Is my kid too sick to go to daycare/school?
Do I need to call in to work?
Should I scramble and have a back-up sitter on call “just in case?”
Am I a bad parent, because I feel like I cannot miss work today?

I write this on a day that I am home with my 18-month-old who is recovering from hand, foot, and mouth disease; parents, especially daycare parents, know what I’m talking about. That said, my daughter has a mild case of it this time (yes, THIS time) and we’ve actually had a pretty awesome day reading books, building puzzles, and dancing to our favorite videos on YouTube. I even managed to sneak in some chores (laundry, dishes) and check my work e-mail, BUT for some reason, I feel guilty.

Maybe I should’ve asked Grandma to watch her today—after all, she’s not THAT sick.

I’m a teacher, and today is only day 14 of the new school year; what do my students think?

Even worse, what do some of the parents think?

And then my thoughts flip—why should I feel guilty?

I didn’t want my kid to get sick. My family’s Labor Day weekend plans were totally derailed after a diagnosis of hand, foot, and mouth the Friday before the weekend and the day after I received the daycare notice that two other children had the illness. Rather than do all of the fun things we had planned, my husband and I took shifts staying home with our feverish, rash-covered youngest member while the other one took our 5-year-old to the cookouts and activities that we had scheduled.

There are a lot of things that are stressful about parenting, but the chore of balancing a sick child with work take the cake for me personally. I’ve typed lesson plans in the middle of the night while listening to my husband sing and rock a feverish or, even worse, a puking child. I’ve also done the rocking while my husband, also a teacher, has done the middle of the night lesson planning. Even on the days that a grandparent swoops in to babysit, I go to work bleary-eyed and GUILTY—that awful feeling creeps in again. That feeling that I or my husband should be home snuggling our sick little offspring. It’s a no-win situation sometimes.

And then finally, there’s the sense of gratefulness I feel knowing how lucky I am to even have the ability to take days off or call on a grandparent to babysit, because I know there are many without that luxury. And so tomorrow, I will return to work. I will listen to all of the things that the sub did or did not do (teachers, you know what I’m talking about!) and then I will teach my students with a smile on my face and a pep in my step, because that’s what working parents do.

Sharon Klump

Sharon Klump lives in Louisville, KY and is mom to three growing kids. She has been a middle school teacher for over 10 years and in her tiny amounts of free time enjoys reading, writing, playing sports, and enjoying the awesome cuisine in Louisville.