting, feverish kid with a babysitter or service I've never used before and going to work OR staying home and taking care of my child, I'm staying home. Not to mention that I would not feel right subjecting another healthy person to my sick child's illness (my parents are in their seventies now and I would not want them to be exposed to this, for example).

You might want to plan for the future by using your downtime this weekend to research sick centers like the ones mentioned above (I've never heard of them before, but if they are staffed by doctors and nurses they might be ideal next time you are faced with this situation, provided your child is vaccinated, etc. because I'd imagine that would be a prerequisite).

You might also consider trying to form a babysitting coop with coworkers (to watch your child when you aren't sick in return for you watching theirs, because you need to be able to get out sometimes, too!), or at the very least asking the people you work with what childcare services they use.

And I think you'll want to be extra careful to get to work as early as possible every day once your daughter's better, just to remind them that you are a valuable asset to have around.

Good luck.
posted by misha at 9:51 PM on October 13, 2012

Seconding care.com as a long term solution. Screen some of the sitters, check their references, and try them out during non-sick times. Then when sickness comes up in the future, hopefully you'll have two or three potential people you can call on. Whether you can get someone for $8/hour is another question. That would be very low where I live (Boston area).

Good luck with this! I hope she gets better soon.
posted by alms at 9:54 PM on October 13, 2012

Best to stay with your child yourself if you can, but I wanted to mention that another site besides care.com is sittercity.com (features include ratings from other families and background checks, but I believe you have to pay use the site).
posted by Dansaman at 11:17 PM on October 13, 2012

Thanks for your thoughts on this, it's helpful to put it into perspective. A couple of things I would like to clarify:
1. Her dad is not out of the picture but he refuses to take any time off of work to watch her. He won't even go 50/50 on this (an indication of why I am not with this man any longer). This item was not broached in the parenting agreement, which is quite infuriating in hind site, but that's where that's at.
2. I work as an hourly employee, so one would think that my taking time off wouldn't be an issue, since I am not getting paid, but there still seems to be a code I am breaking. I agree whole heartedly that I am entitled to time off, and I have taken some, but for some reason, contract employees like me are considered sub-human (even though I am the only PhD in the fifteen person company).
3. I hadn't considered having a stay at home mom friend watch her for the very reasons Palliser stated. I have an awesome neighbor who would do it but I cannot imagine asking her.
3. I will talk to the child care center and see what they can suggest.
4. I think I need to change my view on this: spending money for sick day care will mean I do not make money that day but pay to work. That's ok, it's a matter of keeping my job all the rest of the days of the year!
5. I really need to find a better job!!

xo all, and thanks for this support, it means a lot to get your opinion and perspective.
posted by waving at 4:39 AM on October 14, 2012

Also, the prelude to this question indicates that I am somewhat insecure about my performance, I cannot deny that. So, I agree with the point that perhaps I need to get to work earlier and make sure that my performance is up to my own standards, at the very least :) The child care issue is the issue of the moment, but in the grand scheme of things it's another layer on an already somewhat disorganized life that could use improvement. Even if I'm putting myself to a higher standard than my less than sympathetic boss and co-workers (who are all male, FWIW) and my daughter's father, who refuses to even consider taking time off; that's just the way it is and I'm going to have to deal with it appropriately and as effectively as I can. But that's for another post.
posted by waving at 5:21 AM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would also like to add that you shouldn't really ever text your call off, unless such things are specifically laid out in your staff handbook. Your boss may have said it's fine, but it's way too easy to "forget" or "not get" those texts, and then your call-offs aren't calloffs, they're no-call-no-shows, and that's baaaaaad.

Or, at least if you don't get a response in ~5 minutes, call in to confirm.
posted by TomMelee at 5:30 AM on October 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

4. I think I need to change my view on this: spending money for sick day care will mean I do not make money that day but pay to work. That's ok, it's a matter of keeping my job all the rest of the days of the year!

Yup. I do this sometimes. It sucks, but stability for your daughter is super important.

Also, frankly, my mother almost never stayed home with me herself when I was sick because she was a single mother who was our only financial support. I respect the hell out of the fact that she made things work like that, and your daughter will too.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:30 AM on October 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

This situation does indeed suck. Can you work from home at all? That would be ideal. As for paid help sittercity.com does offer screened babysitters that you can interview for future emergencies, and I believe there are those that will watch a sick kid.

Do what's right for your daughter first, and your job second. Stay home till she can go back to daycare. A bug should clear up pretty soon if she's already had it for a few days.

I'm so sorry we live in such a stupid country where child care and sick leave are concerned.
posted by emjaybee at 7:50 PM on October 14, 2012

For a number of years, I was a child-free male working in an office for a large company. My impression on the whole is that the mothers who worked there had to take more time off on account of sick kids than the guys in my cohort. Amongst the people I worked with, including the front-line managers, I felt that the impression that it was just understood that this is going to be how it is sometimes, and the company was stronger for having people from a variety of backgrounds working there. I can say for sure the parents had waaay more patience at work than those of us w/o kids.

I mean, at some point as a society, we just have to decide if we are going to be assholes to parents (and by extension their children), or if we are going to have a f-ing heart, be grown-ups and understand that raising children safely is the right thing to do. Here's hoping that your company is in the latter category.
posted by eelgrassman at 9:11 PM on October 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

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