Sick Kids and the Office

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If you’re a lawyer-parent, you’ve had to juggle sick kids and the office. You know how it works. You’re usually on a roll, whether it be working with opposing counsel on a settlement or knocking out an appellate memo and you get the dreaded phone call. It’s daycare and your kid is sick. Time to drop what you’re doing and pick them up. This week, a teething induced fever meant that I brought my daughter to work. Here’s some tips on bringing sick kids to the office.

1. Have a stash ready.

The whole point of taking your sick kid to the office is to get something done. Running home or to the store to pick up some essentials only add to time away from your project. Be ready for the call. Keep some kid friendly essentials at your desk. Snacks, quiet toys, and, depending on their age, diapers are all requirements if your kids has to spend any time at the office with you. Cheerios are go-to for parents all over because they’re relatively mess free. Grab a box to keep at your desk. A small box of washable crayons will give you an option when your kid is trying to grab your highlighter, without causing concern if they try it out on your desk. If you happen to have an old typewriter at the office, setting it up and letting your kid have a go at it will keep them from keyboard envy when you’d rather not let them add their two cents to your memo.

2. Be ready to make things comfortable.

Don’t forget to have an extra set of medications like children’s ibuprofen, numbing gel for teething, and gas drops to help keep your child comfortable. Think about how your child can nap comfortably. Having an extra play yard and blankets at the office can work. Also, think about your lighting. If you were sick, would you want to be under florescent lights all day? Having lamps that you can use instead of the florescents can help keep things comfortable.

3. Be ready to give up.

Even if you have all the supplies in place, your kid may still not feel comfortable at the office. Not to mention, your coworkers may not appreciate the little petri dish you’ve brought in. Depending on the circumstances, bringing your sick kid to the office is just not a good option. Be ready to call it quits and take them home.

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jmcphers/53413275/)

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  • Mike

    What a lame world we live in where our kids’ health is less important than our jobs. I don’t say this as a scold because I too am guilty of putting work first, though I’ve never brought a sick child to work and can’t really imagine doing that.

    Time to prioritize, people.

  • Andy Mergendahl

    @Mike: Congrats on your Father of the Year award. I don’t mean this as a scold, but daycare centers have policies (developed, I suspect, mostly by their insurer’s lawyers) that require kids that really aren’t all that sick to be picked up. I had to battle for years to convince a daycare center that just because my son’s eye was watery and a little bit red, he did not have pinkeye, just a cold virus. In Minnesota and Wisconsin, if all kids with colds stayed home, they’d be 16 when they completed the 5th grade. Children are beloved members of a family, not the center of the universe. They can bang on an old typewriter for 20 minutes while Mom or Dad finishes some important work.

  • Catherine Tucker

    Daycare centers do have policies–based on state rules. They don’t want sick kids there and your coworkers don’t want them at work. Have some consideration for your pregnant and immune-compromised coworkers and keep your contagious kids home. What might be a mild cold to a healthy child can have devastating consequences for a pregnant woman, an infant or an immune-compromised individual.

    The best way to prepare to work through the inevitable illness is to arrange for an alternative caregiver for emergencies or set up a mini home office.

  • Jennifer Gumbel

    @Mike That’s why point 3 is in there. In some cases your kid will be happy as a clam to be able to go to work with you if they have the sniffles. Sometimes, they just need to be home. Bringing your kid to work when they’re excited to lie low and get a crack at coloring in legal pads doesn’t mean you’re putting your work ahead of them (especially if the reason why they’re out is a teething fever, which while easily remedied by a dose of baby ibuprofen, but still means they are persona non grata at daycare… just in case). That being said, again see point 3. If they are not comfortable at your office, by all means call it a day.

  • Jennifer Gumbel

    @Andy “In Minnesota and Wisconsin, if all kids with colds stayed home, they’d be 16 when they completed the 5th grade. Children are beloved members of a family, not the center of the universe. They can bang on an old typewriter for 20 minutes while Mom or Dad finishes some important work.” AGREED!

  • Catherine Tucker

    “In some cases your kid will be happy as a clam to be able to go to work with you if they have the sniffles.”

    Again, a simple cold in a healthy child can be deadly to those who are immune compromised. If your kid is not well enough for daycare, then your kid is not well enough to go to work with you (unless you work at home).

  • Jennifer Gumbel

    @Catherine That is a good point if you work at a medium to large sized office. But when you are a solo or work with only a handful of people you usually have a good idea how comfortable your co-workers are, either by preference or necessity, with having borderline sick people in the office. And sometimes “sick” by daycare standards is not sick in real world standards. Things like a teething fever or a rash that could be, but isn’t, ringworm, means that a kid is persona non grata at daycare, even if there is zero chance of posing any health threat to anyone else.

  • Sadie

    A few days ago one of the attorneys brought in her sick baby, some of the women were passing her around and cooing over her. Yesterday the mom called in sick, apparently the baby has a highly contagious respiratory virus. It will be interesting to see how many people in our small office end up being out sick. Parents do NOT bring your contagious child to work with you. It’s just common sense.