What sound strikes fear into the heart of a working mom? A single sniffle from a child's nose. When your kid has a cold brewing, you never know if it means one afternoon at home, or an entire week of intermittent work and comforting an under-the-weather child. If you're lucky, it's just seasonal allergies.
But if you're not so fortunate, consider these ideas for keeping your kid's cold from turning your world upside down:
Send Her to School Anyway
This suggestion won't make me the most popular at the daycare potluck, but I'm saying it anyway: send your child to school with a sniffle. Let's face it, if you kept a baby home for every runny nose or cough, you could spend more time at home than the office.
And truly, many of those symptoms indicate some complaint other than a contagious infection. Your baby or toddler could be teething. A preschooler might be showing the first signs of seasonal or food allergies. An older, active child could have a non-contagious condition as a result of a sport or brush with a poisonous vine -- we've had bouts with swimmer's ear and poison ivy that could have been mistaken for a kid's cold.
My rule has always been to follow the letter of the law handed down by our school administration or child care provider. They typically refuse to accept children with a fever over 101 degrees, or symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea or discolored nasal mucus.
Share the Child Care
If you've determined that your kid's cold or illness is indeed contagious, the next step is to find another adult to share the load. Your child's other parent is your first ally in managing a kid's cold. Whether you strictly alternate taking time off work for a sick day, or make a judgment call based on whose work looks busiest that day, you get some relief by trading care.
I've never understood marriages where a kid's cold means that mom always stays home. Even the most high-powered dad in the world can spare a day or two in the course of his career to care for his offspring, in my humble opinion. If you're not married or living with your child's father, see if you can work out an arrangement to share sick days anyway.
Failing these solutions, why not look into an emergency nanny service for when your kid has a cold? You won't want to always use a nanny for sick days, but when you're approaching the third ear infection in a single season, you probably could use the mental break. (And I'm guessing your work is piling up as well.)
Enjoy the Time Together
Surprisingly, I have found that a kid's cold can provide a wonderful opportunity for some mama-child bonding. Our children's schools have always had a policy of not allowing children to return to school until they've been free of symptoms for 24 hours. So you may end up with a perky child who's eager to play, but is banned from leaving your home for another day.
Rather than trying to pawn off your child on the television or keep her quiet during teleconferences and email checking, why not push all that work off your plate until tomorrow? You won't be at your most productive anyway, if you're distracted by a youngster.
And how often do you have hours together, without a purpose or planned activity? The stages of development are so fleeting, that you can take this opportunity to reconnect youâre your child and understand her new interests or skills.
Perhaps it's a game of Candyland together, or a cuddle on the couch to read a book. Maybe you two decide it would be fun to reorganize the closets and sort old toys to donate to charity. The important thing is that you're connecting.
A Little TV Never Killed Anyone
Suppose you don't have a perky child. You're still at the stage of the kid's cold when getting a single sentence out of her is an accomplishment. If your child is still listless and in the throes of illness, this is the time to encourage sleep and resting on the couch in front of the television -- or maybe listening to a children's book on tape.
Yes, I have seen the studies that show even a few minutes of television can impair a child's executive function. But your kid isn't going to take the SATs today. When you've been up all night with a vomiting child, both of you are worn out and in need of a break. With any luck, he'll be back to his normal, cheerful self tomorrow.